I've just returned from a trip to Sydney where we are setting up WebWay Australia. The market for Alarm Transmission is reportedly in the region of a million monitored systems, however unlike the UK they are not driven by Insurance nor strict adherence to standards compliance. There is the Australian & New Zealand AS2201 standard, their equivalent to EN50136 (in some respects). At present there is no concept of a confirmed event and Police response is on request of the Keyholder or Guarding company on a single activation.
What is impressive in Australia is the radio coverage. 4G is prevalent and there is a national program of Broadband roll out. The aggressive spread of 4G services means that 3G has almost been bypassed. 4G has greater reach and building penetration and is suited to the far and remote areas that are common place in Australia. I'm told you can get 4G up the top of a mountain in the middle of the desert!
For WebWayOne, the dual technology cells are perfect for the deployment of our Mk6 platforms enabled for 3G and intelligent roaming. If you want to "play" in the Australian market, then you need 3G as a minimum, otherwise its not worth bothering. This really is a peak into the future for our market. The network operators are now actively "farming" data from 2G services to enhance the consumer 3G and 4G experience and this is already having an impact on ATS services in certain regions.
The Operators are calling this the "Sunset period" of 2G services with 2020 a stake in the ground where 2G will no longer be offered on new contracts.
The decision we took 12 months ago to standardise on a 3G platform was definitely a "good call". Changing a GSM module is a significant hardware deviation. The upshot is, if we had stuck with a 2G module we would have been faced with a re-submission of the product for testing and 3rd party certification. That's a severe investment in time and cost avoided.
Our industry relies heavily on mobile technology and there will need to be a cultural change before long, particularly in view of the rapid growth of data services and the demands of consumers. Our industry is conditioned to product lifetimes of 10 to 15 years, but this is a dynasty in mobile technology terms. At WebWayOne we are now at a Mk6 release, with at least 4 of these determined by a change in the GSM module, all having been 2G up until the release of the Mk6. We have managed to maintain costs over these transitions, no small feat when you compare this to the consumer world.
Consider back in 2005 when we first began to roll out IP/GPRS systems. The Nokia 9300 was released, you'll no doubt recall it was a clam shell design with full qwerty keyboard. It was the same year the Motorola RAZR was launched. It was another two years before the iPhone first made an appearance. We swop, change, upgrade our mobiles every few years, but we expect our signalling devices to last 5 or 6 times that length of time.
We are actively looking at the next generation of modules now, with 4G likely to be available in Q1 next year, but with the price of 4G modules being high, I don't expect these to be viable for our market for some time. But never say never. 3G is, we are told, not going to "die" for the foreseeable future, but 2G certainly does have a life expectancy and it is not that far away.
We have upgrade programs are in progress with a 3G plug-on in the pipeline for Mk5 boards and full board updates for roughly the same cost as an HG antenna. By the way, the data re-farming issues cannot be solved with an alternate antenna.
So my advice is to be prepared. Start reviewing your 2G deployments soon, and make sure they have an upgrade path. Think seriously about the deployment of any new 2G devices, look for future proofing your signalling now. The alternative could well be a swop out of the 2G device in around 5 years time, if not sooner. Attached is an article on the subject of 2G farming, it's worth a read.
Sunset for GPRS final.pdf
If you have been in data communications as long as I have you will know that remote diagnostics and maintenance are nothing new. I remember back in 1992 watching in awe as our technical director (Phil Meredith) was stood next to some ISDN Back-up kit hooked up to a monitor running a windows application.
On the screen, a cursor flicked over the menus and it was obvious somehow the system was being configured. “How are you doing that Phil?” I asked.
“I’m not, its one of the support guys in Germany”.
A more extreme example of remote maintenance occurred on the 19th December 2014. BBC news reported that International Space Station Commander Barry Wilmore was in need of a ratchet socket wrench. “Made in Space” is the company who supplied a 3D printer that is installed in the ISS. They heard about this and set about drawing up a solution on their CAD machine. They emailed the drawings up to the ISS and Commander Wilmore duly printed out a useable wrench!
Upload; Download. A phrase that is used in our industry to describe the remote connectivity and programming of an alarm panel; comprised of a remote signalling device connected to a data network and software loaded onto the users PC that manages the panel configuration.
All sounds pretty simple but more complex in communication terms, especially when using low bandwidth data networks such as dial-up PSTN or 2G/GPRS. Indeed its not just the communications networks that are the problem. For the designer of a signalling device there are many challenges, especially where hardware is concerned.
The vast majority of installed panels have a PSTN dialler capability and this has been seized as an opportunity to use what is commonly termed “Dialler or Modem Capture”. In this method the communicator will have an interface that emulates a telephone line, presenting dial tone and line voltage.
The panel modem “thinks” it is connected to a telephone line. The interface will “capture” any transmission from the panels modem and convert it to a digital signal and transmit over the alternate network. This is usually an IP connection over radio or Broadband.
Whilst quite “neat” it is a technique that is suited to older panels that do not support a data interface. However there are a number of problems to overcome when designing a dial capture interface.
Alarms & UDL Combined
Panels that utilise a PSTN modem for communication cannot transmit alarms whilst a UDL connection is in session. So there needs to be a mechanism where the panel will “tear down” the UDL session if there is an alarm to transmit. This will take time and may add a delay in transmission time that puts the solution outside the ATS delivery requirements.
Modems have to “train” with their counterpart modem at the far end of the connection in order to transmit data. This can take a number of seconds and there is an inherent delay before the SPT has processed the alarm through the DCM mechanism and prepared it for transmission. This time delay could also fall outside of the permissible alarm transmission times associated with high-end security ATS requirements.
The panel has an alarm to send. It dials via its modem and the SPT picks up the alarm through the Dial Capture mechanism. The SPT will even acknowledge that it has the alarm, so as far as the panel is concerned alarm delivery has been successful.
However the alarm is still with the SPT. What if the SPT cannot send the alarm because one or more of its circuits are down? How does the SPT tell the panel that the alarm has not gone anywhere?
In ATS terms, if all routes to the ARC are down, they should know about it when the reporting time has been reached. You can use clever mechanisms like removing dial tone or line voltage from the DCM, but how quickly should this be actioned by the SPT and how should it report to the panel?
Modem design has evolved over many years and is generally handled in “soft modems” these days. Indeed the hardware components are becoming increasingly scarce and in danger of obsolescence, which in turn increases the cost of manufacture.
The range of protocols both standard and bespoke in modem communication design is vast. The Dial Capture Interface has to mimic a “local exchange” and support a compatible “receiving” capability. The sending of alarms is not too difficult to achieve but UDL is a completely different matter. If you end up with an incompatibility between the sending and receiving modem, the solution simply won’t work.
Over the years Alarm Panel manufacturers have developed their own transmission protocols in order to provide security and an ability to communicate with their own maintenance software. This means when transmitting data in a UDL session the developer will need to have obtained, understood and enabled the communicator to identify these different protocols in order to utilise them. This is not a simple exercise.
The real difficulty is coping with all these variants, because if you want a truly generic modem capture that covers all panels then your communicator will have to accommodate a vast library of protocols. This requires memory, and lots of it, as well as processing speed. If you don’t have these in your SPT, then you will end up producing individual comms devices for individual panel manufacturers.
Serial Data Connection
A Serial data interface to the panel is my preffered solution. However the designer of the communicator must include a number of hardware interfaces (the most common being; RS485, RS232 and TTL a derivative of RS232) as well as understanding the individual panel protocols.
One would expect the speed to increase in a UDL session but this is not always the case. Where panels have changed little in their communication techniques over the years we find data buses that still run at archaic speeds. For example our SPT will run up to 115k in the serial bus, but invariably the panel bus is as slow as 9600.
It is worth noting that some panels suffer from the same inability (as PSTN) to transmit alarms when a UDL session is running when connected to the serial data bus and it is advisable to check whether this is the case.
Once the integration with a panel is complete one may expect that’s “job done”, onto the next. But that is not the case. Collaboration with the panel manufacturer at the development level is crucial. If either party updates the production software of their device there should be a period when the solutions are tested before release. In reality there are many instances where this may not happen and incompatibilities creep in. Managing these is complex and the development team has to be right on the button to deal with any problems, quickly.
From my point of view, being able to support both Dial Capture and a Serial bus connectivity should be standard for any SPT. Wherever possible the Serial connection to the panel has to be favoured over dial capture as it is more elegant but less complex and overall more reliable for our critical data applications. Dial Capture will not go away anytime soon but it could be argued that if the panel only supports PSTN, then it may well not be compliant and needs replacing anyway.
Last week I was involved in a product refresh with the senior engineers of one of our UK National security companies. We covered off our new SPT.6 hardware in both its “Pro” and “Mini” versions which was all very nice, but it was the 3G capability of the new devices that drew much attention and I thought it would be useful to share some of the topics we covered.
When you are in the business of data communications you have to constantly revisit and re-evaluate the old technologies, how they compare with the new and what operational differences there may be. Looking back on my piece written around radio installations I realise that some of what I wrote at the time (3 years ago) may not be relevant to today!
What is apparent is that the wireless data network is improving with the release of 3G and 4G. Incidentally I saw a development 5G device on the BBC news website last week, its worth looking up. I am not about to go as far as saying that wireless will take over from broadband anytime soon, it will be quite a few years before mobile communications will mirror the last mile resilience and data speeds of a fixed line circuit. But from what I have seen, 3G is enough to consider radio only communications favourably for critical data transmission where circumstances require it and with a potential to reduce reporting times below what we would consider a 2G device capable of.
Let us take a look at some basic comparisons between 2G & 3G. The switch from analogue GSM services to digital took place in the 90’s or in generation terms, from 1G to 2G. 2G was designed as a voice service with a basic data transmission capability, primarily for text and very limited Internet connectivity. Bandwidth is low but suited to applications where the packet data is small, such as a poll or alarm message in an alarm transmission system. However error correction is quite poor and inefficient and it is often necessary for devices to resend and validate data that has not been correctly received. This can lead to extended download times or a “timeout” to occur where the devices can no longer continue to communicate in the same “session”. This means the communication process has to begin again.
2G requires the last mile (between the base station and the module) to be stable, reliable and have a very good quality of service.
