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Making school safety a priority with smart technology
Making school safety a priority with smart technology

With pupils in the UK set to go back to school on 8 March, there are a number of safety measures schools need to implement to ensure the health and wellness of the staff, students, and school communities.  The first lockdown and closure of schools brought on by the coronavirus pandemic fired a “warning shot” for education facilities managers, forcing head-teachers to re-examine school safety standards. Now that a third lockdown is here and schools have been shut down for a second time, anyone behind the curve with the benefits of smart technology should get on board now before children return to the school environment. And with the ever-changing variants of the COVID-19 virus, schools can’t afford to be “late to class” when it comes to health and safety. Preventing the spread of disease Some schools in the US have been using smart technologies for a while to measure utility consumption and efficiency, streamline maintenance and enhance general school safety. These technologies are playing a significant role in keeping school buildings healthy and preventing the spread of disease. Let’s take a look at how smart technology can help schools to become safer, as well as more energy-efficient and cost-effective.   Thermal detection cameras  Smart cameras placed at entry points of a school can remove the manual task of temperature testing Smart cameras placed at entry points of a school can remove the manual task of temperature testing. These cameras provide medically-accurate, real-time temperatures of individuals in real-time. If a high temperature is detected, the software sends an instant alert to the relevant party. It can also be set to deny access to those with high temperatures or to people not wearing masks.  Safer water  As the coronavirus continues to sweep through the world’s population, healthcare providers should also be on heightened alert for Legionnaires’ disease, another potential cause of pneumonia with similar symptoms. Legionella is a potentially deadly bacteria that can infect a school’s water supply and cause an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. It’s a school's duty of care to prevent Legionella infection by monitoring the risk of the bacteria proliferating.  Particularly as schools reopen and previously stagnant plumbing and cooling systems return to use, additional Legionella cases could rear their ugly head to emergency departments in the coming months. Traces of Legionella were recently found at a Worcestershire school. The school was forced to remain shut while treatment and testing took place. Automated flushing and temperature testing Instant alerts will notify relevant staff if water temperatures fall within “Legionella-friendly” parameters The Health and Safety Executive advises, “If your building was closed or has reduced occupancy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease… If the water system is still used regularly, maintain the appropriate measures to prevent legionella growth.” Typically, managing the risk of Legionella includes running all outlets for two minutes, taking and recording the temperature of the water to ensure that it’s not conducive to Legionella growth. This is a time-consuming process, which is why schools are looking for automated water temperature monitoring systems. This smart system with automated flushing and temperature testing reports and records water temperature data in real-time. Instant alerts will notify relevant staff if water temperatures fall within “Legionella-friendly” parameters.  Cleaner air  Advisers say that improving air filtration and ventilation in schools can help mitigate the potential airborne transmission of COVID-19. Strategies include: Increasing outdoor air ventilation Filtering indoor air Using portable air cleaners with HEPA filters  Smart building technologies such as advanced HVAC controls can help facilities managers promote cleaner air with less hassle. For example, smart HVAC systems use sensors to remotely monitor and control variables such as:  Humidity Temperature Indoor air quality The level of carbon dioxide and other pollutants The technology is also energy-efficient and cost-effective.  While these solutions may be key to the reopening of schools in the era of COVID-19, they also bring long-term benefits. Although COVID-19 may have accelerated the adoption of smart technology, many of these solutions are focused on health, wellness, and security in general; which have been needed in school systems for a long time.

Ergonomic standards increase control room productivity
Ergonomic standards increase control room productivity

