Maximise technology, processes and data

Issue 2/3 2023 Editor's Choice

The Residential Estate Security Conference migrated to KZN in February this year, hosting over 100 delegates at the Mount Edgecombe Conference Centre. Thankfully, the conference centre and the surroundings were well-accustomed to Eskom blackouts so the fact that the area had no power for a day (in some areas more) did not interfere with the conference proceedings.

Making the conference possible were a full set of sponsors, including:

• Allbro.

• Arteco.

• Axis Communications.

• Excellerate.

• IDEMIA.

• Impro.

• Qolsys by Johnson Controls.

• Nemtek.

• Nology.

• Stafix Security Centres.

Mixing technology, best practice processes and risk management, the presentations offered a range of topics which, although they all targeted different areas of the residential security market, focused on the efficient use of data in one way or another. In two instances, the data, spread far beyond the estate perimeter, still played a role in the safety and security of residents and staff.

This was the first conference where Hi-Tech Security Solutions adopted a ‘speed dating’ concept for the sponsors. Each sponsor got 6 minutes to speak to the delegates between the other presentations, which turned out to be a great idea.


About chatbots and AI


Gerhard Furter.

Starting out the proceedings Iris AI’s, Gerhard Furter, spoke about the free service Iris AI offers, proven in pilot projects and now rolling out to new areas. The key message is collecting data (often what seems like meaningless and useless data) from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources, and allowing a hosted AI service to collate and analyse the data to deliver meaningful information.

The presentation followed Furter’s Johannesburg presentation and showed how the system has expanded and proven effective at solving and preventing crimes. The traditional data sources are what we are used to, meaning cameras, sensors, information from verified databases (such as suspicious vehicles databases and more) as well as security and police officers. The non-traditional sources are, as Furter refers to them, ‘the tannie on the stoep’. In other words, people who notice something suspicious in their neighbourhoods or workplace, or while driving. All this data, which really is useless in a traditional security focus, is collected and analysed by the AI, which finds connections and links people, cars or behaviours to previous crimes or suspicious activities.

The results direct investigators in solving crimes and enable security officers to act in a preventative capacity. This has been successful in finding criminals based on clothing or cars they drive (or Ubers they use) in cases where traditional security measures are unsuccessful. As noted, it is a free service.

Moving away from the latest in locally developed technology, the next presentation went back to the basics.


The security illusion


Johan van Wyk.

How many estates have been surprised by a how seemingly easily a crime is committed after thinking they have a good security system in place? Johan van Wyk, Sales and Marketing Director at Fang Fences and Guards was up next to explain why this illusion is common and how estates can avoid it. Better to be properly prepared than to have to find out your security is not up to the job. As Van Wyk put it, the most expensive security system is the one you pay for twice.

Van Wyk focused his presentation on the six steps that estates need to take to achieve an optimised and functional electronic security system. The steps he suggests are:

1. Risk analysis: A comprehensive risk analysis is critical, and should be done by an independent risk assessor to ensure quality and independence in obtaining a clear, unbiased overview of your security posture.

2. Design foundation: The foundation to your security solution will determine the success of your system in the short and long term. In South Africa today, this includes the communications network and the electrical network. These networks need to be well designed and fit for purpose today and in the future, and need to have redundancy options built in for the inevitable problems that will occur.

3. Brands and suppliers: The third step is to choose the technology that fits your estate environment. Van Wyk noted that each installation will have its own quirks and therefore a template approach of what worked in another estate will not necessarily work in yours. When making a selection, users should make sure they are aware of the lead times for the brands chosen (some have months-long waiting times). The warranty is also important; purchasing an extended warranty can be worth it for long-term peace of mind. Importantly, the availability and quality of local support always needs to be kept in mind.

4. Performance: Taking issues like weather, longevity, robustness, monitoring requirements, as well as the five Ds of security into account, while catering for your specific needs is the next step in meeting the performance requirements of the estate.

5. Maintenance: Maintenance is naturally also a key requirement. Leaving maintenance to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis is not recommended as it increases the risks in terms of downtime and reputational damage, at a minimum. Preventative maintenance should also be included in this stage to avoid any emergency breakdowns. Of course, maintenance is critical to counter Eskom’s frequent blackouts and the technical impact thereof.

6. Implementation: Selecting the systems integrator (SI) to do the installation and ongoing maintenance is the final step. Your SI should have the relevant industry experience, have reference sites you can talk to, be registered with the appropriate security bodies, and have the necessary technical accreditations. It is also worth knowing whether the SI has its own dedicated teams or whether they sub-contract, and the terms of their support – Van Wyk suggests that should something go wrong on Christmas Day or the Easter weekend, you do not want to wait a few days to get someone on site.


Effective record keeping


Sonja de Klerk.

One of the most boring jobs in security is paperwork, whether on actual paper or electronic records. At the same time, keeping proper records that can be used in defence of the HoA or estate/security manager, as well as for court proceedings against criminals (or even internal disciplinary matters) is critical. We have already seen a civil lawsuit lodged against a HoA because a resident expected to be secure, but was ‘hit’. If you cannot produce the documents showing you have done your job, or what processes and procedures were followed, you are well on the way to losing, whether it is a criminal or civil matter.

