Is Your Meeting Safe?
The safety of meeting participants is more top of mind than ever before. Recent events in Paris, Mali, Egypt, and Lebanon have again put people on edge. Planners are finding themselves having to take discussions about security to a higher level. Existing event technologies can play a prominent role in helping to make meetings safer.
The world is less safe today than it was fifteen years ago. Terrorist attacks and mass shootings have become routine news stories. While there is no bad time to review the vulnerabilities and risks associated with hosting a meeting, now could be a particularly good time to dig a little deeper into the subject. In some cases, technology can be part of a comprehensive safety plan.
Bad actors can only do physical harm to meeting participants if they gain access to the places where people are present. In most meetings, the only requirement for entering a show floor or meeting space is having a badge—the existence of which is visually verified by a human security guard. Badges, however, can be stolen or counterfeited.
There are a number of ways to tighten up access control with the aim of making a meeting safer:
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology placed at entrances can passively read a badge embedded with an RFID tag and immediately detect whether it has been reported stolen. When used appropriately, such as with a fast track entry lane, it can grant or deny access to a visitor without the use of a handheld scanner.
RFID or barcoded wristbands are more difficult to counterfeit than paper badges. Once activated, each wristband is associated with an online profile and access rights via a unique ID number on the RFID chip or barcode. Fixed or handheld devices at entry gates read the ID number and compare it to the event profile to deny or grant access to the wearer.
Mobile credentials on NFC-enabled phones can reduce unauthorized access and authenticate users. To create the mobile badge, attendees upload a headshot photo to the event website and download the badge app to their smartphones. When they arrive onsite, a human confirms that the picture on the app matches the person in front of him/her and validates the badge. Upon entry to the event, users open the NFC Badge app and tap a reader that grants or denies access based on the validated photo.
Cameras and sensors placed on the interior and exterior of the venue can help a security team spot unauthorized persons or suspicious vehicles. Features of state-of-the-art surveillance equipment include user-selectable capture, adaptive laser and infrared illumination, solar-powered wireless cameras, wide-angle zoom lenses, two-way audio for communication between the operator and the camera location, scream and sound level detection, alarms, and live-video streams.
Drones are becoming more common inside and outside of meeting spaces. While the aerial footage captured by the devices is used primarily for marketing purposes by event organizers, they can also be used for surveillance. There are several advantages associated with using drones. They can cover angles that surveillance cameras can’t reach. They can also follow a suspicious person or vehicle.
While most meeting planners are unlikely to be experts on surveillance systems, whether or not a venue is adequately equipped with cameras and sensors might be a legitimate reason NOT to select it as a location for some meetings. Any discussion about security with venue managers should touch on the modernity and functionality of surveillance systems and perhaps the feasibility of using drones to augment existing surveillance programs.
It is well known that one of the first impulses people have when they witness a crime unfolding is to capture a photo or video and post it on social media channels. Now that many events use mobile apps with social media capabilities, it’s even easier for attendees to use Twitter or Facebook to report suspicious activities.
Planners can use social media channels as early warning systems by making sure that security personnel are monitoring mentions of the event name and the event hashtag. Those who have particular concerns and the appropriate (social media savvy) audience can encourage attendees to use social media channels—a sort of “see something, tweet something” plan—however, most will likely prefer to handle any problems more privately.
Arguably, trade shows, conferences, and corporate meetings aren’t any more vulnerable to acts of violence than other business or public activities. And where a planner begins (hiring security experts) and ends (testing for toxins in the crème brulee) his/her security planning depends on the risk profile of the group.
Nevertheless, paying more attention to safety now is a prudent course of action for most planners. Fortunately, there are more technologies available today to tighten security and enable staff to address potentially dangerous situations more quickly.
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