Home » Utilities and Energy Trends: The Future of Physical Security

Utilities and Energy Trends: The Future of Physical Security

Posted by Anna MacPherson on Dec 19, 2023

The utilities and energy sector plays a critical role in supporting global infrastructure and powering economies. As technology advances and the world transitions towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, the sector faces various challenges and opportunities.

10 Trends Affecting the Future of Utility and Energy Sector Physical Security

Safeguarding vital assets involves addressing cybersecurity and physical security threats, adapting to changing energy landscapes, and implementing innovative technologies. Here are a few emerging trends and predictions that are likely to shape the energy and utilities sector’s approach to physical security.

1. Integration of physical and cybersecurity

As the convergence of physical and cyber threats becomes more evident, the energy and utilities sector will increasingly integrate physical and cybersecurity measures. This fusion will create comprehensive security strategies that address both physical breaches and cyberattacks, to help ensure a more robust defense against all potential threats.

Whether a bad actor plans a cyberattack or a physical one, the convergence of cybersecurity and physical security can help the organization be more resilient and fortify its asset protection.

Here’s an example of why the integration of both security approaches is needed. An attacker could break into the building and make their way to the data control room. This is the physical part of security. In the data room, the bad actors work to complete their cyberattack, which affects cybersecurity.

Therefore, utility and energy organizations need to consider both aspects and develop an integrated plan rather than silo the two components. Convergence refers to the partnership between two typically separate security functions. Therefore, the convergence of cyber and physical security looks at the whole picture which includes both.

2. Advanced surveillance and monitoring systems

The future will witness the adoption of cutting-edge surveillance technologies, such as video analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) driven cameras, and sensors. These systems can help enhance real-time monitoring and threat detection capabilities, allowing for more rapid responses to security incidents.

Technology like video analytics and artificial intelligence don’t replace human intelligence and involvement. Rather, they complement humans by taking on the tedious part of monitoring. AI and video analytics cannot work alone without human intervention. They can make mistakes, and they cannot call anyone during an emergency or to report something.

The technologies can monitor many cameras to watch for problematic scenarios. When they identify a match, they can alert the human monitoring operator who can act based on what they confirm.

If it is a problem, then the monitoring operator can act. This could mean alerting the intruder on the utility site through an onsite speaker, calling emergency services, or contacting the organization.

3. Automation and robotics

Automation, including drones and robots, will play a significant role in the physical security landscape. Drones can be used for aerial surveillance of the vast energy infrastructure, while robots can be deployed for routine inspections and maintenance, reducing the human risk factor. Drones and robots can operate autonomously and be integrated with video surveillance, monitoring, and access control.

The organization can have an onsite robot or use a drone to get close-up information or evaluate the scenario to determine whether there is danger. They can also measure temperature and humidity as well as check the air quality.

4. Biometric access control

Biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprint and facial recognition, will gain prominence in securing access to critical facilities. These technologies offer a higher level of security and accountability compared to traditional access cards and keys. Unlike badges, they’re hard to steal because they require human involvement.

Some organizations may use two-factor authentication. One factor would be a fingerprint or facial recognition. To ensure there is nothing insidious going on, access would require a second way to authenticate the person’s identity. This is often done by entering a passcode that changes. It’s hard to access both options.

5. Data analytics for threat prediction

Using big data and advanced analytics, energy and utilities companies could predict security threats before they occur. Predictive analytics allows the utility or energy organization to do proactive risk management and security measures to reduce vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, insider threats pose a significant risk to the security of critical infrastructure. Predictive analytics, paired with behavioral analytics, can help detect unusual patterns in user behavior that may indicate a potential insider threat.

By monitoring user activities and identifying deviations from normal behavior, the sector can proactively address internal security risks and safeguard vital assets from unauthorized access or malicious activities.

The integration of real-time data analytics helps ensure immediate threat detection and response. Predictive models can continuously analyze data streams for anomalies or suspicious activities. This allows the organization to quickly identify and help mitigate potential threats. This real-time approach can enhance the utilities and energy sector’s ability to deter or minimize the impact of security incidents, ensuring the continuous and secure operation of critical assets.

