IT concentric security solutions from AFS Chubb and Lenel

February 2002 News & Events

The companies acquired included the well known ElectroGuard, BBR and AFS Systems. While it has taken some time to integrate these businesses into the Chubb SA organisation, the new company structure is now fully bedded down and ready for business. In addition to expanding its security offerings, Chubb SA has also rolled out a very extensive wide area network (WAN) that now links all of their office and control room facilities. While Chubb has what is believed to be the largest footprint of any security company in South Africa, its total solution offering now encompasses all aspects of electronic security (including access control and CCTV), guarding, armed response, fire detection and any other related service the expanding client base may require.

As for AFS Systems, after an extensive search for the best quality and value in a security software platform, AFS selected the prestigious Lenel Systems International as its product of choice for integrated systems and 18 months ago became a Value Added Reseller for this product, this relationship now continues through Chubb SA. As a result of the value inherent to its branding, the name AFS Systems has been retained in the interim, although the restructured company is now officially the Integrated Systems Division of Chubb. A major difference between new and old is that whereas Chubb was previously not product oriented and used a wide variety of products from different manufacturers, AFS' integrated systems business is now totally focussed on Lenel, resulting in its ability to provide the customer with a total solution on a single platform.

Total security knowledge management

Lenel sees itself as an IT company, but one that has focussed on the niche of total security knowledge management solutions, this allows Lenel to advance security technology beyond traditional products seen in the market today. Its core competency remains software development of the OnGuard product that aids in the integration of physical systems using open architecture design. As for the devices themselves, Lenel manufacture a broad range of products that operate seamlessly with the core OnGuard software. The wide range of products produced address key functions such as access control, ID credential management, visitor management, digital CCTV, smartcards and biometric technology. All of these in-house products operate on a single platform utilising a single suite of source code, and with the use of open architecture, customers are not locked into what can become obsolescent proprietary software, or they have the possibility to migrate proprietary hardware to the Lenel platform.

In areas that Lenel does not address directly, it has formed alliances with other leading companies, biometric devices being a typical example. Here Lenel trawled the market and chose vendors based upon stringent selection criteria, then evaluated its product range and performance so as to ensure that the devices met the same stringent requirements as the products Lenel develop and produce themselves. It then provided the manufacturer with the integration tools via an applications programming interface (API) so that the devices could be fully integrated directly onto the Lenel platform. As in the I&C industry, the use of an open architecture by Lenel is sure to see a growing migration of leading independent device manufacturers to compatibility with its operating platform.

High level of competency

The upper echelon of Lenel clients is comprised of the heavily IT-concentric multinational corporations including Microsoft itself, Cisco, and e-Bay and then the heavily security concentric segment comprised of airports, government facilities, MODs and banks. The fact that it is the choice of these large-scale players need not frighten off the smaller South African entities as the Lenel product is fully scalable to meet the needs of even the smallest company at an affordable price. Other customers of Lenel include the three airports in New York and major airlines such as American, Delta and Air Canada. Its security solutions have also become the product of choice in New York's mass transit and metro industry.

One area of pride for both Lenel and AFS Chubb is their high level of competency in digital CCTV. This is a field where misinformation has resulted in less than satisfied customers and has sullied the acceptance of digital technology. Phil Mailes (the Lenel Director for UK, Ireland and southern Africa) points out that customers often do not ask the right questions such as, how many frames per second can actually be transmitted utilising the bandwidth they have available and what is the size and cost of the video storage media necessary to store on-line the information for the required period of time to meet legal and operational objectives.

Realtime video typically requires 25 frames per second (fps). This will provide jerk-free images; however, the human eye sees 18 fps as jerk-free as demonstrated by film animators. Cartoons are created using individual images (cells) each with slight changes, when projected at 18 fps these appear to be free flow movement. The point of this example is to show that selling digital CCTV by quoting frames per second is not a true reflection of the end result. Images recorded in realtime (25 fps) and with no compression require huge storage systems (computer hard disks) and devour massive bandwidth within a corporation's network infrastructure, which incidentally was installed to cater for the core needs of the business and not to transmit video traffic. Such information and bandwidth requirements are often lost in the small print of the data sheets and many clients are horrified at the impact that the massive additional traffic on their network has on their other business operations.

Such CCTV systems are usually based on Wavelet or JPEG formats for transmission while Lenel itself has gone for the more recent MPEG technology. The MPEG technology adopted by Lenel differs from JPEG and Wavelet in that not every frame (at TV rates of 25 fps) has to be compressed. In fact MPEG technology compresses and stores only what has changed from the previous frame, this reduces significantly the transmission bandwidth and storage required, typically by about five times. While the price of Lenel's solution may occasionally initially appear higher, the cost of ownership in terms of less storage and bandwidth requirements is significantly less.

Part of the AFS/Lenel Digital CCTV philosophy is to educate and assist the customer, to do this AFS Chubb has set up a full demonstration facility within their Johannesburg headquarters. Using this system it is possible to show customers images recorded at various frame rates and at different compression ratios. As fps and compression are abstract expressions to us we cannot visualise the impact these have on performance. Demonstrations have been instrumental in showing that, contrary to initial thoughts, video streams recorded at 25 fps are not twice as good as those recorded at 12 fps, and in fact many clients have remarked that given the financial and operational load that high storage requirements and network bandwidth utilisation put on an organisation, the optimal frame rate is approx 3 fps, this will provide suitable movement within the field of view for identification and at a drastically reduced overhead.

Whilst acknowledging the many innovations introduced by the local security industry in the past, Mike Smiles (MD of AFS Chubb) pointed out that technology is now advancing very rapidly and without massive investment of R&D funding, the SA industry will not be able to keep pace.

M. Smiles
M. Smiles

For further details contact AFS Chubb on tel: (011) 453 1434 or Lenel Systems International on (0944) 1932 874773.

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