Avigilon links high definition video with point of Sale transaction data
Avigilon links high definition video with point of Sale transaction data

Launched at ASIS 2009 in Anaheim, CA, the Avigilon Control Center HD Point-of-Sale (POS) Transaction Engine is a new add-on feature to the award winning Avigilon Control Center Network Video Management Software (NVMS). Avigilon Control Center HD POS Transaction Engine links live and visually lossless recorded high definition video with transaction data, enabling security professionals to search and quickly find specific transactions and associated indisputable video evidence for event validation.Meeting the increasing demands for better video quality, Avigilon Control Center HD POS Transaction Engine helps customers reduce shrinkage and theft, and address compliance requirements, by enabling security professionals to more quickly and successfully find video surveillance footage associated with a specific transaction. The transaction engine provides customers the ability to link vital business intelligence with HD video, helping to analyse operations and improve bottom line performance."With the current economy, all departments within an organisation are focusing on performance," said Dave Tynan, vice-president of global sales and marketing at Avigilon. "The new Avigilon Control Center HD POS Transaction Engine is a highly effective tool for associating any character based transaction data-such as point of sale data and bar code data-with HD video to provide indisputable and instantaneous evidence to deal with liabilities, shrinkage, service level improvement, and process efficiencies."Avigilon Control Center HD POS Transaction Engine includes the following features and benefits:Multiple streams of transactions from devices such as cash registers, automated teller machines (ATM), or bar code scanners can be associated to a single HD camera to cover a larger field of viewTransactions are linked to associated video to allow instant review, including accessing individual transactions using a powerful search functionTransaction information is simultaneously displayed alongside live or recorded videoException filtering and reporting allows the triggering of events when transactions match certain criteria. These events can be mapped to on-screen alerts, e-mail alerts, and other system events.

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Milestone XProtect™ Enterprise 6.5
Milestone XProtect™ Enterprise 6.5

Milestone XProtect Enterprise suits larger installations or multiple sites that need robust surveillance software with advanced management, flexible scheduling, fast searching, analysis, and integration with other systems - easy to install and easily scalable.Scalable solution: Support for unlimited servers, sites and clients allow you to design the system freely.Freedom to choose: Compatible with more than 400 different IP-based video cameras, encoders and selected DVRs from over 40 vendors.Dependable, robust and stable: Proven in operation at more than 35,000 customer installations worldwide.Use existing IP networks effectively: Use effective video compression (MJPEG, MPEG4, MPEG4 ASP, H.264 and MxPEG) and bandwidth optimized multi-streaming to leverage existing IP networks effectively.Cost-optimised archiving: Move your video data to more cost-effective storage media either locally or on the network.High performance: Achieved on standard computer equipment by utilising powerful multi-threaded technology.Flexible remote access: Reach your video surveillance data from any location at any time using a desktop computer, laptop or PDA.Open architecture: IP technology, a versatile API/SDK and support for industrial protocols (OPC Data Access) provides you endless integration possibilities with e.g. access control systems, alarms, gate barriers, etc.Licensing per video channel: Grow your installation along with your needs incrementally per camera.Export evidence material fast: Deliver authentic video proof to public authorities or use in internal investigations.Foreign language support: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Korean are available in the user-friendly Smart Client graphical user interface, online help function, installation procedures and some Remote Clients.

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Milestone aggregates video analytics tools under a single user interface with XProtect Analytics Framework
Milestone aggregates video analytics tools under a single user interface with XProtect Analytics Framework

Milestone Systems, a leader in true open platform IP video management software, offers an analytics operating framework that is unique in the industry: XProtect™ Analytics 2.0. XProtect Analytics seamlessly integrates video analytics tools from different manufacturers under a single, easy-to-manage interface. This gives a powerful, future-proof framework for implementing and managing different video analytics applications that addresses some of the key industry issues such as the end user's need to easily correlate alerts between various analytics tools. Using the Milestone correlation tools, they can rapidly search across alerts and events to easily find relevant video evidence about security incidents from multiple sources.A combination of advanced analytic tools and optimized IP-based video technology based on the Milestone open platform, XProtect Analytics Framework enables video analytics at the edge (on camera) and at the server, minimizing processing power and adding value to archived video. With XProtect Analytics users can correlate events from generic tools such as license plate recognition, facial recognition and traditional real-time access control with alerts from video content analysis tools, such as object detection, etc. Users can build strong, accurate evidence by cross-matching events in real-time and from archived video.Integrating video analytics with open platform video management systems gives a flexible choice of hardware and software that greatly expands the potential for video analytics and increases the value of archived video. A true open platform solution, such as the Milestone Video Analytics 2.0 Framework, simplifies system operation by integrating a wide variety of video analytics products under one easy-to-manage user interface. This gives a powerful surveillance solution with a flexible IP video management system and a central console for operating, collecting and correlating events from multiple sources. Click here to view the framework in full Click here to view the screenshot in full