3G differs in that the service has been constructed around mobile data operations as well as voice. It came into its own when the rise in smart phone demand exploded. It is a protocol that has vastly improved error correction (less retries and “timeouts”), improved building penetration and at least double the download speeds. Resilience is improved too; a fall back to Edge (2.5G; or the stop-gap between 2G & 3G) and GPRS when 3G is not available maintains data connectivity.
In operation, 3G (so my Development team tell me) is like DAB radio in that if you have a “signal” (literally any signal) it will work, where as 2G is more akin to Long Wave radio where signal and direction are required to obtain service.
Translate this into a Security application and we find that our usual indicators are not entirely valid. For example signal strength has been used as a guide to 2G service availability (although not an entirely reliable one). On a scale of 1 to 10, anything indicating 3 or below could suggest a potential problem. In 3G terms, signal strength is meaningless. If the module has a good connection it will work as long as that connection is “up” regardless of signal, whether it be a 1 or a 10.
How do we survey a site of this is the case? It can be argued that a survey is obsolete in its own right as the device has an ability to intelligently roam between service providers and incorporates a secondary roaming feature that can hop between technologies and frequencies (which makes jamming almost impossible by the way). But there are tools we can utilise and what is even better they are free! The network providers publish coverage maps on their websites. Some include service availability notifications as well. Or there are Apps that you can download to your Smartphone such as “Open Signal”. This App uses data gathered from its users to populate a service coverage map based on actual availability data as opposed to what the operators would like you to believe. It constantly updates, shows local serving cells and the more users there are the better the data mapping becomes.
Building a next generation mobile data module into a security product has several challenges. Cost is the leading factor. New generations of devices carry a premium and it has only just become viable for WebWayOne to incorporate a 3G module as standard and retain a competitively priced SPT. Migrating to 4G will come but it will be the module price that determines when this will be.
Next are the changes in software. You cannot simply bolt a 3G module onto a piece of hardware and expect it to work. The Development team have to “tame the beast”, working with the modules design teams; not only to make it work, but to maximise the features that the module can support, for example the ability for the module to manage the SIM cards connectivity to the network.
Operationally the results are quite staggering. 3G coverage is excellent and the download speeds for a 650K file are 25 minutes on 2G compared to 6 to 8 minutes over 3G.
Let me provide you with some hard information. I have two test SPTs at home, both are operating in radio only mode, both are configured for a 3-minute reporting time, have the same software and a Telefonica Roaming SIM card installed. I can share with you the comparison over the past month of testing that is revealing.
My home is a particularly good testing ground as I live in a rural part of Berkshire with very poor radio reception and just two providers available, O2 & Vodafone. Below is the diagnostics I can retrieve from the SPT showing 3G operation on a 900 frequency band with a signal strength of just 2.
And here are the comparisons in signal strength over the past month (scale 0 to 10 where 10 is the maximum signal). You will see they are very low, generally below 3.
The 2G device is obviously struggling to maintain a connection and since the 22nd November it has lost registration to the core network to all services, whereas the 3G device has been online all of the time. This is reflected in the circuit availability.
2G network availability for the month is 81%
3G network availability is 99.79%
When you translate the availability figures into the number of failures that would have been reported to the end user the scale of the difference is aparent. The 3G device would have reported just 3 fails (of which 2 of these were during tests I carried out with the device), compared to 385 fails from the 2G device.
I would not advocate rushing out and installing 3G only with 3 minute reporting times or consider replacing broadband devices with radio only. But certainly where longer reporting times are concerned and a landline is not available or impractical then the stability figures we are seeing gives confidence. Coupled with a fixed line circuit, especially Broadband provides an incredibly robust solution.
Looking to the future, the speeds that are being achieved and the reliability of the circuits demonstrate that high bandwidth applications can access the 3G to. Where Imaging or CCTV is concerned the speed in which you can transmit images to an operator is critical and therfore 3G is a viable backup path to broadband.
So to conclude. 3G:-
Supports faster Upload/Download speeds - future applications such as Imaging and CCTV have access to a viable backup network
Has better building penetration
Signal strength is not as operationally critical
Will automatically drop to Edge or 2G if a 3G service is unavailable
Frequency hopping renders jamming almost impossible
Global SIM cards provide additional resilience in network roaming
Additional software controls on the module allow for intelligent roaming (as opposed to letting the SIM card and network operators determine connectivity)
Network coverage is excellent, before the ability to roam providers comes into the equation
But remember; it is the GSM module and not the SIM that determines what technology can be accessed.
Interesting that the Risco cloud service was disrupted by a problem with the Microsoft Azure cloud service and so I thought this would be an opportunity to describe what we as Alarm Transmission Service providers (ATSP) “do” and how we got here.
An ATSP is not just about providing a piece of hardware that attaches a fire or intruder system to a network. It’s also the receiving equipment at the ARC, redundancy and resilience of that equipment, the provision of suitable SIM cards for radio network coverage, technical support for engineers in the field and for the ARC operation, disaster recovery when networks fail and continued development of systems and processes to cope with network evolution and new services.
WebWayOne began trading as a designer and manufacturer of data communications equipment in 2000, before the company evolved into an ATSP and right now I think I can be bold enough to say it’s in the top 3 in the UK in terms of connections as we approach 50,000 in number. Of those top 3, we are the only one to have our own hardware and software development team and retain all manufacturing within the UK.
Our core team came from a company called Controlware. A UK subsidiary of a German firm that the team ran from the early 90’s through to 1999 when we sold our share back to the parent company. But we kept the UK development group who were designing ISDN based communications equipment, which included a terminal adapter called a “WebWay”. In those days the Internet and World Wide Web was in its infancy and the only way to get on it was to use dial-up technology.
Dual path transmission was nothing new to us as at Controlware. Through the 90’s we had been providing leased line backup services for blue chip Finance and Network providers to ensure their data networks kept running and we practised remote maintenance and diagnostics on this equipment to. So it was quite a shock when we realised that the Fire and Security Industry did little of either and was clinging onto out dated data communications using PSTN and modems.
It was quite an achievement for our small team to win the contract to supply the National Lottery with ISDN terminal adapters for 30,000 lottery machines and the management platform to maintain the operational system. We also supplied Vision Systems (now Xtralis) with ISDN TAs for Adpro Fast Scan, VU and Trace products before broadband became widely available. BT RedCARE was “the brand” at the time and we incorporated the AIMs protocol into our ISDN terminal adapters and became the largest supplier of ISDN equipment to RedCARE.
But then, as now, we were looking to the future and we could see that Broadband and radio services would become the norm and we set about building an “IP” based ATS. RedCARE were not interested, wishing to stick with PSTN and cast doubt over the reliability of Broadband whilst the BT parent was selling and promoting the service to Businesses and you and I alike. We were flabbergasted, but we decided it was time to go our own way.
2005 saw the first major roll out of an IP based ATS when we delivered a system to Dixons. It is still in place today.
As for today we have 30 employees covering Product & Software Development, Production, Sales & Marketing and Technical Support. We have operations in Scandinavia, Europe and recently Australia.
Looking after these systems is a huge responsibility and building in redundancy and resilience to cope with the type of system failure that Risco experienced is just part of the day job. As is providing a level of technical excellence and expertise that takes problem ownership away from the on site engineer. Our support team are 7 in total and they have to understand not only the way our hardware operates, but also how it interacts with 3rd party equipment that we have integrated into the ATS. So that means documenting and learning the programming and troubleshooting of our partners’ equipment.
Identifying trends in network behaviour through support often leads to discussions with the network providers. In providing a SIM card with a device that supports radio is not just about cost or service availability. It’s also about support and operational considerations. WebWay have in excess of 40,000 SIM cards in operation with Telefonica. That gives us huge experience and breadth of knowledge in how the radio network operates and is evolving. More importantly it means we are engaged at a very high technical level that has (in the past) lead to us identifying problems with network delivery that Telefonica have taken note of and fixed. They have reciprocated in providing us advice and guidance when we are developing software that maximises the use of the roaming capabilities of their SIMs whilst not disrupting the network or causing problems elsewhere.
Having our own developers is a huge asset. It means we can react very quickly to add in new features to the product range in both hardware and software terms. We were the first to roll out large IP/Radio based ATS services, the first to introduce integrated remote diagnostics and UDL support over the ATS and we have become the first to deliver 3G as a standard service for the radio path. But we don’t stop there and the exciting thing about having a development team is to turn ideas into reality and then deploy and see them in operation.
From an Operational perspective I am certainly proud of the fact that we are a privately owned UK company that is able to manufacture technically advanced telecommunications equipment at home in the UK and at competitive prices. I do not foresee this situation changing any time soon.
So being an ATS provider is not simply about making a printed circuit board that fits into an Intruder or Fire panel, that’s just one small part of the equation. It’s about service delivery from the protected premises right to the ARC. Future proofing our systems through strong development and innovation keep us ahead of the competition whilst ensuring that operational systems are robust and ready to cope with the worst that can be thrown at them, and then recover gracefully. I almost forgot adhering to Standards, but that’s another story.
I recently read that the rise in mobile connections is growing at a much faster rate than landlines. It was suggested that mobile comms have been proven as a replacement for a landline connectivity and this trend would continue. I think this is a huge generalisation.
Let me take a typical household. There are 5 mobile devices in my home and one Broadband circuit. I would suggest that my families’ use of the available networks is fairly typical in that when at home (or at any opportunity), they automatically connect their mobile device to the Broadband circuit.
The broadband is faster and more reliable than the radio path, and they do not begin to rack up the data useage on their SIM. We are “naturally” using the reliable fixed line path by default and the radio as the “backup” when we cannot connect to Broadband.
Yes; a vast number of us with Broadband at home do just that, and with the rise of wireless access points in public places, getting connected to Broadband at the earliest oppertunity is (dramatically) on the increase. In business, from SME's to large corporates the trends in usage are the same Wired or wireless connectivity to the LAN and a Broadband delivery to the office for their critical data applications, with mobile devices used primarily for voice but capable of data backup connectivity when needed away from the office and wireless LAN connectivity. (at WebWayOne we have 2 Broadband lines and approx 25 mobiles)
Alarm transmission is critical data and therefore a predictable and reliable network is desirable. If there is a fixed line available it should be utilised for alarm transmission. PSTN is still available but it is expensive (I was quoted 26p just to set up a call recently) and increasingly the older modems are exhibiting intermittent faults due to the changes to the core network.
Broadband has become the natural successor to PSTN for data transmission across the globe and in all manner of applications and therefore if it is available it should be the default alarm transmission path.