Sonja de Klerk spent nearly three decades in the SAPS forensic division, retiring at the rank of Brigadier as Section Head of Scientific Analysis. She took the delegates through the process of why record keeping is essential and how to do it so that it is available when required and, most importantly, how to ensure your records are accepted as valid in a court. Interestingly enough, good record keeping is not always necessary for court or disciplinary requirements, but can also support strategic planning and performance management efforts in an estate.

Whether it is witness statements or surveillance videos, there are processes to follow to ensure a court will accept the evidence and to make it much harder for defence lawyers (or anyone) to cast doubt on their validity. While the estate will have to make a case for the accuracy of video footage, for example, all the defence has to do it cast doubt on the reliability of the evidence to have it excluded. She added that having these records organised properly so that they are available at short notice is also important.

Records that need to be kept include those before an incident, the incident records, as well as the ‘after’ records. The ‘before’ records include a variety of types, including installation certifications, calibration records, equipment details (such as serial numbers), and even software updates. Records of training that your team went through is also included in this category.

The ‘incident’ records include the what, where, when, who, by whom, why and how information. The ‘after’ records would include evidence, marked with record numbers, as well as access records noting who had access to what, when and why.

Making sure the records you keep are traceable and have integrity (in terms of court validity) is critical. De Klerk advises that using standardised records makes things simpler and avoids potential confusion, for example, having a standard affidavit form or incident reporting form. Keeping it simple makes it harder for the opposition to create doubt or question the records.

Proper record keeping needs to be a priority included in the standard security processes of an estate. If not, scrambling to find the required records when a court order arrives (or in other situations) seldom leads to success.


Optimising the control room


Ian Downie.

Control rooms are quite common on estates, whether hosted on-site or remotely. Ian Downie, Sales and Marketing Director at Xone Integrated Security was up next with insights into a new way of optimising your control room, its staff and its efficacy for security and other functions. It is far more than people sitting in front of a bunch of screens.

Some of the common issues in current control room setups include not having a dedicated control room manager who knows the performance required from the environment as a whole, and using traditional security officers without the correct training as operators. There is also generally no real way to measure the effectiveness of the control room.

Downie suggests a new approach that will monitor the technology and its performance in the control room, make sure procedures are followed properly, and determine if the performance is addressing the real risks of the estate. In addition, a control room must be able to provide information on how any security, health and safety or operational functions are run, and deliver insights to continuously improve performance.

This new control room will run with an outcomes-based focus, managing the complete security operation (as well as other functions). This refers back to the previous presentation where risks are analysed and documented so that the estate understands them and how it can mitigate them.

With the right processes in place, the control room will not only be there to react to incidents, but will be able to pre-empt events by having effective information readily available. He says technology, workflows, remote management, software, business analysts and even the latest AI technologies will be used to gather information, analyse it and have the right solutions implemented. Xone’s new control room operations will include:

• A competent manager.

• Control room supervisors to drive the team.

• Competent operators.

• Business analyst and trainer support service.

• Customised software.

• Electronic aids and technology.

• Artificial intelligence.

• Incident management systems and intelligence.

The reporting processes built into the environment will not only ensure quality security and risk management, but also measure operator performance on key metrics, showing where training is required or where an operator’s strengths lie. They will also provide all levels of management in the estate with reports appropriate to their position, providing them with the assurance that their systems are running efficiently and to the standards required.


The perfect perimeter


Kelly McLintock.

Kelly McLintock, Chairman of the Blacklight Group was given the task of expounding on how an estate can create the perfect perimeter security solution in an ideal world. He started by explaining that the perfect perimeter deters all intruders while also detecting and delaying all threats. A tall order in any estate.

He expanded on Van Wyk’s comments on the five Ds of securing your perimeter (Deter, Detect, Deny, Delay – the traditional four Ds – sometimes expanded to include the fifth, Defend, although some may want to see Detain in there as well). McLintock focused on the four Ds in guiding the delegates through the process to a ‘perfect perimeter’.

Before getting into the meat of the presentation, however, McLintock highlighted the most common current threat to security operations in South Africa, Eskom. It is easy enough to install generators, solar energy and/or battery backups, but estates must ensure the equipment they install can handle Eskom’s blackouts for as long as they last. The published load shedding times are bad enough, but what happens when the power does not come back on schedule – something we have all experienced all too often.

Making sure you have your security equipment’s power requirements correct is key to finding a solution. This includes taking care of your lithium-based batteries and not leaving them out in the midday sun or abusing them by not doing your homework on what power is required for all your technology. Without taking care of lithium batteries, McLintock says they will be in one of two states: working or burning.

He then went into the different layers of the ‘perfect perimeter’, starting with the physical layer (a fence or wall). He then added access controls, Infrared beams and surveillance cameras, including visible light, Infrared and thermal devices. McLintock also demonstrated how a cloud-based AI system (Calipsa) reduces false alarms tremendously (by over 90% in estates in South Africa on the system), leaving security teams to only deal with real events.

