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Remote Monitoring technology: Tackling South Africa’s cable theft problem
Remote Monitoring technology: Tackling South Africa’s cable theft problem

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.

We have the technology to make society safer – how long can we justify not using it?
We have the technology to make society safer – how long can we justify not using it?

While the application of facial recognition within both public and private spheres continues to draw criticism from those who see it as a threat to civil rights, this technology has become extremely commonplace in the lives of iPhone users. It is so prevalent, in fact, that by 2024 it is predicted that 90% of smartphones will use biometric facial recognition hardware. CCTV surveillance cameras  Similarly, CCTV is a well-established security measure that many of us are familiar with, whether through spotting images displayed on screens in shops, hotels and offices, or noticing cameras on the side of buildings. It is therefore necessary we ask the question of why, when facial recognition is integrated with security surveillance technology, does it become such a source of contention? It is not uncommon for concerns to be voiced against innovation. History has taught us that it is human nature to fear the unknown, especially if it seems that it may change life as we know it. Yet technology is an ever-changing, progressive part of the 21st century and it is important we start to shift the narrative away from privacy threats, to the force for good that LFR (Live Facial Recognition) represents. Live Facial Recognition (LFR) We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition Across recent weeks, we have seen pleas from UK organisations to allow better police access to facial recognition technology in order to fight crime. In the US, there are reports that LAPD is the latest police force to be properly regulating its use of facial recognition to aid criminal investigations, which is certainly a step in the right direction. While it is understandable that society fears technology that they do not yet understand, this lack of knowledge is exactly why the narrative needs to shift. We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition, we respect these anxieties. However, it is time to level the playing field of the facial recognition debate and communicate the plethora of benefits it offers society. Facial recognition technology - A force for good Facial recognition technology has already reached such a level of maturity and sophistication that there are huge opportunities for it to be leveraged as a force for good in real-world scenarios. As well as making society safer and more secure, I would go as far to say that LFR is able to save lives. One usage that could have a dramatic effect on reducing stress in people with mental conditions is the ability for facial recognition to identify those with Alzheimer’s. If an older individual is seemingly confused, lost or distressed, cameras could alert local medical centres or police stations of their identity, condition and where they need to go (a home address or a next of kin contact). Granted, this usage would be one that does incorporate a fair bit of personal data, although this information would only be gathered with consent from each individual. Vulnerable people could volunteer their personal data to local watchlists in order to ensure their safety when out in society, as well as to allow quicker resolutions of typically stressful situations. Tracking and finding missing persons Another possibility for real world positives to be drawn from facial recognition is to leverage the technology to help track or find missing persons, a lost child for instance. The most advanced forms of LFR in the market are now able to recognise individuals even if up to 50% of their face is covered and from challenging or oblique angles. Therefore, there is a significant opportunity not only to return people home safely, more quickly, but also reduce police hours spent on analysing CCTV footage. Rapid scanning of images Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match, as a more reliable and less time-consuming option than the human alternative. Freed-up officers could also then work more proactively on the ground, patrolling their local areas and increasing community safety and security twofold. It is important to understand that these facial recognition solutions should not be applied to every criminal case, and the technology must be used responsibly. However, these opportunities to use LFR as force for good are undeniable.   Debunking the myths One of the central concerns around LFR is the breach of privacy that is associated with ‘watchlists’. There is a common misconception, however, that the data of every individual that passes a camera is processed and then stored. The reality is that watch lists are compiled with focus on known criminals, while the general public can continue life as normal. The very best facial recognition will effectively view a stream of blurred faces, until it detects one that it has been programmed to recognise. For example, an individual that has previously shoplifted from a local supermarket may have their biometric data stored, so when they return to that location the employees are alerted to a risk of further crimes being committed. Considering that the cost of crime prevention to retailers in recent years has been around £1 billion, which therefore impacts consumer prices and employee wages, security measures to tackle this issue are very much in the public interest. Most importantly, the average citizen has no need to fear being ‘followed’ by LFR cameras. If data is stored, it is for a maximum of 0.6 seconds before being deleted. Privacy Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story. It is essential we spend more time and effort communicating exactly why watchlists are made, who they are made for and how they are being used, if we want to de-bunk myths and change the narrative. As science and technology professionals, heading up this exciting innovation, we must put transparency and accountability at the centre of what we do. Tony Porter, former Surveillance Camera Commissioner and current CPO at Corsight AI, has previously worked on developing processes that audit and review watch lists. Such restrictions are imperative in order for AI and LFR to be used legally, as well as ethically and responsibly. Biometrics, mask detection and contactless payments Nevertheless, the risks do not outweigh the benefits. Facial recognition should and can be used for good in so many more ways than listed above, including biometric, contactless payments, detecting whether an individual is wearing a facemask and is therefore, safe to enter a building, identifying a domestic abuse perpetrator returning to the scene of a crime and alerting police. There are even opportunities for good that we have not thought of yet. It is therefore not only a waste not to use this technology where we can, prioritising making society a safer place, it is immoral to stand by and let crimes continue while we have effective, reliable mitigation solutions.  

