For fleet managers, the control and management of your fleet begins with control and management of the keys that start the vehicles. For some, this critical task is left to a very basic – and incredibly low-tech – solution, such as hooks mounted on a pegboard with a notebook for signing vehicle keys in and out.

There are a number of shortcomings with this type of “system,” most notably that employees tend to ignore it altogether. With this type of honour system approach, there is no way to track keys, control who can use which vehicles or know who has a key at any given time. Further, as fleet manager you have no way to know if your mandated key policies are being followed; you are blind to overuse or misuse of certain vehicles, potential liabilities and many other problems.

Automated key management solutions

The unfortunate reality is that many fleet managers aren’t aware of these potential issues until it is too late. The fact that they haven’t had a problem may prevent them from taking action until they are actually faced with an issue. At that point, they will likely be motivated to investigate an automated key control and management system as an alternative to the very basic system they have in place.

Key management solutions offer a number of benefits, including cost savings, which can be achieved using a number of features and functionality to proactively address potential issues in several critical areas while also improving overall operations.

It’s important to note that
in fleet management, key control is not actually about the keys themselves; it’s all about the vehicles.

Managing vehicle usage

Within every fleet, there are newer or nicer vehicles that become favourites among employees and are therefore constantly in use. Meanwhile, other vehicles sit idle. This dwell time is big problem for fleet managers, with mileage and associated wear and tear piling up on some vehicles while other expensive assets gather dust.

An automated, networked key control system can eliminate this problem. It’s important to note that in fleet management, key control is not actually about the keys themselves; it’s all about the vehicles. With a key control system, certain users can be authorised to use only certain vehicles, such as late-model units, while others can be authorised to use newer units.

Reducing vehicle dwell time

For example, a trucking company recently implemented a key control solution for just this purpose. When a driver logs in, the system checks to see if his or her primary vehicle is available and if so, issues that key. If key isn’t available because the truck’s return has been delayed for one reason or another, the system identifies a similar vehicle based on the user’s profile and authorisation and issues the next available key. This ensures that vehicles are properly rotated to reduce dwell time and eliminate excess wear and tear on certain units.

A challenge around vehicle usage is making sure certain specialised vehicles are available when needed
Specialised vehicles could include delivery trucks with lift gates, police cars equipped with riot gear, or limousines with certain seating capacity

Another challenge around vehicle usage is making sure certain specialised vehicles are available when needed. These could be delivery trucks with lift gates, police cars equipped with riot gear, limousines with certain seating capacity and others.

Whether because these vehicles are newer or because drivers aren’t aware of their specialised nature, they are often out in the field when someone needs their specific specialisation. This is not only inconvenient, but in the case of a specially equipped police car, it can significantly impact public safety.

Misuse and misappropriation of vehicles

Therefore, being able to control who is able to access the key for these specialised units is a primary concern. Key management systems provide this functionality, as well as the ability for users to request and reserve certain units to ensure it will be available when necessary. By more effectively managing their fleet to ensure mileage and wear and tear are evenly distributed, organisations can also lower their operating costs and grow their bottom line. In some cases, a key control system can make fleet management so efficient that fewer vehicles may be needed because of the increased utilisation.

Whether intentional or unintentional, employee misuse and misappropriation of fleet vehicles is another major challenge for fleet managers. It can be tempting for an employee to simply take a vehicle home for the weekend – or longer – rather than signing it in on Friday and back out again on Monday.

Imagine for a moment that someone takes a company car home and uses it as a personal vehicle over the weekend. Should that person be involved in an accident, DUI or other criminal incident, police could seize the vehicle, forcing the company to put a lot of time and energy into getting their property returned.

Automated networked key management

So while this may sound very basic, it’s extremely important for fleet managers to be able to know who has – or had – a unit at any given time, and to know in real time if a particular vehicle is not returned when it is supposed to be. Automated networked key management systems make this possible by issuing an alert if a unit is overdue for return. With these solutions, if something happens to a unit an employee kept over a weekend, the organisation will know exactly who should be accountable and can take whatever necessary actions.

Using a key management system ensures that no matter whether your vehicles are being managed by a long-time employee or someone you brought on board last week, policies will be followed correctly.

Liability and licences

Ensuring that drivers have valid licences is crucial for companies because drivers with expired licences are no longer covered by insurance. So if an unlicensed driver were to gets into an accident, the company would be liable for any damage.

