Regulations are nothing new to utilities. What is new, though, are the increasing amounts of security-related regulations handed down to utilities. These newer regulations don’t affect power lines and transformers as much as they affect a utility’s control centers, stations and substations: the areas where a threat to physical security could create a domino effect, crippling the grid for a large geographical region.
Is there a way to meet—or even exceed—security-related compliance in these areas affordably and efficiently? There is, according to Jason de Souza, vice president of industrial security solutions for Anixter. The key is to address security layer by layer to identify where shared goals exist.
“Sometimes there isn’t a budget to either purchase all the technology needed or to build the infrastructure required to support it, which can be discouraging,” de Souza says. “But when you peel these needs down and weigh them against other priorities—like predictive maintenance, safety and human resource management—you may find solutions that are both affordable and can proactively address needs across multiple departments.”
New advances in access control are making this a reality for utilities of all sizes, specifically in the areas of thermodynamics and biometrics.
“We’ve seen a lot of advancement in thermal technology, which detects heat instead of movement,” de Souza points out. “Using this type of technology can help utilities reduce false alarms on the perimeter. When the alarm is tripped via a “virtual fence” set up on the camera, security personnel or local authorities can log in remotely to see whether it was caused by an intruder or by an animal.”
While thermal imaging capabilities are beneficial, what makes the technology truly revolutionary is that advances in thermography have made it price accessible. Modern thermographic-enabled security cameras can be “turned around” and used to detect temperature fluctuations in equipment like arrestors, switches and generators. Now what was useful for physical security can be used for predictive maintenance as well.
Access control technology has come so far that there’s no excuse for not knowing who has accessed a facility, when they were there and what they were doing. Simple badges, access cards and keys are being replaced by biometrics and other groundbreaking technology.
While access cards can be lost, stolen or not turned in, a fingerprint or mobile phone app is not likely to be misplaced, says de Souza. He adds that biometrics and smart phone access can help utilities:
- Track contractors and other temporary workers or visitors within a facility
- Restrict the access of certain workers to specific days or times
- Track certifications and lock out those whose security certifications have expired, which can help shore up safety compliance
What’s more, says de Souza, these access control functions can be tied to a human resource management system to provide even more value. For example, do the number of hours people are spending on a specific project indicate that you need to add people to the project?
“All of a sudden, you’ve got more than just access control,” he states. “You’ve got a sophisticated people management system that offers analytics for multiple departments—from facilities to HR to purchasing. You can track efficiencies throughout a building and from person to person. And it’s all tied together into one integrated system.”