Securing empty premises: Product performance is everything
Securing empty premises: Product performance is everything

Since the start of the pandemic, almost a quarter of UK businesses have been forced to temporarily close, pause trading, or work remotely, with very little notice. Now nearing the 12th month of the crisis, the country is currently enduring its third national lockdown, with an unspecified timeframe. Most workers are being urged to remain at home and only venture out for essential travel. This means a huge number of premises across the board, from recreational venues such as theatres, pubs and leisure centres, to office buildings, and storage facilities, will remain empty. It’s likely that security has been scaled back, so many buildings could be vulnerable to attack for the foreseeable future. Just recently we’ve seen empty pubs in London targeted by opportunistic illegal rave organisers. Physical security strategy Even rural areas aren’t exempt from the problem, as burglars have reportedly targeted beauty salons, etc Even rural areas aren’t exempt from the problem, as burglars have reportedly targeted beauty salons, food stores and vehicle hire premises this winter. Vandalism and burglary remain very real threats, therefore it is vital that facilities managers and property owners ensure the physical security of these empty buildings is maintained to the highest standard to protect property and the assets within. Below we outline key considerations when evaluating a physical security strategy for an empty building. Assess the risk We would urge facilities managers and building owners to carry out regular, thorough checks of the building and the perimeter to assess any obvious factors which would elevate the risk of attack. This includes assessing the location. Is the crime rate high? How visible is the property? Are the contents of the property on show? How secure is the access or perimeter boundary? View the premises from a potential intruder’s perspective, and when you can’t be at the site in person, use photographs, notes and drawings to identify potential weaknesses. For example, there may be high security fencing at the front of the premises, but make sure it is not at risk of being compromised at the back. Conducting regular maintenance Retain and maintain quality Inspecting the fence line may seem obvious and straightforward, but it needs to be a deliberate, scheduled event Conducting regular maintenance is even more essential while premises are left empty, as it is much easier for any issues to appear and escalate undetected. We highly recommend regularly inspecting your fencing for disrepair or damage as this can affect the perimeter’s integrity. Alternatively, choosing high quality galvanised and preferably powder coated steel fencing with a 25-year guarantee will offer longer-lasting protection against rust and corrosion. Inspecting the fence line may seem obvious and straightforward, but it needs to be a deliberate, scheduled event. Take time to check the perimeter on both sides. As you inspect the fencing, keep an eye out for any attempted breaches and note if foliage, weather conditions, or topography changes have affected security integrity. Check all fixtures and fittings are in good working order, look for damage and corrosion, and clear all litter and debris away. Huge security risk Quality investments In a time when businesses are already stretched, it can be tempting to opt for quick, inexpensive fixes. However, poorly executed design or cheap, low quality products can lead to costly, long-term remediation or worse, significant loss to the business. Make wise, informed decisions and specify solutions based on your organisation’s security needs first and foremost. While generic steel palisade is a popular option, owing to its intimidating aesthetic, it is easily compromised. Steel palisade fencing has inherent weaknesses that undermine performance. Its wide pales can obstruct surveillance, while the bolted construction is a huge security risk. Simply removing or breaking the lower fixing on one or two pales would allow them to swing aside to give repeated access to the site without leaving an easily visible sign that the perimeter has been breached. It’s a false economy, as the initial lower price is offset by the costs and inconvenience incurred by regular repairs. Performance classification system The standard works via a performance classification system, and even considers the tools that an intruder may use Specifying a higher quality product that’s fit for purpose makes more sense both in the short and long term, and it adds little to the original cost. Fortunately, there are a number of security accreditations that facilities managers and building owners can refer to when specifying security measures at their site, helping them choose effective solutions to combat the risks the property faces. Proven performance Certifications and approvals, such as The Loss Prevention Certification Board’s (LPCB) LPS 1175 and the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) PAS, prove a product has been thoroughly tested to a specific standard. They prove the strength and durability of the item in multiple different situations. It is worth noting also that investing in effective perimeter protection can actually deliver a positive return by reducing the incidence of burglary and vandalism, and their associated costs. The technical evaluation work carried out by LPCB is extremely thorough. The product is subjected to rigorous quality audit processes, to certify the security products tested by BRE deliver verified levels of protection. All LPS 1175 rated products are vigorously tested before receiving an accreditation. The standard works via a performance classification system, and even considers the tools that an intruder may use. Intrusion detection system Our law enforcement teams are stretched to capacity and coping with reduced workforces due to illness By predicting a likely toolset, specifiers can construct multiple defensive layers to maximise how much time a facility has to respond to an attack. Different levels of security are crucial for the ‘5D defence’ concept, whereby a quintet of security assets work together to prevent access to your site, resulting in a strategy that will: Deter, Detect, Deny, Delay and Defend unwanted access from intruders. 360° security There is no single solution when it comes to securing a building. Every situation must be considered on an individual basis, starting with a full risk assessment. We recommend an integrated approach where appropriate. Along with a secure perimeter, this might also include effective lighting in shaded areas and at doors, gates, and vulnerable windows, Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems (PIDS) and well-placed CCTV. These measures can hinder entry and escape, or increase the chance of discovery and detection. Domestic burglaries While domestic burglaries have become less attractive as many of our homes are now occupied around the clock, commercial properties have become increasingly more vulnerable. Our law enforcement teams are stretched to capacity and coping with reduced workforces due to isolating and illness. Therefore it has never been so important for building owners and facilities managers to assess the properties they’re responsible for to ensure they’re protected effectively in the event of an attack.