Key management solutions allow fleet managers to input users’ driver’s licence information into the system
Users with expired licences can be locked out of the system to prevent them from checking out a vehicle until they have renewed their licence

Key management solutions allow fleet managers to input users’ driver’s licence information into the system. When an individual’s expiration date arrives, they can verify that the licence has been renewed and update the information. Users with expired licences can be locked out of the system to prevent them from checking out a vehicle until they have renewed their licence.

This may seem like a minor feature, but it is extremely important for a fleet manager to manage that data on a daily basis to determine whether a driver is eligible to check out a vehicle. If that has to be done manually, it can be overwhelming, particularly for large fleets. Therefore, having the system perform that task automatically is a major benefit for fleet managers.

Additionally, there are a number of regulations that place caps on how many hours a day truck drivers are permitted to be on the road. With key management solutions, a company can view and track in real time how many hours its drivers have put in each day to ensure compliance with these regulations. These regulations can also be programmed into the system to alert fleet managers if and when a driver exceeds those limits, which can have important legal implications. In these situations, knowing how many hours their drivers are actually logging is critical for fleet managers.

Ensuring that drivers have valid licences is crucial for companies because drivers with expired licences are no longer covered by insurance

Flexibility of vehicle location

Another important function of key management systems is the ability to check out a vehicle key from one location and return it to another. For example, a trucking company may have drivers pick up a vehicle at a central distribution center and drop it off at a remote warehouse for the next driver to use. With a peg-and-notebook system, there is no way for a fleet manager to verify that the key has been returned, but a networked solution will track that automatically. If for some reason the driver forgets to return the key, the system will issue an alert immediately, allowing the fleet manager to proactively ensure that it will be available when needed.

Real-time vehicle maintenance

Reporting is another main feature of key management systems, but reports only tell a story after the fact. Where these solutions really shine is by providing real-time notifications that allow for immediate action rather than relying on historical data to determine reaction.

For example, if a driver experiences an issue with the brakes on a vehicle, he or she can use the key management system to report it immediately. The system will notify the fleet manager and remove the vehicle from service for maintenance. Without this feature, the manager might now be aware of the problem until receiving a report. In the meantime, someone else could sign out the vehicle without knowing about the problem, which may have worsened. In these cases, there are few, if any, positive potential outcomes.

Clearly, basic methods of key management do not ensure that fleet vehicles will be properly controlled. Automated solutions, on the other hand, allow fleet managers to control and track vehicle usage to reduce wear and tear while improving accountability and avoiding liability issues. These key management solutions deliver a high level of flexibility and real-time awareness fleet managers need to ensure the most effective and efficient use of their vehicles to streamline operations and, perhaps most importantly, reduce overall costs.

Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

Live-streaming mobile surveillance takes cameras to the action
Live-streaming mobile surveillance takes cameras to the action

