Specifically Speaking with Charles LeBlanc
Tell me about the origin of BLW and why you describe BLW’s approach to security consulting and engineering as holistic?
BLW evolved from Schiff & Associates, a security consulting and engineering firm founded in 1982. Schiff & Associates was purchased by Kroll in 1998 and the security design and engineering practice eventually became known as Kroll Security Group (KSG). In September of 2014 three KSG senior managers, Ray Blackwell, David Waldron and myself, formed BLW Security Group (BLW) to transition portions of KSG’s design and engineering practice to a separate independent entity. BLW is a professional security consulting and engineering firm comprised primarily of former KSG engineers, project managers and administrative personnel.
Our approach to physical security has been the same throughout the evolution of the firm: to integrate electronic systems and architectural elements to enhance security staff and procedures. BLW applies engineering principles and processes to this integration to ensure a consistent, well-coordinated system design that integrates holistically with other systems and the client’s building operation.
What vertical markets do you work in? Can you describe a recent project?
BLW provides security consulting and engineering services for clients in many vertical markets including: K-12 and higher education, convention centers, corporate headquarters and campuses, courthouses and statehouses, cultural institutions and museums, energy, financial, government, healthcare, hospitality, infrastructure, manufacturing/distribution, mixed use, public safety, research/labs, sports, transportation and utility. We are currently involved in the ExxonMobil campus in The Woodlands, Texas. The campus consists of multiple office buildings, a laboratory, conference and training centers, parking garages and employee amenity facilities including a child care center and a wellness center on a 385-acre site.
You believe there’s been an important shift in access control technology. What’s going on now and what do you believe we’ll see in the next couple of years?
The introduction of intelligent door hardware solutions is a significant shift in access control technology. These door hardware solutions integrate card readers and other electronic access control elements into the door locking mechanism and represent a shift to edge technology, similar to the shift from analog to network camera technology. Configurations vary from locks that stand alone to those that communicate wirelessly and through Power over Ethernet network connections. The configuration options offer tremendous flexibility and implementation costs that allow electronic access control to be deployed for many applications that were previously too expensive to consider. As with any new and evolving technology, current solutions have capability and implementation limitations and are not appropriate for many applications, so each must be carefully considered.
How do consultants’ approach to new technology developments typically differ from manufacturers?
Manufacturers are naturally focused on selling their products, and discussions with them focus on the benefits of their product. This information is helpful when considering mature products and technology but can be very misleading for new technology. Consultants investigate new technology to identify the potential advantages and disadvantages for various applications. Consultants then consider the technology as it applies to specific security and operational requirements for each client and application. Prematurely deploying new technology can significantly impact ongoing operations. Network cameras are a great example of this process. Implementing a network-based camera system is common practice today, however, network and camera technology has evolved significantly since network cameras were first introduced. Implementing network cameras on these early networks as recommended by network camera manufacturers often caused network outages, lost video, network security holes and other operational problems. Users were also dissatisfied with early network camera video because the images pixilated when displayed on larger monitors and did not display as clearly as analog cameras.