Latest Stortech Electronics Limited news

Pecan CCTV launches new vandal resistant dome in the security market
Pecan CCTV launches new vandal resistant dome in the security market

Pecan CCTV has announced the launch of the VRD146 Series a fully featured easy to install vandal-resistant True Day/Night (TDN) dome with On Screen Display (OSD) technology. This new high specification 600TVL 1/3" Sony Super HAD II CCD colour/mono dome is fitted with a 2.8-11mm F1.4 DC auto iris lens in a durable IP66 rated weather-resistant vandal-resistant housing.  Features include Digital Noise Reduction (2DNR), Digital Wide Dynamic Range (DWDR), Backlight and Highlight Compensation (BLC/HLC), 8-zone Privacy function and 4-zone Motion Detection. An IR LED option (VRD146L) provides accurate night time viewing coverage of up to 15 metres.However the key benefit to installers is the versatility offered by the VRD146 Series' alternative cabling arrangements. Recognising that every installation is different Pecan have designed their new dome so it can be surface-mounted, with cable entry at the bottom or the side or using existing cables terminating inside the camera itself. A wall mounting bracket is also available if required.As well as being easy to install the dual voltage (12v DC/24v AC) VRD146 Series is also simple to set up thanks to the 3-axis camera gimble and OSD joystick controls. Pecan is the trade name of the CCTV Division of Stortech Electronics Ltd who manufacture and distribute a comprehensive range of CCD camera systems and components. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Acal plc who are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Pecan CCTV website sheds its old skin to sport a new look and feel
Pecan CCTV website sheds its old skin to sport a new look and feel