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Milestone XProtect Enterprise 8 IP video management software: Seeing is believing
Milestone XProtect Enterprise 8 IP video management software: Seeing is believing

Milestone Systems, the open platform company in IP video management software (VMS), presents XProtect® Enterprise 8. Setting the standard in IP VMS, XProtect Enterprise 8 is comprehensive, open platform IP VMS for medium and large-scale installations, primarily multi-site, multi-server deployments. The consolidated single-management interface provides a coherent and efficient way to view and control an unlimited number of cameras giving situational awareness for quick response and accurate investigation. Situational awareness: The Camera Navigator and other innovative features provide comprehensive visual verification of the entire surveillance installation. Scalable solution: Distributed master/slave servers support an unlimited number of cameras, servers, sites and users. Optimised performance: Expanded viewing, recording and storage possibilities increase the performance of hardware Quick and easy to set up and manage, XProtect Enterprise includes system configuration wizards and auto-detection of hardware to significantly reduce the time and cost of deploying large security installations. "XProtect Enterprise 8 features the Camera Navigator, an industry-exclusive innovation from Milestone," says Christian Bohn, VP of Product Management and Marketing. "Moving objects are easily tracked with the Camera Navigator for consistent and comprehensive visual verification to ensure easy object tracking in geographically complex security locations." XProtect Enterprise 8 provides situational awareness. Alarms are consolidated from all security devices and systems into the video-enabled Alarm Manager for immediate visual verification of alarms, which decreases the number of false alarms. Interactive, multi-layered maps provide a comprehensive overview of cameras and layouts of an entire surveillance installation for fast detection of trouble areas. Daily operations are easily executed through the XProtect® Smart Client that provides instant access to live and recorded video, with interface options in 26 languages. The XProtect Smart Client also comes with support for 64-bit operating systems to enhance performance of the system. It is delivered with the XProtect® Smart Client-Player, an intuitive video viewer for exported material from XProtect VMS systems. The open architecture of XProtect® together with the Milestone Integration Platform Software Development Kit (MIP SDK) brings endless possibilities to add functionality and create increasingly powerful, surveillance solutions. Milestone XProtect acts as the core of the system, providing the widest choice in third-party hardware components and integrations with other business systems: a foundation that is cost effective and flexible both today and tomorrow.

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March Networks Searchlight for Retail
March Networks Searchlight for Retail

March Networks Searchlight for Retail enables all types of retail organisations – including specialty retail, grocery stores, quick service restaurants (QSRs) and convenience stores (c-stores) – to reduce losses from theft, oversee operations, improve customer service and increase profits. The intelligent software integrates clear surveillance video with data from retail systems including point-of-sale (POS) and RFID tags to alert loss prevention staff and business owners to instances of potential theft, and reduce investigation times from hours to minutes. In addition, Searchlight’s optional business analytics (e.g. people counting, dwell time monitoring and queue length) combined with video data provide valuable insights on occupancy, speed of service, transactions conducted with no customer present, and customer interest. Available as a standalone software application, or as a hosted software as a service (SaaS) for a low monthly fee, Searchlight for Retail delivers key benefits to retailers including: Transaction Summaries. View and compare user-definable report summaries (voids, refunds, discounts, etc.) to identify potential issues based on transaction trends over time. Transaction Reports. Review transaction data integrated with video to quickly investigate instances of potential internal theft, and to evaluate employee behavior at the POS. Business Analytics. Uncover customer trends and employee Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and gain insight into overall store or restaurant operations. Operations Audits. Review snapshots from the cameras at your locations to see what’s happening, and discern operational issues like cleanliness, safety concerns, placement of promotional displays, etc. Business Rules. Detect possible fraud by reviewing lists of transactions and events that are important to you, e.g., no sales, safe drops, and transactions that exceed a certain amount, and be automatically alerted about these events via email. Security Audits. Filter by location ID and/or alarm type, and view alarm video from the vantage point of one or multiple cameras; export alarm details along with relevant video and audio evidence. Integrate your video surveillance system with leading POS and RFID software. A portfolio of POS and RFID integrations are available off-the-shelf; customised integrations can be configured as needed.

