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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

See the unseen: Using RF detection for health, safety, and security

Radio frequency (RF) detection solutions enable users to see the unseen. A wireless device positioning system can, for example, deliver visibility into the location of people, devices and assets within a building, providing indoor intelligence that can not only enhance security but also offer important benefits to help agencies achieve their health and safety objectives.

Indoor intelligence technologies span a wide range of connective systems that make buildings smarter and provide valuable insights that can be used to address operational and security needs. It all starts by knowing the location of people and assets and placing them on a detailed, dynamic, digital map of the agency’s facilities. The detection and positioning can be accomplished by leveraging RF sensors and software specifically designed to locate cell phones, laptops, smart watches and other RF-emitting devices including visitor badges and asset tags. From there, the opportunities are nearly limitless, as services and specific applications can then be layered on top.

Agencies undoubtedly secure their network with firewalls and anti-malware tools and their physical perimeter with electronic access control, video and security personnel. However, they may not be securing the airspace within their buildings. Wireless devices can serve as attack vectors for possible theft of confidential information or intellectual property. A wireless device detection system that scans facility airspace 24/7 can help agencies enforce policies and defend against a wide variety of threats, ranging from rogue state actors to employees bringing in their own wireless access points.

The security-related use cases for indoor intelligence are varied. Here are three of the most popular: 

1. Policy enforcement and situational awareness. A wireless device detection solution provides awareness of active wireless devices in monitored areas. The technology can locate rogue devices such as unauthorized access points and eavesdropping transmitters, and it enables the enforcement of no-phone zones. Radio-emitting medical devices such as pacemakers and hearing aids, can be added to an "authorized" list so as not to trigger an alarm. High-value assets can be tagged and tracked to ensure they don't leave designated zones. Further, when used in conjunction with a mobile device management system, the wireless device positioning solution can trigger the MDM to push more restrictive phone security policies (e.g., disable the smartphone's audio and video recording and wireless transmissions capabilities) when a phone enters high-security areas and then lift such restrictions when it leaves the geofenced zone.

2. Response. When an incident occurs, the indoor intelligence provided by RF detection solutions can help ensure agencies can communicate relevant information to security personnel, first responders and others in need. It can answer questions about the location and movement of employees and visitors and whether everyone out of the building.

3. Investigation. RF detection can serve as a forensics tool to help investigate a wide range of incidents, from wireless intrusion to assault. Security operators can utilize a DVR-like playback function to review what wireless devices were in a specified area at a given time. Another particularly powerful application combines RF detection with security video. This sensor fusion correlates RF device presence to individual security video frames, which allows security departments to address some of the tough, persistent challenges with traditional video surveillance. For instance, this RF-enabled video analytics solution can help to identify suspects even if their face is obscured, if they are in low- or no-light conditions, or if they roam the building where cameras are not present. It also allows officials to search large video archives and quickly jump to relevant frames in the recorded video, tracking persons of interest across cameras and even off-camera to gather evidentiary information. Security teams can also build a watch list of potential bad actors and be alerted if they return to the agency facilities.

Beyond the substantial security benefits, these same indoor intelligence solutions can also support health and safety initiatives including those designed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing can be a powerful tool to help reduce the spread of infections. With digital contact tracing, if a staff member reports an infection, location technologies can then be used to see not only with whom that person was in contact but also to identify the areas and assets that may need to be deep cleaned. An indoor intelligence solution can also display zone-by-zone building health scores, which can be derived by looking at the number of wireless devices in a given area and device density (e.g., devices per square foot) to support social distancing efforts.

With the pandemic, an agency’s use of location technology has moved from an organizational advantage to an operational imperative. RF-detection solutions deliver powerful location awareness that can not only improve security operations but also enhance health and safety. 

About the Author

Nadir Ali is CEO of Inpixon


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