The latest developments in free security firmware/software and paid-for security systems management software are shared by MARCUS HARDY of JD Security.
In the past few months there has been a flurry of user-friendly, feature-packed and mobile ready software applications released in the area of security access control, as well as the bolt-on features that are there to dazzle facilities managers and make them feel as if they too can be ‘big brother’ and keep their assets perfectly safe. Then there is the hardware: cameras, smart cards and real-time video monitoring – suddenly your budget does not even cover half of the access control functions you personally want for your facility.
Mobile access to all of your facility’s camera views, smartphone or tablet control of all your facility’s pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras, heat mapping to define your facility’s most trafficked areas, automated people counting, licence plate recognition and ant-trail applications that let you see the movement of a target in the form of a dotted line are now all stock features that come with most integrated security systems and, for most suppliers, these software and firmware features are free.
For facilities managers with one chief security officer (CSO) this may sound like just enough features to give you a firm security blanket over your facility’s assets, but like the infomercials say, “Wait, there’s more!” The functions mentioned above are just the stock applications and if you don’t have them, start asking why.
INNOVATIVE FREE FIRMWARE/SOFTWARE
There are free applications that let you turn a 360-degree fish eye camera that fits in the palm of your hand into a PTZ and, with a single click of a mouse, into multiple 60-degree camera views. If you feel confined with these camera angles, don’t worry, with yet another click on the same screen you can turn a single space into a panoramic shot that gives you a complete 360-degree perspective on one screen and de-warps it into a seamless image.
If your cameras have come from one of the top 10 producers, then you’re dealing with images from three megapixels to a staggering five megapixels. This means you can add an impressive zoom to all of the functions mentioned above. Another free software enables you to set a zoom rate. With this in mind, think of using a fish eye camera as a PTZ.
On the image you see an event that you wish to pay closer attention to. Simply move your mouse curser to that point on the screen and double-click, and the image will move to centre on that point and zoom. If you feel that this area may be a point of interest in the future, you can then click an icon on the same screen and it’s set as a listed camera view, which you can go to at any time. This is all done from a single access point and with a user-friendly click of a mouse, while adhering to the maxim ‘get me there in less than three clicks’.
The cameras used in many security solutions are not just cameras; they have built in motion sensors and 32-gigabyte or 64-gigabyte SD (secure digital) cards on board. This means that the camera does not start recording until the motion sensor detects movement. It then records to the SD card first and ‘drip feeds’ this back to the back end hardware. If there is a connection problem with the hardware, CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras store a set amount of events.
But, wait, there’s more! The software will also send an alert to the CSO either in system, via SMS, by email or all three, and it can also trigger other automated functions set by the CSO. This same software can even detect the direction the target is travelling and ‘halo’ them in a bright red box while sending out an alert.
There are a plethora of free apps to ‘bolt on’ to major camera producers’ stock firmware/software used to control cameras that add functions, such as being able to condense three hours of a single camera view into five minutes. Every time a target activates the camera by moving through its field, it starts a recording event. All the events are shown together and the view you get back is a collection of semi-transparent figures overlaid on top of each other. If you click one particular icon, each figure is ‘haloed’ in a box with the time they triggered the camera above them. If you click on a figure of choice, the software plays back only that subject’s movement through the camera’s field of view, starting from 10 seconds before the triggered event.
NEW PAID-FOR SOFTWARE FUNCTIONS
So far we have only covered a small portion of the free firmware/software that comes with a camera package – paid-for security systems management software is also available. There are a number of security software producers in the marketplace. Some of the control software (VMS) can be used with minimal training, but some software is complex enough to require a dedicated course.
To gain an idea of the scope of functions a software system from one of the top producers offers, as stock standard, you should be able to control and monitor up to 64 smart card readers and 500-plus camera inputs with no fewer than 100,000 smart cards and 100,000-plus registered users all in one facility.
On top of that you should get all of the functions already mentioned, but with even more advanced applications, such as facial recognition and a new system called Virtual Security As a Service (V-SAS). With V-SAS, instead of going to a digital video recorder (DVR), the camera’s vision is uploaded straight to the cloud on the internet and it can be managed from there.
This means that you have your cameras installed and they, in turn, connect to your router and that’s it. You can now monitor your system from any device anywhere on the globe, provided you are online. You simply pay for a plan per camera. At the moment, the system itself is a little limited in its functionality, but you do get all the nifty stock features I mentioned in the beginning of this article.
But, wait there’s more! If you already have third-party controller software (VMS) installed, you can now pull the cloud data through that. Remember that your cameras just provide the image and the software/firmware does all the manipulation, so now you can do the same with your cloud data as you do through your on-site cameras.
Let me present you with a scenario… You are a CSO in a production facility. There are 15 cameras and four magnetically controlled doors. There are more than 50 production staff and nine administration personnel. Each staff member has his or her own smart card. The general manager informs you that the firm is opening a sales office in Sydney and you have to organise the security of the asset. That’s all well and fine, and you are happy that the firm is growing, but you are based in Perth. Now, you have to find a supplier and installer of security equipment, as well as a monitoring firm due to the distance. Instead, you put the cloud-based system in the sales office. Because your security officer is well-trained, he or she can now pull the cameras on the east coast through your system and apply all the same protocols to the east coast asset and monitor each camera. And, all it cost you was the cameras and installation of the units, as there is no need for the DVR or a third party to monitor the system.
SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT SOLUTION
What you as a manager of a facility choose depends on your personal requirements. First of all, treat all security suppliers like doctors and always go for a second opinion. Don’t judge the recommendation on price – you do get what you pay for regardless of the claims made. Rather, assess the security consultant’s application of a total solution that suits you.
Before you do that, go to YouTube and look at clips of some of the functions I have mentioned. Trust me when I say you will be impressed and you will be able to formulate some good questions for security consultant firms when you contact them.
Marcus Hardy is the marketing communications executive at JD Security.