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The Evolution of Physical Security Technology in the Supply Chain Industry - SupplyChainBrain

The seamless operation of supply chains, which are the lifeblood of any economy, relies heavily on advanced security measures. Over the years, the industry has transitioned from standalone, singularly focused security systems to intelligent, unified platforms that offer greater insights into daily operations. In this article we’ll explore the evolution of physical security technology in the supply chain industry, its current state, and the potential for advanced security solutions in the future. 

The Early Days of Electronic Security in Supply Chains 

For years, physical security in the supply chain industry was largely about securing premises and assets using standalone systems. Surveillance cameras with limited resolution and storage capacities, standard locks and keys for interior and exterior entryways, and landline alarm systems were the order of the day.  

While these standalone systems were certainly a crime deterrent, alarm incidents still required an operator to contact call-lists and dispatch police. Unfortunately, these security incidents were often false alarms, potentially caused by environmental issues or employee error. Even more unfortunate, an increase in false alarms too often resulted in delayed police response due to the low priority nature of these calls. These delays, of course, often created significant financial and personnel impacts when a warehouse experienced a real break-in or act of violence.  

The Shift Towards Integrated Security Systems 

Over time, as technology advanced and the Internet became an everyday part of everyone’s personal and professional lives, the way businesses in the supply chain approached security advanced as well. Companies began to move away from local, singularly focused systems towards more integrated, cloud-based solutions.  

Increasingly popular today, these unified platforms integrate video surveillance, more advanced access control solutions, and wireless monitored intrusion alarms into one centralized security system, making it easier to reduce the risk of security incidents, ensure the protection of employees and assets, and manage large scale operations.  

As these solutions provide real-time data and insights for daily operations, supply chain companies are better positioned to make more informed decisions that contribute to the overall growth and efficiency of their businesses. 

The Rise of Intelligent Security Technologies 

Today, the supply chain industry is witnessing a surge in the adoption of intelligent security technologies. These technologies, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, have transformed the way warehouses and distribution centers operate.  

AI-driven cameras detect and differentiate between a person or a vehicle. They use person and vehicle re-identification technology to track individual’s movements throughout a facility. They read and register critical information on trucks and trailers at the gate almost instantly.  

Because of the high confidence level of AI-empowered video, combined with the ability to remotely connect to video platforms via the cloud, warehouses are now able to receive real-time responses from their security platforms. Of course, protocols such as dispatching police and contacting call-lists remain a necessary and important part of responding to incidents. However, the ability to connect, react, and potentially deter incidents from occurring altogether is changing the way supply chain companies secure their sites.  

Responding to Security Incidents in Real Time 

Smart security solutions are increasingly allowing businesses to react in real time to security alerts, and verify if an incident requires a police dispatch or even a proactive look-in on their facilities at pre-scheduled times. Also, AI video cameras can now determine if people or vehicles are somewhere they should not be, and can send audible messages to deter trespassers. 

The Future of Security in the Supply Chain Industry 

Looking ahead, the future of physical security in the supply chain industry appears to be intertwined with advancements in technology such as AI, machine learning, and IoT, which will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the industry's security landscape. 

One key area of focus will be the integration of physical security systems with other business operations. This integration will provide businesses with a more holistic view of their operations, allowing for improved operational efficiencies and better risk management. Additionally, as network speeds continue to increase, the use of cloud-based platforms will follow, offering supply chain businesses greater flexibility and scalability in their security operations. 

With the latest advancements of technologies such as AI, the ever-increasing speeds of Internet connections, and the streamlining of integrated security and operational platforms, it is conceivable that, in 20 years, the evolution of physical security in the supply chain will be remembered as one of the single greatest driving forces of change in the supply chain industry.  

Allan Watters is head of innovation at Vector Security Networks.

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