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What We Do....


jimcarter

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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.

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Thanks James. Where 3G is available (pretty much everywhere) the results are very good. I'm putting together another piece based on 3G which I'll post in the next week or so.

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