Radio is a perfect back-up for Broadband and partner for PSTN. It is a truly diverse network but it is a more unpredictable network over the last mile (from the gsm module to the base station). The radio networks are evolving and getting better all the time but the number of mobile devices in the field puts massive pressure on the radio network from a contention perspective. 2G as a network technology will come under pressure from the consumer’s appetite for 3G & 4G data and so will become more suited to non critical data applications. 3G & 4G is already becoming the norm for critical data backup and a solution that is capable of utilising any provider and any technology
Many used to (and still try to) suggest that an IP based network is hampered by IT departments taking down the network out of hours to carry out maintenance. The same argument can be applied to radio (or any network for that matter). As the radio network evolves to 3G & 4G the operators perform maintenance and upgrades to their systems resulting in loss of service for the duration.
When do they do this?
At night, when the vast majority of us are tucked in bed and a time when property is most at risk.
The unpredictability of the radio last mile means that 2G radio as a monitored alarm transmission network is not best suited to the shorter reporting times associated with high security installations, but can lend itself to the lower grades when it is used in isolation. 3G on the other hand has far better error correction and building penetration that lends itself to more stringent monitoring and data transmission. However, because we are looking at critical alarm data, radio only installations are best suited where access to a fixed line, predictable network is not available.
For those of you not connected to either me or Chris on Linkedin, I have reproduced our SPT.6 release text here...
Today we're solving the price performance problem that plagues installers of monitored connections.
"Cheap products are attractive, but can lock us into old retiring technology. The lack of productivity features make the end user ask for lower prices, squeezing our margins. Buying cheap means we end up paying twice to get out of the problem."
To break the cycle we took a different and radical step two years ago. We said that to escape low margins and customer dissatisfaction we had to change technology and the way the signalling supply chain operated.
Our new products and services are the culmination of our fifteen years in the security communications business, the result of a twenty four month development program and fourteen years man effort, designed to change the way you sell and manage security signalling. You can buy them on line today.
3G roaming across our radio signalling range
We are IP signalling and our goal is to connect every security system to IP (broadband or radio) technology to deliver better solutions. We're the market leader in IP signalling by far. We provide you with products that can use PSTN, but we've enabled every one with IP technology on board for when you want to switch. From a pricing point of view we're not referencing any of the legacy analogue providers. We've built our model based on the cost of the new equipment and how much it costs us to run and continually innovate our systems. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
we've invented a new single path signalling category
The products and services we are releasing today are the most technically advanced on the market, built to last for innovative installers. They are not "light" or "air" versions of what went before, they are not a re-spin of legacy technology. They are totally re-engineered for performance, memory, power and reliability. Designed to do more for you and save money. We've even invented a new category of single path signalling with Recovery Channel for the most reliable and lowest operating cost of any digi replacement service.
your own private alarm transmission service, on line
The new devices are accompanied by your own on line service WebWay World. WebWay World is specifically designed for users that are mobile. As the owner of an installation company you and your engineers are always on the move and need the tools at your fingertips to manage your service. WebWay World uses the power of smart phones and tablets to enable you to order, configure and manage WebWay signalling wherever you are. It's your own private window on your alarm transmission system with detailed diagnostics and alarm history.
more reliable than a cumbersome centralised NOC
WebWay World get's the detailed information about your sites from our distributed receiving architecture. Distributing host servers is more scaleable, secure, reliable and more responsive to local users than a cumbersome centralised Network Operations Centre. We've built out an architecture of servers in the UK, Spain and Australia to service clients around the world.
3G roaming as standard
The biggest update is our move to 3G roaming for all devices which use a radio path for signalling. With a fifth of the UK (and a similar situation abroad) having poor mobile coverage, our new devices off the broadest radio footprint of all. Your devices now have access to all local operators and their 3G, EDGE and GPRS services. Benefits include an enhanced cellular footprint, improved indoor signal, faster transmission and UDL speeds, reduced congestion caused by Smart Meters and other M2M devices and increased protection from jammers. We're the first and only signalling provider to offer 3G roaming as standard. You can check other providers hardware for 3G operation yourself with our handy guide.
Ready for a verified world
Unique to WebWay is our integration with IP camera manufacturers and the ability to associate input driven or SIA events with pre, post and trigger event JPEG images. Every WebWay IP signalling device has 2 camera Imaging capability built into the hardware price ready now or for use in the future. Images can be sent over radio in the event of IP failure.
Improved performance, lower power
The new devices have forty times greater speed and memory than their predecessors. This means we can handle more security applications, transmit data faster (utilising 3G to the full) and store more on the board (up to 4000 640x480 JPEG images) for a complete audit trail and long lived update cycle. But because we have re-engineered the devices these performance advances come with a 50% reduction in power consumption (to circa 50mA).
Largest integration library
We were the first to integrate to alarm panels for SIA and UDL, which means we have the most experience and best relationships with panel manufacturers. We've got the largest range of intruder, fire and camera integrations and this back catalogue is available across the range of our new devices. We support Contact ID, SIA, UDL and RRI over broadband and radio.
Meet the devices
Smart. The smallest, smartest dual path signalling device.
Smart replaces our G-Series devices. Smart has a new mini footprint of just 89x107mm and is available in 3G/PSTN (with IP on board) or IP/3G formats. You can select from a 18 Input version, Modem Capture and Serial or just serial bus connected range of devices.
Go Plus. The first of it's kind. Single path signalling with unique Recovery Channel.
Go Plus IP uses broadband as the signalling path. But if power, equipment or service fails the 3G roaming Recovery Channel is active to enable you to send alarms and diagnostics. Go Plus is upgradeable to Smart dual path signalling at any time.
Go Plus PSTN uses 3G roaming as its signalling path but monitors the local line voltage and dial tone of the telephone line for faults or cuts. The site won't miss a thing if the intruder is likely to attack the line before entering the premises rather than jam the radio path. Go Plus PSTN is the real digi replacement solution by identifying PSTN attacks and using the radio path for signals and UDL at the lowest ongoing cost.
Go. Our single path signalling solutions with the lowest ongoing fees.
Go IP and Go 3G are based on the same mini hardware as Smart but with just one path activated. Go IP transmits alarms over broadband and provides UDL and Imaging. Go 3G has all the same functions, but has IP ready on board.
Communicator Pro. The ultimate integrated signalling platform.
We've updated our larger format device (the Communicator) too. Its the same size as its predecessor, but has additional expansion capability. It has the same fast processor and large memory as the Smart and Go ranges, but physical data connections are increased from 2 to 3 and there is USB on board too.
There's so much more we could tell you about the benefits of our signalling devices and WebWay World, but we'd like to do that in person. To find out more contact us, we're here to help.
We should be utilising Dual SIM card devices to improve security and resilience...
As anyone in the Electronic Security industry will be aware, there have recently been many reported intermittent failures across all of the current Major Network Operators (MNO's) such as T-Mobile and Vodafone
Some of this has been the result of MNOs upgrading their services to support 4G signalling (In some cases re-purposing 2G bandwidth for 4G services). Other outages have been due to planned maintenance work in the majority of cases. A small number have been the result of unplanned and unforeseen technical issues.
Our friends in Éire have also seen a number of instances where the mobile communications have been blocked intentionally by those seeking to attack a protected site or asset.
A significant proportion of the devices which currently utilise GPRS / 3G connections are dual path devices where the signal can be routed through the alternate path in the event of such an outage - Just as it was designed to do so.
We are as an industry, increasingly embracing the idea of replacing single path PSTN devices with (in some cases) single path mobile path devices. Some would contend that the death of PSTN connectivity is a certainty at some point in the future. It can certainly be agreed that pressures to compress data traffic of analogue communications could lead to further issues such as seen previously.
If we are to go ahead with such a mass migration of signalling devices, across to a medium that is currently under significant pressure to evolve, then we should ensure that we are taking all appropriate steps to mitigate any potential for our single path devices to fail to signal.
I propose that we should adopt Dual SIM devices wherever possible to improve our capacity to overcome either malicious attempts to prevent signalling and also provide for redundancy of communications when a MNO has an outage of their core networks (something which has happened too often already).
Some providers may indicate that they already provide a SIM capable of switching between several networks. This is absolutely true, however, what is not made clear in some cases is that an outage of the MNO with whom the SIM is hosted would mean that the SIM cannot 'lock onto' another network and is in effect rendered incapable of signalling due to an outage of a single supplier.
With a Dual SIM card device, each SIM can have a different host network and as such provide much greater resilience. A number of smart phones already utilise Dual SIM capability, in part to support international travel and also in part for improved signalling capability and fault mitigation.
As an industry we have for many years struggled to keep up with the changing pace of technology. In this aspect, we should now take the lead and establish the very best practise in the tradition of true British engineering and quality.
Take the time to encourage your signalling providers of choice and the ARCs you utilise to support this approach and set the bar higher in our continuing fight to secure and protect our end users.
...Is 2014 the year when we will see the death of the remote control and the introduction of 24hr monitoring inside every living room?
For many years TV manufacturers have made the bulk of their profits from the selling of increasingly minimised hardware at reasonable profits. This has been supported by innovations such as increasingly larger screens followed by LCD,LED,HD,3D and 4K providing yet another “next new thing” to allow them to sell a combination as yet another new TV to those who always want the latest available technology. This has provided substantial profits to the likes of Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba and other hardware manufacturers over the years.
More recently, the introduction of so called ‘Smart TVs’ has provided a new income stream as TV manufacturers have been able to provide their own ‘App stores’ to provide built in software applications to provide additional functionality to users such as Skype or Netflix integrations.
This has only generated a modest amount of revenue though and is likely still generating more cost in terms of research and development at this time leading to a net loss.
Both of these areas could soon be overshadowed however by a significant upcoming change in the role that TVs will play in how we interact with the services available…
A rising number of TVs now ship with built in cameras to allow video calls to be seamlessly integrated and to enable gesture controls. This same functionality has been proven to allow the possibility of tracking eye movements and facial expressions. Extend this one small step further and with a Kinect style ability to recognise individuals there is suddenly a huge new market emerging for TV manufacturers to take advantage of.
Why would an advertiser want to show their advert while their target audience is not watching? Why would a teenager watching the TV want to see an
advert for "shiny, clean dentures"? Similarly, your 100 year old relative is unlikely to want to take up skateboarding. This is wasted advertising money… Instead, if they know that certain people are watching, then they might want to instead show some relevant content for them or place their advert elsewhere.
