Remotely secure

July 2011 Surveillance

Hi-Tech Security Solutions reported on its remote monitoring round-table in the last issue. True to form, there were too many people wanting to attend than we had space for, as there was last year. We contacted two of the companies that could not make it with a view to offering their insights in this issue. In this article we therefore summarise the responses from Roy Wyman, MD of Remote Off-Site Monitoring and Gus Brecher, marketing director for Cathexis Africa.

Should any of our readers have additional insights into this rapidly growing field of security, please let us know on

Roy Wyman, MD of Remote 
Off-Site Monitoring
Roy Wyman, MD of Remote Off-Site Monitoring

Gus Brecher, marketing director for Cathexis Africa
Gus Brecher, marketing director for Cathexis Africa

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Last year the remote/offsite monitoring market was booming, what is happening this year?

Roy Wyman: Remote offsite monitoring is still a watchword in the industry with corporate clientele sensing the benefit of objective and proactive site management practice through advanced technology. Guarding and armed response is in demand generally because there is a lack of understanding of the applied benefits of remote video monitoring and a limited knowledge of the economy of the data infrastructure.

The actual interest in qualified monitoring is buoyant. However, some companies are discovering that commercial-based bargain monitoring service providers have severe limitations in managing and providing an effective service with the correct bandwidth, staffing, training and required response. The companies that are tending to develop their own solutions and are generally aware of the benefits of offsite monitoring, but are yet to find suitable monitoring facilities. In some cases they have had no alternative but to develop their own in-house infrastructure due to the lack of data infrastructure available in South Africa.

Gus Brecher: There were a lot of companies opening remote control rooms last year, and many of them closed after a few months. I think a lot of them did not understand the technical nuances of the complete system (reliability, failover redundancy, onsite recording, bitrates availability etc), and went for the cheapest possible solution available, only to realise that customers would not pay for systems that could not be supported.

Remote monitoring is also a hard sell, especially while times are generally tough for most consumers. The most successful companies seem to be those that use fairly sophisticated equipment that can incorporate video with alarms and also integrate third-party systems. This enables them to provide not only a security solution, but a business solution as well. If the surveillance solution on site can also integrate with plant management systems, access control etc., then these functions can also be monitored form the central control room. So, basically, I see the future trend towards multifaceted monitoring beyond just security.

HSS: What do clients expect from their remote monitoring solutions? Is there a need for customer education?

Roy Wyman: Clients expect a 24/7 turnkey monitoring solution which is based on a service level agreement that implements procedures and site practices as and when required during the course of general business trade, and to immediately pro-actively respond to and manage critical tasks. Clients require a comprehensive reporting medium to ensure executive control of their enterprise.

There is always a need for customer education in the monitoring sector and the final monitoring agreement should always be governed by a technical service level agreement, signed by all parties. Due to the inexperience of installers they are still providing clients with single solutions aimed to provide a holistic approach and are reluctant to promote the necessary supporting technology to achieve an integrated working site solution.

HSS: Where is remote/offsite monitoring working?

Roy Wyman: The full potential of remote off site monitoring cannot be realised on sites such as shopping centres and retail shops where till sliding and shelf pilferage are the modus operandi. Remote monitoring works brilliantly after hours where access is limited and in areas where there is not a continuous flow of people. It has proven invaluable in vaults and bond stores which are remotely opened and closed from a control centre. ROM (remote off-site monitoring) has added benefits such as health and safety aspects and can be monitored and controlled remotely.

HSS: What skills are used/desired in control rooms?

Roy Wyman: We have found that without a doubt our operators need to be computer literate and able to concentrate for long hours. Moreover, communication skills are also of utmost importance. Our controller’s profile also requires them to have observation skills, problem solving capabilities, attention to detail and any type of body language course.

Ultimately they need to be trustworthy and have a crime free record as our control room operates and is sourced for training by PSIRA. We would generally not use any personnel from the security industry as we find that they generally do not hold the best record.

HSS: How do you keep control room operators motivated and focused?

Roy Wyman: Our operators are incentivised for going beyond their normal duties and ultimately rewarded on the success of an incident. Observation report entries assist in concentration and doing so in writing thus initiates a physical action that ultimately adds to the audit report procedure. Our controllers strive to become the operator of the month. Regular breaks and event monitoring versus continuous monitoring also assists in concentration.

HSS: What technologies are we finding in remote monitoring scenarios, including the communications technologies such as ADSL/3G etc?

Roy Wyman: We seem to be finding more voice-over-IP audio applications where security officers are remotely instructed to fulfil specific tasks. Remote opening and closing as well as switching on and off of the clients’ gates and alarm systems are also increasing. One of the new options available is WLAN, but one of the concerns is that this type of technology has no failover connectivity. Ultimately, what makes our solution more viable is using wireless and fixed-line technology, ensuring connectivity to site at all times. Satellite connectivity in SA is available, but comes at a costly premium and is also hindered by its latency. Presently Internet connectivity is still the most cost-effective means for connectivity.

Gus Brecher: One of the ongoing challenges is the upload speed of both ADSL and the wireless solutions. These technologies and the services provided are designed for high download speeds as that is what most of the general market needs. For offsite video monitoring however, the opposite is required. Customers need to be careful to choose products that can stream at low bitrates while recording at a higher quality/higher bitrates on site. This will ensure that they get reasonable frame rates for live monitoring and also good quality recordings on site.

HSS: How are companies balancing remote monitoring and guards? Are we seeing fewer guards and more technology, or the same number of guards supported by new technologies?

Roy Wyman: Remote off site monitoring cannot be colluded with, cannot be intimidated or confused, and ultimately, cannot get sick. Clients understand this and therefore the move to technical solutions is more prominent that ever. On the majority of our sites we have reduced and in many instances totally removed the guarding complement without compromising site security.


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