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Chicago-based Schirmer Engineering is part of Aon’s Global Risk Control and Engineering Group. GlobeSt.com sat down with Sean A. Ahrens, Schirmer’s project manager, security consulting and design services, to get his thoughts on security technology and property management. With more than seventeen years experience in the security industry, Ahrens is known for his technical expertise. He sits on a variety of standard setting panels, including Underwriters Laboratories, Security Industry Association (SIA), ASIS International: Commercial Real Estate Council and, most notably, participated previously on the ASIS Commission on Guidelines. Ahrens has also contributed on the forthcoming physical security guideline administered by the ASIS commission on guidelines. He has been responsible for providing security threat and risk analysis, contingency planning, loss prevention, and force protection design and planning and has provided design and construction administration for government, public, private entities that encompass telecommunications, security, video and access control systems. In the first of a two-part series, Ahrens gives an overview of the security industry and the way it affects commercial real estate.

GlobeSt.com: How did you start in security consulting?

Ahrens: That’s a long story, but my move to consulting occurred while I was attending Western Illinois University in Illinois. My original goal was to be a canine police officer, but my internship coordinator identified another possibility as a security consultant. Almost simultaneously, and coincidentally, my father sent a newspaper clipping on a security consulting company, with which I interned and later accepted a position.

GlobeSt.com: You’re a member of the Commercial Real Estate Council of ASIS International. Can you explain the function or objective of that council?

Ahrens: I have been involved with the Commercial Real Estate Council for approximately four years. The council endeavors to provide a credible and progressive source of information and leadership regarding security, life safety and emergency preparedness issues affecting the commercial real estate industry. It’s one of the best councils ASIS International administers. The council constantly thinks proactively and works to educate the masses. I think that’s why I continue to be involved, because it is a group of “A” people/talent that are constantly thinking outside of the box regarding security for commercial real estate.

GlobeSt.com: What are your thoughts on security technology within the commercial real-estate marketplace?

Ahrens: Security technology is only one part of the security program. We also need to remember operational security, such as accurate and updated post orders, security policies and staffing. In addition to operational security, there is physical security, such as lighting, keying, doors, windows, landscaping and way finding. Technology is only one part of the program, and I fear that facility executives are not using enough caution, and are being caught up in beta technology or “bleeding edge technology” to replace the operational security program.

GlobeSt.com: Technology is gaining a larger role in commercial real estate. But you say facility executives and other CRE professionals should use caution, especially about beta or what you describe as “bleeding edge” technology. Why?

Ahrens: Beta releases of technology, in my opinion, can come in multiple forms. Beta tests can be market driven, standards driven, politically driven, product driven or a combination of all four. None of this benefits a potential buyer. The best way to show the need for caution by facility executives is to look at commercial electronics. Many of us follow technology, as lemmings drawn to a cliff. We just recently saw what I would describe as a beta-test. The emergence of High-Definition technology is sweeping in all markets, but especially in the commercial market. Traditional television-tube technology is stepping out of the mainstream and is being replaced with flat screen/panel technology. This new technology can render and produce images–with the correct source–that were unheard of previously with its predecessor. A format war began, for the purposes to capitalize on the benefits of this new flat panel technology. The war began with High-Definition (HD) DVDTM, and Blue-RayTM disc technology and recently came to an end, when movie production companies chose Blue-RayTM technology over that of the HD competitor for the reproduction of their HD movies. For those unfortunate people who purchased a $200 to $500 HD-DVD player, this outcome would ultimately mean they would need to purchase a Blue-RayTM player to have a similar visual effect that the HD-DVDTM player gave them. It’s a bitter pill to invest monies in technology, only to learn that it was too early. I predict this will occur in the security marketplace and facility managers will be paying more than $200 to $500 to correct the issue.

(Next week: More insight for CRE pros on beta technology)

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