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For decades, cable theft has caused disruption to infrastructure across South Africa, and an issue that permeates the whole supply chain. Here, Ian Loudon, international sales and marketing manager at remote monitoring specialist Omniflex, explains how new cable-alarm technology is making life difficult for criminals and giving hope to businesses. In November 2020, Nasdaq reported that, “When South Africa shut large parts of its economy and transport network during its COVID-19 lockdown, organized, sometimes armed, gangs moved into its crumbling stations to steal the valuable copper from the lines. Now, more than two months after that lockdown ended, the commuter rail system, relied on by millions of commuters, is barely operational.” Private security firm Despite this most recent incident, cable theft is not a new phenomenon to sweep South Africa Despite this most recent incident, cable theft is not a new phenomenon to sweep South Africa. In 2001, SABC TV broadcast a story following two members of a private security firm working for Telkom, a major telecoms provider. In the segment, the two guards, working in Amanzimtoti on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, head out to investigate a nearby alarm that has been triggered. They reach a telecoms cabinet and discover that it has been compromised, with the copper cable cut and telephone handsets strewn across the ground. In the dark, they continue to search the area when one of the guards discovers the problem: 500 metres of copper wire has been ripped out. In their haste, the thieves have dropped their loot and fled. Widespread cable theft Had they managed to get away, they would have melted the cable to remove the plastic insulation and sold the copper to a local scrap dealer for around 900 Rand, about $50 US dollars. For the company whose infrastructure has been compromised, it may cost ten times that amount to replace and repair the critical infrastructure. The disappointing takeaway from this story is that two decades on from this incident the country still faces widespread cable theft, whether it’s copper cables from mines, pipelines, railways, telecoms or electrical utilities. In fact, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that cable theft costs the economy between R5–7 billion a year. The answer to the problem must go further than the existing measures used by companies. Detect power failure Most businesses already invest in CCTV, fences, barriers and even patrol guards, but this is not enough. Take the mining sector, for example. These sites can be vast, spanning dozens of kilometres - it’s simply not cost effective to install enough fences or employ enough guards or camera operators. As monitoring technology gets better, the company has seen site managers increasingly use cable alarms in recent years that detect when a power failure occurs. The idea is that, if one can detect a power failure, they can detect whether the cable has been cut The idea is that, if one can detect a power failure, they can detect whether the cable has been cut. The problem is though: how does one distinguish the difference between a situation where a cable has been cut intentionally and a genuine power outage? Power outages in South Africa are an ongoing problem, with the country contending with an energy deficit since late 2005, leading to around 6,000 MW of power cuts in 2019. Remote terminal units Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the company that generates around 95 per cent of South Africa’s power has already warned of further blackouts as the company works to carry out repairs to its power plants. According to a statement on the company’s website, “Eskom spends in the region of R2 billion a year replacing stolen copper cables." The result is that criminals take advantage of the gaps in power to steal cable, timing their robberies to coincide with the published load shedding schedules. The basic alarms used to detect power outage won’t recognize the theft because they register a false-positive during a power cut. By the time the power comes back on, the deed has been done and the criminals have gotten away with the cable. The good news is that recent breakthroughs in cable monitoring technology are helping tackle just this problem. New alarms on the market now combine sophisticated GSM-based monitoring systems that use battery powered remote terminal units. Legitimate supply chain Unlike the basic alarms that look for the presence or absence of power, these new systems monitor whether the cable circuit is in an open or closed state. In the event of a power outage, the unit continues to run on battery power and can detect if a cable has been cut, sending a priority SMS alert to the site manager immediately, giving them a fighting chance to prevent a robbery in progress. Beyond the opportunistic theft carried out by petty criminals, the theft of copper cables forms a wider problem Beyond the opportunistic theft carried out by petty criminals, the theft of copper cables forms a wider problem across the supply chain in South Africa. In recent years, the combination of unscrupulous scrap dealers, the alleged involvement of large scrap processing companies and lax penalties meant that much of the stolen copper ended up back in the legitimate supply chain. However, recent changes in the law have sought to take a tougher stance on copper theft. Alarm monitoring technology According to the Western Cape Government, “The Criminal Matters Amendment Act, regulates bail and imposes minimum offences for essential infrastructure-related offences." The act, which came into effect in 2018, recommends sentencing for cable theft, with the minimum sentence for first-time offenders being three years and for those who are involved in instigating or causing damage to infrastructure, the maximum sentence is thirty years. It seems to be working too. In January 2021, the South African reported that a Johannesburg man was sentenced to eight years behind bars for cable theft in Turffontein. While the longer-term outlook is a positive one for industry, the best advice for businesses seeking to alleviate the problem of cable theft in the immediate future is to invest in the latest cable-theft alarm monitoring technology to tackle the problem and make life difficult for criminals.
