7 tips and reasons to invest in cloud-based critical utilities security

Pip Courcoux at ABLOY UK and Juan Noriega at ABLOY Colombia list several reasons why it’s high time to invest in cloud-based security systems – especially in critical infrastructure of public utilities. The main rationale is that cloud-based solutions allow for evolution to take place.

During the latest, unusual months, the role of utilities has increased significantly. Electricity and telecom, for example, are more critical than ever as people have started telecommuting from their homes, relying on data and electricity to get their jobs done. Here are a few reasons why now is the right time to change into cloud-based security and access or locking solutions for your critical utility infrastructure – and things to consider when investing.

1.        Instead of making decisions based on today’s needs, look ahead

One of the biggest challenges with security in utilities is that the rate of technological change in the last 10 to 20 years has been tremendous. After centuries of mechanical keys and padlocks, we have seen a strong rise of electromechanical and digital locking solutions during the last decade. That has meant a big change for our customers.

We discussed with one of our customers in the energy sector about their payment method preference for the security solutions we provide them. It turned out they were keen on a subscription model. Earlier they would have paid for a mechanical piece of metal that would be used for the next 20 years. But today, no-one knows what his/her infrastructure will look like in the next decade.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will be rolled out also in the utilities sector during the next three to five years. IoT may not sound super-exciting at first, but just think about your infrastructure network, equipped with telemetry and sensors – including digital security and access control solutions – constantly sending data over fast 5G connections. Your networks suddenly become more visible and more autonomous.

In fact, modern security systems are both part of these networks and at the same time also secure them.

So, don’t fall into the pitfall of making your investment decision based on a snapshot of your operations today. Instead, try to see how the picture will look in the next five to ten years, and leave enough room for change. Make sure the solution you commit to is future-ready.

2.     Start capitalising on the benefits of the cloud – it allows for evolution to take place

In their March 2020 issue, Specification Magazine spoke to us about cloud security servers. The transition into the cloud has been going on for over a decade in many other business fields. Access control, on the other hand, has been of the slowest markets in adopting new cloud technologies and their benefits.

This has been the case, although cloud-supported locking solutions have been available for at least ten years. Our latest locking innovation for critical infrastructure, ABLOY® BEAT, is actually available only as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) hosted cloud option.

Any utility organization considering a transition to the cloud should not hesitate to take the step and begin to take advantage of the flexibility, lower costs, and better security it brings. Just make sure you are working with a reliable provider that understands the needs of your physical as well as cyber infrastructure.

3.    Bring all your security and safety needs together when calling for tenders

Another important thing to consider when selecting access control solutions for your utility infrastructure, is to bring the security needs of both your critical and noncritical operational, and office or administration sites together. Failing to do so increases the risk of investing in siloed systems that don’t interact.

There are also many layers in terms of “critical”. Usually the portion of a network  that is critical is small. In electricity, critical operational sites are usually ones that supply power to hospitals or airports, whereas power substations in urban areas are less critical, although they are higher in volume.

The requirements for these various kinds of sites are different. In critical operational sites access control needs to be highly secure, flexible and traceable and ensure a safe place for employees and subcontractors. In noncritical operational sites locking solutions need to be cost-effective and easy to use. In office and administration sites with more door environments, on the other hand, access cards may be a better option rather than keys.

As said, make sure all your security systems can be integrated together with your other workflow solutions and managed with the same user interface.

4.    See mobile devices as essential access points of your infrastructure

On the cusp of 5G networks,  we need to change the way we perceive our mobile phones. We have to stop seeing our phones merely as toys or even tools. Instead, we need to view them as important extensions of whole infrastructures. After all, the phone is actually a wireless network access point, a router that practically everybody is carrying around. Phones should be seen as an essential part of the network. That’s what 5G is all about: mobile connectivity.

In this development modern mobile locking solutions, like our new BEAT, are highly relevant.

5.    Meeting every need – be it security or safety

Let’s also not forget that locking solutions are not only for the security against unwanted visitors, but also for the health and safety of people. Power substations, for example, pose a danger of electric shocks.

With proper access control you can avoid that uncertified staff or subcontractors end up in wrong places where they could get hurt. And as said earlier, it’s also wise trying to foresee potential future needs, for example any health measures to prevent disease infections in time to come.

6.    In mature markets: meet the standards and avoid fines

In the United Kingdom, utilities are the oldest critical infrastructure sector Abloy has been serving. Electricity North West, Northumbrian Water, South Staffs Water and Welsh Water are only a few examples of utility companies we are securing.

Here, where the security market in utilities has grown mature, physical security and meeting all standards are the top priorities that our customers consider when they invest in new access solutions. Regulators, such as Ofgem and Ofwat, and standardisation bodies heavily regulate and monitor the utility operators in the market – especially in energy and water. Failure to comply with the regulations may result in substantial fines.

7.      In less regulated markets: specifications are key

Whereas  physical security and standards are priorities in mature markets like the UK, our utility customers in Latin America primarily want their access solutions to be flexible and easy to use, and key management to be uncomplex. The utilities market here is not that heavily regulated, in terms of security. Instead, technical specifications are the most important factors. That’s why we work very closely with our customers so that the solution we provide will meet their specific security needs.

Argentina, for instance, is geographically enormous. To deliver a physical key from the head office of a utility company in, let’s say, Buenos Aires to some peripheral site in the southernmost Patagonia is by no means fast or cheap. With fully digital keys that you use with a mobile app, like our new BEAT solution, you avoid these challenges.

We at Abloy are carefully listening to our customers’ ever-changing requirements. The needs listed here above are features that we consequently have taken into account in the keyless ABLOY BEAT solution and all other options in our digital portfolio, including electromechanical (PROTEC2 CLIQ) and mechanical (ABLOY® PROTEC2) solutions.

If you want to learn more about the ABLOY digital portfolio or our other offering for critical infrastructure, stay tuned for updates on our LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram channels!

 

Pip Courcoux
Sales & Product Manager
Abloy UK
Tel. +44 7826 894827
pip.courcoux@abloy.co.uk
LinkedIn

Juan Carlos Noriega Sagbini
Solution Manager - ABLOY Critical Infrastructure
Abloy Colombia S.A.S.
Juan.Noriega@abloy.com
LinkedIn