Imagine a monitoring center capable of viewing its customers’ premises anywhere in the world, detecting incidents the moment they occur and then directing security officers or other agencies to the precise location of the event.
Science fiction? A vision of the distant future?
Not at all. G4S Technology operates a data center and video monitoring (known by its acronym in English as VMSDC) that covers all these features.
Although based in the United States, just north of Boston, Massachusetts, the “field of vision” of this video-based center is not limited to North America. It can “see” as far as the internet will allow, which means virtually anywhere in the world that has a broadband connection. It already monitors remotely G4S Technology’s own high security headquarters at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in the UK. But it is the US market on which it is focusing. Working with strategic manned security partners, like G4S, it is providing integrated security solutions that reduce overall costs whilst taking the protection of customers’ assets to another level.
It also monitors, in remote form, the G4S high security facilities in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, UK, however it is focusing in the US market. Since it works in conjunction with its strategic allies in the security field, it can offer integrated solutions that allow costs reduction; meanwhile it protects its client’s assets to a higher level.
Some monitoring stations attempted to reduce the incidence of false alarms by introducing low cost, low quality cameras, similar to webcams, so that operators could view a location to verify if there was a problem.
“In other words,” Cordasco observes, “they have had to put in a second technology to make sure the first is working correctly. That’s not using video for real surveillance purposes; it’s just a protect – yourself measure.”
Another approach, preferred by larger businesses, has been to set up CCTV control rooms at their sites and have security officers watch a wall of monitors for signs of any unauthorized activity or other incidents caught on camera.
In its day, this use of TV cameras was seen as a great advance because it reduced the number of security personnel required to patrol a site. It is still a preferred solution for many customers though, increasingly, companies are rejecting permanent viewing of the screens and using CCTV forensically instead. This enables them to see, after the event, what went wrong or who committed an offence, but it plays no role in preventing an incident. Recent developments offer better solutions. G4S Technology decided it was time for a total rethink of centralized monitoring and the way it could benefit the security companies providing manned security and their customers.
This new concept wasn’t based just on the opportunities offered by the internet, broadband connectivity and video technology. It was more about G4S’s own Symmetry video management system and the extraordinary things it can do with all these elements.
“The big difference with us compared with other monitoring centers is that we use video as the primary technology for securing customers’ facilities. For that, an IT-based environment is essential.”
The way to achieve this was with a purpose-built center. So G4S Technology designed its VMSDC to accommodate all the sophisticated high tech equipment necessary to make it a world-class establishment and recruited people with superior technical skills.
Also G4S Touchcom moved developers of network software OneFacility to the same building, to allow the VMSDC to become a technical help desk during 24 hours for all the developing advanced solutions that G4S Technology is developing.
There are, of course, plenty of high definition and touch screens in the new center but instead of wallto-wall monitors it has a panoramic screen with constantly changing locations and images, as well as individual desktop displays. But undoubtedly the most important innovation is the use of video analytics which control the images sent to the G4S monitoring center. This allows CCTV cameras to “look” for certain events and only when they occur will the VMSDC be alerted.
For example, this intelligent video system monitors activity at a 55-acre outdoor shopping mall in California at which G4S security officers are on duty around the clock.
Once the shops close, the video analytics software begins its surveillance and it “knows” exactly what it is looking for. “It is programmed with an algorithm that only detects people,” explains Cordasco, who supervised the VMSDC’s design and development.
“It ignores dogs, or trees moving, or paper being blown around. But the moment a person walks into view it will send an image to our center and an operator will watch what is happening. “If it’s just a person strolling through the mall, no action is necessary but if he sees the individual acting suspiciously, or trying doors of retail outlets, then he will notify the G4S Wackenhut officer on duty, via his Secure Trax device”.
“The operator can either speak with or text the officer and can even send a photo or a video clip of what he has just seen on screen, together with the precise location provided by GPS technology. He will also be able to watch and record the officer’s intervention.”
Similarly, video analytics respond to vehicle movements at a Texas organ transplant agency. The CCTV camera ignores human activity but the moment a vehicle arrives at a particular gate it transmits the image to the Boston facility and an operator will watch the delivery or collection procedure to ensure it goes smoothly. “Organs,” says Cordasco, “are very valuable.”
The VMSDC gained UUFX certification from Underwriters Laboratories, which sets standards for monitoring centers, and satisfied the requirements for a Five Diamond rating.
“Less than four per cent of all monitoring centers have been able to achieve both,” adds Cordasco, with understandable pride.
And with its IT infrastructure firmly established, the new G4S advanced video monitoring center is well placed to take advantage of even more advanced security technology, as it is developed.