James Kelly reflects on the opportunities this is bringing for facilities managers across the Middle East
As today's security technologies are moving ahead at a rapid pace, James Kelly, chief executive of the British Security Industry Association, reflects on the opportunities this is bringing for facilities managers across the Middle East.
A good starting point here is to reflect on the research released by the BSIA to coincide with the recent Intersec exhibition in Dubai. This serves to shed light on the security and business trends that our Export Council member companies witnessed in the Middle East during 2014.
On the subject of the security technology or approach, which had the largest impact, integration topped the list. In fact it was singled out by half of those surveyed. Also featuring strongly in the research was HD (High Definition) and Mega-pixel CCTV on 25%, with Cloud-based services — making an appearance in the survey for the first time — and multi-voltage power supplies, each being selected by 12.5% of respondents.
Putting these results into context for facilities managers, this strong push for security integration reflects the reality that people are taking a broader perspective now when thinking about specifying an optimum approach.
This underlines the increasing recognition amongst BSIA member companies’ customers of the enhanced security, and day-to-day management, benefits that can be unlocked when a number of elements — from access control to video surveillance — can be brought together in a seamless IP environment rather than remaining in their own discrete and unconnected silos.
Although the advantages for integration are well documented when it comes to large-scale and multi-site operations, Export Council members are also witnessing a growing trend for integrated security services to be taken-up by medium and even smaller sized enterprises - something which is likely to accelerate even further in the year ahead.
Hybrid technology, which allows the combining of analogue and IP elements, are also gaining traction as they enable a better return-on-investment on existing infrastructure elements, a consideration very much on the radar for facilities managers.
Alongside this, the roll-out of HD and mega-pixel CCTV cameras continues to prove a popular choice. This is likely thanks to the ability to provide additional detail for security critical applications, such as banks and hotel lobbies and, of course, the changing legislative requirements across the region.
The drive towards better resolution shows no signs of abating, as was evidenced by the number of 4K ultra HD cameras and systems on display during Intersec 2015, taking their lead from consumer electronics market.
As the footprint of 4K (8 MP) cameras expands, with it will come the opportunity to cover large areas with a smaller number of cameras or to provide a more overview capability when major incidents happen, over and above, than offered by lower resolution models.
On another point, brought out by the Export Council’s research, in this era of ‘big data’ the fact that the Cloud is starting to have an impact on the development of security measures, for example to store and access data from access control to video surveillance, offers food for thought in terms of the best approach to storage. Although in its infancy, this is certainly something to keep an eye on for the future.
Not flagged up by the BSIA research but something that is sure to become a more common sight for facilities managers, and their work colleagues, are body worn cameras. Although, to date, these have largely been the preserve of the military and law enforcement, they are now very much in the frame for use by security guards and even customer-facing members of staff to complement existing infrastructure cameras.
“The technology has now come to the point where it is durable and lightweight enough, and can record for long enough, for deployment by front line staff,” explains Paul Murphy, head of marketing at IndigoVision.
Demonstrating a unit with 720p video and built-in audio at Intersec 2015, Murphy highlights the potential uses of body worn cameras, which could range from staff at airports to those dealing with the public in hotels.
For facilities managers with an eye on temporarily ramping up security and site management, other mobile and rapidly deployable technology like CCTV towers are making their mark. Featuring mobile and cellular communications, day/night cameras and a range of detectors, these can be transported to site and powered off-the-grid or by a generator, solar, wind or even using fuel cells, depending on customer requirements.
In terms of the direction of travel for facilities managers, keeping a lid on equipment running costs remains high on the agenda and, as a result, is being factored into the design of the latest security technologies.
A good example of this is the intelligent power saving capability that BSIA member company Wavestore has built into its latest generation VMS (Video Management Software) - V6 - showcased at Intersec 2015. This automates the spin down of hard drives not engaged in active read and write processes and has the capability to automatically power down single drives or arrays of drives.
Chris Williams, Wavestore’s director, feels that this is ideally suited to the CCTV storage demands found in the region: “Here in the Middle East some [CCTV] systems are required to operate for 120 days, 180 days, so you have got very long storage times.