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Milestone-Agent Vi integration protects logistics perimeter
Milestone-Agent Vi integration protects logistics perimeter

Milestone and Agent Vi protect major logistics enterprise site against perimeter breaches Integrated with Milestone open platform VMS, the real-time alerts from Vi-System on Axis thermal cameras enabled a decrease in guards, cutting costs without lowering security. "We are very happy with Agent Vi's real-time video analytics solution. The seamless integration with our Axis thermal cameras offers excellent detection rates at all times of day, and in all lighting conditions... The real-time alerts generated by Vi-System and sent to the monitoring station have allowed us to decrease the number of security guards stationed around the perimeter, effectively cutting our costs without lowering our level of security."     Operations Manager            KDL Trans Product: Vi-System - Real-Time Video Analytics  Application: Security and Perimeter Protection Customer: KDL Trans  Location: Brussels, Belgium  Vertical Market: Enterprise Agent Vi Partners: Axis Communications - Cameras Milestone Systems - Video Management System (VMS)ESSC - Certified Systems Integrator ChallengeFounded in 1991, KDL Trans is a globally-oriented logistics provider that specializes in electronic and computer equipment, offering services such as air freight, ocean freight, packing, storage, customs brokerage, and more. The company is based out of a new 11,000 square meter facility close to Brussels airport, which offers easy access to important trans-European highways. The extensive facility is home to a fleet of some 100 trucks and vans, and includes a range of loading docks, storage warehouses and areas for sorting and other logistical activities. KDL Trans sought to provide the highest level of security at the new premises, and thereby offer the best possible service to their range of customers, comprised of both local and international high-profile businesses and organizations. Recognizing that the high value of the goods passing through the facility could attract intrusions by thieves, KDL Trans looked for the most effective way to undertake early detections of unauthorized people in their facility. KDL Trans sought a perimeter detection solution that connected with its monitoring station, to cut down costs associated with employing multiple guards stationed around the premises on weekends when the site is less busy.  SolutionAfter testing for an optimal solution, KDL Trans decided to deploy Vi-System - Agent Vi's real-time video analytics solution, with Axis cameras. The challenging environmental conditions, among them outdoor areas with natural vegetation, harsh weather and extreme changes in lighting, led to a decision to employ Axis thermal cameras, which eliminate these parameters to a large degree. Together with Agent Vi's analytics, the thermal cameras offer excellent range and deliver highly accurate detection results.  Specifically, the site's 8 Axis thermal cameras (AXIS Q1910-E and 1921-E) - which are strategically located around the building's perimeter - were enabled with Agent Vi's embedded video analytics component (Vi-Agent) to allow the following real-time detection rule to be active on each camera: Person moving in an area to detect and alert to unauthorized personnel entering the premises and moving freely in restricted areas. KDL Trans employs Milestone XProtect® Professional as their VMS recording and viewing application, which is fully integrated with Agent Vi's software. Therefore, events detected by Vi-System generate an alert which is displayed in the Milestone XProtect Smart Client. ResultThe deployment of Vi-System at the site has lifted the level of security by allowing the early detection of intruders entering the site. In fact, a number of perimeter intrusions have been picked up by Vi-System, and the lead time gained by these early detections enabled a more effective response by the security guards. Furthermore, the added layer of security offered by Vi-System has been instrumental in KDL Trans' efforts to build business relations with new and existing clients, as they can point to the superior level of security offered at their site. Jurgen De Laet, Operations Manager at KDL Trans, said that "We are very happy with Agent Vi's real-time video analytics solution. The seamless integration with our Axis thermal cameras offers excellent detection rates at all times of day, and in all lighting conditions." Furthermore, he commented on the return on investment enabled by Vi-System, saying that "The real-time alerts generated by Vi-System and sent to the monitoring station have allowed us to decrease the number of security guards stationed around the perimeter, effectively cutting our costs without lowering our level of security."Toon Eeckelaert, Co-Owner of ESSC, stated that: "We tested a range of solutions, including active infra red beams, radars and video analytics, to identify the best option for the site. We compared the products, level of security offered, added value and price. On all levels, video analytics had the highest score." As a certified member of Agent Vi's Channel Partner Program, Mr. Eeckelaert is familiar with Agent Vi. He commented that: "It's all about trust, experience and knowledge. We have found that Agent Vi has the highest level of professionalism for all three, compared to other providers."  Ariel Frischoff, VP Sales EMEA & APAC at Agent Vi said: "The installation at KDL Trans demonstrates the synergy of Axis thermal cameras with Agent Vi's video analytics, which provides the customer with some significant benefits. Firstly, the false alarm rate (FAR) is extremely low, due to the analytics software being more immune to environmental changes such as shadows, rain and snow, when using thermal cameras. Furthermore, the solution enables accurate detections at long distances without the need for expensive illuminators. KDL Trans was able to deploy a minimal number of thermal cameras to cover its entire perimeter, thereby providing the customer with the lowest cost of ownership compared with other surveillance systems."