He also noted that ‘security plants’ are a good option for estates as there are a range of nasty thorn bushes natural to most areas of South Africa which are a good (and cheap) deterrent. Other layers mentioned were ground surveillance radar, proper security lighting as well as audible warning devices on the edge.

Combining the above layers will provide a good perimeter security solution for estates, but they must be integrated with each other and the estates management system to deliver the best results.


Automated smart homes with AI


Julian Seiderer.

While we normally associate AI with surveillance or other large-scale security deployments, Julian Seiderer, Country Manager, Intrusion at JCI was on hand to talk about how AI can be used to create a smart home, not only from a security perspective, but also in terms of operations and general safety.

A smart home is one equipped with technology to automate and control various systems and appliances, such as lighting, heating, cooling, security and entertainment systems using a single device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. Seiderer provided the attendees with examples of how AI and automation can make life more convenient for users while also handling security tasks at the same time.

Some examples he used were the ability to automatically unlock electronic doors and disable alarms, and even switch on the lights when people get within Bluetooth range of their homes; similarly, to lock up and arm the alarm while switching off the lights when they leave. A single command could ensure that all the doors are locked and only certain zones alarmed when going to bed at night, securing the house while avoiding any false alarms. Energy efficiency can be measured to make sure your electricity usage is not extreme, while water leak detection can also warn you if the geyser is leaking and so forth.

The same system can be used to see who is at the door or gate and grant or deny them access from your smartphone. You can allow contractors to enter only on certain days. The system uses AI to learn about your routines, adjusting the lights, temperature or entertainment options to suite the preferences of whoever is home. Almost any modern sensors can be integrated into the Qolsys platform (Qolsys is owned by JCI) from where management is simple and efficient, securing you and your loved ones (and the premises) automatically or at the touch of a button. Better power management will also make sure your electricity bill is kept under control, while the AI will also warn you if the kids are playing near the pool without adult supervision.


Beyond the perimeter


Rudi Potgieter.

Rudi Potgieter, General Manger, Special Projects at Vumacam who spoke at the Residential Estate Security Conference in Johannesburg last year (www.securitysa.com/17836r) was back to highlight the company’s camera rollout in the KZN region. Vumacam has ambitious plans to install a network of cameras in the region to match its coverage in Johannesburg, providing the foundation for safer cities and improved law enforcement.

It is collaborating with authorities as well as private security companies to provide information to registered parties

to make cities safer (find out more at https://safecity.community/). Estates will be able to partner with Vumacam to bring external video footage into their control rooms, providing a view of the area surrounding the estate, while also incorporating stolen or suspicious vehicle identification into the mix.

He also notes that the whole Vumacam network, from the cameras to the data centre (which runs on the company’s own management platform) has been secured to ensure the strongest protection against unauthorised intrusion.

In addition, with privacy a serious concern these days, Potgieter explained that Vumacam is licenced under the Electronic Communications Act, registered with PSIRA and complies with the PoPI Act to protect personal information. It provides controlled access to its network only to vetted clients, not to the public at large. Its initial plans foresee the installation of 350 cameras (including licence-plate recognition cameras) in the region later this year.

A conference like the Residential Estate Security Conference seems to be finished almost before it starts, but many people contribute a lot over the preceding months to make it all work. As the conference’s facilitator on the day, I get to see all the problems and issues that occur. I would therefore like to thank our speakers for their professional presentations and their time, the sponsors for their speed dating contributions as well as their sponsorships, the team at Hi-Tech Security Solutions that made it work, and the attendees who spent their day at the conference. Thank you to all.

The next Residential Estate Security Conference will be in October in Johannesburg, followed by a trip to Cape Town early in 2024.

For more information on the speakers, contact:

• Blacklight Group, [email protected], www.blacklightgroup.co.za

• Fang Fences & Guards, +27 21 905 1204, [email protected], www.fang.co.za

• Iris AI, [email protected], www.irisai.co.za

• Johnson Controls, [email protected], www.qolsys.com

• Sonja de Klerk, +27 82 778 9249, [email protected]

• Vumacam, +27 10 900 3080, [email protected], www.vumacam.co.za

• Xone Integrated Security, 0861 65 65 65, [email protected], www.xone.co.za

For more information on the sponsors, contact:

• Allbro Industries, +27 11 894 8341, [email protected], www.allbro.com

• Arteco Global, +27 81 443 8583, [email protected], www.arteco-global.com

• Axis Communications, +27 11 548 6780, [email protected], www.axis.com

• Excellerate Security Services, +27 31 573 7600, [email protected], www.excellerate.co.za

• IDEMIA, +27 83 622 2333, [email protected], www.idemia.com

• Impro Technologies, +27 31 717 0700, [email protected], www.impro.net

• Johnson Controls, [email protected], www.qolsys.com

• Nemtek, +27 11 462 8283, [email protected], www.nemtek.com

• Nology, +27 10 824 0040, [email protected], www.nology.co.za

• Stafix Security Centres, +27 11 397 3507, [email protected], www.stafix.co.za


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