For decades, the nature of global safety has been evolving. From physical security threats like large-scale terrorist attacks and lone actor stabbings to chemical threats such as the Salisbury poisonings and even microbiological threats such as COVID-19, new challenges are constantly arising and the threat landscape we operate in today is constantly changing. Compounding the complexity of the security issues is the complexity and nature of attacks. With the economic downturn, there is the traditional rise in theft, violence and other crimes. Compound this with unmanned businesses and work-at-home staff, and there is a perfect storm for a rise in security threats. Artificial intelligence (AI) and specifically the branch of AI known as machine learning (ML), was already causing widespread disruption in many industries, including the security industry. AI has been a driving force to replace labor-based business models with integrated data and actionable intelligence that is context-aware. It has become apparent that AI will play a big part in the ongoing fight against both pandemics such as COVID-19, as well as other threats that we may face in the future. With all of this in mind, 2021 is poised to be a big year for AI growth. While AI is going to continue to impact our lives in dozens of ways, from smart sensors to face mask compliance detection, the following reflects a few top trends and challenges that I have my eye on for 2021 as we close out this year. The rise of smart city investments One such example is the increasing development of smart cities and how AI can be leveraged to build safe communities. To date, we’ve seen an increase in the number of smart city programmes around the globe; cities that are beginning to deploy innovative technologies for the management and ease of life services. Compounding the complexity of the security issues is the complexity and nature of attacks Typical development of a city includes standard infrastructure - roads, schools, power, water, transportation. Now, internet, data and AI capabilities are part of the standard infrastructure requirements for all new developments. AI promises to deliver increased efficiencies with the infrastructure that will accommodate growing populations while reducing our impact on the environment, resources, and communities. Global cities now account for more than half of the world’s population, and the United Nations projects the number to balloon to 68% by mid-century. Owing to both demographic shifts and overall population growth, that means that around 2.5 billion people could be added to urban areas by the middle of the century, predicts the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). With an increase in population has come an increase in global spending on smart city initiatives to drive down the impact of growing urban concentration. Global spending on smart city initiatives is expected to total nearly $124 billion this year, an increase of 18.9% over 2019, according to IDC's Worldwide Semiannual Smart Cities Spending Guide, while Singapore, Tokyo, London and New York as the big spenders - expected to spend more than $1 billion in 2020. Using AI-driven technology to create safer public and private spaces Today, security solutions driven by AI are being developed and can be covertly deployed across a range of physical environments to protect the population in a more efficient, and accurate manner. As we look ahead to the future of public safety, it’s clear that new AI technology can dramatically improve the effectiveness of today’s physical security space. One such deployment is the use of video object recognition/computer vision software that can be integrated into existing video monitoring security (VMS) systems. These enhanced VMS systems can be deployed both inside and outside of buildings to identify risks and flag threats, such weapons, aggressive behaviours, theft, and safety compliance. This helps to minimize the impact of a breach by an early alert to onsite security in real-time to the location and nature of the potential threat, allowing them to intervene before a loss occurs. These same AI-enabled video solutions can similarly be used to provide advanced business operations in retail, logistics, and manufacturing organizations. Multi-sensor security solutions Also, targeted magnetic and radar sensor technologies, concealed in everyday objects like planter boxes or inside walls, can now scan individuals and bags entering a building for concealed threat objects. Using AI/machine learning, these two sensor solutions combined can identify metal content on the body and bag and match the item to a catalog of threat items, such as guns, rifles, knives and bombs. Security solutions driven by AI are being developed and can be covertly deployed across a range of physical environments Without this advanced multi-sensor solution, it becomes nearly impossible to discover a weapon on a person's body before it appears in an assailant’s hands. This multi-sensor solution allows for touchless, unobtrusive access to a building, but allows for immediate notification to onsite security when a concealed threat is detected. The hidden technology thus empowers security staff to intercept threats before they evolve into a wider scale attack, while also maintaining the privacy and civil liberties of the public, unless, of course, they are carrying a concealed weapon or pose a physical threat. With the advent of sophisticated surveillance and technological innovation, a level of caution must be exerted. Despite the ongoing global debate, there remains little regulation about the use of AI technologies in today’s physical security space. One thing is certain; it must be deployed in the right place, at the right time, with the right privacy and civil liberty protection objectives. People don’t want to be protected by omnipresent, obstructive and overbearing security systems that infringe on their privacy and