CCTV as a Service

The exceptional versatility and scalability of the CCTV systems supplied by Security Products from Siemens are helping Douglas Borough Council (DBC) in the Isle of Man to develop an innovative concept of delivering CCTV as a service to public sector users, such as schools, car parks, libraries, and the police. The revenue generated by this service will ultimately not only cover the cost of providing the packages, but also the Council’s own costs in providing island-wide CCTV coverage for shopping streets and other public areas.

Innovative business model

Using CCTV in public areas, although not considered acceptable in all countries, is commonplace in the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom. The CCTV-as-a-service project, supported by the Council’s Leader Councillor David Christian MBE and Borough Engineer Ian Clague MBE, was driven by Daniel Looney, Head of ICT for Douglas Borough Council, who was tasked with providing reliable CCTV coverage for the busy streets of Douglas town centre. He knew that, once the control room was set up, the facilities could be extended to other public sector users on the island. This would have the twin benefits of generating an income for DBC to cover its own CCTV operating costs, and allowing CCTV services to be provided to the other users at a far lower cost than if they had to install standalone systems.

When Daniel Looney approached Aidan O’Reilly of Eye-Spy Security, a local expert in CCTV system design and installation, to discuss his idea, the company quickly realised that to make it a reality, two key requirements would need to be satisfied:  The CCTV equipment used would have to be very versatile as it would need to work with existing cameras of various types, and it would also have to be easily scalable so that its capacity could be expanded easily and cost effectively as the number of users grew.

Vectis HX digital video recorders

After careful consideration, Aidan O’Reilly determined that Vectis HX digital video recorders (HVRs) and Vectis HX NVS network video software from Siemens would provide by far the best solution. While designed with high-definition images up to 1080p in mind, Vectis HX HVRs are equally well suited to working with lower resolution images from older cameras, irrespective of whether these cameras use analogue or IP connectivity. Vectis HVRs also support the ONVIF open networking protocol, which is now used by a wide range of CCTV camera manufacturers. These features mean that systems based on Vectis HX HVRs are compatible with almost any type of existing camera, and are also fully future proofed to cope with the ultimate replacement of older cameras by modern HD types. Both Vectis HX HVRs and the Vectis NVS software use the latest H.264 video compression technology that makes extremely effective use of available disk storage capacity without compromising image quality, and both provide full support for IP connectivity. This is the key to linking users throughout the Isle of Man, which already has a gigabit fibre backbone, to the central control room and monitoring facilities. In addition, the software has powerful integrated video analytics that can be used to enhance the services provided to users.

"It’s really making a big impression on all those who see it, with the image quality coming in for special praise"

As always, in providing CCTV systems for DBC, SP drew on its unparalleled knowledge of national and international standards and regulations to ensure that the equipment supplied and its deployment complied fully with local requirements.

The initial implementation comprises two 64-channel servers running NVS software, with a total of 49 Terabytes of storage, and comprehensive monitoring facilities in the central control room. The system receives images from 97 cameras in central Douglas. Many of the cameras are new Siemens HD types with IP connectivity, but where the existing analogue cameras were providing satisfactory images, typically in car parks, these have been retained.

Schools as pilot users

The first third-party users of the system are schools, and the DBC service is proving to offer much better value for money than would be possible with a standalone system. This is because, rather than flooding the school with cameras and installing expensive recording and monitoring facilities, DBC carefully analyses the requirements and installs cameras only in problem areas. Monitoring and recording is provided at the central control room. This means that the school pays only a modest per-camera service charge and has no other on-going costs or capital expenditure. In addition, the image quality is considerably higher than that produced by the “budget” standalone CCTV systems that finances dictate many schools would otherwise have to adopt. Plans are now in place to extend the coverage of the system to Douglas promenade, and to sign up additional users across the island.

DBC will also be offering more advanced packages to users, which will optionally include automatic alarm generation based on the advanced video analytics of the Siemens systems and, for critical locations, full 24/7 monitoring by control room operatives. All of the packages include high quality recording to store images of the standard required for use in courts of law.

Positive comments

“We’re delighted with the new installation and with the possibilities it opens up,” said Daniel Looney, “and it’s really making a big impression on all those who see it, with the image quality coming in for special praise. We use 720p, and we’ve been told time and again by visitors, many of whom have extensive CCTV experience, that our system provides the best images they’ve ever seen.”

Councillor Christian said: “Our concept of providing CCTV as a service, which is the basis of our business model, is generating a lot of interest. Our users not only have a dependable and very affordable CCTV service, but also access to our ICT team’s expertise to ensure that they get the best from it.”

Working in partnership, DBC, Eye-Spy Security and Siemens have convincingly demonstrated that their model for CCTV implementation in the public sector is attractive and viable. Wider adoption of this model around the UK and beyond can, therefore, be confidently expected.

