CCTV or Alarm Monitoring – or both?

11 May 2014

The British Security Industry Association recently published a guide for detailing how standards can apply for intruder and hold up alarms which are integrated with other systems, for example, building management, message broadcasting, access control or, perhaps most logically, CCTV.

The alarm industry has been subject to more standards than the CCTV sector but this is changing as the areas converge. There are CCTV systems which send alarms and now alarm panels that send confirmation images. There remain some control rooms that only provide either alarm or CCTV monitoring, but this makes little sense to the end users of these systems. Where an investment has been made in both alarm and CCTV monitoring equipment, in most cases it makes sense to organise the sum of the parts into a greater, more effective, single monitoring platform.

The Challenge

The challenge facing the user is to find a platform which works effectively across all relevant product groups, including retained legacy products as well as new technology, at the same time as reducing total ownership costs and, not least, making it all useable for the system operator. Being able to offer a comprehensive list of third party product interfaces is important, but it is also critical to have the capability to adapt their monitoring platform to their specific needs.

For example, where there is both an alarm and a CCTV system on site, the user may wish to verify alarm events by viewing pre-alarm video and then have the operator carry out response tasks according to a conditional workflow process. While this may sound a complex process, using global templates it need not be.

CCTV and Alarm interoperability There is an essential distinction between handling alarm activated CCTV and conventional alarm monitoring. CCTV monitoring calls on the operator’s judgement to determine whether there is evidence or suspicion that a crime may be being committed. While the operator is still required to follow the configured workflow tasks, making a judgement in real time on the basis of CCTV images, requires a higher level of training and experience. When it goes wrong, false alarms may be passed to police or, worse, incidents may be missed.

Alarm monitoring is more automated, often with a mandatory operator task list and less scope for exercising judgement. The distinction between the two monitoring methods is important not only in the training and capability of the operator but also on how the monitoring system is set up. Where CCTV alarms have been sent, the system should allow the operator access to the images with as few clicks as possible, that is, as soon as the alarm handling screen is opened. The speed and efficiency achieved by an instant evaluation of images is critical.

Alarm Panel Visual Confirmation

Alarm panel manufacturers, such as Risco, Siemens and Visonic, are now adding visual verification to their products. While not offering the kind of functionality available from a conventional DVR/NVR, this solution can provide a useful means of alarm verification, false alarm reduction and at lower cost than a full onsite surveillance system.

To handle alarm panel visual verification, the monitoring platform must support industry standard alarm signalling modes and protocols, as well as provide an effective means of displaying and logging images in alarm handling.

Visual Verification

Steve Nelson of Visual Verification was one of the original innovators to recognise the potential of remote CCTV monitoring, creating an industry model which so many have since followed. Visual Verification has sustained its position as one of the most successful CCTV monitoring service providers in the UK by continuing to innovate and focusing on the specific needs of their clients.

Offering a diverse range of services from their BS5979 Cat II accredited Security Monitoring and Communications Centre, Steve recognised the benefit of using a platform that supported their methods of operation. Bold Gemini provides Visual Verification with seamless monitoring of CCTV and alarm sites, providing a high level of functionality and flexibility.

Steve commented, “Our significant investment in systems and people is combined with considerable experience in the sector. Our customer base has been created by providing a service which delivers real value in terms of security and protection. The Bold Gemini monitoring platform helps us deliver that value.”

Surveillance or Monitoring?

With continuing economic challenges and the pressing need to find efficiency savings, many control rooms, with an existing staff overhead, are looking for revenue generation opportunities. Remote monitoring can be a revenue generator and is more pro-active method of detection and response than simply viewing a video wall.

Users will generally only choose one monitoring platform and, once made, it is not an easy decision to reverse. There are a multitude of factors each of which need to weighted in terms of relative importance when making this choice. “Designed in” integration should not be the least significant of these considerations.

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