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XProtect Enterprise 7.0 is feature-rich IP video software with ultimate usability
XProtect Enterprise 7.0 is feature-rich IP video software with ultimate usability

Milestone Systems, the open platform company for IP video management software, announces version 7.0 of XProtect™ Enterprise.  With a new administration interface and tools such as system configuration wizards, automatic device discovery, bulk maintenance options and much more, system operators can reduce both the time and costs of managing large security installations.Milestone XProtect Enterprise is a world-leading IP video management solution that handles unlimited numbers of cameras, servers, users and sites. Distributed server architecture optimises bandwidth usage, keeping video data traffic between all the elements to a minimum. Version 7.0 will provide security system administrators with significant improvements through an intuitive new Graphical User Interface (GUI) and a series of powerful tools for ultimate usability:System configuration wizards quickly set video quality, online scheduling, frame rates, storage, archiving schedules, and moreAutomated device discovery uses fast Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP) and broadcast detection in addition to IP range scanningSmart bulk configuration options apply to both devices and usersAdaptable application behaviour guides novices and aids experts in optimisationsExport or import system and user configuration data for backups or multi-site cloningImport off-line configuration data including camera definitionsRollback to previous configurations is easy with automatic system restoration points"Several innovations and state-of-the-art features have been developed for this newest version of XProtect Enterprise to bring customers even better ways to manage video installations. For example, you can auto-detect, find and configure 100 cameras on the network in less than 2 minutes," states Christian Bohn, Head of Product Management at Milestone Systems. "That's an amazing time-saver for larger security systems, and only one of the many great administration tools available. In short:, it makes the security administrator's work fast, efficient and flexible."

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CCTV software - Expert commentary

4 smart ways to use security to power the business of the future
4 smart ways to use security to power the business of the future

