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Though many office workers across the globe have found themselves working remotely for the past year, we are seeing a bit of a silver lining, as vaccine rollouts hint at a return to some pre-pandemic sense of normalcy. However, while some of us might opt for a fully-remote work life, others are anticipating a hybrid solution. Even before the pandemic, offices were taking a new, more open layout approach—moving past the days of cubicles and small office configurations. Going forward, offices and other workspaces will be tasked with supporting a hybrid work solution, as well as increasing hygiene measures. Video intercom solution This is where an IP video intercom solution can assist. Below are four ways they can help usher in a smarter, safer work environment: Video intercoms assist in creating a more hygienic work environment - The outbreak of COVID-19 has raised awareness of germs and just how easily a virus can be transmitted by face-to-face contact. Germ barriers are popping up in many aspects of our daily lives, where we were not likely to see them before Unfortunately, the door is also the easiest of these germ barriers to breach As such, we’re becoming accustomed to seeing plexiglass barriers at restaurants, grocery stores, and even coffee shops. However, many don’t realise that one of the best germ barriers is a simple door. Unfortunately, the door is also the easiest of these germ barriers to breach. All it takes is a knock or a doorbell ring to make us open our germ barrier and be face-to-face with whomever is on the other side. Increasing hygiene safety A simple step to increase hygiene safety and visitor security in commercial buildings and workspaces is an IP video intercom. Installing a video intercom will allow staff to see and speak with visitors without breaching that all-important germ barrier. A video intercom system provides a first line of defence, enabling the user to visually confirm the identity of the person on the other side of the door first before granting access. It can also be used to make sure proper procedures are being followed before a person is allowed to enter, such as using hand sanitiser, wearing a mask, and following social distancing guidelines. Basic security needs A major topic of conversation the past year has been how to manage occupancy in all facilities Video intercoms for occupancy management and basic security - A major topic of conversation the past year has been how to manage occupancy in all facilities—ranging from grocery stores and retail shops to restaurants and commercial buildings. Workspaces and offices are no exception. A video intercom provides a quick and convenient method of seeing who, or what, is on the unsecure side of the door before opening. For basic security needs, if a business has a door opening into an alley, a video intercom would be used to ensure no one is waiting outside to force their way in when the door is opened. Personal protection equipment Such solutions can also be used to ensure a person is carrying proper credentials, or wearing proper personal protection equipment (PPE), before entering a sensitive area. For example, if a lab has a room which can only be accessed by two persons at a time wearing specific protective gear, a video intercom could ensure each person is properly equipped, before allowing access that particular room. Additionally, for office or workspaces that have shared common areas, such as a cafeteria, gym or even conference rooms, managing access to these spaces will remain a priority, especially with post-pandemic restrictions in place. Video intercoms are a comprehensive safety and security tool for any workspace Deliveries of packages, work-related materials, or even food are common in any office or workspace. Video intercoms can assist in facilitating safe deliveries by visually and audibly confirming the identity of the individual. The visitor could be your next big client, your lunch delivery, a fellow employee with a faulty access card, or your mail. Video intercoms are a comprehensive safety and security tool for any workspace. Visitor management systems Video intercoms provide a cost-effective solution in small to mid-sized office facilities - One significant advantage of video intercom systems is the variety of applications available. Systems range from simple one-to-one video intercoms, to buzz-in systems, to full-fledged visitor management systems in mixed-use buildings. While they might lack the resources and manpower many enterprises have, small-to medium-sized offices can also take steps to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. Like any business, controlling who comes into the building is a primary way of maintaining safety. Video intercoms work in conjunction with access control systems to provide an identifying view of visitors or employees with lost or missing credentials. They allow staff to both see and hear those on the unsecured side of the door to determine intent before granting access. Most quality video intercoms will provide a clear enough image to allow an identification card to be read by holding it close to the lens, adding another opportunity to verify identity. Touchless intercom activation One major trend is the option of providing a touchless door activation Video intercoms provide a touchless option - Even prior to COVID-19, one major trend is the option of providing a touchless door activation or touchless intercom activation of a video intercom for those without proper credentials. Though touchless isn’t a new solution to the access control market, the pandemic introduced a renewed focus on these types of solutions to provide hygienic access to visitors. For offices and other workspaces looking to make investments into post-pandemic solutions to assist in reopening, touchless can support these efforts. When it comes to smart, secure workspaces, many people think instantly of cameras or monitors, access control, and alarm systems. Proper access credentials However, video intercoms are often the missing piece of a building’s security puzzle. A video intercom provides an identifying view that is not always available from a camera covering a large area. They allow those without proper access credentials a method of requesting entry, and just like cameras, they can be activated by alarms to allow staff to clearly see and communicate. If a workspace or office is important enough to be secure, it’s important enough to be sure of who is there before the door is opened. In 2021, it’s not enough to ensure the physical security of your staff and visitors, but also to ensure they are accessing a hygienic environment. Video intercoms provide that security and peace of mind.