Video surveillance across the world is growing exponentially and its major application is in both public safety and law enforcement. Traditionally, it has been fixed surveillance where cameras provide live streams from fixed cameras situated in what is considered strategic locations. But they are limited in what they can see given by their very definition of being "fixed." The future of video surveillance includes the deployment of more mobile video surveillance with the benefits it offers. Instead of fixed cameras, this is the ability to live stream from mobile devices on the move such as body-worn cams, drones, motorbikes, cars, helicopters and in some cases, even dogs!Sending drones into the air, for example for missing people or rescue missions, is much more cost-effective than deploying helicopters Advantages of mobile surveillance The advantage of mobile surveillance is that the camera can go to where the action is, rather than relying on the action going to where the camera is. Also, sending drones into the air, for example for missing people or rescue missions, is much more cost-effective than deploying helicopters. The ability to live stream video from cars and helicopters in high-speed pursuits can be used to take some of the operational issues from the first responders on the ground and share that “life and death” responsibility with the operational team leaders back in the command centre. This allows the first responders in the pursuit vehicle to focus on minimising risk while staying in close proximity of the fleeing vehicle, with direction from a higher authority who can see for themselves in real time the issues that are being experienced, and direct accordingly. In addition to showing video live stream from a pursuit car or motorcycle, by using inbuilt GPS tracking, the video can be displayed on a map in real time, allowing a command chief to better utilise additional resource and where to deploy them, through the use of displaying mapping information with real time video feed. It allows police chiefs to make better informed decisions in highly-charged environments. The 4G phone network can now be used with compressed video to live stream cost effectively Application in emergency situations The same is true of first responders in many different emergency situations. Mobile surveillance opens up a new area of efficiencies that previously was impossible to achieve. For example, special operations can wear action body-worn cameras when doing raids, fire departments can live stream from emergency situations with both thermal and daylight cameras, and paramedics can send video streams back to hospitals allowing doctors to remotely diagnose and prepare themselves for when patients arrive at the hospital. How can special operations and emergency first responders live stream video from a mobile camera with the issues of weight, reliability and picture-quality being considered? H265 mobile video compression Law enforcement insists on secure transmissions, and it is possible to encrypt video to the highest level of security available in the public domain The 4G phone network can now be used with compressed video to live stream cost effectively. The issue of course is that 4G is not always reliable. Soliton Systems has mitigated this risk of low mobile quality in certain areas, by building an H265 mobile video compression device that can use multiple SIM cards from different cellular providers simultaneously. H265 is the latest compression technique for video, that is 50% more effective than conventional H264, and coupling this with using multiple “bonded” SIM cards provides a highly reliable connection for live-streaming high-quality HD video. The 400-gram device with an internal battery can be connected to a small action cam, and can live-stream simultaneously over at least three different cellular providers, back to a command centre. Latency is typically less than a second, and new advance improvements are looking to reduce that latency further. Encrypted video transmission What about security? Law enforcement insists on secure transmissions, and it is possible to encrypt video to the highest level of security available in the public domain, i.e. AES256.What about integration into existing video infrastructure at the command centre? It is not untypical for a police force to have an existing video management system (VMS) at their command centre such as Milestone System’s Xprotect. The Soliton range of products are ONVIF-compliant, a standard used by video surveillance cameras for interoperability, allowing cameras and video devices that are ONVIF-compliant to simply “plug&play” into existing video management systems. These mobile transmitters are deployed with law enforcement and first responders across the globe. Their ability to provide secure, full HD quality and highly-reliable video streaming within a small unit, and to enable it to be integrated into the current eco-system that is already installed at the receiving end, has made them a favourite choice with many companies and government agencies.

Impact of sophisticated IT technologies on the security market
Impact of sophisticated IT technologies on the security market