If facial expressions and eye movement can be tracked using the built in camera, then advertisers can suddenly learn what impact the wording of their adverts has upon specific users and tailor audio tracks to get their attention. Perhaps “Best pizza in the whole of Manchester!” did not make you look up from your smartphone, but “Best Hot Pepperoni Pizza at your door in 30 seconds!” may have you looking up and/or licking your lips…
Can you imagine how powerful this could be for the multi-billion pound advertising industry? The humble TV suddenly becomes a tool to target viewers on the basis of who is in the room with different adverts shown to Peter or Paul based on their personal, perhaps even sub-conscious preferences.
With the significant income that TV manufacturers could generate from advertisers to have access to this immensely valuable metadata, it is likely that they would want all of their new TVs to feature built in cameras. It is also possible that the costs of new TVs in future would be much lower as they do not need lots of new technology to support this technique as it is mostly down to video analysis of the scene caught by a built in camera.
If users suddenly begin to understand though, that they have become mere products in this supply chain, then it would be only natural for those who want to protect their privacy to want to cover up cameras so as to maintain their own comfort level of sharing information.
This of course would stop the TV manufacturers in their tracks and suddenly remove the input of all of the potentially much more lucrative reaction data. This is especially the case if they subsidise the cost of new sets by using the sold data to offset the manufacturing costs.
So how do you prevent people from covering up the cameras? This tricky issue is perhaps easily resolved by adding a new ‘feature’ by the way of gesture controlled televisions where no remote control is available or indeed possible. If you take the remote control out of the equation then the only way to adjust the volume or change the channel will be to leave the camera uncovered to allow gesture recognition.
Just before UK readers shout: “Hah! I will just use my Sky box controller or Virgin remote” or American readers grab their TiVo remotes, I would urge you to consider that these set top box providers are probably looking at the exact same market space also at the moment, for the very same reasons.
It would be interesting to hear the UK Information Commissioners take on this potential development and the impact that it might have regarding privacy versus profit.
So to summarise, what does this mean in practical terms as the next few years unfold?
Gesture controls will be advertised as a feature
TV Remote controls will no longer be provided
Cameras will be a standard feature at increasing resolutions
Set top box providers and TV manufacturers will compete for market share
Viewers will be at risk of living in a viewing ‘bubble’ without diversity
Blocking the camera will be rendered impractical / inefficient
TVs will be cheaper
You will become the product
Shares in TV manufacturers may be a good purchase decision in 2014
Adverts may become dynamic and hosted by TV manufacturers as a service
Advertisement funded TV content providers may feel impact (Think ITV...)
Service provision may be funded by access to camera output
Smart TVs already pose a data security risk - Mandatory cameras extend this
Ongoing - Smart TVs on Wikipedia
28/10/13 - Getting Smart on Smart TVs: Awareness Increases Likelihood of Consumer Purchasing, Survey Shows
04/09/13 - Smart TV interactive ad formats increase brand engagement
20/12/13 - Media Devices Hit 140 Million, Smart TVs Push Increase
18/08/13 - Google patents 'pay-per-gaze' eye-tracking that could measure emotional response to real-world ads
08/05/13 - Eye-Tracking Technologies Are About To Make Advertising Even More Invasive
Are we ready for the next generation networks?..
In some ways the traditional notions we hold of privacy are currently holding us back. They are preventing us from taking full advantage of the possibilities that technology is making available to us right now.
I genuinely foresee a point in time where we will overcome such social stigmas (this really is all it is) and experience the benefits that will come, only from truly embracing all that technology can offer us.
So how do we get from point A to point B?
Currently we strictly control who has access to our personal data. We painstakingly and meticulously specify which websites can access what data and are regularly asked to give permission / authorise and sign-in on a daily basis. We default to 'not sharing' and are suspicious (usually rightfully so) of any requests for details that are not giving us what we asked for. Services relating to health, wealth and security among others are slow and painful to authenticate to and only relate to each other when we go out of our way to inform and advise. We settle for sub-optimal performance as we do not know anything better.
How does this compare to 'Point B'? By the time we reach this stage we can expect all services with which we interact to be uniquely personalised. It would be considered normal that all shops recognise us and offer relevant promotions with clothing shops showing styles modelled by us, content which is interesting to us will be presented from all media outlets and systems which required manual configuration previously just to "work" will instead seamlessly operate based on any interaction we make with any other equipment or system. If we choose to purchase a new fridge then our car, TV and alarm clock should know about it and shops should stop trying to sell us one. Our home power management systems of the future should be able to tell when we are out, our heating should self adjust, windows should close and the premises should automatically become secured.
These are basic examples, but you get the idea.
How do we then achieve this huge leap of faith from not wanting anyone to know what TV programs you like to allowing any relevant service to access that data?
The two stage solution...
I believe that due to our learnt behaviour of being 'inherently suspicious' the majority of us will need to do this in two stages.
Firstly we would use an online avatar to represent us that has no known link to our real identity. This avatar can be customised and will allow us to choose to add more understanding and know-how over a period of time without completely signing over access to everything about us. As this avatar becomes more useful and effective we may then come to reach a point where some brave souls volunteer for the second stage which is to give this online avatar our 'real life' identity. Building trust like this may take time but will give a strong foundation to build upon.
At this point the GUID (Global unique ID) relating to our avatar would instead become linked to our actual self and with less manual effort our behaviour would lead to point B and the ideal symbiosis of technology and personality could be achieved.
Some cultures may find it easier to jump directly to this second stage due to cultural differences in upbringing and behaviour, this could potentially lead to an advantage to those who 'let go' sooner over those who need to take a longer, winding path to reach the same almost inevitable conclusion.
Orwellian? Yes maybe, but what can we achieve once we focus beyond our traditional notions of the self?...
Change is coming, like it or not...
There is currently a movement by many businesses within our industry to get involved with much more than just 'vanilla' alarm installations. What does the near and distant future hold for those involved with service delivery, manufacturing, installation or the monitoring of such systems? Are we truly on the way to Security 2.0?
It is a clichéd term, but we are currently on a one way street towards our industry either embracing other technologies and service offerings OR facing the very real prospect that our services will be provided by other industries in our place.
They will not provide these at a standard which is anything close to our current quality and performance, yet with the apparent move towards an eventual privatisation of emergency response and with apathy from some key stakeholders towards resolving these issues we must accept that maybe the way we have always done things is not perhaps the only viable solution.
Growing demands of the 'hyper-connected' generation...
End users have been somewhat spoilt by an age of technology that has provided information at their fingertips. Interaction is available instantly, on-demand and in several different formats allowing end users to decide to use their laptop, phone or several other mediums to check their status and to provide a means for them to control.
This has been also available in our industry in many ways with smart phone apps for control panels, CCTV systems and direct access to control their alarm monitoring.
This is not going far enough though. This is control in a granular fashion with multiple applications and protocols being used and a 'clunky' approach to solving issues and having to cross reference several systems to get answers.
The user experience (UX) needs to improve drastically if we are to keep up.
Events such as CES2013 have highlighted the developments in white goods and home automation systems showcasing smart homes and their benefits. This has the potential to develop into an 'expectation' in new homes as clients look to a UX that matches the rapid pace of their changing demands.
What, where and how..
So where do we fit into all this, considering there is already an established and rapidly growing industry providing home automation and AV solutions?
As an industry we have previously provided 'system integration' which allowed end users to benefit from the best in class of each type of product whilst still allowing such systems to work together in what was a seamless manner offering a fantastic UX as far as the end user is concerned.
This has always been a strength in our industry and one that we have shown great expertise in, though this has been supported by rigorous standards and protocols with flexibility and the enforcement of these among equipment manufacturers.
If we are to provide the same level of interoperability with evolving markets and next generation products that are not yet available (Google Glass / iWatch / Etc...) then we need to begin to agree on how we are going to achieve this.
One of the most critical points is to try and avoid the closed (proprietary) protocol approach and inflexible standards that have stifled our industry to date which have been a major part of our inability to move as quickly as the technology has.
We should consider being less technology specific and aim to instead define in our standards a clear end goal and aspirational targets yet with scope for multiple methods of meeting these.
Standards are by their nature outdated as soon as they are released. We should aim to find ways to improve engagement with their development and enforcement and look to other industries to ensure that we are delivering the best possible offering. Is the current system effective at delivering the intended aims such as protecting end users?
One of the most crucial elements is to select the most appropriate 'eco-system' of a platform and protocol combination that will support developments and allow complete interoperability.
Choosing a winner...
In moving forwards there are currently several platforms to allow communication between our current systems and likely potential future developments.
We already have some systems available to support building management and 'smart home' systems:
X-10: Basic protocol which has been in use for a while. Uses home power network
Z-Wave: Widely supported product range and was the first wireless protocol
Modbus: Very basic wired serial connectivity
Insteon: Enables wireless comms on X-10 format and improved UX
ZigBee: Newer wireless technology but struggles if multiple manufacturers kit used
Both Z-Wave and ZigBee have an alliance behind them to promote the benefits of the platform and to support uptake.
In some cases a combination of these technologies can be used to acheive the end result. For example some Smart Meters use Modbus protocol to exchange data via an RS232 port but then Z-Wave or ZigBee or others, to then pass that information on outside the device.
So how do we pick a winner from all of these standards and more? What benefit is there from all manufacturers and system integrators using the same languages?
We can focus on patching and fixing multiple disperate protocols until we are blue in the face, or, we can all agree on an approach and then put that same energy into developing the possibilities that are enabled through the agreed technology.
There may be countless disagreements at first, but if we can stand united as an industry then that would give us strength to tackle some of the more difficult challenges and showcase the potential of our place in this emergent market.
We have in the past struggled to work collaboratively, but social media and changing attitudes now mean that we can have much more open and frank discussion and can see the immediate benefits of doing so. As an industry we have a lot to offer and we can create world class solutions when we work effectively.
I am optimistic that we can all pick a winner and that we can all succeed.
I would ask all readers to consider what they can do to work effectively with others to ensure that we provide a solution that puts us on the map as world leaders in innovation and effective collaboration.
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Do we give thoughtful technical consideration to the future when
providing customers signalling?
Digital communicators are becoming a less utilised method of alarm transmission
thats true but do we need to give up on the Dinosaur?
