Back in the day, as the expression goes, security control room systems were nothing more than mobile Cardex trays and carts. The client’s cards were shuffled between these, depending upon the type of event that was happening.
Then along came an aspiring software developer who was looking for something to do between his busy schedule of skydiving, fishing, and pool competitions. So it was that Graham Smith and a few colleagues put together the beginnings of a software-based alarm monitoring program, which would later become the foundation of the present day WatchManager system.
Moving forward 30 years, WatchManager has become the most installed control room alarm monitoring system throughout Africa, with thousands of security company clients looking after millions of businesses and homes. There are also some diverse applications of the system in the fire protection, refrigeration, CCTV, medical and agricultural industries.
The technology used in the development and running of the WatchManager system is also key to its adaptability and most importantly, affordability. It involves very smart matches of programming concepts and database integration with current processor technology and processing techniques. At the present time, WatchManager is able to comfortably process more than 500 input transactions per second. This is almost ten times more than the busiest control rooms that we are aware of in Africa.
Affordability, adaptability, ease of use and independence are key to the majority of alarm monitoring control rooms today. New technology products and tools are being released at a rate of knots these days, and WatchManager has to be able to seamlessly integrate with them so that our clients are able to effectively utilise the advantages presented to them.
WatchManager is able to receive and decode signals from most if not all security products available today, and when something new comes out, it doesn’t take long before it’s fully integrated.
With the arrival of the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT, a host of new IP-based panels and communicators have begun to hit the market. Typically, these devices do not have any physical base stations and they report directly into WatchManager via dedicated IP receivers for the product concerned. Naturally, good and stable Internet connections are required for the ultimate success of these products – something which is not yet quite the norm throughout Africa. It’s all good to talk about their great benefits, but the practicalities sometimes preclude their usage at this time.
Of course, the requirement for using WatchManager in a distributed environment, i.e., in a Web-based operation, is slowly becoming a point of interest. There are already a number of WatchManager components that are currently Web or cloud based, but at this stage of the game, the demand is still low. Nevertheless, WatchManager is prepared for the next level of evolution.
Another requirement is video verification of alarm triggers. WatchManager already has numerous video product integrations, enabling the control room operator to both verify the trigger incident and view other available cameras on the scene in live mode. Video analytics, i.e., identification of the image content as human, animal or whatever, are still in their infancy stages, and WatchManager is directly involved with some product manufacturers on a testing basis. As those systems become stable, viable and reliable, WatchManager will release their integration modules.
Gate access systems will soon become a high priority for many clients, and here, WatchManager leads the pack by having the only fully integrated and tightly controlled access system. It is completely encrypted, randomised and secure, ensuring that no individual can misuse a property access code. The WatchManager GateCode system is extremely simple to install for the client’s technicians, typically taking less than five minutes, with no programming required and only three components involved. Full audit trails on who accessed, with what code, and when, for how long, are available on WatchManager.
Auto dispatching of alarm signals to any reaction officer’s vehicle is fast becoming very popular. WatchManager has a tight integration with WebFleet’s TomTom units. Signals can go to groups or individuals, and their vehicle statistics are also available for analysis. These units can be used for other functionality as well, such as scheduling jobs for technicians, tracking their whereabouts and time spent at locations.
Sending messages to clients about signals or events is another system function that is going through some change. Many clients elect to only use a GSM modem with a SIM card ‘unlimited’ SMS contract. The service providers have recently begun to throttle these services based on their ‘fair usage policy’. So once a limit of say 9000 SMSs has been reached, suddenly no more SMSs are sent on that contract SIM until the next month..! WatchManager has attractive alternatives for this problem.
One alternative is a Weblink SMS module for bulk SMS delivery, for which the client purchases SMS credits that can be used as and when required. The service is instantaneous, and the client is notified well in advance when their SMS credits are running low. Another alternative, which is becoming extremely popular, is the WatchManager Gateway to Telegram.
The Telegram module is much more economical than SMSs as there is a fixed cost per key holder per month. The module also offers a GPS-based panic button, a fault reporting system, and a technician’s test system. Other functionality will continue to be added to this gateway in due course.
One aspect of a control room monitoring system that many clients do not consider for a multitude of reasons is the dreaded backup system and methodology. Again, WatchManager offers a number of solutions for this problem. If the client has a second system on-site or at another location, a real-time data synchronisation module is available to keep both systems fully in sync with each other. In addition, WatchManager offers a service that performs a daily off-site backup to a cloud server. This same service also caters for a spare backup system licence, which in itself is a great saving.
In this industry, service and support is everything. WatchManager has dedicated staff providing this service on a 24/7 basis, and there are also trained agents available all around the country, as well as outside the borders of South Africa. We utilise technology to the max to provide rapid support to any client in need. Of course there are costs involved, but they are extremely reasonable, which is why WatchManager is surging ahead and picking up some serious speed.
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