Skip Navigation

Northland's Physical Security Experts Weigh-In: 2021 Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

By Northland Controls, Dec 21, 2021

Many security teams were put to the test as the COVID-19 pandemic roared on in 2021.

However, as we pivoted, braced, and rolled with each new turn on this rollercoaster, we narrowed our focus from understanding what was happening to how we best deal with it. And while we learned to live with our new reality, normal was never quite in our grasps. But, taking the lessons learned from 2020, many security professionals continued to take on new challenges including return to work strategy and how to secure a remote workforce.

As we reflect on another year, we asked security experts from across Northland to shed some light on their biggest takeaways of the year and what they anticipate taking priority in the new year.

Charles Baxter | Security Consultant
Brendan McFall | Technical Engineering Manager
Dave Bartollini | New Product Development Consultant
Sujoy Dutta | Operations Manager, APAC


CHARLES: The importance of well-maintained and innovative systems.

Security programs should be regularly evaluated and updated. Software updates ensure the efficiency and protection of existing systems. Innovative technology can help streamline different legacy systems and provide more enterprise solutions.

BRENDAN: Leverage remote work to bolster your talent.

The “Great Resignation” is providing employers with unprecedented access to topflight talent. COVID-19 and stay at home orders have led to a great deal of introspection. As a result, candidates are now looking for jobs and companies that are aligned with their new priorities. Organizations that are agile, flexible, and have a strong culture have been able to reap the rewards and add tremendous talent to their ranks. We’ve added more remote employees within this past year than the previous seven combined. As a result, we’ve bolstered our already robust team with some of the best security professionals in the industry!

DAVE: Cloud technology and acquisitions left their mark.

I think that cloud-based solutions started making significant traction last year. Both VMS and Access Control systems made significant penetration in the small and mid-sized markets. It may take longer for them to get traction in the large enterprise market, however.

Also of note, there were a number of acquisitions in this space. A few of the more well-known cloud ACS systems (e.g., OpenPath, Feenics) were acquired in 2021, and I expect that trend to continue into 2022. The market is getting mature enough that more consolidation will take place, and a few vendors will likely start emerging from the pack as market leaders.

SUJOY: Settling with the outcome of chaos.

To me, 2021 was a year of settling down with the chaos. After a rough one and half years of the COVID19 pandemic, we moved to the ‘living with COVID’ space. With more people getting vaccinated, organization were making return to work policy and exploring the use of technology in maintaining COVID guidelines and safety.

For our industry, we implemented few new technology products in terms of thermal scanning, facial recognition to detect masks, and touchless devices to reduce physical contact. Use of this type of technology was a key factor in 2021. While some companies wanted to implement the new technology quickly, others were slower in making their master plan for a bigger implementation. As a security partner, it was important for us to hear out all the voices and help to guide a customer to the right technology platform for their needs.

As full/partial lockdowns continued with work from home and travel restrictions, it was important for organizations to be more empathetic and compassionate towards their employees. In most cases, listening to them helped a lot in building the trust within the organization.


CHARLES: Make a plan for your security program.

Companies should create and maintain a physical security program. Creating, implementing, and communicating physical security standards consistent with the unique needs of the organization and applicable regulatory guidelines conveys the company’s commitment to the safety of employees and facilities. Onboard security awareness training and ongoing refresher training helps to establish a culture where security practices by employees come second nature.

BRENDAN: It’s time for technological advancements to take hold.

We’ve spent the majority of the past two years upgrading our customers’ systems to the latest and greatest versions. With offices mostly empty, we were provided an opportune time to optimize systems with limited impact to staff. Additionally, we’ve also consulted and implemented customized Return to Office solutions – often integrating HR/Vaccine Tracking Applications with their Access Control System.

Next year, it’s time to take these systems to the next level. I foresee increased interest in Mobile Credentialing Solutions, Data Analytics (especially Occupancy & Building Utilization Reports), and finally the buzzword that’s been mentioned for the last 5 years – AI. I look forward to technological advancement in all three areas and implementing the best solutions for our customers.

DAVE: Fine-tuning business and security through the COVID era.

No different than 2021 - managing the business through the COVID era. Examples of what this might entail:

  • With many companies instituting vaccine mandates, does this get tied into building access control? (That could be a legal minefield.)
  • The same could be said for COVID testing status - does that get tied into building access control?
  • Are there any security processes that need to be adapted for a hybrid (home + office) work model?
  • Is the company financially sound enough to handle more shutdowns as more COVID variants appear?

SUJOY: Evolving into more than just security.

In 2022, I expect to see validation of existing security infrastructure to support the return-to-work policy or hybrid working system within companies. In particular, new technology implementation is needed to upgrade the existing security infrastructure.

As a result, physical security would be viewed more as risk management rather than just installation of devices and systems. This would include companies doing more risk analysis and selecting the right technology based on the outcome needed to mitigate the risk.

Finally, I expect to see an evolution to a smarter GSOC. That would include GSOCs not only being used to monitor camera feeds or access control systems, but integrating with different platforms like social media, news feeds, employee behavior, and other data points that could pose risk to a company. Technologies like AI and analytics would be used to analyze these enormous data points from different platforms and help in building a proper risk management tool for a company.