Body-worn cameras (BWC) have received more than their fair share of attention in the past, but it seems as if the uptake of the technology has not been as widespread as many expected. This could be because of the costs, complexity of technology, and even a misunderstanding of what these systems can accomplish.
Using BWC in residential estates has not been a popular addition to the security teams in these environments, but with the human element being the weakest link in all security solutions, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a couple of people with experience in the pros and cons of BWC for their view on these devices and their applicability in the estate security market.
Gordon Moore, national sales director at Forbatt, which distributes the Kedacom range of BWC, says these devices would indeed be a value-add to the guarding of estates. He says this applies both from a security perspective as well as customer service and quality/process control angle.
“Guards are often used to patrol areas which are difficult or costly to cover with traditional CCTV, with a body-worn camera having wireless connectivity to a control room and the ability to record, it provides the guard with a certain level of protection. In addition it allows staff to remain in contact with the control room as well as record what is being seen or discussed. With real-time bi-directional communication and alarm management it allows for faster reaction time.”
One of the challenges in estates is dealing with human interactions that can turn into difficult situations that often end up in a “he said, she said” situation. Moore says that having the recordings of such incidents it helps resolve the conflict and provides training material to help improve how guards deal with difficult situations in future.
Looking ahead, he adds that with the advancements in facial recognition, BWC will soon be released which will allow the identification of known individuals, which will also improve customer service within estates.
Bronwyn McCafferty from Secutel Technologies notes that the consumer market has seen an uptake in wearable technology over recent years, and the security market is seeing a similar trend. “Body-worn cameras are becoming must-have accessories for police forces and private security companies; with numerous studies showing their efficiency in reducing crime and unwanted conduct, both from the public and the police/security guards.
“In Secutel’s experience in the South African market, private security companies are excited about bodycam technology and clearly see the potential benefits, especially for guard patrols in and around residential estates. It has proven to be a great tool in the security services environment, allowing security companies to have a more proactive approach in managing their clients’ expectations and requirements.”
Most security managers know that, no matter how amazing a technology may be, its usefulness in preventing and dealing with crime is limited if it can’t integrate with other security systems to form a cohesive defence. BWC are no different and they cannot simply function as stand-alone systems without integration into the estate’s security infrastructure.
Moore agrees, noting that as with many BWC being IP based, most solutions will be ONVIF compliant, but this will limit functionality. “The better option would be to ensure you choose a product that provides an API (application programming interface). There are existing solutions, like Kedacom, that are specifically designed for safe city/safe estate environments where the body-worn cameras on the guards, mobile recorders in vehicles and perimeter and street surveillance are all integrated into a single platform with egress management using facial recognition and ANPR.”
Taking the familiar components of a guard tour and patrol management system, such as checkpoints, reports, incident management etc., Secutel’s SecuTraq provides an integrated guard and workforce management system, says McCafferty.
“The SecuTraq platform is available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) which can synchronise your guard and workforce management operations in real-time. Using this technology, you will be able to collect, organise and store comprehensive data about your workforce and guard patrol operations. Everything works in realtime using a single product. APIs are also available for easy integration with existing platforms.”
Technology and users
An issue many people worry about is that BWC are expensive and complex to use, which will not sit well with users (guards) who may be suspicious of their purpose, find them hard to use, or even damage them in the manual jobs they are tasked with.
This is a common concern, admits Moore, but he says that with the advancements in technology and the increase in demand, we are seeing a significant drop in costs despite all the changes that have been implemented to make the units more rugged and simple to use.
“While the latest units have advanced features, a user-friendly simple setup can be implemented depending on the application requirements. Body-worn cameras are designed to be used in these challenging environments so most units will be waterproof, dustproof and can in most cases deal with a drop from two metres.”
SecuTraq deals with exceptions only and doesn’t live streaming. McCafferty explains that this makes it simpler and more reliable as there are only three main functions (buttons) on the unit, namely: panic, call and image record. It also has an IP65 rating making it dust tight and resistant to water splashes. Moreover, it is also tamper-proof and the unit will shut down into a ‘no communications’ state if tampering is detected, but this will be highlighted in the control room.
Then there is also the challenge of communications. If you want to send video from a remote guard to a control room, as well as normal operational communications, you need a network. An estate may be too large for a Wi-Fi network, which means a cellular network may be the only option – along with the high costs involved.
“Communications concerns are very important points to consider when choosing the right product,” says Moore. “With the introduction of H.265, bandwidth requirements have been significantly reduced, so ensure the product you choose makes use of an efficient compression algorithm. One also needs to ensure the product has the ability to make use of a sub-stream for transmission, this then allows the user to reduce the image size and quality for 3G/4G transmission without losing out on recording quality.”
He also notes that, because of the high communication costs, continuous streaming is not recommended unless specifically required. The more cost effective option would be to make use of AI technology for events or have the alarm trigger on the unit, only streaming on event and therefore significantly reducing costs.
Without streaming, Secutel’s BWC solution still offers real-time interaction between the unit in the field and the control room for GPS tracking, snapshot (taking still pictures of the situation the guard is facing) and video availability for immediate verification and action, as well the handling of voice and data communication over GSM.
What’s on offer?
Looking specifically at the technical offerings from Forbatt and Secutel, our respondents gave us the following.
Secutel – SecuTraq
The SecuTraq all-in-one bodycam is locally manufactured and a tried-and-tested solution. Benefits include:
• Cost-effective evidence collection.
• Improved procedure compliance and service.
• Photos/videos are sent to the control room immediately.
• Device definition and monitoring of login times and on-line status remotely.
• The facial recognition and detection function – collects faces at sites, events and buildings. The unit will inform the control room about ‘people of interest’.
• Site and geo-fence definition to define a site, manage late arrivals and early abscondment.
• The time and attendance schedule synchronises guard tour operations in realtime. Including the ability to collect, organise, view and store comprehensive data for audit purposes.
The solution also offers cloud-based storage so that even if a bodycam is lost, all the data collected i.e. photos, videos and events, are stored in the cloud. The platform is accessible from your PC, tablet or phone to monitor the guards in realtime. The bread crumb trail will show the guards’ exact routes – tracking them throughout their shifts.
Forbatt – Kedacom
Moore says, “Forbatt SA is the sole agent for Kedacom, which is one of the top ranked body-worn solution providers, with it being the product of choice in many police forces around the world. What differentiates Kedacom is the fact that it not only offers an advanced body-worn camera making use of the Qualcomm chipset which allows advanced features such as facial recognition and on-board deep learning algorithms, but also the fact that they provide an end-to-end solution specifically designed for safe city/safe estates with 3G/4G bi-directional communication.”
In addition, Moore adds that Kedacom provides an end-to-end solution starting with the body-worn camera and including a wide selection of accessories. The unit itself has the ability to connect via 3G/4G and Wi-Fi, and has 32 GB on-board storage with an SD slot for an additional 128 GB.
“The docking station is one of the benefits that separate Kedacom from most of its competitors, with the ability to dock and manage up to 24 units per server using the built-in touch screen; these can then be cascaded for larger rollouts. The docking station not only allows for backup, but it also allows for smart search using analytics on any of the units. Kedacom also provides its own VMS which integrates all its products into one platform – as well as an API for integration purposes.”
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