Remote Monitoring is a term with many different meanings. For a security manager, it offers an ability to prevent break-ins and other criminal damage to a facility, by monitoring the place from a remote location. An IT manager, on the other hand, would probably prefer to use remote monitoring to check the performance of key corporate servers. But, for a store owner, remote monitoring might provide the ability to monitor the success of the latest in store promotion or quality of service by staff in a particular store, regardless of actual location. In short, remote monitoring offers very different benefits according to ones point of view.
Remote monitoring does not automatically include the use of video, but in most situations, video will transform the remote monitoring experience. This article will primarily focus on remote monitoring, in combination with use of video, as seen from the security market’s perspective.
It has always been of interest for human beings to protect their assets – homes and places of work alike need securing, wherever you are in the world. We expect to use physical technology such as fencing, steel bar covered windows and secure locking systems, as a deterrent. But these systems are not at their most effective unless complemented with some sort of surveillance monitoring. Even the most advanced combination of perimeter systems and secure buildings can face unwanted intrusion, and if this is the case it is of vital importance to notify security staff and the police as soon as possible.
This is normally done by using some sort of intrusion detection system, which in most cases is connected to a central alarm center or directly to the police. But as the number of systems installed has increased, and number of ‘alarm’ incidents has risen sharply in many cities across the world, and police forces worldwide have found themselves unable to respond to all alarms in a timely way. Worse than this, most police forces today do not accept a normal electronic alarm notification as indication of a crime in progress. To receive proper attention from the police, it is in most cases a requirement for “Visual Verification” of the cause of the alarm. This can be achieved either by physically sending a security guard onto the site itself and getting him to report back to the police by radio or mobile phone, or sending video evidence which can be gathered and sent from a remote location.
Clearly the ability to gather and send visual evidence remotely is a significant bonus in terms of manned guarding savings and speed of response to security incidents. It also provides increased safety for security guards who no longer need to endanger themselves by working into a potentially hazardous situation such as an armed robbery in progress.
According to figures from criminologists in Sweden, the ability for the police to successfully solve a criminal investigation is approximately six times higher if there is quality video material available. And as the old saying goes – “a picture says more than a thousand words.”
Remote Monitoring: How Does It Work?
Remote Monitoring is a tool that allows us to provide you the best service and support in the POS industry. Remote Monitoring makes this possible through both real-time monitoring and secure remote control.
Using Remote Monitoring tool, we can observe and detect many important system problems before they impact you. While we can’t detect everything, our goal is to detect and address key issues faster, and we are continuously adding to our monitoring capabilities. We want to know about issues before they impact you!
Remote Monitoring also provides us with a secure Remote Control tool, allowing us to take control of your system to fix issues faster. Most importantly, the Remote Control tool provides security and auditing features that allow us to provide a remote control solution in line with PCI remote access standards.
Information flows from your system to us over the Internet. We only have to install a small piece of software on your system (an agent) that will watch for important issues and send them to a central location. We get e-mailed about very high priority items and we use a web-browser to keep an eye on everything else.
Since we understand the importance of network security in your business, the Remote Monitoring agent does not require any firewall ports to be forward into your servers. The Remote Monitoring agent initiates all connectivity to the central location on a secure (SSL) connection using the standard HTTPS port (443). The only networking requirement is to allow the Remote Monitoring agent to connect securely to the central server locations. You will not even notice that Remote Monitoring is installed except for when you get an e-mail recommending you schedule a reboot or when we call to tell you we fixed an issue you didn’t even know was happening.
Remote Monitoring: Historical view
The term “Remote Monitoring” is nothing new for people involved in today’s security business. The ability to transmit video signals to a remote location was developed in the early 1970s with initial patents accepted, and the 8-bit version of the Robot Slow Scan system was launched in mid 1970s, with a move to 16-bit technology 1982. This, at the time, groundbreaking system allowed for transmission of black/white images at a rate of around 30-60 seconds per image, using ordinary telephone lines. The size of this system was equivalent to a normal PC today.
Technology evolved during the 1990s, and a couple of systems dominated the market, providing dial-up transmission over PSTN and ISDN lines. Common for most systems of this age was the so-called box-to-box concept, whereby video was converted back to analogue signals at the receiving end, and then presented to the viewer using ordinary analogue monitors.
In the late 1990s the first software-based systems were introduced. These allowed the use of a normal PC for remote viewing and storage of images. By now, also the types of systems available on the market started to broaden as the market was segmented. But systems were still of a proprietary design, whereby different systems had minimal or no ability to work together. At this time larger alarm central stations started to fill up with different systems. Today it is quite common to find alarm central stations with 5 to 10 different systems installed, each with its own dedicated ISDN and PSTN lines, control panels and monitors.
Remote Monitoring: Current market
As new technology has started to be commonly used, it has also changed the definition of remote monitoring. While in the past remote monitoring was mainly about remote security guard watching in a central location, today the remote monitoring centre will add value by also analysing video and onward transmission of key data to relevant authorities and contacts. Some remote monitoring operations provide more specific analysis such as Point Of Sales reports and footfall analysis information to store managers in the retail market.
