This post was prompted by an initial project meeting and an annual tradition of watching a favorite movie around Christmas. During an initial project meeting, right after introductions, the Architect made a request. The Architect stated that the Client wanted all security devices to be invisible. In a previous conversation, I heard some examples of the measures to conceal devices. The current design included wall niches for light switches and temperature sensors for the HVAC system.
Today, the request for security to be unobtrusive, even frictionless, is nearly ubiquitous. Requests to be visually similar to other finishes in order to be unseen are common as well. But invisible is still a stretch.
Most security practitioners have had the opportunity to balance the effectiveness and visibility of security devices. Extreme circumstances can lead to specifying overt security devices in order to be more effective at prevention. In other circumstances we need to design entire systems to operate effectively and remain unnoticed.
I thought of that conversation a few hours later while watching the previously-mentioned Christmas movie. In the movie, a NYPD officer walks through a modern corporate lobby in LA in the late 1980s. He makes a point of checking out the security cameras in the lobby while waiting on the elevator to take him to his wife’s company’s Christmas party.
The camera looks like an early Sony CCD “brick”. They’re called “bricks” because that accurately describes their size and shape. These cameras were even mounted on contrasting white tubular arms secured to a dark stone facade wall. Anything but invisible. I can’t think of a corporate lobby where this would be acceptable today. The movie was emphasizing the building’s use of advanced technology to set up the plot point that the attackers were sophisticated, too. But I was struck by how far security technology has progressed in the thirty-plus years since that movie was made.
Today’s security devices offer better results in smaller packaging. The packaging isn’t just small, but customizable, with many manufacturers offering housings that match common finishes or that can be custom finished.
Today, we can (almost) accommodate our client’s request for invisible security. In this project, we have an opportunity to be creative. We’ll specify devices that are appropriate in function and appearance, and then we’ll locate them where they can be useful but overlooked. It’ll be a challenge, but helping clients define and accomplish their diverse objectives is what we do.
It should be fun. “Welcome to the party, Pal.”