  Ergonomics are a critical, but often misunderstood aspect of designing control rooms for security. Ergonomics have a deep impact on the integrity of an operation, and the issue goes beyond the control room furniture. Matko Papic, Chief Technology Officer of Evans Consoles, divides ergonomics into three areas: physical (reach zones, touch points, monitors); cognitive (the individual’s ability to process information without overlooking a critical element) and organisational (how the facility operates in various situations; e.g., is it adequately designed for an emergency event?). He says the Evans approach is to determine the precise placement required for each element an operator needs, and then to design and build console furniture to position it there. Basically, the idea is to tailor the control room to the operation. What tasks must an operator perform? Are they manageable or should they be divided up among several operators? Control room design should accommodate the need to collaborate, and be flexible enough to adapt to various situations. It all begins with understanding the information that needs to be processed, says Papic. Increased productivity in the workplace Because personnel are often stationed at a specific console, desk or workstation for long hours, physical problems and productivity issues can result, says Jim Coleman, National Sales Manager, AFC Industries. Ergonomically designed furniture and related products have been proven to increase productivity and alleviate physical stress in the workplace. Ergonomic furniture solutions are crafted for the ultimate in safety, adaptability, comfort and functionality. Coleman says AFC Industries can tailor furniture to specific needs and environment. For example, a height-adjustable workstation can be combined with adjustable monitor arm mounts to create a relaxed, comfortable environment. Furniture offers modern designs, comfortable ergonomics, and comprehensive features. Rugged materials withstand the 24/7 use of command control centres. Health benefits of ergonomic workstations A sedentary office environment is often an unhealthy one. “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” says Martha Grogan, Cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. Ongoing research and studies have shown that a change in posture (i.e., using ergonomic sit-to-stand workstations) is an effective means to combat these negative health issues. Using sit-to-stand workstations helps to eliminate musculoskeletal disorders caused by long-term sitting. They can also improve productivity and focus from the increased blood flow. Energy levels can rise and employees burn more calories. Control room design should accommodate the need to collaborate and be flexible enough to adapt to various situations “The ergonomic environment we create for control rooms involves considering every need of the staff at each workstation and their equipment, as well as workflow within the entire room,” says Coleman. “From the proper setting of screen focal lengths to sound absorption and glare reduction, each requirement and phase of a control room design is a necessary process to ensure the protection and safety of people and property.” Emergency operations centre “The military has figured out that you are more alert when you are standing,” says Randy Smith, President of Winsted, and the realisation is guiding emergency operations centre (EOC) design toward sit-stand. “As soon as there is an emergency, everybody stands up,” Smith adds. Designing EOC environments also requires systems be integrated with annunciating signal lights to facilitate communication among operators. Winsted’s sit-stand consoles can be combined with a motorised M-View monitor wall mount, enabling a 60-inch wall monitor to be raised and lowered to match the positioning of the sit-stand console. Larger, wall-mounted screens are easier to use for operators, since a larger monitor size can make it easier to read text on a screen, for example. Combining the larger monitor with sit-stand capabilities provides the best of both options. Many operators today stand for 50 percent of their day, says Smith. Ergonomic standards guide the design of Winsted’s control room consoles, including ISO 11064 standards for the design of control centres. The furniture also is designed to accommodate industrial wire management (larger wire bundles), unlike furniture that might be bought in an office supply store. Read part 3 of our Control Rooms series here {##Poll37 - How well do you incorporate ergonomics into your control rooms?##}

Improving security system installations with Acceptance Testing
Improving security system installations with Acceptance Testing