Enclosures containing electronics, communications or cabling infrastructure offer a simple attack point for cyber breaches and an opportunity for a physical attack on the hardware. Yet, many of these assets are housed within enclosures that provide minimal security features to offer a deterrent to any would-be attacker. This has always just been a pet hate. Walking down the high street of a town anywhere in the United Kingdom, you can often see open street communication cabinets. You can actually look directly inside at the equipment. And if I was a bad guy, I could quite easily just put my foot into their enclosure and quite quickly take out their infrastructure. Charged service for enclosures This seems crazy when a US$ 2 magnetic contact on a door can quickly tell you whether your enclosure is open or shut, and can be vital in keeping your network alive. Moreover, the operators of these systems, whether it is telecoms or internet providers, are providing a charged service to their customers, so they should really be protecting their enclosures. Why has that security level not been so readily taken into the outside world, into the unprotected environment? More sobering, if you contrast this security approach to the approach taken in the data centre world, an environment that already has multiple stringent security protocols in place, you get a very different picture. For instance, security devices can capture snapshots of anyone who opens a cabinet door in a data room, so it is recorded who has opened that door. While that is just one simple example, it begs the question. Why has that security level not been so readily taken into the outside world, into the unprotected environment? In my mind, a lot of it boils down simply to education. Network connection, easy point of cyber attacks Our preconceived idea about cyber security is some big corporation being knocked out or held to ransom by, again in our mind, someone sitting at a laptop, probably with their hood up over their head, typing away in the darkness, attacking us through the internet. But how the would-be criminal is going to come at us is just like in sport. They attack at the weakest point. Networks can be deployed in the outside world in many ways, such as cameras monitoring the highways. That means those locations will have a network connection. And that can be a point of attack in a non-secure outside world. Enclosures can be broken into by attackers Many people think, ‘That is okay because I’m going to take that ethernet device that my cameras are connected to and I’m going to put it inside an enclosure.’ However, what people do not realize is that the only thing that the enclosure is doing is protecting the ethernet device from Mother Nature. Because, without proper security, those enclosures can be broken into pretty easily. Many of them are just a single key that is not in any way coded to the device. Twofold cyber security People need to realise that cyber security is twofold. It can be carried out by hacking the network or physically breaking Therein lays the problem. People need to realise that cyber security is twofold. It can be carried out by hacking the network or physically breaking into the weakest physical point. And so, a simple boot through the open door of an enclosure can vandalise the devices inside and take down a small or large part of a network. And by definition, this meets the criteria for a cyber-attack. So, how do we go about tackling this problem? Well, security is a reaction marketplace. And for enclosures, there’s not, at present, a plethora of solutions out there for to counter these types of attacks. It can be challenging to find what you’re looking for through a quick Google search compared to searching for more traditional security protection measures. Deploying smart sensors and detectors But, under Vanderbilt and ComNet, we are currently taking our knowledge and experience from system installation and compiling it together. We’re bringing different products from different parts of our business to make a true solution. For instance, we have sensors for enclosures that detect anything from gas or smoke to open doors, detectors that will tell you if someone is trying to smash open your enclosure with a sledgehammer, or that someone is trying to lift your enclosure off of its mount. More importantly, as is not really a one-size-fits-all solution, we have developed a menu structure available that allows customers to pick and choose the ones that will best fit their own requirements.