In the new era of work, our relationship with the workplace is defined by flexibility and mobility. Employees are working across the home, office, and blended spaces more than ever before, as well as working varied hours to suit the modern work schedule.  This new hybrid workforce model holds the potential for more diverse talent and better productivity, but it also comes with its challenges – one being how to ensure security, health, and safety in the workplace.  Strong and smart security ecosystem While nearly one-third of companies report that they’ve implemented a hybrid model, according to a recent survey by STANLEY Security, many still have much to do to prepare their office for the future.  Building a strong – and smart – security ecosystem is crucial in preparing for the future. As such, businesses should consider technologies that help protect their people, as well as safeguard their assets, optimise their operations, and secure their network. 1)Protect your people  Implementation of a security ecosystem combines health, safety, and security hardware and software solutions seamlessly Nearly 60% of mid-market and enterprise businesses across the UK and US report that the health and safety of their employees and customers are a primary concern when implementing modern and hybrid working models.  This begs the question: How can businesses create a safe and healthy work environment when 59% are planning to bring employees back on-site in some capacity within the next 18 months? The answer lies, in part, in the implementation of a security ecosystem that combines various health, safety, and security hardware and software solutions seamlessly. Integrating platform Nearly half (46%) of business decision-makers say they are interested in adopting an integrated platform such as this. This means integrating traditional and digital security solutions, then leveraging the data and insights they produce to further enhance the workplace experience. Take this example:  With employees and visitors moving in and out of the office at different times, a business may lack oversight of occupancy or density levels, people flow, workspace scheduling, visitor check-in processes, and more. However, with visitor management, access control, and other building/business systems integrated, employees can reserve a workspace for a specific date and time and be granted access to the building. Leveraging AI and machine learning Visitors can pre-register, answer a health screening questionnaire, and receive a mobile credential before arriving. Once the visitor arrives on-site, the system can alert the respective department – all without the close contact typically required for traditional visitor check-in processes. When layering artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of the data, a business may identify trends in people flow and opportunities to optimise congested areas. They may also see that certain rooms within the building get more use than others and leverage these insights to manage their space more effectively.  All of this is powered by a security ecosystem that can help a business better protect its people while realising other benefits in the process. 2) Safeguard your assets Businesses are concerned about the security of their assets when it comes to the hybrid workforce model Even more, businesses are concerned about the security of their assets when it comes to the hybrid workforce model. About 72% of leaders say this is, in fact, their primary concern with the hybrid approach.  This figure isn’t surprising when you consider the impact of the pandemic, which left many businesses closed either temporarily or permanently, with few people allowed on-site to manage facility operations.  As a result of the pandemic, we saw tech adoption accelerate at an astonishing rate – simply because businesses had to implement cloud and remote technologies to survive during a time when buildings were closed indefinitely.  Remote management and visibility This was particularly true for security solutions, such as cloud video surveillance and cloud access control solutions like wireless IoT-connected locks. Nine out of 10 businesses (91%) report that they have already implemented cloud security technology; of those, nearly half (48%) stated that this was due to the pandemic. These technologies allow for remote management and provide visibility into business operations at the same time. In a retail setting, for example, cloud video surveillance allows businesses to identify and track not only criminal activity, but also foot traffic patterns, peak operating hours, staff shortages, and more.  Loss prevention strategy When integrated with the retailer’s point-of-sale (POS) system, businesses can gain greater insights into their traffic counts, end cap effectiveness, loyalty card activity, and a variety of POS exceptions, such as high-dollar transactions, repeated transactions, excessive returns, employee discounts, and more. For retailers especially, a security ecosystem means a more efficient loss prevention strategy that helps safeguard assets and profits. 3) Optimise your operations The “future of work” is still very much a work in progress, but one thing is clear: Businesses are looking for ways to increase efficiencies, drive cost savings, and, ultimately, optimise their operations – especially now with the challenges posed by price inflation. A relatively untapped opportunity for businesses to achieve these goals lies within their security infrastructure. Security technology and solutions gather incredibly rich data which, when unlocked, can help businesses understand how their buildings are being used, when the busiest times are, where there are highly trafficked areas, and more.  Leveraging cloud video surveillance systems, businesses could identify emerging staff training needs Cloud video surveillance systems For example, by leveraging the insights produced by cloud video surveillance systems, businesses could identify emerging staff training needs, which could ultimately result in improved employee satisfaction and reduced attrition. However, much of this data sits untouched within the infrastructure, leaving businesses unaware of the opportunities in front of them. 44% of businesses that currently use a cloud security system for its primary use say they want to know how else this technology can be utilised, and an additional 20% aren’t even aware that it could be used in other ways. AI and analytics The interest in adoption is promising for the office of the future, especially when we see that the majority of businesses (78%) would consider using AI and analytics technologies to optimise their operations, helping their business to operate more effectively and efficiently.  The increase in adoption of cloud technology – paired with the rise in interest in AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics – could make it possible for businesses to uncover invaluable insights from their security infrastructure and leverage them to adapt and build business resilience. 4) Secure your network Advanced technology help businesses improve their cybersecurity, making it harder for hackers to gain entry With cyber threats becoming more prevalent, businesses are increasingly looking to secure their networks and protect their data. More than half (54%) of those surveyed expressed interest in using AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics to secure their network by identifying and eliminating cybersecurity threats.  Advanced and automated technology can help businesses improve their cybersecurity, making it harder for hackers to gain entry to the larger corporate network. Modern cybersecurity tools that use AI and machine learning can detect anomalies in network traffic or alert and act on suspicious behaviour.   Cybersecurity software For example, if an IoT device suddenly begins broadcasting and establishing connections with multiple devices, cybersecurity software could detect this abnormal behaviour, send an alert, and suspend traffic or quarantine an endpoint immediately – saving precious time during a potential breach.  A single data breach could result in widespread distrust from workers and customers, potentially leading to decreased business as well as litigation issues. As such, businesses need to take action to update and strengthen their defences so that they can avoid downtime and continue to operate with peace of mind.  Prepare your business for the future Businesses will continue to look for more ways to extract value out of their existing infrastructure, including their security technology. For many, the tools to do so are already in place, it’s just a matter of unlocking the insights with a security ecosystem.  With such an ecosystem – one that helps protect a business’ people, assets, and network, while optimising operations – companies can better safeguard the future of their workspaces and usher in the new era of work with confidence. 