With manufactures developing more intuitive devices and offering additional added
extras such as, Remote Maintenance, meaning you can omit 1 of your 2 maintenace vists,
UPDL for remote diagnostics, visual verification for intruder and HUA without costly DVR's
and the ability to integrate with other devices giving you added features to sell, should we see
These added extras means the installer and/or ARC can tidy up the balance sheet and account for any added annual costs.
Easy sell to the customer too, saves on phone call charges and the customer has the ability if the so wished to save on a telephone line.
Many installers are steadfast in an approach of only processing 'futureproofed' technologies with a view for tomorrow but many continue to install this type of signalling and Digital communicators still makes up a significant percentage of
the UK's signalling estate.
For those still installing or maintaining this form of signalling could it be time for a review?
Do we continue until the switch is turned off?
Its a certain inevitability that this technology will be extinct in the future, but how near is this future? what is the realistic shelf life of the Digital Communicator?
Is an unregulated industry the future?
Companies that operate outside the parameters of the BS & EN standards but attempt to offer services within its scope are on the increase...nothing new you say....
...yes thats true, what is new though is that growing sympathy is swelling for the unregulated and possibly these companies are even seen as forward thinking by some rightly or wrongly, although this debate will certainly cause conflict it does raise an important issue of how and why these companies can offten operate and offer the same services as the regulated?
ACPO are currently discussing the growing number of calls for LWD attendance without URNs. At the same time there are companies claiming ACPO support and guaranteed police response without demonstrating accreditation.
Unregulated security companies are falsely advertising as "Police approved", "secured by design approved" and claiming adherance to BS and EN standards, interesting, what is to stop these companies from operating in this manner?
I have spoken with various people within the industry and it is apparent that there is a lack of faith in the current mechanism to ensure that only accredited companies achieve a police response.
This could potentialy erode the legitamacy of our trade.
Has has there been a lack of collaboration between trade bodies and inspectorates?
Is there a risk that more companies will move to this unregulated, less costly approach?
Are industry trade bodies approaching this issue robustly enough?
Has your business been affected by unregulated trade?
I don’t think that anyone would disagree that the security industry has changed significantly over the last few years. In the intruder alarm business, the revenue focus has shifted from profit on the supply and installation of equipment to profit on the life of the contract or take overs. CCTV is heading down the same path so how can CCTV manufacturers help facilitate the “recurring revenue” business model?
The Key for me is the DVR. (The target market for this are End Users that would typically purchase an >4 camera system with a standalone DVR)
In this blog, I hope to describe how a DVR (if it were available) could not only help you generate additional recurring revenue but also protect your business from online sellers and part time security companies.
For the professional Security Installer:
Consider how the following would affect your business and sales approach of CCTV:
Upgradeable DVR: DVR is built to what the customer requires now, keeping initial costs to a minimum while future proofing the installation. Add additional channels and/or megapixel channels as required, add integration possibilities or other modules - the possibilities are endless.
Cloud Integrated DVR: Properly integrated with a cloud could allow for certain services to be performed off-site . Analytics, storage, till monitoring, etc. These could generate additional monthly revenue.
Integrated DVR: DVR can add value to existing security equipment, by associating cameras with sensors or control points for example. This point focuses on a key strength of a professional security installer which is their knowledge of Intruder, Access, Fire, etc and making use of that in a CCTV system. Something a part time security company is not likely to be able to offer.
Professional Services: Know before your customer when there is an issue (camera loss, hdd, etc), ability to show your customer “how to” remotely (think PC Anywhere functionality), speed up commissioning and setups by downloading your company specific configurations, logos, etc. directly to the DVR.
The above is just a snapshot of an overall system design (blog would be way too long), the above elements should describe how it may help retain customers and generate revenue from additional service offerings/upgrades but much can be done to help attract new customers in the first place.
For the End User:
The marketing people generally look for what they term USPs or Unique Selling Points, these are functions or services that will make a product or service stand out from the competition, consider the following if you were selling a DVR:
No more passwords – fingerprint reader maybe!
No more downloads – Even without off-site storage; this can be achieved through on-board removable storage and mirroring for example.
Tutorials – Ability to play either online or on-board tutorials for common functions.
Business tool – A DVR offers a Visual Record of what is going on in a business, through cloud analytics it would be possible to offer a customer a summary of the days operation based on their predefined requirements. A DVR that offers a report that’s worth reading??
More intuitive Interface – This is an area that can be greatly improved in my opinion, I have heard comments on various DVRs and which ones are easy to use but remember the time when Nokia was considered easy to use (excluding windows 8 ofcourse)? Consider the following:
A touch interface,
The beauty of a touch interface is that it generally only offers options relevant to the current function and hide set-up functions when the engineer is not logged in which can simplify its operation significantly, that in itself is not that unique but the difference is touch enabled operation versus touch optimised operation.
I have researched and watched many videos on touch operated DVRs but they completely miss the point in my opinion. Some have had nice sliders for adjusting the brightness, recording frame rates, etc but that’s touch setup not touch operation. Even LiLin’s recent release “NVR Touch”, which was built from first day to be a touch operated NVR but it too misses the point.
A touch optimised DVR interface would have no need for channel numbers, instead the user would “interact with images”.
To explain, consider your Android or Apple phone, each of the icons on the screen as camera image. You can move them around, duplicate or remove. To adjust a cameras settings, you simply select it and click the option, to playback/back-up a number of cameras, you select them, drag them and drop them either in the playback or back-up area. No need for channel numbers!
Besides the Android like operation, if it were based on Android (not suggesting this is a good idea), what apps could you think of for the customer to download that could benefit your business?
Ok, so you have read the blog and you have probably said to yourself on at least one of the points “my current DVR can do that” but you are missing a huge piece of the puzzle, how it’s implemented and this is much harder to explain, I ask you to think about the above and evolve it based on your own requirements. For example, although the CMS that comes with DVRs may offer some of the functionality but you wouldn't recommend it for a professional monitoring station. You also need to consider where it may lead; if implemented correctly, many of the above could lead to a profound effect on the professional security business, for example:
Off-site Storage: The ability to interrogate/download/analyse footage without leaving your desk has a massive appeal to others also. The police spend millions if not billions doing this manually, with the right promotion and politicians ear, only “connected” equipment could become the standard or even requirement for certain installations, installed by professional installers.
Business Tool: The more the client uses the system the more the possibility of using it as a communication tool. E.g. Advertising, call out requests, record keeping, etc.
Your definition of what a professional DVR may be completely different but the objective is to recognise that the business has changed for professional security companies and that manufacturers have their part to play in facilitating the business model.
I would sincerely like to hear your opinions………
Its been a while since my last blog.
My last blog was on direction and position for us as an industry and those involved in it. Nothing has changed imo from that entry.
Today id like to talk about more basic things. Things we do day to day, regulations we operate under etc.
On the approved side we have various rules and regulations we must all operate within. If we risk asses a site as needing, or we are requested to design a system that requires a police response then we do.
Currently if a security system is going to call the police (granted i accept that arc's etc are involved in this process) then it needs to comply with various regulations.
This includes the current EN 50131 reg in force, it also demands BS 8243 (there are others)
Using BS8243 as an example this requires we install and configure systems in a certain way. The main reason for this standard is to reduce the number of 'false' alarms we pass to the police regardless of cause. This is for intruder detection as well as personal attack systems (I&HAS). From a security point of view most systems are configured for sequential confirmation. That is 2 or more detectors located off the entry route must activate before a call is passed to the police. This is relatively easy to achieve as long as we design a system with adequate detection. ie 1 sensor per room is rarely sufficient as a single detector activating on a genuine break in will not result in the police being called. Ideally all we need to do is add additional protection to these areas and we have the desired more than 1 detector activating.
This is harder to achieve safely with regard to panic attack. As it was a user under attack could press a double push panic button safe in the knowledge that this would be passed to the police and assistance was on its way.
This is changing as we know and we now have confirmation of PA. This requires in its simplest form a different PA button. One you have to press in a certain way, in certain positions to get the desired effect.
So we have a basic position where to comply and achieve a police calling system you need (as an end user) a company that is inspected by a UKAS accredited inspectorate (currently NSI and SSAIB), you need a system designed to comply with the current legislation that does all it can to reduce or remove false alarms at the expense of possibly missing genuine ones. You need to play the police to activate your URN (ie your premisis to allow the alarm to even be passed to the police). You need to control the number of alarms you generate. If you have 3 false alarms in a rolling 12 month period and the 4th is genuine then the police can refuse to attend. All these alarms from complaint companies are monitored and checked statistically. If the false alarm rate of your provider is higher than the average they will be removed from calling the police. There are many reasons why a company might want to not pass alarms on to the police. Is this really what we are trying to achieve. Are we ignoring what the end users expectation is of an approved system?
On the flip side there are firms that provide a non approved, non regulated police response. They can use police cars and the word police calling on their marketing. They will pass any call from an alarm onto the police via the 999 system without any URN and using the correct wording will get the police to attend. Does this not make type A systems (ie approved) 2nd class. They are considerably cheaper to install and run. They dont need servicing, they dont need an on call engineer, they dont need to be complaint to any regulations, they dont need a URN or police tax, they dont need etc etc etc.
Are we loosing sight of what we should be doing and protecting?
Ghost in the machine...
With around three quarters of remotely accessible CCTV systems allowing intruders free access to invade privacy and compromise entire corporate computer networks, is it time to say 'enough is enough' to manufacturers and insist upon firmware changes to improve security control?
This is not isolated to consumer level CCTV platforms only. Many 'professional' DVRs & NVRs are installed with default administrator accounts unchanged or additional accounts created and system owners given control over the default account (which they then fail to change).
This means that anyone who is able to connect to the unit remotely can simply enter the default username & password (which can be found within seconds through a simple google search in almost all cases) and then have access to the system as completely as if they were standing in front of the unit.
To compound matters further CCTV systems are rarely secured to only allow specific IP addresses to connect to them and at the same time they broadcast their presence through banner information given out to any device that queries the unit (This means it is easy to find such devices in the wild).
In ~80% of installations the default passwords remain in place for the first three months. This drops to an average of ~70% after three months as some systems are made more secure by their removal.
This still leaves vast numbers of units out there which can be listed by country / ISP / city, or date of installation and more which are openly accessible to any IP address.
