How intelligent sensing technologies can shape the future of logistics security


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Logistics facilities represent a critical part of the supply chain and of any company’s business operation and assets – any disruption can have huge consequences, both functional and financial.

Cloud-based software provider Senseye’s 2022 True Cost of Downtime Report, for example, estimated unplanned and unforeseen downtime costed Fortune Global 500 industrial companies close to $1.5 trillion last year.

When it comes to keeping loading bay operations running smoothly and maintaining production levels – as well as avoiding unnecessary and costly downtime – security can play a critical role. An effective security system is not only paramount to protecting against threats from unauthorised entry and theft of goods and assets from the warehouse, but also criminal activity targeted to loaded vehicles or vandalism of the site.

Complex environments

Modern logistics and distribution centres are unique environments and they’re only getting bigger. Being able to efficiently monitor such a large premises requires technologies that can quickly and accurately locate the point of intrusion, which can be particularly challenging in such busy environments and with 24/7 operations. Adding to the complexity is the highly dynamic workforce within the site, in a state of constant change as logistics platforms optimise staff schedules.

Due to the sheer size of buildings and cargo, logistics facilities are often situated in remote locations, which presents an additional challenge for monitoring teams. Excessive and unnecessary false alarms are costly as it requires more resources to verify activations, but also requires installers to keep coming back to tweak the system, which is obviously hugely inefficient. However, the major risk of nuisance alarms is that the system becomes unreliable and means personnel may lose confidence in the solution, which can lead to the worst-case scenario of failing to respond to real intrusions.

Effective security management of logistics facilities requires superior technologies that can reliably alert and anticipate potential threats, as well as provide context for security teams to take appropriate action. Sensing technologies can effectively solve this challenge and have been successfully deployed in many logistics environments across the EMEA region.

The role of sensing technologies

When designing a security system, the first step should be identifying the goals and purpose of protection and establishing what level of security is required. Different security technologies serve different purposes and relying on sensing technologies for intrusion detection can bring intelligence to the system and minimise nuisance alarms, contributing to more efficient and effective security.

The performance of the security system should not be compromised by lighting, weather or other environmental conditions. Sensing technologies have been specifically designed to ‘detect’ and are not affected by light and can, in fact, reliably detect even in complete darkness, variable temperature or wind, rain or snow. In addition, sensors can ‘learn’ and adapt to the environment conditions, enabling them to filter out common causes of nuisance alarms.

Another advantage of sensing technologies is they are designed to actively look for any suspicious activity and have the intelligence to identify situations that require immediate attention. More importantly, sensors will rapidly initiate a pre-determined security response, whether it is triggering lights, activating audio alerts, guiding security cameras or alerting security guards, contributing to an automated and proactive security system.

One step ahead with LiDAR

For any logistics site, regardless of scale, it is key to identify the different levels of security: Areas that should never be entered or breached; areas that can be used during working hours such as parking lots; areas that can only be entered by people or vehicles with the right authority such as gates or loading bays. There are few technologies with a high level of versatility that can adapt to protecting all of these spaces.

LiDAR technology offers the highest level of detection accuracy and is a versatile security solution which can be used both indoor and out. Mounted horizontally, 2D LiDARs can protect rooftops, skylights and open areas. Mounted vertically, they can be utilised to protect building boundaries, storage areas and areas containing high value or restricted use goods.

LiDARs can be seamlessly integrated with CCTV and access control systems to guarantee everyone in the restricted area is pre-authorised. Mounted at existing structures like building facades, LiDAR sensors can accurately be oriented to, and detect only at, the fence line.

Fence line and narrow corridor protection

In most logistic sites, it is common to find narrow spaces by the perimeter line, whether it is a truck parked close to a fence, vegetation growing, a building that is too close to the perimeter wall or cargo containers which are next to each other. 

In these areas, the first challenge is the short distance, sometimes as short as a couple of meters, and with occlusions that could block the field of view. This poses a unique challenge when it comes to intruder detection as many security systems rely solely on analytics cameras which could potentially miss an intrusion or trigger false alarms.