civil liberties. They want a proper balance between security and their current way of life, one that must be fused together. Technology and tracing COVID-19 Machine learning-based technologies are playing a substantial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, the key purpose of surveillance systems has been to detect and deter threats, including the detection of visible and hidden weapons and abnormal behavior. While this, of course, remains a primary focus, today we are seeing how surveillance systems defend against new invisible threats, as well as rapidly automate the process of contact-tracing to capture and contain a virus before it spreads. Again, the ability to track and trace through parsing algorithms that can manage through enormous amounts of data provides a highly scalable and rapid response mechanism to control the spread of threats. AI has demonstrated potential for identifying those displaying symptoms of infectious diseases, without requiring physical human contact Although the threat may not be visible, it is just as destructive. By incorporating AI into existing technologies, government, healthcare and security professionals can monitor public spaces and environments through the combined use of digital and thermal video surveillance cameras and video management systems); just one of the solutions being explored. AI has demonstrated potential for identifying those displaying symptoms of infectious diseases, without requiring physical human contact. By Using AI-powered video analytic software, businesses can monitor face masks, social distancing and large gathering compliance and also detect elevated body temperature. Critically, technology must be capable of both identifying and tracking the virus but also be unobtrusive. An unobtrusive system that is adaptable enough to be deployed across a range of environments where the public gathers in enclosed spaces is necessary to be effective. Security in 2021 Technology has proven itself to be a valuable ally in times of crisis. For smart cities, the use of innovative AI/machine learning technologies will help optimize security solutions in areas that are brimming with potential. As we look ahead to the future of security in a world that is impacted by such a wide range of threats, from physical to chemical to microbiological, it’s clear that new technologies, specifically AI can dramatically improve the effectiveness of security systems and help us to better defend against a wide spectrum of threats. Technology has a huge role to play in making our communities safe in 2021 and beyond, but for security systems to be effective, they must not be oppressive or obstructive. This will ensure they have the full support of the public - the key to success.
Construction site theft can cause project delays, property damage and loss of profit for companies in the construction sector. It is imperative to deter thieves from targeting construction sites with the help of construction site security. Here, we look into the various security options and how they can help protect your firm from the threat of a break-in. Construction theft has soared during the COVID-19 Pandemic Construction site theft is an ever-increasing problem in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £800 million ($1,040 million) per year. Unfortunately, this type of crime has accelerated further throughout lockdown by an estimated 50% due to the abandonment of construction sites across the UK. With many uncertainties around a potential second wave in the UK, it is time for construction firms to enhance their security strategies to help prevent thieves from becoming opportunists on construction sites. Why are construction sites ‘easy’ targets? Construction sites can easily be targeted, as they typically lack adequate security loss prevention practices. The most popular security-related issues that are leading causes of construction site theft are: Poor overall site security Multiple pieces of equipment sharing the same keys Easy access to open cabs Unsecured sites, particularly at night and over weekends Lack of product identification systems If you do not want your site becoming a costly statistic, you might want to try implementing some or all of these preventive measures. Strengthen your perimeter Putting a clear boundary around a construction site will help to prevent youths and members of the public from inadvertently wandering onto the site. To stop opportunist thieves in their tracks, you will need to go one step further by erecting robust fencing and concrete blocks along with signage warning intruders about the consequences of trespassing. Putting a clear boundary around a construction site will help to prevent youths and members of the public from inadvertently wandering onto the siteIf potential trespassers can see that it would be too challenging to attempt a break-in, then they will look elsewhere to find another construction site which is not as well secured. Lock away valuable tools When considering the vulnerabilities in your construction site, it pays to think about this from the perspective of a criminal. What is it exactly that they are looking for? What can a thief steal easily to make money if they were to remove something from your site? Unfortunately, many construction firms do not lock away their tools, materials or vehicles properly, which makes them an easy target. Ensure valuable tools and materials are locked away and are not left unsecured or lying around. Criminals are mostly interested in scaffolding, bowsers and other valuables that are quick to sell on, so it is important to have a strategy in place to keep these locked away, safe and securely. Put tracking devices in your equipment If you are unable to securely lock away valuable tools, then modern technology makes securing equipment easier than ever before. Tracking devices can be installed onto vehicles and equipment; if any thief is unwise enough to