AVTech - Over 420,000 units exposed - (14,000 in Great Britain / 12,000 in America)
Hikvision - Over 710,000 units broadcasting - (10,000 in Great Britain / 16,000 in America)
Dedicated Micros - Over 18,000 units detected - (8,000 in Great Britain / 7,000 in America)
You might be thinking, so what, it's just CCTV - what's the worst that can happen? It should be remembered at all times that modern DVRs are in effect computers in most cases. Usually based on linux these machines are carrying out a specific task but can be put to use for other non DVR activity with ease.
Each compromised DVR is in effect an open computer allowing anyone and everyone access to a corporate network potentially. If security of the DVR is poor then it is possible that network security within a corporation is equally lax.
Last year a CCTV module was added to a tool called Metasploit, widely used in the blackhat community this tool allows users to attack a DVR, testing default access and brute forcing passwords. The fact that CCTV systems are often the weakest point of entry on a network is not lost on attackers and those who seek to maliciously access systems.
Whose fault is it really?...
It can sometimes be difficult to pin down exactly where the fault lies as there is a blurring of responsibilities in some contractual agreements.
A professional installer may fit a DVR and put in place a secure username and password combination for remote management or viewing by a remote RVRC or ARC. They may also advise the system owner to put in place ACL (Access control lists) so that only authorised IP addresses are allowed to connect to the device as well as giving advice on blocking netbios responses and port forwarding. However, if a user insists on being able to access the device remotely and chooses to keep the simple to remember default account and not to implement such measures then the machine can remain vulnerable.
Often the company responsible for installing, maintaining or monitoring the system does not have control over the network used by the device for transmission.
Even if the password is changed there exist a large number of exploits on known DVRs and in many cases these and similar exploits can be applied to other DVRs as the programming code is sometimes not as secure as it ought to be.
The CCTV hardware sector has been under intense price pressure in recent years and with a downward spiralling price index it has been common to see a reduction in the number of developers and code writers employed by some companies which could potentially increase the risk of security holes remaining in a product.
In the event that a breach receives widespread mainstream media coverage it does not just reflect badly upon an end user themselves as the security industry on the whole would receive bad press even if not at fault.
How do we fix it?...
In part this may require some contract review to ensure that clear definitions are in place by all businesses as to the responsibility that both they and the client hold. Clear understanding must be given as to the potential risks and good practise should be recommended in securing the unit.
Perhaps a move towards mobile broadband and IPv6 will mean that we can take back control of securing the communication channel?
We must however tackle the issue of default user accounts existing in the first place.
There is no need to have such accounts any more. Even if such accounts could be made unique to each device it would be an improvement, but in an ideal world the units would prompt for a unique username and password combination on first powering up with an option to default the unit only by an physical action on the unit itself in some secure manner. Dedicated Micros units for example come configured with up to five seperate default accounts of which three have admin level access and allow full control over a unit. Are your engineering teams ensuring that all of these accounts are removed?
I recently asked the technical support staff at several DVR manufacturers why they still use default accounts despite the huge risks involved when they are regularly left in place? I was repeatedly advised that it made their job much easier when providing remote support to users and engineers.
Newer Axis cameras feature the technique of forcing a password change on first access and it is much more secure as a result.
We should be hammering the doors of manufacturers to ask them to indtroduce this approach in their new firmware revisions (no hardware change should be required in most cases). We should also be encouraging the standards to push towards a more robust approach to handling default accounts.
Manufacturers often boast of how much value is protected by their devices (it's a safe boast that does not reveal how many units they sold) - It is this same value that is potentially at risk.
The next time you are presented with new CCTV equipment or a new manufacturer, ensure that you ask them how they ensure that their products remain secure as it is your reputation at stake.
Action to be taken:
Check contractual agreements
Ensure engineers trained in best practise
Audit existing installations
Verify guidance given to end users
Ensure firmware is updated regularly
Remove generic default accounts
Deploy an effective mechanism for security
Check existing exploits to ensure none affect your units
Keep up to date with new exploits
Notify your clients when you discover older firmware is at risk
Maintain a 'risk register' of some kind for trade members to be aware of potential risks
Protect their own networks by blocking Netbios
Allow access only to specific IP addresses
Change / Remove default accounts!!
Use secure passwords (6 Characters or more / Alphanumeric / Mixed case)
Ensure that internal communications to and from the device are restricted
Some of you may be aware that last year there was some exposure given to a vulnerability in Trendnet camera firmware allowing access to their consumer webcam devices despite password protection being enabled.
They claimed to have released a patch within a month to solve the issue and to have contacted every customer to advise them to update their devices.
This is (despite the assurances of Trendnet) still a common issue, to help highlight it a real time map was produced showing where such devices were located and allowing you to connect directly to them.
The website has now been taken down thankfully as the goal of highlighting the issue in mainstream media again was achieved.
This is a pretty good demonstration though of just how prolific an issue this can be when Joe Public gets his hands into the pot but it also reminds me of the many poorly secured 'professional' installations I have come across in my time (I'm sure you have too) and it is hopefully a wake up call to some businesses to improve their security practices.
How would you feel if 'XYZ Security - Live CCTV feeds' was the next google map mashup launched showing devices which you are maintaining or monitoring?
Also take note that despite the publicity around the Trendnet devices, they are not the only ones affected. There was a website called Shodan HQ launched some time ago which gives the ability to search devices which are 'web facing' (in other words can be connected to over the internet) and list those matching specific url strings or other flags. This offers much more capability than Google searches for example in highlighting potential 'target devices'.
It is already possible now to list unsecured access points on some very well known 'professional' DVRs and NVRs.
Ease of connectivity is very much a double edged blade. We must remember that many of the devices we use are now starting to utilise built in web servers and connectivity.
How are you ensuring that you are aware when exploits are announced on devices you utilise?
What are your plans to identify, notify affected users and upgrade potentially affected devices quickly and effeciently?
Are you considering these issues when investigating new web facing technology?
How do you measure for and protect against potential built in backdoor access to foreign equipment?
As well as looking outwards at your clients are your own systems secured and protected?
Is technology advancing too quickly to ensure adequate security is deployed?
As always I welcome your thoughts, questions, answers and debate.....
Bigger = Better?
Many barriers currently exist for businesses which are planning to run their own Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).
In the coming months we could potentially see some of those barriers crumble and a whole new way of doing business materialise.
Winners & Losers
Traditionally setting up an ARC from scratch has been an expensive and time consuming process, which can rely upon expertise in the field to implement and is surrounded by very little shared information or open resources (ARCs for Dummies is not out yet).
Existing ARCs face to lose out if more competition enters the fray and yet at the same time suppliers could benefit if more new business is generated.
So what exactly are the barriers to setting up a modern ARC?
Building / Structure
Buildings and structures must comply with specific requirements of the standards
Equipment / Hardware
In some cases specialist equipment may be required
From voice communications to PSTN to IP via fibre links and all flavours in between
Software packages used to monitor remote system
Licensing / Accreditation
Strict standards must be met in order to escalate calls to authorities
Skilled and capable staff are needed (You can automate some of this process but not all - yet
Processes & Procedures
You can have all of the above but without the correct procedures they will fall over
A large amount of money must be spent before you can earn a penny back
If you think of any others please add them in a reply...
What's so 'Super' about that?...
These and I am sure other points which I have likely overlooked, all make that first step of implementing an ARC a tough proposal.
Given an ever improving core broadband network, with rapidly reducing prices and a growth in 4G wireless IP communication, can we now consider another approach though?
ARCs usually build in a certain amount of spare capacity at any given time; this is good practice and is recommended at all times.
Could some of this spare capacity be utilised to allow an ARC to operate as a 'Super ARC' by receiving and processing signals on behalf of a client ARC and relaying these processed alarms and signals back to them for handling?
Why even go to another ARC? Could suppliers of alarm handling software packages not offer their own hosted 'Super ARC' platform?
Maybe signalling providers could operate their own Super ARC to encourage more startups or extend reach?
Why would a user choose to go to an ARC outsourcing to a Super ARC? Well, maybe they prefer the personal service offered by the smaller ARC but want the assurance of the capacity of the larger ARC.
This could give rise to a stepping stone approach to bringing an ARC online, streamlining costs whilst allowing processes and procedures to be ironed out.
The current standards would not lend to such a proposal, however the incoming standards allow a much less restricted approach and this type of centralised cloud based processing of signals is going to become a reality in many industries.
Current latency and bandwidth restrictions will simply not exist in the same way in future.
As usual we can end up with more questions than answers so I would like to ask you all to consider the following:
1. What problems would you foresee with such an approach?
2. Would you use an ARC which outsourced it's platform in this way?
3. Would you want to host services on behalf of a.n.other ARC?
4. What pros and cons do you see with this type of solution?
5. Is more ARCs a good thing or a bad thing?
As always, please feel free to discuss, debate or disagree...
Crossing of paths...
Alarm Transmission Systems (ATS) are increasingly adding capabilities that would traditionally have been performed by dedicated devices, for example CCTV verification.
At the same time Control and Indicating Equipment (CIE, or control panels in plain English) feature built in IP communication functionality and are giving us access to Home Automation integration and more.
This type of blurring of what would previously have been clear and distinct roles that equipment played is becoming much more common and is set to extend even further in the future.
We are already in a position where individual cameras and detectors of all types can communicate directly with the software at an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) without utilising at ATS if they so wished.
Installers are being empowered with the ability to not only connect instantly to a remote CIE to analyse a potential fault, but to be in a position to connect directly to a detector or camera or any other component of a system to amend settings, re-enable or even repurpose a generic multi-purpose device to enable the maximum potential protection for clients at all times.
This type of convergence leads to some fantastic opportunities and will mean that the next few years will certainly be interesting. It will also however, mean that those whom are writing the standards to which we each adhere, will have to write them without constraints on the form of equipment utilised in some cases. A very tough ask of them when they are trying to give reasonably specific guidance.
Confusion or cohesion?
Given this merging of functions and the seemingly inevitable move towards every component being addressable where does that leave our suppliers?
Will there be a place for specialised equipment if the same function is provided to the same standard in an integrated manner by another supplier?
Does this lead to an eventual move away from processing of alarms by dedicated CIE at the protected property to instead provide processing 'in the cloud' at the ARC or any other centralised location?
Will instant and thorough control of remote devices by installers lead to a change in business models when attendance is much reduced?
Does dedicated equipment improve the structure of the overall system or benefit us in another way?