For decades, cable theft has caused disruption to infrastructure across South Africa, and an issue that permeates the whole supply chain. Here, Ian Loudon, international sales and marketing manager at remote monitoring specialist Omniflex, explains how new cable-alarm technology is making life difficult for criminals and giving hope to businesses. In November 2020, Nasdaq reported that, “When South Africa shut large parts of its economy and transport network during its COVID-19 lockdown, organised, sometimes armed, gangs moved into its crumbling stations to steal the valuable copper from the lines. Now, more than two months after that lockdown ended, the commuter rail system, relied on by millions of commuters, is barely operational.” Private security firm Despite this most recent incident, cable theft is not a new phenomenon to sweep South Africa Despite this most recent incident, cable theft is not a new phenomenon to sweep South Africa. In 2001, SABC TV broadcast a story following two members of a private security firm working for Telkom, a major telecoms provider. In the segment, the two guards, working in Amanzimtoti on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, head out to investigate a nearby alarm that has been triggered. They reach a telecoms cabinet and discover that it has been compromised, with the copper cable cut and telephone handsets strewn across the ground. In the dark, they continue to search the area when one of the guards discovers the problem: 500 metres of copper wire has been ripped out. In their haste, the thieves have dropped their loot and fled. Widespread cable theft Had they managed to get away, they would have melted the cable to remove the plastic insulation and sold the copper to a local scrap dealer for around 900 Rand, about $50 US dollars. For the company whose infrastructure has been compromised, it may cost ten times that amount to replace and repair the critical infrastructure. The disappointing takeaway from this story is that two decades on from this incident the country still faces widespread cable theft, whether it’s copper cables from mines, pipelines, railways, telecoms or electrical utilities. In fact, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that cable theft costs the economy between R5–7 billion a year. The answer to the problem must go further than the existing measures used by companies. Detect power failure Most businesses already invest in CCTV, fences, barriers and even patrol guards, but this is not enough. Take the mining sector, for example. These sites can be vast, spanning dozens of kilometres - it’s simply not cost effective to install enough fences or employ enough guards or camera operators. As monitoring technology gets better, the company has seen site managers increasingly use cable alarms in recent years that detect when a power failure occurs. The idea is that, if one can detect a power failure, they can detect whether the cable has been cut The idea is that, if one can detect a power failure, they can detect whether the cable has been cut. The problem is though: how does one distinguish the difference between a situation where a cable has been cut intentionally and a genuine power outage? Power outages in South Africa are an ongoing problem, with the country contending with an energy deficit since late 2005, leading to around 6,000 MW of power cuts in 2019. Remote terminal units Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the company that generates around 95 per cent of South Africa’s power has already warned of further blackouts as the company works to carry out repairs to its power plants. According to a statement on the company’s website, “Eskom spends in the region of R2 billion a year replacing stolen copper cables." The result is that criminals take advantage of the gaps in power to steal cable, timing their robberies to coincide with the published load shedding schedules. The basic alarms used to detect power outage won’t recognise the theft because they register a false-positive during a power cut. By the time the power comes back on, the deed has been done and the criminals have gotten away with the cable. The good news is that recent breakthroughs in cable monitoring technology are helping tackle just this problem. New alarms on the market now combine sophisticated GSM-based monitoring systems that use battery powered remote terminal units. Legitimate supply chain Unlike the basic alarms that look for the presence or absence of power, these new systems monitor whether the cable circuit is in an open or closed state. In the event of a power outage, the unit continues to run on battery power and can detect if a cable has been cut, sending a priority SMS alert to the site manager immediately, giving them a fighting chance to prevent a robbery in progress. Beyond the opportunistic theft carried out by petty criminals, the theft of copper cables forms a wider problem Beyond the opportunistic theft carried out by petty criminals, the theft of copper cables forms a wider problem across the supply chain in South Africa. In recent years, the combination of unscrupulous scrap dealers, the alleged involvement of large scrap processing companies and lax penalties meant that much of the stolen copper ended up back in the legitimate supply chain. However, recent changes in the law have sought to take a tougher stance on copper theft. Alarm monitoring technology According to the Western Cape Government, “The Criminal Matters Amendment Act, regulates bail and imposes minimum offences for essential infrastructure-related offences." The act, which came into effect in 2018, recommends sentencing for cable theft, with the minimum sentence for first-time offenders being three years and for those who are involved in instigating or causing damage to infrastructure, the maximum sentence is thirty years. It seems to be working too. In January 2021, the South African reported that a Johannesburg man was sentenced to eight years behind bars for cable theft in Turffontein. While the longer-term outlook is a positive one for industry, the best advice for businesses seeking to alleviate the problem of cable theft in the immediate future is to invest in the latest cable-theft alarm monitoring technology to tackle the problem and make life difficult for criminals.
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