I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below. As someone who can remember life before mobile phones, witnessing the way that cellular technology has transformed both our personal and working lives over the last 20 years or so has been of great interest. According to figures by Ofcom, 94 per cent of UK adults own a mobile phone and 15 per cent of people live in a mobile only household. It has radically changed the way we communicate with each other and has – for better or for worse – made most of us accessible on a 24/7 basis.
The capabilities of this type of technology extend way beyond personal communication though. For instance, it transpired that during the search for the missing Flight MH370, data sent from the plane’s engines suggested it had flown for a further four hours from its last known location. Engine monitoring systems involve using sensors placed in various locations in an aircraft engine to gather information about its performance. The data from the sensors are accumulated and transmitted at regular intervals to ground stations monitored by the engine manufacturers.
The impact within our own industry is already being felt – something that was highlighted during a recent Corps Security Breakfast Briefing. One of the presentations was by DualCom and concerned the company’s DigiAir® system – a pioneering wireless digital communicator, incorporating patented technology, that utilises multi-network subscriber identification module (SIM) technology as standard.
Put simply, instead of using a hardwired telephone line it simply utilises all mobile networks via a radio path and can send a signal from the protected premises to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), such as the Corps Monitoring Centre (CMC), via a WorldSIM. This multi-network SIM card can utilise any mobile phone network, offering the best guarantee of radio coverage anywhere in the UK and offers maximum, reliable performance from its radio path, while providing customers with a reliable and uninterrupted service.
It’s a constant source of surprise to me how few commercial organisations utilise remote monitoring services. My own anecdotal evidence suggests one of the key reasons for this is due to the associated costs. Although services such as BT’s Redcare are excellent in terms of providing secure, monitored communications services, they are not cheap. Systems like DualCom’s DigiAir® are game changers in the sense that they are affordable and accessible to operations of all sizes and open the world of remote monitoring up to those who previously discounted it.
Talking of game changers, thanks to 4G we are not far away from being able to transmit and receive high quality CCTV images over the mobile phone network. 4G is already enabling rapidly deployable, live video streaming mobile surveillance products in locations as diverse as construction sites, the rail network, shopping centres and concert venues. It offers a range of organisations an unprecedented way to monitor assets and resources and councils are beginning to use it to, for example, enable street lamps and traffic lights and surveillance technology to be operated remotely, in order to conserve energy and maximise their effectiveness.
As a company that takes the protection of its colleagues very seriously, I’m also proud of the fact that we are leading the way by using mobile phones to provide them with enhanced levels of personal safety and ‘always on’ contact.
We have developed our CorpsGuard app, which can be activated by simply shaking or tapping a smartphone. Doing so immediately sends SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter messages, along with an alert page, to designated emergency contacts – which can also include the CMC – detailing an exact geographical location. The alert page has a tracking facility that displays a map of the user’s location, which is updated every 15 seconds so that emergency contacts can follow movements in real time. Once the CMC receives the alert, an operative will attempt to contact the user and if there is no answer, or the evidence suggests a threat to life, police are informed.
In addition, after the initial notification is sent, shaking or tapping the phone again activates an audible alarm alongside a flashing strobe. If this fails to ward off an attacker, the device automatically records a short video that can be used to identify an assailant and used in a court of law.
The ability to turn a phone into a safety device offers an easy to use but highly effective way to protect lone workers in real time, as opposed to some existing tracking technologies that simply check that a patrol route has been completed.
I’m convinced that we have only just scratched the surface of what’s possible. The much talked about Internet of Things means that we are fast approaching a situation in which devices from intelligent refrigerators and heating controls, to doors and fire detection systems will have the ability to automatically transfer data over a network without requiring human interaction. It is fair to assume that these kinds of intelligent appliances will also have the ability to communicate directly with an ARC and send an alert if there’s a problem.
These are exciting times and although I’m yet to see a complete security solution that exploits the full capabilities of cellular technology I’m convinced that it will happen soon. Watch this space.