Will ATS suppliers be bypassed or will they 'lead the revolution'?
Will we see less competition as a result or more?
As always, please feel free to discuss, sharing your thoughts and views on this subject…
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Some press exposure was given recently to the news that Secom are actively looking to utilise ‘drones’ for the private security market on a rental basis. 
This appears to relate to the American market with the rental price given in dollars, yet is the UK market also ready to consider the possibilities?
The usage of drones, also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (‘UAVs’), in the military sector has been known about and discussed widely for quite a while now. However, the typical lapse into commercial operations is beginning to take place quite quickly now and with the addition of Chinese CCTV market into the mix along with a thriving amateur hobbyist community (thankfully both non-weaponised for now) we are now able to consider the application of this technology in a serious manner in relation to the UK electronic security industry. 
Drones generally come many forms, it seems though that two main types are established at the moment in the commercial and civilian markets – ‘Multicopter’ types which are devices with several rotors designed to assist in direct and immediate flight and the more traditional aircraft types similar to model planes.
Drones are defined as “an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is either controlled autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle”
This also leaves open the possibility of a drone definition as an unmanned aircraft under the control of a pilot in a remote location.
ARCs & UAVs – A good match?
There are some restrictions in the utilisation of drones in the UK. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) states that drones can be flown without a pilot's licence as long as they meet the following criteria:
They must weigh less than 20 kilograms
Remain below a height of 122 metres
Remain within visual line of sight of the pilot
Remain within 500m of the pilot
Only be flown away from populated areas and airports
Pilots must also be able to take over manual control if required
Permission must be sought from the CAA  
This would seem to prevent the deployment of drones by remote centres but how would this affect an Alarm Receiving Centre ('ARC') with trained and licensed pilots with drones utilised under regulatory control for protection of a building?
What about site based rooftop drones, which have a single application following an activation of flying directly upwards, transmitting footage from an aerial viewpoint before descending to recharge again?
Protection in the event of a fire or duress situation could be more effectively managed perhaps with aerial thermal imaging and CCTV.
Would manual PTZ control of such devices and utilisation of 4G for transmission purposes open up a new avenue for protection of property?
Would we, in this scenario, eventually be petitioned by the police to take things a step further and follow suspects away from the property whilst they are en route so as to assist in a successful arrest?
The use of two way audio in combination with a flyover by a drone device could be a powerful tool to deter would be burglars from a property. With a carefully managed marketing exercise to demonstrate effective results (similar to the smartwater approach) we could as an industry add another difficult to overcome layer of protection causing less well prepared miscreants to be caught and/or identified more effectively.
There are some caveats to consider of course as with any new technology.
Weather restrictions – wind shear, storms affecting flight
Fog and other visibility issues restricting vision – much as with tradtional CCTV
Recharging the UAV – Contact based charging solutions are now viable however
Communications – The usage of robust 4G and 5G solutions should resolve this
Auditing – On board encrypted SD cards should assist here
Security of control – An important issue which I will describe below in more depth
Health & Safety – Any such vehicle could potentially cause an accident or harm if lost
Privacy – As always privacy concerns would have to be addressed and respected  
On the issue of security of control I would like to point out that where control of a Drone is intercepted by a third party we must be able prove that such action has taken place.
There ought to be mandatory requirements regarding the security of access in line with current standards relating to all other security equipment in use. Though the application may be different the same level of care ought to be considered.
This leaves us with some more questions to ask and discuss with regards the impact on and usage of UAVs within our sector:
Would you consider implementing this technology?
Do our current standards suitably allow for this technology to be utilised?
Is it appropriate for ARCs to implement licensed pilots for this purpose?
Would installers consider implementing these devices in specific installations?
Does an aerial viewpoint offer advantages over properly sited CCTV?
Should individual ARCs be licensed to pilot security UAVs?
Would a single RVRC specialising in remotely controlled UAVs be a better approach than many RVRCs/ARCs offering individual solutions?
As always, please feel free to discuss, sharing your thoughts and views on this subject…
 – Engadget.com – Secom offers a private security drone (December 2012)
 – Wired.co.uk – Here come the drones… (July 2012)
 – Civil Aviation Authority – Policy for Light UAV Systems (May 2004)
 – Civil Aviation Authority – CAP722 Guidance (August 2012)
 – Global Research – Civil liberties and the CAA (December 2011)
 – Youtube – BBC coverage of increased drone usage (Decembe 2012)
I have a friend of many years who was/is a master trades person.
Some bad luck for him and he sought a diffrent life, first in Ireland and by chance he is now in Thailand.
i know he wont mind me blogging his letter here, it has a very strong message about being content.
Hi Jeff and Ger. HAPPY CHRISTMAS.
I hope you are well, Thank you for your mail, Sorry for the late reply. As you know we have no internet on the farm, so I typed all this onto "Word" so I could send when I got chance. First let me thank you for that lovely meal. Thanks Jeff for trying to sort out that phone system, even though we couldn't make it work.
Where do I begin to tell you about my life over here in Thailand??? I’m sorry but this is going to be a long tale.
I never thought that I would be so busy in my retirement. There are not enough hours in a day to do all that needs to be done. We usually get up around 5-30-6-00 AM as soon as daybreaks, by 8-30 the sun is already too hot for me to do anything outside, how the Thais work all day in the fields amazes me, it would kill me! It always goes dark at 6-30 no matter what month of the year; I do miss the long summer evenings in England.
Whilst I was back in UKJune/ July, Noy harvested her sugar crop on her 23 Rai (about 11 acres) plot. When you cut the sugar down to ground level, you get a second year’s crop from the same roots for free! But this year when it grew again it was diseased, so Noy had it all ploughed back into the land. So much for our bonus crop!!
When I came back over we decided to sow rice on the land, rather than just leave it idle,,,,, the land has to work for you, to make you money.
At the same time we had our 10 Rai plot,,, where I had the pond dug, ploughed again and sowed rice on that as well. We only ever grow rice on that land, as it is divided into paddies that we can flood or drain as required to keep the rice happy.
We were expecting rain to come very soon after sowing, but it never came! We were lucky because we had the pond to pump water onto the land, many farmers nearby were not so lucky and lost their crops through lack of water.
We had our pond dug 5 metresdeep, to stop people netting the pond and stealing our fish. Anyway, needless to say when we pumped the water onto our rice and the water level fell. The ******** came in the night and stole most of our big fish. It seems poaching and stealing fish is a national pastime here. Noys dad built a hut on the edge of the pond where he usually sleeps, so he could look after the fish, but he is 86 and has only got one eye, so they were still able to get our fish,,,,,,,, Anyway, when the rain eventually came, it quickly filled the pond again, and the baby fish that were left are now growing again, thankfully,,,,,,, Jumping ahead to now,,,, we have just had the rice cut on that 10 Rai plot, where the pond is. We got just over one and three quarter tons of good quality rice from that crop so Noy is pleased with that. The good news was that as we drained the paddies prior to cutting, we were able to recover about two and a half thousand small fish that had been pumped onto the land and had been growing with the rice,,,, so now the pond looks healthy with thousands of small fish swimming around,,,, now I’m happy, because by next year they will be big enough to eat. Not that I eat them, it’s just I enjoy the sport of trying to catch them with a fishing rod and line.
Everybody is busy cutting and drying their rice now, so we are just waiting our turn for the rice harvester to find enough time to cut our 23 Rai plot. I don’t think that we will get a large crop from that land as we had to rely on rainfall to water it, as there is no water anywhere near to it. We need to have it cut within the next couple of days or we will lose the rice back into the land. Everything grows VERY quickly here and as soon as crops are ready you have to get them harvested and stored or sold.
Noy is a good farmer and understands the markets well,,, when to store and when to sell, The market is flooded with rice now as everybody brings their rice in, so the rate is low. We will keep our rice in our rice storage hut for about another 3 months until the price goes up again. Most of the local farmers sell their rice straight away to get money to live on, but if you don’t need to sell straight, you get a much better price for it.
Soon after we had planted the rice, it was time to harvest the mansapalang (like sweet potato) that we were growing on our 13 Rai plot, just outside the village. This is the land that I am thinking of building a house on, when I eventually sell Bury New Road. It took nearly a week to bring that crop in; I think there was nearly 85 tons, so that was good.
After it was harvested we sowed a yellow flower on the land, just so we could plough it back into the land for nourishment.
Last month we had that ploughed over two times, and then waited for our delivery of 22 tons of new sugar cane that we bought from the sugar refinery. We have now had all that sugar planted and already it is starting to show shoots. That land is very good land for growing, so we only ever grow sugar or mansapalang, usually 2 years of sugar then we alternate to one year of mansapalang.
We have got another 28 Rai of land that is already growing a good crop of mansapalang that we planted early last year, hopefully that will be ready to harvest next Feb – March.
So I think you can understand that life on the farm is anything but quiet, but I enjoy driving Noys truck over all the farmland, looking after the workers. While Noy looks after the rice crops I am usually able to do a bit of fishing in our pond and enjoy a cool Chang Beer.
Last year I had an extension built on the side of the house as I wanted a workshop and somewhere to store tools and things. Anyway as soon as it was built, Noy decided that it would make a good hair dressing salon. So I lost my workshop, but we gained a new salon. Noy has now sold the Hairdressing salon that she had in Phimai town centre.
Now, whenever Noy is not on the land, she opens the hairdressing salon and is quickly busy with customers wanting their hair cut. All the older ladies will only have their hair cut by Noy and will wait weeks on end if we are busy on the farm. Now that we have the new salon more and more of the younger girls are becoming regular customers also.
Yes, life is good over here. When it’s not too busy we usually manage to get into Phimai, our nearest town, two or three times a week for a meal and a drink with the other expatts that live over here, plenty of good CHEAP restaurants in town, a good steak meal all inc is around £2- £3, Noys meals are about 30 Pence and as she is teetotal it doesn’t cost a fortune. We usually get into Korat, which is a big city, about once a fortnight, to get anything not available locally. There is a big shopping mall, a bit like our Trafford Centre along with a Makro, Tesco Lotus, Big “C” and many other retail parks.
I’ve been over here 5 months already, and am hoping not to return to UKtill Feb 10th next year. After 3 months over here I had to do a “Visa Run” to get a new visa in my passport for another 90 days (3 months) so we went up to Cambodia for a couple of days. After getting my visa we stayed in a nearby town called Buriram where there are many expatts bars and restaurants.