Another trend that can be seen, provided by the movement to network-based connections, is the ability to have a more flexible approach to the location of an RVRC (Remote Video Response Centre). In the past, most centres were located in the local area they monitored, partly driven by the benefit of knowledge of the local neighborhood and partly for cost reasons. But as globalization accelerates and focus remains on cost reduction, location or relocation of a response centre or customer service centre is increasingly driven by available infrastructure and the cost of operation per customer.
The key driver in all this is that the communication platform used no longer sees any geographical limits. It is now possible to provide permanent quality connections at an acceptable price point throughout large swathes of the developed world. Broadband connectivity is today being provided to all but the most remote parts of developed countries. In several cases there are financial support schemes available from national governments, to stimulate increased connectivity for specific areas of a country, or stimulate usage in schools, hospitals and other parts of the public sector.
As there is a lot of focus on this market, there is also an increasing desire to organize and control the business. One of the leading markets in the world in terms of the usage of remote video for surveillance purposes is the UK. Here, the installation and use of remote video is now covered in a new standard, called BS 8418 Installation and remote monitoring of detector activated CCTV systems- Code of Practice.
A typical remote monitoring system
So what is a network-based remote monitoring system? It basically contains one or more video servers or network cameras, installed at the remote location. These will digitise images from the site and make them available on a network, as secure and encrypted data. In most cases, they will also be connected to intrusion systems or other systems capable of generating an alarm upon break-in, via pressing of panic buttons and the like. The other end consists of software, which is used to manage these remote sites, provide storage of images and other features. When an alarm is received, the operator will instantly receive instructions related to this specific site and alarm. Based on the content of the video and given instructions, the operator will then take suitable action, such as alerting the police.
Even the best system will fail if it is not designed to meet the customer’s expectation. The most important thing with all security systems, is to understand end-user needs. If there is not a clear understanding about the system, with pros and cons, the service may not meet the user’s expectation.
- Shall video be connected to a Remote Video Response Centre (RVRC)?
- Shall video be recorded, and if yes, local at the site or at a remote location?
- Will video be used by the client or only by the RVRC?
If the system is of high importance, it is a good idea to design a system with some redundancy built-in, i.e. utilising multiple connections/broadband providers. In case one of the networks does go down, functionality will be retained via the other network/s.
The market is currently going through a fundamental change, as the rollout of broadband connectivity allows for customers as well as RVRCs to swap from costly and poorly performing ISDN and PSTN-based dial-up services, to fast and efficient permanent network connections.
The new broadband services like ADSL and DSL all have one major advantage over the use of ISDN and other dial-up services – they provide ‘permanent, robust connections to the internet’. This means that the customer doesn’t need to bother about high connection cost, just because he/she would like to utilise the remote accessibility more. Whenever it is being used, service and bandwidth is there. And these connections are normally used for other functions, like internet browsing, e-mail and even voice communications. This also means that whatever investment is put into this infrastructure, will be of benefit for the whole organisation, not just for the security system.
There also seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the use of digital video and networks. ‘Systems are not reliable’, ‘My network will go down’ are some assertions commonly heard in the market.
It is certainly true that all poorly designed systems will leave the user with a non-reliable and poor performing system regardless of whether they are digital or analogue-based. The secret lies with strong design, integration and management. The reality is that the internet is providing very stable shop front for many businesses today. We buy groceries, gadgets, trade stocks and shares, do banking, listen and watch broadcast media output all via the internet and our network infrastructure and PCs. It is already reaching a level where it is touching most people’s lives throughout a good deal of their day.
The business opportunity presented by digital remote video monitoring is therefore enormous. With network video technology, remote monitoring can be made available at a very reasonable cost. By embracing the new technology, security dealers and integrators can offer value to both existing customers as well as new ones. Simultaneously investments in network infrastructure is now reaping multiple benefits as new applications including IP-Surveillance are attached to this network – so Return on Investment comes that much more quickly.
And since broadband connections in most part of the developed world is almost a commodity, security specialists and integrators that are now building competence and solutions for network video are starting to see explosive growth .
Most end users have a need for remote monitoring in one way or the other, be it for security or other business benefit such as promotion of the business via the web. The beauty with a network video solution is that it can be used for both purposes at the same time. This will provide security dealers with an opportunity to break into new businesses and become an even more valued supplier.
The remote monitoring market is in the midst of a convergence between traditional analogue and the emerging digital technology. As we all know. If there is change – there is opportunity. Security dealers and integrators are well advised to start building competence in the IP-network area. This can be done either by recruiting key personnel or by finding strategic partners well versed in the IT-world.
To wait and see is normally not a good business strategy. Network video is a proven concept used in many large-scale and heavy-duty installations worldwide. The first network camera was already introduced in 1996. If you have not acquainted yourself with network video yet, you have probably waited long enough already!
Remote video solutions based on network technology represent a major opportunity. It is an opportunity to keep your existing customers happy and to expand your business into new markets meeting new business needs. With proper attention to the possibilities with remote video monitoring, you will secure your existing business as well as a get a chance to take it to the next level.