How are new management systems innovating the hospitality industry?
How are new management systems innovating the hospitality industry?

Technology has certainly become an intrinsic part of our day-to-day lives, from the retail industry, to food and beverage outlets, and even within the health and fitness industry. It’s all around us, in varying formats, making processes more efficient. It has refined some of our older approaches, and in the hospitality industry, this is certainly true. Technological advances are leading the way forward for the future of hotels, and with the sector now free from COVID-19 restrictions, venues are looking for ways to improve the guest experience with technology. A staggering recent statistic has suggested that 75 percent of activities in hospitality could one day become automated — so where exactly are we heading on this journey into the future of hotels? Join Cairn Collection, owner of The Stirling Highland, and explore a whole host of innovations that are changing the face of hotel management systems. The 21st-century check-in desk The breadth of technology that is slowly becoming more widely available is transforming the hospitality industry The digital age is constantly finding new ways to innovate and prove its value and worth for modern consumers, and the breadth of technology that is slowly becoming more widely available is transforming the hospitality industry. In the past, connotations of a check-in desk were long queues and excessive pieces of paper — from room service menus to a mini catalogue of highlights of the local area. Technological innovations such as face recognition are one of the major ways that this process is changing. Using artificial intelligence A handful of hotels have already trialled or introduced artificial intelligence (AI) into their daily running, and it looks set to become far more mainstream by 2025. From paying the bill by using biometrics to allowing hotel managers to handle data more efficiently, AI looks set to be welcomed with the potential for it to reduce costs by 13 percent. The entire hotel check-in process could become automated, making one of the most established parts of the hotel experience redundant — but staff could be freed up to engage with customers, allowing them to get into their rooms quicker in the meantime. Many venues have even gone fully paperless when it comes to checking in, choosing instead to upload the process to cloud computing systems where information can be stored and viewed by connected devices. Convenience is the key More hotels operate their room unlocking facilities through mobile phone-connected technology, NFC After having checked in to a hotel, guests will want to explore the room that they’ve booked. Doing so has never been easier, and the classic magstripe locks which were once the most commonly used method of accessing hotel rooms are being progressively phased out. More and more hotels now operate their room unlocking facilities through mobile phone-connected technology, near-field communication (NFC).  This technology allows for data transfer at up to 424 kb per second, and it is enabled when connected devices come into contact with each other. Mobile key systems Most mobile key systems require guests to download and activate a key through the hotel’s digital app, and upon arrival, they can use the activated key to unlock the door to their hotel room. Combined with online/digital check-in services, guests can use the e-key to check in early or at a time that suits them best, knowing that they don’t have to wait around to pick up a physical key. Small touches like this build a sense of brand familiarity for customers, as well as streamline their hotel experience, and this distinguishes them from competitors. Hotel management systems Hotel management systems need to account for the experience that guests have while staying at the venue Of course, hotel management systems also need to account for the experience that guests have while staying at the venue and technology can do a lot to enhance this. Hotels have to innovate the spaces that they are presenting to their customers and technology has become a valuable asset to help enhance customer satisfaction, as the hotel room is certainly not simply a place for rest anymore. Voice-enabled devices Voice-enabled devices are becoming common features in rooms, with popular models such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon Echo providing guests with information on the local area — if you’re looking for the perfect backdrop to the business dinner you’re attending, just ask Alexa! Hotels could even record and distribute their personalised voice messaging to help reinforce the brand presence into the technology. Technology can help you attract and retain customers by offering services above and beyond what they’d usually receive A room and then some As the generational switch to millennials and Gen Z continues, the need for an experience has grown and, through a mixture of technology, hotels can cater to these revised consumer needs. From setting up messaging platforms to providing a remote control that monitors absolutely everything in the room — from atmospheric mood lighting to music streaming services and more, a hotel room can be whatever the user wants, and the experience is therefore generated by the customer. Technology doesn’t stop advancing, and there are constantly new, refined approaches to hotel management systems that have marked a stark departure from ways of the past. With guests returning after over a year of COVID-19 restrictions, competition for their business is even tougher. Technology can help you attract and retain customers by offering services above and beyond what they’d usually receive.

