Corporate Security for the 21st Century

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Corporations often have valuable assets onsite in their offices.  However, it is the people who work there who are absolutely any corporation’s greatest asset.  So, businesses have plans for keeping their people safe.  There’s a plan to evacuate in place in case of fire.  If the weather is bad, there are protocols to be followed to keep employees safely off dangerous roads.  Buildings have smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, even plastic signs to mark wet, slippery floors.  In addition to keeping people safe at work, corporations work hard and spend hard to make sure that their offices are pleasant work environments. After all, people who feel safe, feel valued, and are comfortable at work are more productive and far less likely to move on to another job.

The YouTube offices in San Bruno, California are very nice.  Wide glass doors greet visitors, walls that are mostly glass let the sunshine pour in.  There’s even a giant red slide that employees can use to travel from the floor above down to the lobby.  Bright, primary colors decorate the space.  Open sitting areas are everywhere.  The central reception desk is in the middle of a well-lit, wide open lobby near the glass foyer. It’s a beautiful, comfortable, and very welcoming building.

On the third of April in 2018, an angry customer walked through their parking garage onto an open patio area, raised a semi-automatic 9mm pistol and began shooting YouTube employees who were eating their lunch on an open patio.  Before killing herself, Nasim Najafi Aghdam had shot three employees critically wounding one of them.  Investigation showed that they were not people whom Aghdam knew.  They were people who were in her line of fire.  They were people who work for a company she was angry with.

“You don’t really expect something like that,”

A witness remarked that he was surprised.  “You don’t really expect something like that,” he told reporters. Initially, the man said that he thought someone was popping balloons.  When employees realized what was happening, they hid.  “I heard shots and saw some people running while at my desk.  Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers,” a YouTube employee tweeted.  Other employees were fleeing the building, unsure what was happening or where.

There are more than 1,100 people who work at the YouTube offices in San Bruno, California. Police at the time of the shooting were uncertain how much security there was in that open eating area where shots were fired.  One employee reported that no badge was required to enter either the parking area nor the outdoor dining area.

As of this writing, there are corporations all over the country that are in the same situation as YouTube was on that terrible day in April.  Their employees say goodbye to their loved ones and come to work expecting another typical day.  No one is expecting to be attacked by an active shooter while eating their lunch on a sunny patio. They expect to chat with their friends, to catch up on the latest episode of everyone’s favorite show, to show off new pictures of their children or grandchildren.  They expect that they’ll do their jobs, get in their cars, and go back home to their families at the end of the day.

Of course, corporate offices have security.  Even small firms have some security – at least in the building.  In addition to the fire drills, and the bad weather protocols, there are plans for what to do if there is trouble.  Often, security consultants will assess a company’s risks and create a risk-management scheme that includes some cameras, locks, badge-only entrances, and even live security guards.  Many larger corporations and “critical industry” companies have more refined security protocols.  Smaller businesses are less likely to have established protocols for serious security threats.   Private security firms and local police are happy to work with owners to create a plan. But violent attackers and active shooters are not predictable.  Businesses can harden lobbies and turn bright common spaces into bunkers.  They can keep a guard at the gate and have one or two patrolling the buildings. Obviously, YouTube, with 1,100 employees had responsible security measures in place.

Security, if it’s done well, does not yield a demonstrable return-on-investment (ROI). In other words, if the security is working, there will be no incidents.  However, if there are no incidents, there’s no way to tell if it was Security or good fortune.  Security officers cannot prove that their systems are keeping people safe.  So Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) struggle to reconcile the high cost of armed security at every gate and every door. Human Resources sing the praises of bright, sunny, wide open work spaces as incentives for productivity and retention. Employees feel imprisoned in work-spaces with locked doors and few windows, and armed guards at every turn.

But violent attackers and active shooters are not predictable.

This tension between enough security to keep workers safe, and enough freedom and open space to make people feel welcome and comfortable troubles all corporations big and small. CFO’s are not heartless.  They know that keeping employees safe is their primary responsibility.  But, until recently, it has been difficult to know the best way to achieve that. Experts often note that live security guards who routinely interact with employees and visitors are an effective way to provide that safety.  But those interactions may not stop a determined shooter.

Up until now there was no system available that could recognize a threatening action – like the raising of a gun or knife, or could communicate video in real-time to law enforcement while simultaneously allowing law enforcement to use facial recognition software to identify a criminal in real time, and to speak to the perpetrator as the crime was taking place.  However, Athena Camera’s system was designed to do just that.  Athena Security provides a new, proactive threat-detection and alert system that automatically detects knives, guns, hand-to-hand violence, and even petty-theft in a real time video feed.  Athena Security Cameras employ artificial intelligence and motion detection to spot threatening objects – like guns and knives, and threatening motion – like someone drawing a gun or raising a fist.  Athena also comes with a speaker, so officers or negotiators can have a conversation with the assailant.  When a threat is present, Athena connects law enforcement to the threat in real time and gives them the ability to prevent the crime before anyone is hurt, even when they cannot make it to the site in time.

Once Athena detects a threat, it sends critical information in real time to a monitoring service.  That service validates the threat and only involves law enforcement when needed.  Athena’s AI-powered technology analyses multiple data points to detect crimes faster and more accurately than systems that rely solely on humans.  It can recognize a criminal brandishing a gun at an employee, analyze that person’s stress levels, use facial recognition capabilities to identify the criminal, and respond to dangerous situations immediately and accurately.  Once an alarm is triggered, Athena offers the option to provide a lock down if the client chooses to “plug in.”  It can stop all elevators unless manual over ride key is inserted (fireman have a key by default), lock all office doors from outside access if a gun is detected, turn on lights, close all parking gates, and send text messages to designated third parties.

Most notably for those watching the bottom line, these systems can be incorporated with existing cameras.  Athena’s highly skilled staff will help design a system based on the needs and budget of their clients.  They will also partner with security firms to provide Athena’s leading-edge technology to their clients in concert with other existing security measures.  Training is a fundamental aspect of Athena’s service. We will provide on-site training for clients and/or invite security specialist partners and clients to our on-site training seminars.

We have finally reached a level of technology that allows corporate security and law enforcement to respond to threats in real time.  No more waiting six to twelve minutes for police to arrive.  No more wondering what’s happening inside a building.  Athena’s systems will recognize the threat and alert security and law enforcement.  Both can see inside the building, see the shooter, identify the shooter, and let him know that he has been spotted and police are on the way.  Finally, we have the ability to help prevent a violent crime before it ever happens.