Smart communications enhances security business

February 2003 IT infrastructure

As crime continues to escalate, security companies are having to look to new technologies and techniques to outsmart criminals and syndicates that have become increasingly sly and sophisticated.

And while the security industry retains steady growth, competition between companies is becoming fiercer. The recent trend in acquisitions by multinationals and the merging of security firms makes it even more critical to maintain high levels of customer service, which is measured in terms of response and reaction time and the rate of success in protecting clients and their assets.

Communication technology is one of the most costly and complex components of large organisations, yet it is a vital component, particularly in the emergency services industry. The answer lies in determining which technology to use to maximise return on investment and to enhance productivity. But with the constant barrage of new and improved products, deciding which one will best suit a company's needs is no easy feat.

According to Philip Hime, marketing manager for Alcom, the sole distributor of Motorola two-way radio products in South Africa, many security companies are using two-way radios as their primary communications technology, but few are truly harnessing the power of this technology to streamline operations and improve customer service.

Philip Hime
Philip Hime

Hime cites an example: "Take the typical scenario of a burglary: an alarm is activated and a vehicle is dispatched to respond. Most of these vehicles are fitted with mobile radios so the guards have contact with the control room. But what happens once they leave the vehicle? Unable to communicate with the control room, they face potential ambush or the criminals flee and a futile chase ensues. In both instances, the control room has no contact with the guard and is unaware of what action has been taken or whether the guard and the customer are safe."

"And even if the guard has a portable radio with him when leaving the vehicle, he has to juggle his firearm and radio while trying to climb over gates or walls. Additionally, if he is investigating an alert or surveying an area, he risks a call from the control room that could alert suspects to his presence and place him in danger," he says.

So what is the solution? Hime says that the increased functionality of today's two-way radios provide a range of features designed specifically for professionals in the security industry. "Motorola's GP and GM series of portable and mobile radios all offer 5-tone signalling, which allows the radios to be programmed to transmit critical information such as who is calling and whether it is an emergency or a status call. They also allow companies to prioritise calls according to the signal received which provides them with more specific information and results in better frequency utilisation, faster response and promotes proactive security."

Before leaving the vehicle, the guard can activate a voice-storage function on his mobile radio and record details of his location, the status of the emergency and the action he is taking. The control room can page the vehicle and access the message at any time. In an emergency, the emergency signalling function allows the user to alert the control room by pressing a panic button on the radio. The radio can be programmed to mute mode so that a silent alarm is sounded and the control room knows to send back-up without having to contact the guard and alert suspects.

The whisper mode function has been designed for discreet communication, reducing the volume of the incoming signal and enabling the caller to whisper into the radio and still be heard in the control room. And for remote workers, the radio can be programmed to send an alert to the user at regular intervals, requiring him to press a button that resets the radio. If there is no response to the signal prompt, the control room is alerted. In this way, they know whether the guard is at the site and is safe.

Robust communication tools

In the case of attack or injury, the 'man-down' feature automatically sends an alert signal to the control room if the user is in a horizontal position for a set period of time. "All these features have been created to enhance staff and client safety and to maximise productivity," Hime explains.

Also, many companies are not prepared to pay for a more sophisticated radio. "While the initial outlay may be higher than that of a basic push-to-talk radio, companies can gain a fast return on investment by buying a more robust communications tool that lasts longer, provides increased safety for both their staff and clients, maximises the use of frequency, improves productivity and reduces unnecessary call-outs which contribute to escalating costs. All this in turn contributes to customer service and satisfaction, something which companies who face increasing competition can not afford to neglect."

For information contact Philip Hime, Alcom Systems, 011 235 7640.

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