Network operator fraud remains the biggest threat to the revenues of mobile operators
Network operator fraud remains the biggest threat to the revenues of mobile operators

As anti-fraud company Revector marks 20 years of operating, CEO and Founder Andy Gent believes that telecommunications fraud is still not high enough on the corporate agenda for network operators – this should be a significant concern to shareholders.  In 2001, Revector was launched to combat specific fraudulent activity against mobile network operators. The company’s management expected the business to have a shelf life of no more than five years – such as the belief that mobile operators would quickly get a grip on network fraud and reduce it to zero.  Twenty years later frauds continue to persist – costing shareholders, networks, and Governments billions in lost revenue annually.  Revenue through mobile service According to Andy Gent, fraudsters are, at heart, business people, exploiting an opportunity for money. Gent explains how this relates to network fraud thus, “Mobile service providers generate revenues in two ways - by having their subscribers that pay the company to access the networks they run and associated services such as voice calls, text messages, and data usage. The second – known as termination revenue – involves transporting calls from other networks.”  Revenues from termination are shared between all networks that help deliver the call Revenues from termination are shared between all networks that help deliver the call, as Gent outlines: “Imagine a call from the UK to Australia. This will pass through several service providers that will each take a small percentage of the call revenues for passing on the call.”  “Telecommunications companies establish relationships with others around predictable calling patterns. For example, BT may know that they need one million minutes of calls to South Africa per month. They, therefore, establish a relationship with a South African telecommunications company to provide this.”    Trading termination minutes The issue comes when the unexpected happens, for example, an earthquake in Cape Town. Now UK residents with relatives in Cape Town suddenly demand a lot more telephone time. BT needs more minutes than it has. It is unlikely that its partner in South Africa can provide these – they are facing the same issue due to the increased volume of calls in and out of the country – so it will look to the open market for the minutes it needs.  Gent continues, “Termination minutes are traded in the same way as other commodities. Exchanges combine minutes from multiple sources, bundle these together and sell them. The issue is where these minutes come from. The bundles may well include “white” routes – premium minutes provided by legitimate telecommunications companies. However, many will include so-called “grey” routes.”    A simple but effective fraud  Grey routes are not provided by the telecommunications companies but by third parties or through fraudulent means. Typically, the “grey” routes come at a lower cost than the “white” routes, but some telecommunications service providers may not know this or care about it. The natural pressure on cost means some telecommunications companies end up using “grey” route minutes. The threats to network providers’ revenues come from these “grey” routes.  A primary risk is SIM Box fraud.  SIM Box fraud  SIM Box fraud occurs where there is a differential price between the cost of routing a call in a country and the cost of terminating a call, as Gent outlines below: “Imagine a network is offering a promotion with free calls to others on the same network. At the same time, the value of terminating a call to that network’s customers is $0.05 per call.” One single SIM card being used in this way can generate $3000 per month and there are hundreds of cards in each SIM box “If someone can procure SIM cards with the promotion, these can be loaded into a SIM Box – a device that can house hundreds of SIM cards in racks and be connected to the internet - to terminate calls. The owner of the SIM box can then offer to terminate calls for $0.03 per call. The cost to the SIM box owner is close to zero – the local minutes they are using to terminate calls are bundled with the SIM deal.  The $0.03 per call is pure profit after the SIM cards and SIM boxes have been purchased.”  While this sounds like a complicated scam it can be lucrative. One single SIM card being used in this way can generate $3000 per month and there are hundreds of cards in each SIM box.   Loss of termination revenues Service providers can quickly find a large proportion of revenues lost to SIM boxes. Gent has seen “up to 90 percent of termination revenues being lost.” “The nature of SIM box fraud is transitory: fraudsters will pick the countries with the strongest opportunity to generate revenues quickly, sweep in and terminate calls for a month or two before the operator notices the revenue drop and takes action.”    