Safety and security for the TT motorcycle races

Initial response to the system has been very positive, as experiences during the period of the TT motorcycle races demonstrate. Held annually since 1907, the TT is a world-class motorcycle racing event that attracts entrants from all corners of the globe, and brings thousands of spectators to the island. To help ensure the safety and security of these spectators, DBC arranged temporarily enhanced CCTV coverage for duration of the 2012 event. So impressed was the Isle of Man police force by the benefits that it has now asked for this part of the system to be made permanent.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Managing security during unprecedented times of home working
Managing security during unprecedented times of home working

Companies are following government guidance and getting as many people as possible working from home. Some companies will have resisted home working in the past, but I’m certain that the sceptics will find that people can be productive with the right tools no matter where they are. A temporary solution will become permanent. But getting it right means managing risk. Access is king In a typical office with an on-premise data centre, the IT department has complete control over network access, internal networks, data, and applications. The remote worker, on the other hand, is mobile. He or she can work from anywhere using a VPN. Until just recently this will have been from somewhere like a local coffee shop, possibly using a wireless network to access the company network and essential applications. CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, and collaborative communication toolsBut as we know, CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, applications and collaborative communication tools that they do on a regular basis from the office or on the train. Indeed, the new generation of video conferencing technologies come very close to providing an “almost there” feeling. Hackers lie in wait Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical servers. Less than a month ago, we emerged from a period of chaos. For months hackers had been exploiting a vulnerability in VPN products from Pulse Secure, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and Citrix. Patches were provided by vendors, and either companies applied the patch or withdrew remote access. As a result, the problem of attacks died back.  But as companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on. That’s because remote desktop protocol (RDP) has been for the most part of 2019, and continues to be, the most important attack vector for ransomware. Managing a ransomware attack on top of everything else would certainly give you sleepless nights. As companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical serversExposing new services makes them also susceptible to denial of service attacks. Such attacks create large volumes of fake traffic to saturate the available capacity of the internet connection. They can also be used to attack the intricacies of the VPN protocol. A flow as little as 1Mbps can perturbate the VPN service and knock it offline. CIOs, therefore, need to acknowledge that introducing or extending home working broadens the attack surface. So now more than ever it’s vital to adapt risk models. You can’t roll out new services with an emphasis on access and usability and not consider security. You simply won’t survive otherwise. Social engineering Aside from securing VPNs, what else should CIO and CTOs be doing to ensure security? The first thing to do is to look at employee behaviour, starting with passwords. It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposed. Best practice would be to get all employees to reset their passwords as they connect remotely and force them to choose a new password that complies with strong password complexity guidelines.  As we know, people have a habit of reusing their passwords for one or more online services – services that might have fallen victim to a breach. Hackers will happily It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposedleverage these breaches because it is such easy and rich pickings. Secondly, the inherent fear of the virus makes for perfect conditions for hackers. Sadly, a lot of phishing campaigns are already luring people in with the promise of important or breaking information on COVID-19. In the UK alone, coronavirus scams cost victims over £800,000 in February 2020. A staggering number that can only go up. That’s why CIOs need to remind everyone in the company of the risks of clickbait and comment spamming - the most popular and obvious bot techniques for infiltrating a network. Notorious hacking attempts And as any security specialist will tell you, some people have no ethics and will exploit the horrendous repercussions of CV-19. In January we saw just how unscrupulous hackers are when they started leveraging public fear of the virus to spread the notorious Emotet malware. Emotet, first detected in 2014, is a banking trojan that primarily spreads through ‘malspam’ and attempts to sneak into computers to steal sensitive and private information. In addition, in early February the Maze ransomware crippled more than 230 workstations of the New Jersey Medical Diagnostics Lab and when they refused to pay, the vicious attackers leaked 9.5GB or research data in an attempt to force negotiations. And in March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHO and healthcare organisations in general since the pandemic broke. We’ll see lots more opportunist attacks like this in the coming months.   More speed less haste In March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHOFinally, we also have bots to contend with. We’ve yet to see reports of fake news content generated by machines, but we know there’s a high probability it will happen. Spambots are already creating pharmaceutical spam campaigns thriving on the buying behaviour of people in times of fear from infection. Using comment spamming – where comments are tactically placed in the comments following an update or news story - the bots take advantage of the popularity of the Google search term ‘Coronavirus’ to increase the visibility and ranking of sites and products in search results. There is clearly much for CIOs to think about, but it is possible to secure a network by applying some well thought through tactics. I believe it comes down to having a ‘more speed, less haste’ approach to rolling out, scaling up and integrating technologies for home working, but above all, it should be mixed with an employee education programme. As in reality, great technology and a coherent security strategy will never work if it is undermined by the poor practices of employees.

How does audio enhance security system performance?
How does audio enhance security system performance?

Video is widely embraced as an essential element of physical security systems. However, surveillance footage is often recorded without sound, even though many cameras are capable of capturing audio as well as video. Beyond the capabilities of cameras, there is a range of other audio products on the market that can improve system performance and/or expand capabilities (e.g., gunshot detection.) We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How does audio enhance the performance of security and/or video systems? 

How have standards changed the security market?
How have standards changed the security market?

A standard is a document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes, and/or practices. Standards surround every aspect of our business. For example, the physical security marketplace is impacted by industry standards, national and international standards, quality standards, building codes and even environmental standards, to name just a few. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How have standards changed the security market as we know it?