Over the course of the past few months, I have discussed a myriad of topics, from Big Data, the Internet of Things and emerging video surveillance-use cases, to analytics, storage complexities and IT technologies like virtualisation and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). All of these trends have a significant effect on the security market, and in April they were highlighted in spades at ISC West. It’s great to talk about these trends but it’s far better to see how they are being leveraged in real-world applications. That’s really where we can all see the true value of new solutions and concepts. We’re lucky enough to work with some leading organisations that want others to benefit from their experience and I’m happy to have the opportunity to share two of these applications with you. Protecting educational facilities UCF has adopted advancements in technology, particularly video surveillance solutions, to help ensure stronger security on campus Educational institutions face an increasingly complex risk environment. Recent high-profile incidents emphasise these risks and magnify the vulnerabilities that educational facilities face. These incidents have led to more public demand for improved security solutions across campuses. The primary mission of these organisations is to deliver quality education to students, and they face the challenge of balancing between a highly secure facility and one that supports open interaction. The University of Central Florida is no different. This organisation, one of the largest universities in the country, has adopted advancements in technology, particularly video surveillance solutions, to help ensure stronger security on campus. Active shooter incidents In March 2013, UCF faced an active shooter situation in which a former student planned to pull the fire alarm in a residence hall and then attack his classmates as the building was evacuated. However, the shooter’s gun jammed, and as officers were closing in on the gunman, he took his own life. During the university’s response to the incident, accessibility to critical video data was a major issue. Educational institutions face an increasingly complex risk environment UCF had cameras in the area where the incident took place, but first responders had no way of viewing the footage without being at the physical location of the video recorder. At the time, UCF had a wide variety of standalone systems in place, including non-integrated video surveillance, access control and intrusion systems. As a result, there was no way to centralise video management, viewing and analysis. Upgrading from analogue systems Altogether, its security system consisted of older analogue platforms that were reaching end of life, 58 standalone servers, 12,000 access points and a wide variety of DVRs — all being managed in a siloed manner. UCF needed a solution that would allow officials to centralise system management, store video data more effectively and reliably, and enable the security team to deliver situational awareness to responders when needed. Security leaders sought a way to further modernise its security, surveillance, access control and IT infrastructure The university deployed an HCI solution, one that is optimised for demanding, data-intensive workloads like video surveillance. Using standard off-the-shelf server hardware, the system aggregates the storage and compute resources from multiple servers into a single unified pool that all cameras can access, which maximises performance and storage capacity utilisation. The platform also hosts the university’s video management solution, which serves as a centralised source to manage video and effectively protect its security data. Because of the growing demand for video across UCF's campuses — for both safety and business purposes — the HCI solution’s ability to eliminate the opportunity for data loss and easily scale were key components in its selection. Protecting air travel and airports In 2012, Charleston International Airport embarked on an ambitious upgrade project dubbed the Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program. The $200 million initiative was designed to modernise and expand the facility to meet increased passenger demand. While the aesthetics and amenities of the airport were under construction, security leaders sought a way to further modernise its security, surveillance, access control and IT infrastructure. The IT and security teams needed to address the challenges of their existing standalone server environment, which included siloed systems, management complexity and high administrative and equipment costs. Charleston International Airport embarked on an ambitious upgrade project dubbed the Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program Considering the high value of the airport’s video, security and IT data, it required a solution that could deliver reliable data protection, system resiliency and fault tolerance. The airport is required to store video for 30 days, but it seeks to expand its retention time to 60 days. Therefore, technology that can scale simply was key in the selection process. Storage system updates It also required a storage platform that could manage the demanding and write-intensive nature of its nearly 250 IP surveillance cameras — a challenging task for traditional video recorders. The airport deployed HCI appliances to better manage captured video data and expand its archive capability for video surveillance. Users rely on video to validate whether something did or did not happen - and this is essential in airports HCI surveillance solutions are designed to provide industry-leading resiliency. Even if multiple hardware failures occur, including an entire appliance, video management servers will remain online and recording, and any previously recorded video will continue to be protected and accessible. Reducing expenses and costs The solution also reduced total cost of operations by consolidating servers, storage and client workstations into one enterprise-class solution that is easily managed from a single user interface, without the need for specialised IT skills. These use cases demonstrate the value emerging technologies bring to these types of modern environments. And they show that solutions like HCI are no longer simply much-talked about technology trends. Video, IT and security data is critical to organisations of all types and they need to ensure their investment in capturing this data is protected. From a security standpoint, users rely on video to validate whether something did or did not happen. If that video data isn’t protected, they lose a very valuable investigative tool. That isn’t an option in today’s complex environment. That’s is why it is paramount to understand how new technologies can help expand current capabilities and evolve security operations. This can’t be left to chance.

