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No matter an organization’s size or scope, physical security is usually considered a top priority by leaders and management teams. While the presence of physical security staff, environmental access control features and other similar security measures can help to deter threats, the deployment of automated solutions can dramatically improve incident responses.

Intrusion detection systems for physical security alert teams to the presence of unauthorized persons or suspicious activity in restricted areas, enabling relevant parties to enact swift and informed responses to mitigate the impact of security incidents. Below is a complete guide to physical intrusion detection systems and devices for business owners and professionals interested in strengthening their business security systems with support from live monitoring technologies.

What are physical intrusion detection systems?

Physical intrusion detection systems, or PID security, are unique security mechanisms and technologies designed to automatically identify intrusion events. PIDS technology can take many forms, with specialized sensors configured to detect stimuli like motion, heat, sound and pressure, the presence of which will trigger instant responses.

PID sensors are usually affixed to doors, windows, walls or ceilings in high-risk locations. The Installed devices will be connected to a control panel and a range of integrated alarms or wider security devices like CCTV cameras and access control readers.

If active physical intrusion detection sensors detect motion, heat, sound or pressure levels above a predetermined threshold or outside a specific timeframe, linked alarms will sound and integrated security devices will be triggered to provide immediate incident response. 

When physical intrusion detection systems are integrated into a cloud-based management platform, instant alerts can also be sent to security teams remotely. Admins can then view live feeds from relevant CCTV cameras to gain additional contextual information and activate wider security devices like smart locks from a secure personal smart device.

Types of physical intrusion detection systems

Physical intrusion detection systems are highly customizable security solutions, with leaders able to utilize various types of sensors, alarms and monitoring systems to develop bespoke installations. Below are a few physical intrusion detection system examples worth exploring:

  • Interior intrusion detection systems — Interior physical IDS use sensors attached to interior access points like doors and windows to continuously monitor high-risk areas. Security personnel will be notified if sensors detect stimuli consistent with a break-in.

  • Perimeter intrusion detection systems — Perimeter physical intrusion detection systems are designed to detect intruders attempting to pass through exterior access points like access control gates, fences and checkpoints stationed on access roads.

  • Point intrusion detection systems — Point PID security systems cover any specific access points that stakeholders wish to continuously monitor. These can include doors, windows, ventilation systems or any other potential entry points that need securing.

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Which industries and organizations use physical IDS?

Physical intrusion detection systems can be effectively deployed by organizations of any size across most industries. However, they’re typically found in high-security environments. Below are a few examples of the types of organizations that benefit most from PIDS technology:

  • Transport hubs - Airports, train stations, and bus terminals typically contain multiple areas off-limits to the public. Physical IDS installed at access points to control rooms, maintenance areas, and storage spaces help mitigate the risk of security breaches.

  • Military bases - Military bases are among the most secure locations in the US. PID security systems help prevent unauthorized access to various high-risk areas such as weapons storage rooms, server rooms and areas used to store hazardous materials.

  • Data centers - Private data centers contain vast amounts of identifiable information associated with customers and commercial organizations. Physical IDS helps on-site staff protect data centers information and maintain compliance with relevant data privacy laws.

  • Correctional facilities - Physical intrusion detection systems installed in prisons, jails and correctional facilities are used to alert guards of potential disturbances or break-outs, ensuring inmates remain safe and restricted to appropriate locations.

  • Utility buildings - Water supply, power and telecommunications control rooms in commercial and multi-tenant residential properties can be secured behind utility security systems that leverage PIDS technology to prevent intruders from tampering with supplies or causing themselves harm.

The importance of physical security intrusion detection

Developing a physical security intrusion detection system should be a top priority for businesses and property owners of all sizes. Monitoring high-risk locations like equipment storage facilities, server rooms and cash-counting areas requires significant human resources for continuous monitoring, diverting attention from other tasks.

Instead, developing and implementing physical intrusion detection systems can provide security staff with real-time monitoring capabilities regardless of their physical location. This permits teams to focus on wider aspects of their roles while still receiving live security information remotely.

