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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peter Webster of Corps Security examines how IP based technology is allowing more organisations to experience the benefits of remote monitoring.

The rapid development of Internet protocol (IP) based technology means that it is now possible to control a wide variety of building services over one infrastructure. Nowadays a single cabling network can be used for security, access control, fire and safety, voice, data, wireless devices, audiovisual, energy management, lighting controls, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

IP is a communications mechanism which allows every computer or other device on a network to have an individual address, providing the ability to control and monitor them from anywhere on a network. What’s more, they can even be configured and controlled from an off-site location and a growing number of businesses are choosing to use third party remote monitoring centres as a way to maximise the efficiency of their operations.

Perhaps the biggest driver for using this type of service is to reduce overheads and the potential cost savings are enormous. Take, for example, barrier and access control. Shopping centres often have one dedicated person on site to provide access for deliveries etc. While this is obviously important from a security point of view, there may well be long periods of time where that operative is doing very little. By using an IP based two-way video and voice system, a remote monitoring centre is able to carry out this function as part of a much broader range of activities.

Remote monitoring can also help organisations reduce their energy consumption. Although most premises have building energy management systems (BEMS) in place, some of these systems can be tampered with over time, leading to a situation whereby they fail to operate at their optimum level. This not only results in wasted energy, it can also have a dramatic effect on a building’s comfort conditions by, for example, making certain areas too hot or too cold. A remote monitoring centre can address this by making sure that a BEMS’ set points are correctly configured and properly maintained at all times.

Energy efficiency can also be enhanced by remotely turning lights off in unoccupied areas and even switching computers and other networked devices off when they are left on. When you consider that in Europe buildings account for 40 per cent of all energy consumption, it’s immediately striking what an opportunity for carbon reduction this kind of continual assessment and improvement can present.

Health and safety compliance is another key benefit. While fire alarm tests should be carried out on site, the tests can be monitored to make sure that they have been completed correctly and documented accordingly. This also acts an audit trail and ensures that these processes are carried on schedule.

By installing a network of sensors it is also possible to provide early warnings about a range of environmental conditions. Sensors can be used to provide an alert when air quality falls below a predefined level, which is especially useful for locations such as manufacturing plants that use potentially dangerous chemicals.

One important but often overlooked area is that of water quality. Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, however, outbreaks of the illness can occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose built systems where water is allowed to reach a temperature high enough to encourage growth. By having a sensor attached to these types of systems temperature can be monitored and alert building owners to take preventative action taken when necessary.

When it comes to choosing a remote monitoring service provider it is important to select one that has the requisite industry accreditations. Perhaps the most important one is National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Gold – the highest possible designation for security installation professionals. NSI provides the toughest inspection services to ensure that all its approved companies continuously meet the highest standards.

Other key codes of practice to look out for are BS 5979 which defines the parameters that must be adhered to by remote centres receiving signals from fire and security systems, and BS 8418 which covers the installation and remote monitoring of detector activated surveillance technology and sets out to raise the standard of installation and operation of integrated systems. This not only concerns the overall design of a system, but also the performance of motion detectors, cameras, alarm handling and how the system is maintained. Importantly, the police force will now only issue a unique reference number (URN) to systems that comply with BS 8418.

It is unfortunate that some remote monitoring service providers tend to adopt a one size fits all approach to what they do. This has numerous downsides as each location has its own particular requirements that can only be fully addressed after carrying out a comprehensive risk and threat assessment. Undertaking an in-depth analysis of activities, premises and facilities will allow the most appropriate solution to be identified.

There are clear benefits to having a remotely monitored building, however, it is important to make sure that the company employed to perform this function has the necessary technical expertise. Only high-end remote monitoring centres that have experience of configuring state-of-the-art IP technology will be able to maximise its potential.

For further information please contact Corps Security on 0800 0286 303 or E:  info@corpssecurity.co.uk