To overcome this challenge, 2D LiDAR sensors are the optimal alternative to effectively solve the problem. Mounted on a pole by the perimeter line, the sensors can generate a vertical or angled laser wall which can detect any attempts to cross, climb or crawl through. Even in extremely narrow corridors of 30cm, the sensors can create a virtual perimeter wall ensuring there are no vulnerable detection gaps.

Restricted areas

Using sensing detection in and around warehouse environments enables operators and monitoring teams to quickly identify any unexpected or unauthorised vehicles or people breaching the area. Combined with intruder and access control systems, rules can be set based on the time of day; for example, if trucks are not expected to arrive overnight, an alert can be sent if the sensor detects one within a set time period.

These rules can also be created to take into account vehicle size or other factors, such as if there’s a security guard in the space, not to issue an alert. Likewise, the system can be set to differentiate between wildlife and a ‘human-sized’ object, to reduce false alarms. The system can integrate with  VMS and other devices, such as cameras and ANPR, to provide operators with more context of what is going on.

For example, OPTEX REDSCAN sensors are the key part of a system being deployed for this purpose at an electric bike warehouse, where the equipment is valued at thousands of euros each. The system issues alerts for any people or vehicles who aren’t expected at the warehouse during working hours and out of hours or anyone detected in unauthorised areas, like on the roof. However, the sensors are programmed not to trigger alerts when small wildlife like rabbits are detected near the façade or birds alight on the roof itself, significantly reducing the number of nuisance or false alarms and providing greater peace of mind for the business.

Protecting entry points

If a site is surrounded by a perimeter fence or wall, constant monitoring is needed to ensure that no one intrudes the perimeter line during or after working hours – the system should be ‘always on’.

Entry points, such as gates, turnstiles and doors are typically vulnerable points exploited in the perimeter by would-be intruders; these points can be secured through a combination of detection and access control technologies, though care needs to be taken to prevent tailgating or unauthorised access while the gate is operating. LiDAR sensors can be set to monitor any intrusion while the gate is open or closing. It can also be configured to trigger an alarm just above the fence line, allowing the system to be permanently armed.

One of the main advantages of long range LiDARs is that they allow alarms to be set based on a certain logic or criteria. For instance, operators can choose to create logic based on object/vehicle size. In this scenario, trucks entering the perimeter would not trigger an alert as they fit the specified target size or height, while pedestrians or smaller vans would trigger an alert, for instance, to activate cameras or initiate security protocols.

Although skylights bring natural light into warehouses, they are often used by intruders to enter the facilities from the roof. In order to address this concern, LiDAR sensors can be installed to create a virtual roof (outdoor) or virtual ceiling (indoor) to monitor in real time for any presence of potential intruders and allowing for immediate action to be taken.

Internal protection

Warehouses are often victims of insider involvement (shrinkage). While protocol and access control plays a major role, keeping tight protection of all the equipment and assets, particularly small objects, can be a challenge.

LiDAR technology offers the level of precision and versatility to adapt to these spaces, creating a virtual wall around assets and, when linked to access control systems, enabling access to certain racks and equipment while keeping the rest of the assets safe.

OPTEX REDSCAN sensors are used in warehouses to virtually cage high value electronics with laser walls to ensure that only authorised staff with the right credentials are allowed access. Any attempts to collect equipment from the incorrect rack will trigger an audio alert and an alarm is immediately sent to the 24-hour on-site security team. The sensors can also monitor movement or objects being thrown from one side to the other; the exact point of detection can be mapped and associated to the cameras monitoring that area.

Protecting warehouse and logistics centres against intrusion and theft that causes unnecessary and costly downtime requires the analysis of both the security and operational requirements as well as the environment for each and every site.

There is no one-size-fits all solution and each environment will have varying requirements and challenges. However, by incorporating intelligent, highly reliable and versatile sensing technologies, such as LiDARs, logistics businesses can protect their premises, people and assets to maintain operations and the strength of the supply chain.

Article provided by OPTEX EMEA

This article was originally published in the March 2023 edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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