Incorporating data analytics for threat prediction not only can strengthen the security posture of the energy and utilities sector but also enable a proactive and adaptive approach to asset protection. By harnessing the power of predictive data, the industry can stay ahead of potential risks, optimize operations, and help ensure the reliability and resilience of vital assets in the face of evolving security challenges.

6. Resilience and disaster preparedness

Climate change has become a threat to all organizations due to the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. That’s why there’s a growing emphasis on climate resilience and disaster preparedness. This includes investments in infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather conditions, as well as comprehensive risk assessments to help identify vulnerabilities in the face of climate-related challenges.

It’s crucial to maintain security during natural disasters and emergencies. Therefore, the sector should invest heavily in building resilience against physical threats, including natural disasters. This will involve fortified infrastructure designs, robust backup systems, and rapid response plans to minimize downtime during crises.

7. Supply chain security

As the energy and utilities sector becomes increasingly interconnected, globalized, and reliant on diverse suppliers, ensuring the security of the supply chain is vital for safeguarding vital assets. This includes maintaining the integrity and security of components and equipment used in critical infrastructure.

Predictions suggest a growing focus on comprehensive supply chain security measures to help mitigate risks associated with disruptions, cyber threats, and geopolitical challenges. This proactive approach can enable the implementation of mitigation strategies, such as diversifying suppliers, creating redundancy in critical components, and establishing contingency plans for various scenarios.

8. Public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships (PPP) have emerged as a powerful strategy in the energy and utilities sector to enhance security, promote innovation, and address the complex challenges facing the industry.

Predictions suggest an increasing reliance on PPPs to foster collaborative efforts between government agencies, private companies, and research institutions. These partnerships can facilitate the sharing of threat intelligence and the development of best practices for physical security.

This collaboration augments the collective understanding of emerging threats, vulnerabilities, and best practices. Predictive analytics and data sharing within these partnerships can enable a more comprehensive and real-time assessment of potential risks, contributing to a more secure and resilient energy infrastructure.

9. Sustainability and green security practices

Sustainability and green security practices have become vital as the world intensifies efforts to deal with climate change. Sustainability will not be limited to energy production as it will extend to security practices.

Predictions point towards a continued emphasis on integrating renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro into the energy mix. This transition helps reduce the carbon footprint. It also enhances the resilience of the energy grid.

Green security in this context involves implementing sustainable energy solutions that contribute to a low-carbon future while helping to ensure the security and reliability of the energy infrastructure.

There’s a push for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Net-Zero America study emphasizes the urgency of transitioning to a low-carbon future. This initiative involves aggressive strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, including energy, with a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Such ambitions underline the need for the utilities and energy sector to adopt more sustainable and green security practices, ensuring their operations align with global climate goals.


10. Employee training and awareness

Recognizing that employees are both an asset and a potential risk, energy and utilities companies should invest in ongoing training and awareness programs to help ensure staff understand and follow security protocols. These initiatives aim to empower personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and help mitigate security risks effectively.

Training programs need to go beyond cybersecurity to encompass broader operational security measures. This includes educating employees on physical security protocols, access control, and the importance of adhering to established procedures. Predictions suggest hands-on training scenarios and simulations to help ensure that personnel are well-prepared to respond to security incidents in real-world situations.

The energy and utilities sector is undergoing a transformation driven by technological advancements. The safeguarding of vital assets requires a holistic approach that addresses multiple factors. As the sector evolves, staying ahead of these emerging trends will be crucial for ensuring a secure energy future that’s sustainable and meets stakeholder environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.

Bolster Utility and Energy Security with Video Surveillance

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The video surveillance with remote monitoring customized for the utility and energy sector can get a return on investment within months. To learn more about remote video surveillance and how it can protect the utility and energy sector, check out the Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. For an energy and utility sector security solution that helps maximize your ROI, contact us.

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