My one year visa from UKexpired 2 weeks ago so we had to do another visa run even though my last one hadn’t run out. This time we were busy on the farm, so we didn’t stay over.
When we have brought our last crop of rice in hopefully in the next few days,,,,,, maybe it will get a bit quieter and we will have time to relax a bit.
In my front garden we have banana trees growing and two of them have big bunches of bananas that will be ready for eating in about 4 weeks time. We have got about 6 Pappaya trees growing all bearing fruit and a lime tree with 2 limes growing on it. We have about 6 pineapple trees but I’ve no idea when they will bear fruit. Around our pond we have planted about 20 coco nut trees, numerous banana trees and many fruit trees that we never see in England, all will be bearing fruit within a couple of years.
In EnglandI could barely exist on the small amount of pension that I receive, but over here I can live like a king. I think the weather plays an important part in keeping me healthy,,,,, Within 2 days of being back over here my swollen feet had gone back to normal, I don’t have any aches or pains through arthritis, no problems with my asthma and no problems with my blood pressure because there is no stress here, we don’t have a letter box and we don’t have a postman,,,, so we don’t get any bills!!
Our mains water is 30 Pence per month and our bottled drinking water about the same. A bottle of gas for cooking costs £4 and lasts about 9 months; our electric bill is about £3 per month. No Heating bills to worry about. £20 fills the truck with gasoline that lasts a week or more depending where we go. Car tax is £12 per year. Car Insurance about £14 per year. There are NO rates or any other taxes to pay No National Insurance. I get 3 months supply of all the medicines that I usually get from Englandfor £20 from our local hospital. No TV licence no Satellite and NO ****IN TAXMAN to worry about.
So, yes, life is very good here. It’s nice to know that every day is going to be a nice day weather wise, when you put washing on the line it is bone dry within the hour
Now is our cool season but just looking at our thermometer it’s still 87Fand it’s 10-30 pm at night. During the daytime it is usually around 100F, too hot for me, but it sure beats being cold.
Obviously there are negatives over here, but the good things always make up for any shortfalls. The standard of driving here is terrible, very few people actually have a driving licence, and those that have a licence have usually paid for it rather than passing a test, as such corruption is a major problem. The police set up check points with the sole purpose of collecting money to make up their wages, the good side is that you can get away with anything if you pay the policeman the equivalent of £2 ,,,,, No ticket no endorsements. Nobody has a clue about road safety, nobody knows that when its dark you need to turn your lights on, I think there must be a contest going, to see how many years they can drive without putting them on ,,,, I’m not joking, it really is scary when you come flying up behind a BIG wagon crawling along with no lights on in pitch black of night because there are few street lights working. The school buses have kids hanging off the sides, usually with 10-15 happily sitting on the roof of the bus SCARY!! The law over here is that the driver of a motorbike is supposed to wear a helmet, but when there are usually 4-5 people on that motorbike and the person on the front is usually a passenger, with the rider being in second place??? Nobody wears a helmet except when they see a checkpoint. At least driving a truck you are more likely to survive than if you were riding a motorbike. In saying that, I ride a motorbike on the farm, and in the village, and feel perfectly safe, though I am VERY wary if I go on any main roads.
The electrics over here are VERY dangerous nobody has any sort of qualifications. Wires just get twisted together, lives joined to neutrals, in our farm house the live wire is Black at the front of the house, but it is White at the back of the house???
The one thing I miss over here is decent internet connection. We have no phone lines to our village so we have to rely on a 3G dongle,,,,,,, trouble is we don’t have any 3G network anywhere near, but the don’t tell you that when you’re buying it. The rest of the world is already on 4G, yet Thailand is still deciding which Internet provider shall get the contract for 3G !!! ??? Most of the time we have no signal at all even for a mobile phone, which is not good.
Ok. Enough for now, my fingers are aching with typing.
As soon as I find time I will put some pictures together so you will understand what I’m trying to show you about life over here.
Take Care Love Ray xxx
Our current generation is without doubt the most "connected" generation yet. We have numerous tools available which allow us to convey our thoughts instantly in every possible media format and yet we still occasionally struggle to communicate with each other effectively.
I want to look at some specific examples of platforms for collaboration and see how our industry might be able to put them into useful practice as well as considering our motivation for contributing towards a collaborative approach.
Creating standards and policy documents is a very difficult and often thankless task which must be carried out in order for our industry to continue to progress.
If we were to sit everyone around a table to try and agree the wording of an important document then we could be there for a very long time (if indeed we were able to sit down in the first place).
Using free, secure applications such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) means that a collective of people could all work on a single document as and when they have time to do so, and at a pace that suited them.
All changes would be audited, commented upon and can be discussed in an easy manner alongside the document so that people can find a way to reach an agreement.
At any stage people can look at who has edited what and why and a final draft document would be the output of the process.
People may be hesitant at the idea of putting content out securely into ‘the cloud’. To those people I ask one simple question: "Realistically, whose servers are more secure? Is it Googles data centres or your own servers?" What would an independent auditor say if comparing the two options on a like for like basis?
The primary consideration will always be one of risk versus reward. The opportunity to encourage engagement from an occasionally apathetic and yet well informed industry is one which we should strive to grasp.
Impact & Opinion
I recently had the pleasure of contacting representatives of all NSI Gold and SSAIB accredited ARCs. It was quickly apparent that across a broad spectrum of different types of alarm receiving centres, that the people I was talking to were all well informed, had a great deal of experience in their particular disciplines and were passionately interested in the industry on the whole moving forward and progressing.
They all had something useful and positive and unique to contribute. This is a valuable resource which our industry ought to be taking the fullest possible advantage of (in the nicest way possible).
The same I am sure can be said of installers, manufacturers and other interested parties.
Often the difficulty can be in taking the wide variety of people and preferred contact methods they may have into account when trying to gauge the opinion of the whole.
We could use tools such as private LinkedIn groups and built in polling facilities:
This can quickly help to identify the collective opinion of individual members. However, though users can comment on polls in such groups it is important that a facility somehow remains for users to contribute comments anonymously if they wish as it may be that an unpopular or controversial opinion may in fact be an important point for all to consider.
It is also important that such questions remain relevant, neutral and help to identify or resolve key concerns in the day to day operation of such facilities, as this will promote participation and engagement while providing useful output for interested parties.
Why would potential competitors want to share information and ideas? Everyone knows that our industry historically has thrived on secrecy and that unique technology can give businesses a cutting edge over others with whom they are in competition, so why would anyone want to share?
There is value in effective collaboration which can simply not be achieved in isolation.
We have gone from being one way consumers of information to instead being very effective communicators of information. What seems interesting to one person could inspire another to actually create an innovative idea or approach.
It is now recognised that there is a "cognitive surplus" which is often untapped and which is willing to give input autonomously to the benefit of the greater good.
Now, whilst I am very mindful of intellectual property and issues related to it, there are issues which are broader and affect all interested parties within a group.
These are the types of challenges to which a collective group of experienced and interested people can help to overcome. Given the opportunity to participate and with enough barriers to participation removed, then people will go out of their way to help.
Many individuals in our industry have valuable contributions to make, it is a question of giving them an opportunity to have a voice whilst accounting for their hectic schedules and any genuine concerns.
The recent launch of the Windows 8 operating system has become the flagship of a new thrust in technology culture that is here to stay if we like it or not.
Windows are trying to push their desktop experience into the App based smartphone sector whilst at the same time crossing paths with Google who are busy working on selling their App based platform to desktop users.
At the same time Apple is looking to futher improve communications between their many available devices to ensure a smooth user experience and to bond users more closely to their brand.
Users are increasingly being taught to think less about the specific machine that they are using to access tools and data (Laptop / Mobile / PC) and to instead focus on a common interface and a shared pool of data.
More content is being delivered to users in the 'App' format. By 'App' I mean simple, modular applications that are generally geared towards a specific focus area or subject. The aim in most cases is to simplify the interface used, allowing the more non-technical minded among us to interact in ways that would have been either slow or difficult to achieve previously.
This combines with an ever increasing 'Always on' mindset to create a demand whereby users are surprised and disappointed if they can't 'find an app for that' when they search.
One of the most common themes at the moment is the migration of existing products and services from a traditional email / letter / phone approach to instead utilise an App.
What name is given to the process of converting something which is not an App into an App though?
Imagine converting your hard copy lens calculator into an App, or maybe making your invoice payment system into an App. How do you describe this process of taking a none-app format procedure or task and making the same process achievable through an App?
I came across this dilemma recently and discovered the following terms actively being used in this context:
Appifying? (4.7k Google hits)
Sounds satisfying but not quite self explanatory enough
Appverting? (14.4k Google hits)
"Converting into an App" sounds feasible however this term was hijacked by the marketing industry for use as 'Appvertising' (A failed marketing attempt to channel adverts to mobile devices)
Appetising? (Huge number of irrelevant Google hits)
Hungry? This causes confusion already...
Apping? (576k Google hits)
A term that is used already to cover many different non App based uses (Such as applying for something)
Appification: (23.3k Google hits)
Probably the most prominent term currently in use, perhaps also the least self explanatory one for ‘Joe Bloggs’ non-technical person
Why would this process be important to the Electronic Security industry? Our industry already embraces this technology in many ways you could say, with many hardware manufacturers beginning to make interfaces to their products possible through apps. Is this the only narrow use for this approach though?
We are a service industry. Many of the services we provide can be made more efficient or more easily accessible to a wider audience if converted to a format with which an end user can easily and securely access.
Processes which currently soak up valuable staffing hours could instead be made automated or at least interactive. The evolving possibilities presented by the internet of things (IoT) and IPv6 offer amazing scope but also an amazing level of potential complexity. Apps could help organise and empower users so that they are able to be informed, advised and participatory in the naming and configuration process.
Communication can be made much simpler and the secure sharing of information to relevant parties can be done in a transparent, seamless and immediate manner.
Many of the back end systems currently utilised by Installers and ARCs have common protocols such as SOAP or XML available which means that your App can directly interface with your core products if you wish.
You may find it worthwhile to take some time to stand back from your organisation and consider how you could use this ‘App momentum’ to your advantage.
There is potential for all sectors of our industry to take advantage of this migration including but not limited to Installers, ARCs and service providers. How can you empower your end users and staff through this technology?