ISC West 2018 day three: Biggest-ever show highlights emerging technologies
ISC West 2018 day three: Biggest-ever show highlights emerging technologies

Activity slowed on the last day of ISC West in Las Vegas, but there was plenty of momentum remaining and plenty more to see. In the end, Reed Exhibitions declared 2018 the biggest and most successful year to date for the show. There were an additional 4,000 square feet of exhibit space compared to last year and a 6 percent growth in overall attendance, according to Reed.  The cloud, biometrics, deep learning and other technologies were among the big topics at the show, and even smaller exhibitors were pleased with the results. In particular, emerging technologies were successfully highlighted. Cloud-based video systems Cloud video company Eagle Eye Networks announced multiple new offerings at ISC West. One was the first cloud-based video system that accommodates HD-over-coax cameras using the HD-TVI protocol to operate over existing coaxial cabling. In effect, cameras connect with an HD-TVI recorder, which plugs into Eagle Eye Networks’ on-site hardware “bridge” connecting to the Internet. Eagle Eye Networks has also integrated Hikvision body-worn cameras into their cloud system; transmitting video using the Eagle Eye Bridge ensures end-to-end encryption and the evidentiary integrity of the video. Analytics in the cloud can be turned on and off at will for each camera, and could be deployed over a weekend and switched off the following week “A few years ago, fewer customers were ready to adopt the cloud,” says Ken Francis, President of Eagle Eye Networks. “Now market adoption is changing, and customers don’t want on-site hardware. End-users are driving the move to cloud systems.” He estimates the evolution is about halfway complete, and Eagle Eye Networks continues to sign up new dealers every month because their customers are asking for the cloud. Eagle Eye Networks’ third new offering at ISC West is “analytics in the cloud,” including familiar analytics such as intrusion, people counting and loitering. Francis says the economics of the cloud make implementation of analytics much more affordable – about $4 per camera. Analytics in the cloud can be turned on and off at will for each camera. For example, analytics could be deployed over a weekend and then switched off the following week. “It’s a far more economically attractive and cost-effective service than on-site,” says Francis. the economics of the cloud make implementation of analytics much more affordable Augmented identity: biometrics in security Biometrics continue to make their way into the mainstream of the security market, and IDEMIA brought its message of “augmented identity” to ISC West. IDEMIA (formerly OT-Morpho) provides systems to the largest biometrics users in the world, including big customers such as the FBI and Interpol, and large-scale government projects around the globe. “If you can handle projects that big, enterprise applications are no problem,” says Gary Jones, Vice President, Global Channel & Marketing, Biometric Access & Time Solutions. He says that the company’s technologies apply to any vertical market, and they are especially common in major airports and big financial institutions, in addition to government. The company’s MorphoWave product allows users to wave their hand, and the system captures a three-dimensional shape of fingerprints. The touchless system is also “frictionless” -- it enables fast decision-making that promotes high throughput rates. Artificial intelligence applications AI and deep learning have been big topics of conversation at ISC West, and I saw a company on the last day of the show with a different take on the subject. BrainChip uses a type of AI called “spiking neural networking” that models the operation of neurons in the human brain - in contrast to “convolutional neural networks,” which use a series of math functions to train from pre-labelled data sets. The BrainChip Studio software can search vast amounts of video footage rapidly to identify either faces, patterns or objects. Applications are in law enforcement, counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies.The BrainChip Studio software can search vast amounts of video footage rapidly to identify either faces, patterns or objects “We search for specific things,” said Bob Beachler, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Business Development. The software can search hundreds of live or recorded camera feeds for a unique graphic pattern on an item of clothing or on a bag carried by a person, for example. The technology only requires modest processing power and consumes little energy, so it can be used with legacy systems without requiring hardware or infrastructure upgrades.  Emerging Technology Zone A new Emerging Technology Zone at ISC West included participation by around 40 companies that are startups and/or new to the security industry. The section opened an hour before the main show floor and was located near the registration area, which increased traffic. “Generally speaking some people said it was hard to find, but I think it’s better for us as someone new to the market, rather than being on the main floor where you can get lost in the shuffle,” said Jeffrey Weiner, Vice President, Networks & Business Solutions, at Mersoft. “It was really smart that they opened this an hour earlier.” Mersoft, one of the Emerging Technology Zone exhibitors, has developed a software product to help the security industry do a better job of streaming live video. The software eliminates the startup delay and lag in live video. With dedicated software, video can be consumed by a browser or mobile app more easily Live video streaming “We accomplish that in two ways,” says Weiner. “One, we don’t trans-code the video into another format. Instead, we convert a security camera’s video from RTSP (real time streaming protocol) to WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), an open-source technology that has been used extensively in video conferencing, but not so much in security. The video can be consumed by a browser or mobile app more easily, and we don’t need a player on the client, which is another way we reduce lag.” Another advantage is that WebRTC is natively encrypted; every packet is encrypted. In contrast, applications that transmit RTSP have to be wrapped in a VPN (virtual private network) tunnel, which takes some effort to maintain and is a battery hog on a mobile device. Also, multi-casting of video is easier, even using streams of various resolutions. Mersoft works through partnerships, offering a cloud-hosted service on Amazon and a version that can be installed on a local server. They have worked with several DIY camera sellers (who use cloud services), and with some major commercial service providers. “A new partnership strategy we are exploring is with systems integrators, who can incorporate Mersoft and provide a differentiator by improving their video performance,” says Weiner. The 22-year-old company is new to security, and ISC West provides opportunities for in-depth conversations preparing for a future in the security sector. Customisable turnstile solutions Delta highlighted their new designer series turnstiles, whose colourful appearance led booth visitors to ask about customisation Even the smaller companies, located toward the back of the hall, were enthusiastic about ISC West this year. “The show has been great,” says Vanessa Howell, project manager of Delta Turnstiles. “We did get a lot of traffic. I am a niche product, so it’s not so much about quantity as quality [of leads]. I had great quality at the show.” Being away from competitors, which are grouped next to each other in the front of the hall, was an upside of the turnstile company’s booth location toward the back. Delta highlighted their new designer series turnstiles, whose colourful appearance led booth visitors to ask about customisation. “They ask: ‘Why are turnstiles only sold in basic models?’” says Howell. “’Why can’t they look like a piece of art since they are the first thing people see when they enter a building?’ People are very open to making them prettier.”  Delta Turnstiles has been coming to ISC West since 2006. “I have manufacturer’s reps, and this is one of two times I get to see them in one place, and they bring a lot of customers to me at the booth,” says Howell. “This is my only face-to-face meetings with some customers. I speak mostly over the phone.” Valuable face-to-face engagement was a benefit of ISC West, and many of those meetings will likely set the stage for continuing successes in our vibrant market. Until next year.