Significant technological advancements have created endless possibilities in how security is not only deployed, but also leveraged by the end user – the customer. For example, customers can now view surveillance at eight different offices in eight different states from a single, central location. A security director can manage an enterprise-wide access control system, including revoking or granting access control privileges, for 10,000 global employees from a company’s headquarters. However, with that increased level of system sophistication comes an added level of complexity. After successfully completing the installation of a security system, integrators are now expected to formally and contractually prove that the system works as outlined in the project specification document. Tom Feilen, Director of National Accounts for Koorsen Security Technology explains that this formal checks and balance process is gaining momentum in the security industry. The step-by-step process of Acceptance Testing is more commonly being written into bid specifications, especially for projects that require the expertise of an engineer and/or architect. Simply put, it is a way for the end user to make sure the system they paid for works properly and is delivered by the integrator as outlined in the project’s request for proposal. While Acceptance Testing can be a time consuming process, it is a valuable industry tool. It is estimated that at least 95 per cent of integrated security systems today have been brought through the Acceptance Testing process. Security systems have become more complicated in recent years. The introduction of IP-based, enterprise-wide and integrated solutions have all opened the door to more sophisticated access control and surveillance systems than ever thought possible. This process can vary depending upon the size of the project, but for a larger scale project, it is not uncommon for Acceptance Testing to take several weeks from start to finish. This timeline can be especially lengthy when the project involves hundreds of devices, such as access control readers, surveillance cameras, video recorders, intrusion sensors, and intercom systems. Most integrated security systems today have been brought through the Acceptance Testing process What is involved in the Acceptance Testing process? While the specific process can vary from integrator to integrator, many follow a similar process with their customer to ensure the system works accurately and that the customer has the proper certification documentation. The initial part of the process typically involves generating a report of each device installed as part of the system. This list enables the systems integrator to systematically test each device ensuring that individual devices are not specific points of failure for the overall system. For example, in a building equipped with a system that automatically releases the egress doors upon the fire alarm activation, it is important to make sure each door’s electro-magnetic locking system is operating properly. The systems integrator would not only test that a door releases when the fire alarm sounds, but also to make sure the access control system is notified if the door is propped open or held open longer than in normal usage parameters. For a door that is also monitored by a surveillance camera, part of the testing would also involve making sure that an image being transmitted to a video monitor is coming from the correct surveillance camera and that the actual angle of the image is what the customer has requested and is correctly labelled as such. If a device does not function as it should, it is then added to a punch list that would require the systems integrator to repair that device within a certain period of time. Once repairs are made, the system integrator would then submit a letter to the client stating that every device has been tested and works properly. It is also important for the integrator that once the testing process is complete to obtain a customer sign off (Certificate of Acceptance) on all systems tested and documentation provided. This limits liability once the system is turned over. From a safety perspective, Acceptance Testing is also used to verify that T-bars and safety chains are installed on cameras that are mounted in drop ceilings. It can confirm that panels are mounted in a room that is properly heated and cooled to avoid major temperature swings. Also, as part of the Acceptance Testing checklist, it can insure that power supplies that drive all the security systems are properly rated with the recommended batteries for back-up. And, that emergency exist devices or card readers are not mounted more than 48-inches above ground. An Acceptance Testing process serves to protect the end user's investment After the project is complete, Acceptance Testing protects both parties involved against liability issues. One example is if the building has a fire and the functionality of the life safety system comes into question. Acceptance Testing can be used to prove that the system was able to function as specified and dispel any concerns about its performance. At that time, all close out sheets are turned in, along with as-built drawings and a manual providing a complete listing of each device and system installed. Today, these manuals not only come in paper form as part of a large binder, but also digital files saved to a disc. The benefit of providing the customer with a binder or documentation of the system is that should the end user/customer replace the person who manages security at the company, valuable information will not leave with that former employee. While this checklist to close out a project may appear trivial at first, it is an important part of the security project process. By implementing an Acceptance Testing program, it serves to protect the end user’s investment, ensuring that the systems integrators hired for the project is knowledgeable and provides quality work. For the integrator, it helps towards the end goal of a satisfied customer.

Latest Ava Security news

Ava Security further strengthens its open cloud platform by merging sensor and video data for greater facility insights and intelligence
Ava Security further strengthens its open cloud platform by merging sensor and video data for greater facility insights and intelligence