steal from the site, site owners will be able to provide the location to the police who will be able to follow this up. Site owners should also engrave company identification numbers on valuable tools, equipment and vehicles so that it can easily be identified and will serve as proof who it rightly belongs to. Invest in CCTV Closed Circuit Television, otherwise known as CCTV, is renowned for being one of the most effective deterrents for thieves, especially when it comes to construction and building sites.The items that criminals steal from sites are notoriously hard to trace The items that criminals steal from sites are notoriously hard to trace, but if you have CCTV, there is a chance that you can capture clear footage to help bring criminals to justice, such as footage of the vehicle used and the car licence plate. CCTV cameras can help to oversee every inch of a construction site, and can even be hidden out of sight where required. Step up with regular site patrols With a wide range of security monitoring methods available, stepping up on regular site patrols can help to keep track and respond to any criminal activity taking place on your site. Traditional site patrols can be carried out on a schedule by professional SIA-approved security agents. With the presence of guards patrolling a construction site, any criminals in the area will be deterred to force entry onto the site. Schedule supply deliveries on an as-needed basis To prevent an excess of supplies ‘sitting around’ on the site, construction site managers should instead order what is needed at the time, so that valuable materials are not left around waiting to be stolen for weeks at a time. Good planning and excellent communication between the team will be required so that projects are not delayed, but planning accordingly will help to reduce the chances of theft on a construction site. Drone surveillance As technology becomes more and more advance, drone surveillance may soon be a security option that many construction sites could benefit from.Many construction firms in the UK are using drone services to provide aerial images, and are seeing huge cost savings by either purchasing and operating their own drones or by hiring out the work to a company equipped to provide imaging.As technology becomes more and more advanced, drone surveillance may soon be a security option With surveillance drones already handling tasks like mapping and surveying of construction sites, one day they may be able to patrol construction sites at night, equipped with motion sensors and infrared or night vision cameras; They could be automatically deployed from a charging station and fly along a pre-programmed route at regular intervals. One to keep an eye on for the near future! Construction site security to help protect your site If you are ready to tighten security on your own construction site, then your starting point will be to identify your main vulnerabilities and get in touch with a reputable security specialist.
Fenix Monitoring, an approved NSI Gold Alarm Receiving Center (ARC), has entered into a new partnership with OPTEX to support its customers in providing state-of-the-art security response services. The business, founded in 2018 by Managing Director, Carl Meason, will harness the reliability and performance of OPTEX’s Intelligent Visual Monitoring solution to extend its services to provide visually verified alarms, enhancing security by capturing genuine alarms while filtering out nuisance alarms in a diverse range of environments. OPTEX – Fenix Monitoring partnership Fenix Monitoring, which provides CCTV, intruder and lone worker monitoring solutions, has built its reputation on the principles of digital innovation, data analysis and customer-driven experience. These principles provide cutting edge security products and services to the monitoring market, culminating with being recognized as British Security Industry Association (BSIA) SME business of the year 2020. Carl Meason believes the partnership with OPTEX will enable Fenix to significantly enhance their product offering to its customers. Carl Meason said “Fenix Monitoring continues its mission of partnering with the most innovative companies out there, and delivering products and services that are industry leading. In joining forces with OPTEX, we have added another technology partner that can help us build the very best monitoring solutions for our customers.” OPTEX Intelligent Visual Monitoring solution OPTEX’s Intelligent Visual Monitoring Solution offers a number of key benefits, including privacy mode" Carl adds, “OPTEX’s Intelligent Visual Monitoring Solution offers a number of key benefits, especially in relation to its privacy mode which means we will only see a silhouette when an alarm is activated. The homeowner or end-user can then lift this privacy feature, should the alarm be genuine and the person monitoring can see exactly what is going on.” Benjamin Linklater, Sales Director at OPTEX Europe, is looking forward to the new partnership with Fenix Monitoring. He said, “We are very pleased to welcome Fenix to the network of monitoring centers offering our cloud-based visual monitoring solution. Fenix is an agile, technology-focused security company constantly looking for new solutions to solve their customers’ issues.” Intruder and CCTV technologies installed on single site The OPTEX Intelligent Visual Monitoring solution enables separate intruder and CCTV technologies installed on the same site, but acting independently, to be connected using the OPTEX Bridge and create one, seamless, integrated and intelligent visual monitoring solution. Intruder alarms can now be visually verified within seconds, without impacting the integrity of the technology installed or its grade. When an alarm occurs, a signal is instantly sent to the ARC whose operator can view images pre and post the alarm event via a dedicated portal to determine whether the alarm is genuine.