Pecan CCTV is an innovator in developing and supplying products for a wide variety of applicationsPecan CCTV has announced the launch of its new website pecancctv.com which features a fresh modern design with improved navigation and a wealth of information about the firm's extensive range of quality surveillance equipment.The new site allows visitors to search easily by equipment type or product code and download datasheets with the technical information they need to make the right choice. New products are now included on the home page and access to technical support is easily available via enquiries to a dedicated email address. Other new features include a special offers section for selected items, answers to frequently asked questions about CCTV, plus news of all the latest product and service developments. Pecan CCTV is an innovator in developing and supplying products for a wide variety of applications. During the past twelve months the firm has invested in a major re-branding exercise to bring the look and feel of the company in line with its growth and position within the CCTV market. In addition to commissioning an entirely new website this activity has seen Pecan update their logo and revise the layout and design of their technical information to make it easier for their customers to find the information they need. The new site will act as a one-stop-shop for companies looking to make informed procurement decisions for all their CCTV requirementsDirector, Jess Johns said: "Pecan CCTV has evolved over the last few years and we felt that the previous logo and branding didn't give a true reflection of the business today. Similarly we wanted to bring a fresh new look and feel to the website in terms of the design, accessibility and navigation.""Customers benefit from our extensive experience which enables us to develop products with the latest technology featuring everything from entry level internal domes to vandal-resistant cameras and state-of-the-art micro domes.""The new website still has all the useful information and tools to help our customers find the information they need but with a much easier to use format designed to raise awareness of, and interest in, the comprehensive range of products and technical support Pecan can provide.""We hope that the new site will act as a one-stop-shop for companies looking to make informed procurement decisions for all their CCTV requirements supported by the knowledge and expertise we provide to help them identify the best solution for every application."Pecan is the trade name of the CCTV Division of Stortech Electronics Ltd who manufactures and distributes a comprehensive range of CCD camera systems and components. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of ACAL plc who are listed on the London Stock Exchange. To find out more about Pecan CCTV's innovative products and benefit from their extensive technical expertise call 01279 419913 or email them.

Pecan expands Southern Area Sales team with new Sales Manager
Pecan expands Southern Area Sales team with new Sales Manager

 Wendy Ficken, Southern Area Sales Manager at Pecan CCTVPecan CCTV recently promoted Wendy Ficken to Southern Area Sales Manager. Although she may not have been a familiar face to Pecan's customers in the past her voice certainly will be as the twenty-six year old has been with the company since 2004 working in the internal sales office. Wendy, who is clearly enjoying her move from Internal Sales to External Sales, told us: Over the past four years I'd developed great working relationships over the phone so when the opportunity came for me to meet our customers ‘face-to-face' I jumped at the chance."Before joining Pecan CCTV's parent company, Stortech Electronics Ltd., Wendy completed a Business Studies course at APU University, and this combined with her extensive product knowledge is proving a real benefit to Pecan's customers, especially when a bespoke security solution is required.Wendy continued: "Listening to what our customers want is really important and being able to offer them the expertise and knowledge to develop a specific solution is very rewarding - especially when it results in us introducing a new product into the range.""I enjoy working for Pecan because of the amount of support you get. Having ‘been there and done that' I recognise just how important it is for the external sales team to have good working relationships with the staff in the office. It's great to be part of a company where everyone works together as a team to ensure we all do everything we can to give our customers the best possible service."Although she may not have been a familiar ‘face' to Pecan's customers in the past, her voice certainly will be Pecan CCTV Sales Director, Jess Johns said: "Wendy's well-earned promotion is proof of our ongoing commitment to train and develop our staff to achieve their full potential. We also believe our flexibility and willingness to respond to the changing needs of our customers is crucial to our success which is why we will continue to invest in strengthening our sales capability throughout the UK."Pecan is the trade name of the CCTV Division of Stortech Electronics Ltd who manufacture and distribute a comprehensive range of CCD camera systems and components. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Acal plc who are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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