22 June 2009

Wireless video stops copper thieves in their tracks


South Africa, with its minimal reserves of copper, can ill-afford the illicit loss of 3 000 tons from Cape Town harbour alone every month, which at R50 a kilogram, translates into R15 million.


These figures come from DA Spokesperson for Safety and Security Dianne Kohler Barnard, MP, whose concerns about the effect of copper theft on South Africa’s functionality, economy and development mirror those of businesses throughout the country. 


Says Jack Edery, CEO of Elvey Security Technologies: “Once the playground of small-time crooks, copper cable theft has become a sophisticated crime industry headed up largely by those after easy pickings and lucrative returns.  South Africa’s industries are plagued by copper cable theft, which is costing the country millions of rands every year and undermining its efficacy.”


The challenge

Adds Zane Greeff, Elvey’s Technical Director: “Copper cable is easy to steal because potential targets such as power stations, mines and construction sites are usually fairly isolated.  Their remoteness turns security into a difficult and costly challenge, for many reasons.  For one, traditional security systems rely on direct power and fixed telephone lines to send alarm signals through to a control room.  In some areas which have access to power, CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras and traditional sensors are being used.  However, the success of these measures is being undermined by factors such as high incidences of false alarms triggered by the outdoor sensors, substantial installation costs of the cameras which then only provide footage of the crime after it has occurred.”


Companies have invested heavily in seeking solutions to deter copper theft, agrees Kenny Chiu, Marketing Manager for Elvey.  “They’ve bought into projects comprising CCTV, access control and physical guarding, with some degree of success, depending on location.  However, overall, these approaches were too cumbersome and expensive to deploy beyond a few critical sites. Traditional surveillance using CCTV and DVRs (digital video recorders) were also often less effective than expected because of the need to watch re-runs of events that took place the previous day. Despite watching hours of video footage and even picking up intruders, they rarely ended up with the evidence required to identify and prosecute perpetrators.”


Other problems around the installation of CCTV cameras include running wire - lots of it, in most cases - which can push the cost of installation up to more than that of the equipment, notes Chiu.  “In an effort to reduce installation costs and simplify deployment, some companies considered wireless solutions but these didn’t work in the noisy substation environment.”


In remote or large-scale outdoor environments, where copper theft and other criminal activities pose major security challenges, he believes that video surveillance is key to managing assets and providing companies with a means of recovery following a disaster. 


The solution

“Protecting commercial and industrial sites effectively involves securing remote locations, outdoor infrastructure and porous perimeters while still allowing multiple employees and contractors the access they need,” Chiu says. 


In response to a request from an industrial site to prevent further losses arising from metal theft, the Elvey team recommended Videofied, an award-winning wireless video security system.


Greeff explains how it works, “When an intruder trips the motion sensor, the integrated night vision camera takes a 10-second video and sends it over a secured cellular network to a monitoring station.  Those at the monitoring station will immediately see what is happening and dispatch the police or armed response to the site.”


Because the system is completely wireless it can be installed anywhere – and in minutes, instead of days, he points out further.  “Testimony to its effectiveness is documented proof of cameras transmitting over a distance of 300m to the communicator panel.  The panel then sent the video alarm over the secured cellular network back to the monitoring station.”


According to Greeff, the solution worked because of superior wireless technology.  “The system employs 915MHz and true spectrum, used in the US military to deter jamming and give maximum range in hostile environments.”


He adds: “To outsmart criminals who go to great lengths to disguise their appearance, video security with integrated cameras and sensors is intended to apprehend thieves during a crime. Specifically, night-vision cameras are integrated with PIR (passive infrared) motion sensors, which are in turn linked to a 24/7 monitoring station that can instantly deliver an e-mail containing a 10-second video clip to the site manager and law enforcement.”


This real-time footage also allows the control room to identify false alarms, another major bonus of the system. 


Further, says Greeff, the battery-powered solution is compatible with most intruder alarm systems and can be installed anywhere, simply and quickly.  In addition, every device operates on a single set of batteries that lasts up to two years.


With regard to monitoring, he says companies have real choices.  “They can outsource the entire process to an armed response company with a 24x7 monitoring centre. For those companies that prefer in-house monitoring, a ‘virtual monitoring station’ can be created.  This can then be programmed to access monitoring stations via a secured Access Point Name (APN) and be a remote operator at its own facility.”


Says Chiu: “Verified crime-in-progress calls receive a higher priority level of response. The idea is to catch criminals red-handed, so that hoods, hats and masks become irrelevant. These types of systems are vital in helping address the outdoor security needs of the communications, utilities and transportation industries.”


Elvey Marketing