Ava Security has launched the ability to use third-party sensors with Ava Aware Cloud, the open data platform for building and facilities intelligence. By merging video security with sensor technology, organisations can unlock the enhanced situational awareness of security along with facility management, staff well-being, and productivity.  Open Ava Aware data platform Siloed unconnected systems are a big challenge for organisations seeking greater insights and better building security. Integrations either require heavy, custom development, or organisations are often forced into a single vendor lock-in when moving to certain cloud vendors.   Organisations can now use the open Ava Aware data platform with third-party sensors to capture insights into their sites' activities and environmental conditions. Users can set rules for real-time notifications and alerts for readings such as abnormal noise levels, temperature, proximity, touch, humidity, smoke, vape, chemicals, and gas, allowing organisations to act quickly on environmental incidents. Integrating data with video footage Sensor data combined with video security footage through a single interface allows getting a clearer picture Sensor data is combined with video security footage through a single interface, allowing organisations to get a clearer picture of the security incidents that could impact their facilities, assets, and people. For example, by associating a sensor with a camera, facility operators and IT would immediately see the sensor alarm and the real-time video associated with that sensor (e.g. an open emergency door). Businesses derive value beyond security; gathering data that can help achieve greater efficiency and improve operations.  Initial sensor integration rollout Ava Security is initially launching these quarter integrations with the Halo smart sensor from IPVideo Technology and the tiny wireless sensors from Disruptive Technologies. Customers also have the option to integrate with other sensor providers of their choice through Ava’s open API platform. As a cloud-native and open platform, Ava Aware customers benefit immediately from new features and value as they are delivered over time.  Features of Ava Aware Cloud The Ava Aware Cloud is also incredibly flexible, allowing customers to:  Connect sensors in minutes, set up rules, and notify users in real-time View sensors on intuitive floorplan maps Associate sensors with cameras with simple drag and drop Remotely monitor sensors from anywhere in the world Secure sensor data through end-to-end encryption, SSO, and 2-factor authentication Cost-effective and flexible solution Ava’s open architecture solves provides a cost-effective and flexible solution on the market" Sam Lancia, Head of Video Engineering & Co-Founder of Ava Security commented, “There is immense power in the visibility gained by combining the data from sensors with intelligent video security systems as it creates a far clearer picture for an organisation. Historically, this wasn’t possible because systems were too difficult to set up, often disconnected from one another, and organisations had to rip and replace existing investments to install software and devices from a single provider.” “Ava’s open architecture solves this problem for organisations, providing them with a cost-effective and flexible solution that utilises the best technology on the market. We already have keen interest from a range of customers across different verticals such as real estate, education, and retail.” Physical security Bengt Lundberg, CEO of Disruptive Technologies commented, “Ava Security is at the forefront of physical security. We are looking forward to seeing customers unlock the value from our combined products and services through this partnership.” “The Ava Aware system, enhanced by the DT sensors, unlocks huge potential for real-time insights for organisations to inform their security and facility management.”

Ava Security selects new America’s headquarters at Raleigh, North Carolina to span cloud computing
Ava Security selects new America’s headquarters at Raleigh, North Carolina to span cloud computing

Ava Security, a unified service provider of cyber and video security, announces it has selected Raleigh, North Carolina as the location for the company’s new Americas headquarters. Ava will be investing in the region, creating new jobs, and adding to Raleigh’s rich tradition of innovation. Raleigh joins Uxbridge (London) as the company’s two global headquarters. The new Raleigh headquarters is located at 208 South Wilmington Street, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27601. “The Americas is Ava’s fastest-growing geography, representing more than 50% of our global business,” said Rick Hill, VP and General Manager, Ava Americas. Spanning cloud computing “We chose Raleigh for our new headquarters because it will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us continue to innovate the way organisations approach security - both physical and cyber - for years to come.” Raleigh was recently named one of the most resilient tech hubs by both LinkedIn and Indeed Raleigh boasts one of the highest concentrations of tech talent in the nation -- spanning cloud computing, security, fintech, and healthcare. Long associated with innovation thanks to both corporate tech giants like IBM and Cisco and a rapidly growing local startup community, Raleigh was recently named one of the most resilient tech hubs by both LinkedIn and Indeed. “Raleigh is at an exciting crossroads, leading the country on nearly every measure of economic success,” said Adrienne Cole, CEO, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Expanding career options “We are honoured that Ava Security selected Raleigh for its Americas headquarters. The company joins an elite mix of global technology leaders here in the region while expanding career options for our local tech talent pool.” In a 2021 study by Wake County Economic Development (WCED), comparing the Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with the top 100 largest MSAs across the United States, Raleigh came out No. 1 in several critical areas, which shaped Ava’s decision to select the Triangle region for its Americas headquarters. Specifically, in comparison to the 100 largest MSAs, Raleigh ranked number one in talent, the cost of doing business, and future thinking. “We are thrilled to have Ava Security as a new tenant in downtown Raleigh, especially since this will be their Americas headquarters,” said Andrew Stewart, President of Empire Properties. Unified security company Ava is the only unified security company to provide a complete solution (cyber and physical security) “It is always exciting to bring new technology innovation into the region and Ava does that with its unique cyber and video security solutions. They are a welcome addition to the diverse workforce in downtown Raleigh.” Ava is the only unified security company to provide a complete solution (cyber and physical security), giving organisations full visibility into potential multi-faceted security attacks. Ava helps organisations address this growing problem with machine learning-powered cyber and video solutions that give security professionals access to quality, timely data and insights that can be shared across the security organisation for actionable insight. Diverse industry offering “The world has clearly caught on to the fact that Raleigh is one of the most educated cities in the U.S. and has an incredibly diverse industry offering, allowing companies from across the globe like Ava, to locate here and find long-term success,” said Kyle Touchstone, Raleigh Economic Development Director. Over the past year, Greater Raleigh saw its highest amount of company expansions in history, with almost 6,000 new job announcements and more than $3.8 billion in investments. Ava officially celebrates its Americas Headquarters with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for October 21 at 3:00 p.m.

