About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

19 July 2012

Physical Access Control

South Africans are very aware of their physical security; and given the high levels of crime it is understandable. Beyond the various mushrooms of security estates, corporate parks and gated communities - the differences in physical access controls have fascinated me for some time.

Most places in South Africa has the sign-in book - where the visitor signs some sort of indemnity and declare the possession of laptops etc. Some corporates also feature x-ray machines and metal detectors, but they are in the minority. For companies that have visitor's slips though; what I always find amusing is that the security guards never check the signature from the host - not that I expect them to, it is after all not that easy to verify signatures.

Microsoft's SA head offices have a system where the record the driver's license (and verify the identity). However, when I enquired with Dr Kganyago (Microsoft SA's Chief Security Advisor), who was quite proud of the solution, on the retention period of the collected data and the implications of the solution for personal privacy, he politely sidestepped the question. It is however a neat solution, and at least does authentication properly through the verification.

At another corporate, visitors are only asked to declare laptops and equipment if it is the same make as their corporate standard. I think that is a nice, more efficient implementation - but then they didn't really check anything on my way out, other than reclaim my visitor's badge - so the effectiveness is quite questionable.

On the residential front, CCTVs and intercoms are more or less the standard. There are a few places with biometric systems, which are just difficult to manage; especially with regards to deletion of entries. Then there are gated communities, where there is a security guard and a boom - and not much is required to pass the boom. Those are probably the most ineffective - though the mere presence of security guards has probably reduced the level of crime.

Overall, South Africa spends a lot on physical security - as evidenced in a recent report on the SA business environment. I still maintain that some of the approaches; such as high walls are actually in detriment to overall security. What is also interesting, is that, some other countries/places with comparatively high levels of crime haven't gone to this extreme (I am thinking, for example of Brazil, where crime levels are high, and yes there are security guards, but hardly any electric fencing etc) and also the opposite; such as India where crime levels are comparatively low but people tend to put burglar bars everywhere. Perhaps it is a subject worthy of further research ...