The development of PID security systems also helps organizations mitigate the impact of physical security breaches. Automated responses can be configured to protect key assets from common threats, including full-site lockdowns triggered by suspicious activities and alarms activated by anomalous behavior. With data indicating that 28% of businesses have seen an increase in physical security threats in recent years, PIDS security is a vital consideration.

Key components of physical intrusion detection systems

An effective physical intrusion detection system will contain multiple distinct security devices configured to share relevant data to inform related incident responses. Below are some key components leaders should expect to find in an effective physical intrusion detection system: 

Perimeter security

Intrusion detection systems for physical security begin with technologies installed to monitor the perimeter of secure areas. Environmental access control considerations must be made, including the installation of perimeter fence security, perimeter gates and carefully planned walkways that are intended to control the flow of traffic into easily monitored areas, helping staff assess potential threats.

CCTV cameras should be installed to monitor all primary access points, featuring integrated motion and sound detectors configured to alert teams of suspicious activity. Effective PIDS security systems will include remote security management tools enabling teams to view live feeds remotely, with low-light and thermal camera settings to ensure reliable visibility 24/7.

Access control

Access control systems installed at all external and internal entry points help businesses restrict property access only to persons holding issued credentials. Different types of access systems can be installed in different areas. For example, key card system credentials may be used to secure high-traffic / low-risk areas, with biometric readers used to protect high-risk locations.

Access control models should also be utilized, with unique role and time-based permissions associated with issued credentials limiting the number of authorized users granted access to high-risk areas. Active access systems can be configured to send instant alerts warning of suspicious activity and trigger lockdowns, alarms and cameras in response to threats.

Sensors and alarms 

Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, including motion, sound, pressure and heat detectors, will be installed to cover the entrances to key locations in an effective PID security system. Each sensor will be programmed to send instant alerts to admins warning of strange activities, with readings over a certain threshold triggering linked security devices and alarm systems.

Monitoring solutions

Security personnel must be able to monitor physical intrusion detection systems at all times and from any location. Typically, an on-site control room will be present, from which operators can view and analyze live data and adjust active devices. PIDS security systems may also be connected to a cloud-based management system for live remote monitoring.

Best practices for developing PIDS security installations

Physical intrusion detection systems can be quite complicated installations. They are primarily effective solutions that must be adapted to suit the unique requirements of different environments. When developing a new PID security system or considering upgrades to an existing installation, stakeholders should account for the following considerations and best practices.

1. Risk assessments

Risk assessments conducted by security professionals help teams understand the required scope of physical IDS. Facilities must be inspected to identify risk factors, existing physical security solutions must be audited, operating procedures must be reviewed and physical security risks must be assessed to compile a list of realistic requirements for proposed PIDS security installations. 

2. Installation and configuration

PID security systems must be online and operational 24/7, meaning security system installation considerations must be made regarding network issues and power outages. Backup generators should be installed to ensure systems remain functional during power failures, and teams must decide whether wired or wireless physical IDS installations will best suit their requirements.

3. Future-proof technologies

The best physical intrusion detection systems are designed with longevity in mind, featuring the latest security technologies and components that can be easily upgraded. Sensors and IP CCTV cameras should be equipped with the latest object classification and tracking technologies, with associated software solutions receiving regular updates performed by service providers. 

4. Maintenance considerations

As physical intrusion detection systems contain many different components, performing required maintenance can be challenging. Components should be configured to provide maintenance-related alerts, with activity logs recorded automatically to support auditing processes. It can help to prioritize software solutions that receive automated maintenance and updates at regular intervals to ensure systems remain protected from novel threats.

5. Integration capabilities 

PID security systems form an integral part of layered security installations, meaning effective solutions are designed to support multiple integrations. Look for open-architecture systems capable of supporting security system integrations with a wide range of intelligent devices, including access readers, CCTV cameras, video analytics software, IoT sensors and real-time alarms.


Physical intrusion detection systems enable organizations to enact automated responses to common threats, helping to ensure the protection of people, properties and places. Effective PID security systems should be designed with longevity and contain multiple integrated technologies to inform responses, offering reliable automated security protection.

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