“Hard drives don’t need to be spinning because they are simply retaining data for a long time. We can now run those drives down to a very low power level.”
The upshot of this, explains Williams, is an increased lifespan for the hardware concerned and an enormous amount of power saved. Wavestore suggests that individual hard drive power consumption can be reduce by 90%, while network video recorder (NV) power consumption can reduce by up to 60%. Furthermore, the power demand on any cooling system is also minimised.
Although easy to overlook, as attention is lavished on the specification of more visible elements of a security or fire practice, the efficiency and operational performance of the power supply units (PSUs) used to keep security systems up and running is becoming an increasingly pivotal consideration for facilities managers.
To achieve better operational efficiencies, organisations are now starting to opt for models built around advanced switch mode technology rather than more traditional linear PSUs.
When deployed, for example, because of the way they are designed, switch mode units which comply with key industry standards offer a significantly higher level of efficiency — 95% in the latest models — and, correspondingly, lower energy bills.
The reduced carbon footprint ties-in with the growing focus of organisations on their social responsibility and environmental policies. Switch mode model’s cooler running also means that they are less susceptible to failure, compared to ‘hot to the touch’ linear units.
Of course a vital area to clarify with power supply vendors at the outset, according to Jon East, product marketing manager at BSIA member company Elmdene, is whether the unit being purchased can cope with the input voltage specific to a facility’s location.
“Sadly some sub-standard models on the market are not designed to take account of regional variations, leading to blown fuses or a failure to produce the required output,” says East.
On a related point, East explains that it makes sense to establish whether PSU models are tolerant of mains input fluctuations, a common issue across the Middle East, which left unchecked can result in problematic ‘brownouts’: “In the long run, constantly raising and lowering voltage is liable to damage electronic security and fire equipment which tend to work to small tolerances.”
Turning to another element influencing which practices make sense, facilities managers responsible for sites ranging from prestigious office developments to shopping malls are starting to show a preference for security equipment that is not so overbearing that it detracts from the aesthetic appeal of a building or could, potentially, put off visitors.
As a result we are starting to see more discrete, smaller form factor, HD cameras being rolled out which, thanks to technological advances, offer similar capabilities to those which would only have been present in larger models just a few years ago.
So-called ‘kerb appeal’ is also having an influence on access control technology. Turnstile manufacturers, like BSIA member company IDL, are at the forefront of combining style and substance, given that turnstiles are such a visible element in landmark buildings.
Tony Smith, major accounts and marketing Manager at IDL, is well placed to speak on the subject given that the company’s Fastlane products have been installed in the foyers of prestigious buildings worldwide: “In certain cases we almost completely re-design products to suit a particular project’s needs. In fact it is becoming more common that turnstile finishes are part of the initial building specifications.”
Of course there is a price premium associated with more bespoke models, so, Smith reports, a key question for customers at the outset of a project is whether or not they can afford to pay for a completely bespoke option.
In terms of product lines, Smith explains that the company’s Glassgate 300 product, as the name suggests, is designed from the ground up to feature more glass and less structural stainless steel for a lighter design: “It creates a more open feel with large glass structural support panels whilst retaining the same features and strengths of our other Fastlane turnstiles.”
Aside from the appearance of turnstiles, Smith is keen to emphasise that they still have to accomplish fundamental operations: “The performance of turnstiles needs to be maintained even when the overall look and feel of units and the materials we are asked to employ change.”
Drilling down to some of these key security features, the use of an infra-red beam based detection system allows intelligent decisions to be made about what is actually walking through the turnstile, such as the size of the person, whether they have a large piece of luggage, leave if a wheelchair is being pushed with someone actually in it.
Another aspect of turnstile operation coming to the fore, according to Smith, is direct, high speed, Ethernet connection for IP communication. This feature, Fastlane Connect, reflects the wider trend for security systems to be more connected. The advantage here is that units can be remotely controlled and configured and, crucially, any feedback monitored.
As security technology becomes ever-more capable, there is little doubt that this is unlocking the potential for facilities managers to keep better control over a site’s day-to-day operations. These advancements are helping ensure that, whatever service is implemented, it is sympathetic to a building’s design, can be integrated with existing elements, and is going to help to minimise ongoing running costs.