Harper Security Systems, which specialises in specifying and installing smart security solutions for residential and private properties, has selected OPTEX’s range of Intelligent Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors for their reliability in detecting external threats, especially in rural environments. Three properties in the Home Counties and Lincolnshire are using a combination of OPTEX’s proven PIR sensors to protect property, people, and other important assets including horses from the dangers of vandalism and theft. OPTEX’s range includes sensors which offer panoramic 180-degree detection coverage and 12m/40ft radius to detect any intrusion around a residential or commercial building. Commercial business environments They are ideally suited for protecting larger residential grounds and flat roofs typical with outbuilding on farms and stables. “We have worked with OPTEX for a number of years and have found their range of PIR sensors to be extremely accurate and reliable, which is critical when specifying external detection,” says Alan Harper, Director at Harper Security Systems. The flexibility and versatility of the sensors is such that they are ideal for multiple environments" “The flexibility and versatility of the sensors is such that they are ideal for multiple environments,” Alan continues. “For example, we have recently installed them at a private stables in Lincolnshire to protect horses and valuable equestrian equipment, residences in rural villages in both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to protect property and personal items, as well as in commercial business environments.” Innovative security solutions Ben Linklater, Sales Director at OPTEX Europe, says that while the focus is often on towns and cities, crime in the countryside is a huge issue, costing the rural community in the UK more than £9 million this year alone: “Reliable external protection is becoming increasingly important not only to secure equipment and assets, but also livestock and other animals like horses. The earlier the detection the better chance there is to prevent intruders." "External intrusion detection is essential in rural environments as most assets, many of which are expensive to replace (and some are irreplaceable), are stored outside. We are very pleased to work with Harper Security who understand the benefits of early detection to keep premises, assets, people and animals secure, delivering innovative security solutions to their customers.”
One of the key problems in airport security is the sheer size of the perimeter and a large number of incidents are in fact linked to unauthorized access onto the airfield, either runways or where aircrafts are being loaded or refueled posing an extremely high risk. Most airports will combine multiple sensors and technologies to protect the actual perimeter fence and even beyond the perimeter fence, to warn of potential threats. OPTEX LiDAR sensor integration with RSA module Some airports have found the level of information generated by the perimeter security systems quite challenging to deal with and they wanted to decrease the number of events so operators could focus on what was critical. The Airport development team at Genetec integrated the OPTEX LiDAR sensor into their Restricted Security Area (RSA) Surveillance module, an extension of the Genetec Security Center platform with the purpose to unify data from the sensor and camera to present more meaningful information to the operators. Restricted Security Area Surveillance module The RSA module has been designed specifically with a view to providing wide area protection The RSA module has been designed specifically with a view to providing wide area protection and integrating with wide area surveillance technology, including radar, fiber optic and laser detection devices. The solution allows security staff to determine the level of threat for each area, map them, and utilize OPTEX technologies to identify and locate quickly and precisely the point of intrusion. For instance, with Fiber optic fence sensor, zones can be 100m-200m long and will identify people cutting through a fence, crawling under or climbing over. Newer fiber technologies provide point location. Another way to pin-point exact intruder location is with OPTEX LiDAR technologies or with Radar. ‘Fuse’ data into a single event A particularly intelligent feature of the system is its ability to ‘fuse’ data (known as ‘target fusion’) coming from multiple sources and confirm an event as a single (i.e. the same) activity rather than a multiple threat. For instance, using the X&Y coordinates provided by OPTEX REDSCAN sensors, RSA allows to map exactly the path of the intruders or moving vehicles, fuses the path from one camera to the other and considers it as one event, one target and tracks it precisely on the map. Intelligent Tracking and event categorization This gives a more meaningful picture to the operator and presents events in a unified and intelligent way. This helps support the security team in making the right decisions. The deeper integration of OPTEX’s technologies into Genetec’s RSA platform enables intelligent tracking and event categorization, making it a very precise security system for airports.
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