Physical Security Outlook 2023 [K-12]

Top digitization challenges, opportunities, and physical security trends for K-12 schools in 2023.


There’s no question that K-12 school security has been a topic of great interest for several years. One recent survey found that over 90% of schools used security cameras in buildings, up from 61 percent in less than a decade. With a number of high-profile school shootings in recent years, school districts have increasingly turned to physical security systems to protect their students, staff, and buildings.

Tragic events have motivated school districts to improve their physical security and address long-term systematic issues. In addition, the combination of digitization and security integration has led to a significant increase in the use of security technologies in K-12 schools. These technologies have become an essential part of the school security and safety plan and have greatly improved the overall protection and safety of students and staff.

With digitization only increasing, school districts that can embrace this technology will be best positioned to keep students safe. In this article, we’ll share the top challenges, opportunities, and trends that school security leaders should review to digitally transform the delivery and management of their physical security infrastructure in 2023 and beyond.

Each school is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all security solution for every school, however there are some common best practices that every school should be following to protect their students, teachers, and school staff. The general consensus is that taking a systems-based approach to physical security can yield better results than focusing on one aspect of security. A systems-based approach to physical security means that all the pieces of the security puzzle work together to create a cohesive, holistic security system. Elements of an holistic school security program include:
  • Site & Building Design
  • School Security Personnel
  • Security Policies & Procedure
  • Physical Security Equipment & Technology
  • Training, exercise & drills

Digitization challenges for K-12 schools

Digitization refers to the process of making analog information digital. While physical security teams can benefit significantly by adopting a digitization strategy, industry complexities and a lack of tools to manage security devices digitally have hindered the transformation.

In today’s digital world, a modern school has many physical security devices and sensors, including surveillance cameras, alarm systems, sensors, access control systems, security lighting, etc. Additionally, these devices are often sourced from separate manufacturers and sometimes deployed across multiple buildings and time zones. 

Once the devices are installed, the security team is fully responsible for managing these devices, often using legacy tools designed for the physical world. In addition, the team must monitor and control the numerous upgrades, adjustments, and other lifecycle issues that arise over time. The amount of manual labor is staggering for even the most efficient security department.

Top digitization challenges for K-12 schools

Digitizing physical security systems requires a coordinated effort across teams. Leading challenges to widespread digitization adoption include a lack of a digital transformation strategy, organizational resistance, budget constraints, and issues specific to the security industry, such as a lack of standardized security system management practices. Understanding the challenges and barriers other organizations commonly face when adopting digital transformation will help security leaders in the education sector identify what is slowing down their organization and how to avoid stagnating in the future. Leading digitization challenges slowing down progress physical security progress in school districts include:
  • Poor visibility of systems and devices: School districts must ensure at least minimum levels of visibility to maintain their physical security systems. In simple terms, schools that lack visibility into their electronic security systems are likely unable to maintain robust physical security systems.
  • Siloed information: Electronic security systems technology and bank security needs are constantly changing and evolving. Physical security teams are less effective when siloed, so it’s crucial to have the tools and technology to provide a holistic view of the organization’s security infrastructure.
  • Lack of leadership support: Digital transformation starts at the top, but most security leaders struggle to administrative support. The main reason is that security is not a top priority unfortunately until there is a major incident or crisis. As a result, security initiatives are often dismissed as a cost center, so it’s up to security leaders to make the case for why investing in security is a key initiative.

Opportunities of digitization

Digital transformation provides an excellent opportunity for bank security leaders to reimagine how they operate, streamline and manage their physical security systems with new digital processes and tools.

The future is here, and thanks to cloud computing and lifecycle management platforms that enable organizations to manage their security investments and manage their legacy systems, it’s now possible to leverage the latest technology and make the transition to a secure environment that’s more flexible and less expensive. Opportunities for digitization for schools include the following:

  • Data-driven decision-making: The world is more data-driven than ever! Organizations are investing in automation and prioritizing ways to foster connectivity between internal and external systems to improve results and streamline operations. This requires real-time data processing across the enterprise to make informed and scalable decisions.
  • Scalable security system practices: Security leaders need scalable solutions to manage the many physical security devices and sensors, such as surveillance cameras, access controls, and alarm systems throughout the organization.
  • Upgrading legacy systems: Legacy system modernization can be an important part of an organization’s overall digital transformation. In an industry dominated by legacy technology, digitization allows schools to upgrade their legacy systems and standardized security.
  • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership: Digitization presents new standardization and optimization opportunities that enable schools to manage their physical security systems more efficiently. It also provides sustainable, cost-effective ways to improve response times and anticipate lifecycle management issues

Physical security digitization trends for K-12

Today’s digital transformation means limitless opportunities for schools that can digitize their physical security systems. Here are just a few of the many trends that will continue to drive digitization:

  • Cyber-physical convergence: With the rapid evolution of technology, physical and cyber security are linked more than ever. In 2023, the cyber-physical convergence will only accelerate as school districts seek to eliminate the silos that are currently preventing these two indispensable departments from being on the same page.
  • Cloud adoption acceleration: With the rapid evolution of technology, physical and cyber security are linked more than ever. In 2023, the cyber-physical convergence will only accelerate as school districts seek to eliminate the silos that are currently preventing these two indispensable departments from being on the same page.
  • AI-enabled video analytics: With the rapid evolution of technology, physical and cyber security are linked more than ever. In 2023, the cyber-physical convergence will only accelerate as school districts seek to eliminate the silos that are currently preventing these two indispensable departments from being on the same page.

Streamline K-12 School Security Systems

The time has come for K-12 schools to embrace digital transformation. By 2025, three out of every four organizations will leverage digital platforms to adapt to new markets and industries. Moreover, taking essential steps today will ensure security teams can predict and mitigate threats before they occur, freeing up resources to focus on strategic action and decisions.

Lifecycle management is a top priority for security leaders that want to digitize their physical security systems. SiteOwl is leading the digital transformation in the physical security industry by helping organizations harness the power of your systems data, enabling you to capture actionable information and insights into a centralized platform to deliver alerts when necessary and operate safely.

With SiteOwl, K-12 schools can manage their physical security systems and maintain a robust security stance from a central location. In addition, SiteOwl allows a company to maintain a centralized database of all of its physical security systems and leverage the power of comprehensive infrastructure intelligence.

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