Ava’s new education sector security research report reveals 82% of schools & colleges plan to use existing video monitoring systems to keep ‘COVID Safe’
Ava’s new education sector security research report reveals 82% of schools & colleges plan to use existing video monitoring systems to keep ‘COVID Safe’

Four out of every five (82%) of existing CCTV and video monitoring systems are set to be extended to help keep schools and colleges ‘COVID Safe’, found a new education sector study of 91 education organisations based in the UK, US, Sweden, and Norway, carried out by video security as a service (VSaaS) provider AVA Security in March 2021. Many schools and colleges have already adapted their video monitoring systems to support COVID safety measures. For example, half (50%) of all those in charge of these systems had already adapted their existing video systems to help manage social distancing. A further 34% planned to use their systems for this purpose within the next 6 months.  Adopting video monitoring/CCTV technologies The AVA Security Education Sector Trends Report 2021 just out, provides a wealth of data and insight linked to how Operations, Security, and IT directors and managers within educational establishments in the US, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, are adapting their video monitoring or CCTV systems in the wake of the pandemic. Nearly four of every 10 (38%) educational institutions were already using their video monitoring systems to trace all student, staff, and visitor movements in, out, and around their premises and grounds to protect everyone from infection. A further 46% planned to configure these systems for this same purpose within the next 6 months. New COVID Safe-specific video analytics 29% were using their existing video systems to help provide temperature level health checks at some building entrances Nearly a third (29%) was already using their existing video systems to help provide temperature level health checks at some building entrances. A further 43% planned to enable temperature checking via their CCTV systems within the 6 months. Interestingly, 41% had already deployed their video systems for reporting on class or lecture hall occupancy levels and people density levels inside retail areas, dining facilities, and other leisure areas where students congregate. A further 41% said they were planning to add this capability via their video systems over the next 6 months. Mask and face recognition systems Mask detection analytics is also being widely deployed in US and Northern Europe’s schools and colleges: 35% had already deployed video analytics software now available for alerting security staff when teachers or students are inside a building but not wearing a mask. A further 31% planned to deploy mask detection analytics within the next 6 months. However, the Education sector is a more cautious deployer of facial recognition analytics in existing cameras to enable visual identification and contactless access control in the interests of reducing COVID infection via card touch-in gates. Only 22% of schools and colleges have deployed facial recognition to date, although this is set to more than double to 29% over the next 6 months. The biggest challenge of supporting all these changes appears to be paying for them: 31% of those in charge of video monitoring systems had already seen a significant reduction in budgets available for upgrading and improving video monitoring capabilities in the last year. A further 29% had seen a small reduction in budgets over the same timeframe. A further 8% thought fresh budget cuts were likely before the end of 2021. Cybersecurity becomes a key IT priority There has been an increased focus on cybersecurity to protect access to vital data and online learning resources As IT, operations, and security staff have had to run systems as well as teaching remotely during the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on cybersecurity to protect access to vital data and online learning resources. Just in the last few months, the University of Hertfordshire experienced a major cyberattack that led to the shutting down of key online learning apps including Zoom for students enrolled there. Over a third (35%) of educational institutions’ decision-makers questioned thought it ‘very likely that they would need to place a ‘larger focus on cybersecurity for all devices and applications that are networked’ as one impact of the pandemic. A further 48% thought an increased cybersecurity focus was ‘likely’. Linked to this, 27% of directors and managers running video security systems in schools and colleges saw an improvement to the video ‘system’s resilience and back-up systems/procedures’ as a ‘High Priority’ improvement that they needed to implement to protect video data this year, while a further 44% saw it as ‘Somewhat a Priority’. VSaaS selection criteria For the 82% of all education respondents actively considering Video Security as a Service (VSaaS) options right now, there were many criteria determining provider selection. Nearly nine out of 10 net (87%) considering VSaaS in 2021, agreed with the statement ‘It must have very strong cybersecurity, including end-to-end encryption from the camera to the cloud.’ Reduced costs and ease of use The VSaaS selected must also offer a reduction in the ‘Total Cost of Ownership of our video monitoring system’, according to 48% of educational institutions considering migration to VSaaS. Further, 45% of decision-makers questioned insisted on greater ease of use, supporting the statement ‘It must be configurable and operable by non-IT people. While 24% of education sector decision-makers considering VSaaS, said the provider needed not to be headquartered in mainland China. Integration with existing camera systems A net 80% of video monitoring system decision-makers in the education sector also considered it important A net 80% of video monitoring system decision-makers in the education sector also considered it important that the VSaaS selected ‘must allow us to continue using our existing third party cameras which we have already installed, we don’t want to rip & replace any equipment. A net 80% considering VSaaS also confirmed ‘It must allow us to view their directly attached cloud cameras alongside our third-party cameras on the same interface’. Further, the same number of respondents (net 80%) considered it net important (either ‘very’ or ‘quite important’) that the VSaaS ‘must allow us to use our existing Video Management Software (VMS) or provide the same functionality as we get from our VMS’. Video analytics An even higher number, net 84%, regarded it as important that the VSaaS selected ‘must enable us to run the latest video analytics capabilities such as occupancy levels for social distance management (in a room), noise analytics (e.g., breaking glass, screaming, yelling, etc), people and vehicle search, object searching and colour searching’. Workspace management technologies Ava Security also found evidence that the education sector is an early adopter of other workspace technologies designed to make it easier for students to manage the use of school and college facilities while minimising the risk of COVID infection. For example, 52% of educational institutions captured in the Ava study expressed interest in offering staff and students the capability of remote pre-booking of working areas in libraries, classrooms, and lecture halls and pre-registering students via mobile-ready apps. Nearly four out of every 10 people responsible for managing video monitoring in their school or college (38%) felt remote booking of extra cleaning of surfaces before or after classes would be a useful innovation. Cybersecurity is critical to VSaaS selection Education sector video monitoring system decision-makers are considering VSaaS and weighing up criteria for selection" Vegard Aas, Head of Online Business at Ava Security, commented, “The fact that four out of five education sector video monitoring system decision-makers are already actively considering VSaaS and weighing up criteria for selection is very encouraging." “There is also clearly a strong determination to adapt existing school video surveillance systems to new COVID-safe requirements. And the fact that a third (32%) confirmed that a new budget had already been allocated for moving more services into the cloud this year provides significant scope for optimism as we enhance our VSaaS offering with Ava Cloud Connector for example, which enables those running systems to plug existing third party cameras into Ava’s open Aware Cloud platform.” Video security solutions Ava Security recently launched its Cloud Connector offering to enable video security system owners easy and cost-effective transition of video security solutions to the cloud. This brings Ava’s advanced real-time video analytics and proactive security to existing surveillance cameras by integrating them with Ava’s open Aware Cloud platform. Ava’s Cloud Connector eliminates the need to rip and replace existing video security devices to directly reap the cost and operational efficiencies of a true cloud service.