Is it illegal?  If this practice sounds entrepreneurial rather than illegal, it is probably because it seems like a victimless crime. However, mobile network operators have paid millions if not billions for the ability to operate networks and generate termination revenues. A reduction in this revenue will mean less investment into next-generation networks or customer service.  For the consumer, illegal termination often means poor quality calls with a lack of services such as caller line identification (CLI). But perhaps the most concerning issue is where the proceeds of crime go, as Gent outlines. “Often these SIM box frauds are run by criminal gangs using the process to launder money or finance organised crime or people trafficking.”  “With widespread restrictions on the number of SIM cards that can be sold to one person, the only way to procure enough SIM cards is via criminal activity. Gangs bribe or coerce network operation staff into supplying SIM cards by the thousand, generating millions in illicit revenues.”  Other telecommunications fraud  Threat to operator termination revenues comes from OTT service providers that have an eye on termination revenues Another threat to operator termination revenues comes from Over-the-Top (OTT) service providers that have an eye on termination revenues as well as competing with telecommunications service providers for a share of the voice and messaging market.  While most telecommunications companies see Voice over IP (or OTT) as fair competition, in recent years several new OTT service providers have grown extremely quickly. WhatsApp, for example, was incorporated in 2009 and acquired by Facebook just five years later for almost $20 billion.  The business models of these companies vary. Some focus on the “freemium” approach where the initial service is free but add-ons become chargeable. OTT app fraud However, recently some OTT players are looking to terminate revenue to monetise their business models. These operators have been offering competitive termination rates by hijacking a traditional call made from one telephone number to another and terminating it within an OTT app, as Gent explains, “We are seeing OTT apps intercepting traditional telephone calls and delivering them within a user’s app.”  “The call starts as a dialled telephone call, but the user receives it within an OTT app.  If OTT players can achieve this, they can generate termination revenues at zero cost – other than to the traditional operator.”  Using an app to make calls “Of course, if the recipient of the call believes the caller has used an app to call them, they are more likely to use this method of communication in the future – and less likely to dial a number directly. For the OTT players, termination acts as a marketing tool as well as a revenue stream.”  According to Gent, one OTT service provider has gone as far as including a setting within their app that states “receive regular incoming calls within the app when possible”.  This is defaulted to “on” when the app is downloaded.  Only the most technologically savvy users would even know it was there.  Combatting the fraud against networks  Networks are less worried about losing revenue to fraud and more about grabbing as many subscribers as possible" Why do networks not do more to combat fraud?  The reality, according to Gent, is a combination of priorities and ignorance. He comments, “Most mobile network operators are large but still relatively young companies – typically built around customer acquisition.”  “Networks are less worried about losing revenue to fraud and more about grabbing as many subscribers as possible.  This has led to a mindset where whatever the questions the answer is always more marketing promotions.”  A small number of innovators around the world continue to fight these frauds directly, but the fraudsters simply move on to the next victim and, when the anti-fraud measures are relaxed, the fraudsters return.  An opportunity for the future  As mobile networks mature and become more commoditised, Gent believes the issues around combatting fraud will become a wider concern. “If you had told me in 2001 that fraud would still be an issue in 2021, I would have been shocked. Yet operators are still losing significant revenues to criminals. Addressing this needs to remain a priority for the industry, not just to ensure networks have the revenues to build and maintain robust networks but also to ensure that criminal behaviour that this kind of illicit activity funds is reduced. This is not just an issue for network operators but also for wider society.” 

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