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Technology drives security advances

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Convergence is ensuring that advances in information technology (IT) and networking drive new and improved security solutions. 

From cellular telephony providing better communications, to IP-based networking that improves CCTV effectiveness and biometrics for fail-safe identification, the security industry is lapping up the advances made in technology to offer customers across the board a better security experience.
A wide range of IT-enhanced security products will be on show at the Securex show, being held from 26 to 28 September in Cape Town's International Convention Centre.
George Phillips, MD of Raicom, points out that while many aspects of the security market are based on specific, low-tech elements there is no doubt that convergence with the IT industry is driving development on a number of fronts.
Two areas where IT is pushing the envelope when it comes to security are intercom systems and closed circuit television (CCTV), both of which are enjoying enhanced quality and functionality due to the use of IP (Internet Protocol) networking.
Phillips recalls the early days of CCTV when only one camera could be viewed at a time, with poor quality at that.
"Now that CCTV systems are all computer-based, users can view up to 16 cameras on one monitor, with greatly improved quality.
"We are seeing CCTV resolution of 756 x 512 now – it's like watching TV – and soon there will be high definition (HD) format available as well," says Phillips.
New cameras are mega-pixel quality.
In addition, CCTV cameras can be monitored onsite or offsite via Ethernet, Internet or wireless LANs.
"We have also see a lot of success with remote monitoring via a cellular phone."
As CCTV becomes easier to use and more sophisticated, Phillips says that technology is enjoying a new lease on life.
"CCTV is a big thing today. Companies are using it not simply for security but to address issues like stock shrinkage as well."
And, because it has become a lot more affordable, customers across the board are installing CCTV solutions, from large industrial sites to smaller domestic installations.
Biometric technology (the ability to identify people based on their human characteristics like fingerprints or retina prints) is also making strides in the security arena, although companies have been slow to take it up, says Phillips.
"Companies looking at access control are starting to consider biometric technologies, especially now that the accuracy of fingerprint reading has improved."
To date, biometrics has also been an expensive option, but Phillips points out that technology is improving all the time, while costs are coming down.
Nowadays, even the humble fence has become a high-tech perimeter security system, says Elvey sales manager Rudi Kuhn.
"We’re talking about intelligent perimeter protection that has detection, delay and deterrent capabilities," he says. Typically, these are multi-faceted systems with outward barriers that include steel barbs or coiled wire. Elvey’s top products have signal control units with a protection range of up to 400 metres that can be extended by connecting additional units together.
Other capabilities of these products include point impact discrimination (which recognizes and suppresses distributed disturbances due to wind, rain and vibrations) and sensitivity leveling (to automatically compensate for fence variations so as to be able to equalize the entire perimeter). In addition, free-format zoning allows zones to be set in software independent of cable length or equipment location.
According to Kuhn, one of the most appealing aspects of today’s technology is its software-based flexibility which makes system design and upgrades both cost-effective and viable.
Other high-tech benefits include receiving intrusion perimeter alarms into a single display with precise information and the ability to transmit alarm signals and data on one cable.
Despite its sophistication, perimeter security technology is user-friendly, operated by mouse, custom keypad or touch screen.
The addition of mapping software into perimeter systems  can provide the location of an alarm to within 10 feet and reside in either the LAN or WAN.
Kuhn adds that these systems can run on the existing IP network, along with a company's regular IT functions as well as all CCTV operations.
Using advanced video compression technology, CCTV is now able to deliver high quality images from remote sites over any telephone or cellular line, says Francois Smuts, Elvey’s CCTV Product Manager.
"It’s an easy- to-install, cost-effective and reliable remote video solution that offers video verification at a central station, video e-mail on events and even look-in capabilities. This technology is repeatedly proving its worth in terms of apprehending criminals, saving lives, improving revenue and reducing false alarms," he adds.
"It also reduces on-site guard requirements through automatically scheduled video guard tours that can be viewed by central station operators. As a result, the viewer can see via automatically emailed video clips who opens and closes the business, who was with them and if they carried anything away."
Gideon Wheeler, Elvey CCTV Technical Manager, adds: "Closed circuit television has been around for many years but its rapid and continued advancement now singles it out as the most effective method of monitoring employees’ misconduct.
"In conjunction with IP, management can now observe activity in the manufacturing plant at any time of the day or night and from any point in the world."
Smuts believes the growing trend towards biometric-based access control systems will provide companies with enhanced security levels.
Access control itself is becoming more integrated and can now import data directly into a company's human resources and payroll systems, Smuts adds.
Technology is also revolutionising the way fleet managers respond to both the security and safety concerns that plague them daily.
The need for constant surveillance has unfortunately become an area of grave concern, but new and sophisticated monitoring systems provide the solution in terms of cost-effective, reliable security measures.
"Fleet management has entered the era of immediacy. We are now able to offer true live data transfer, positioned on interactive GIS (Geographic Information System) maps," says Stewart Somerville, MD of Geotab SA, a fleet management specialist provider.
"A vehicle can now be watched live all the time; as soon as the ignition is switched on the vehicle is monitored, continuously. GPRS has opened up a whole range of possibilities.
"At Geotab, we have coupled this technology with our Intelligent Logging Processor that automatically alerts and updates you as to each and every movement of your vehicle allowing you full and total control of your fleet, in real time, and there is no longer the need to worry about how expensive the SMS costs will be for this month."
He says GPRS offers always-on connectivity, but the user pays only for the amount of data transmitted, not the time spent connected to your vehicles. "At Geotab, we offer a low, fixed monthly cost, removing the uncertainty from the equation. This is why GPRS is fast becoming the international standard for data transfer in mobile telematics," says Somerville.
Another example of technology convergence in the security space is a monitoring device like Geotab’s Go Mobile. This is a personal digital assistant (PDA) solution that integrates the Geotab software with Windows Mobile 5, Windows CE-enabled PDA devices or Windows XP laptops that have either integrated or external GPS (Bluetooth/USB) facilities.
It caters for full fleet, resource and personnel monitoring and management to be incorporated into the live tracking system, which allows dispatchers to send messages or addresses to the field worker.
In addition, users can integrate trip information into Google Earth to help determine exactly where a violation occurred and which isn't always possible on a one-dimensional map.
Sandra Galbraith, GM of Securex organiser Exhibitions for Africa, points out that the show's co-location with the IT exhibition Futurex & Equip offers added value in view of the convergence taking place within the two industries.
"Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about both security and IT, as well as how the two disciplines interact," she says.
"There is so much new technology being deployed in the security arena, companies and individuals alike owe it to themselves to stay in touch with what's available and what trends they can look forward to in the future."