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Hikvision, a global manufacturer and supplier of video surveillance equipment, is helping to ensure a safe and reliable electricity supply across South Africa, with the deployment of a massive remote surveillance monitoring solution, covering thousands of electricity substations and power transmission lines.

Operated by the largest electricity power distributor in South Africa, Eskom, a network of more than 400,000 kilometers of overhead power lines and several thousand electricity substations, provides electricity to the country’s domestic and business customers.

In recent years, this critical power infrastructure has become the target for cable theft, metal theft and other infrastructure related crimes, resulting in vastly expensive and disruptive damage and losses to service providers.Eskom enlisted the help of South Africa’s Combined Private Investigations (CPI)

Mitigating equipment thefts

Organised criminals have increasingly targeted the more remote sections of the supply network, stealing copper cabling, metal and industry grade batteries. Up to 15 incidents per day are currently being reported. If not seriously addressed, it could lead to the interruption of the supply to thousands of domestic customers; commercial operations, hospitals and railway systems.

To combat this wide-scale problem, the national electricity provider (Eskom) enlisted the help of South Africa’s leading information driven investigation company, Combined Private Investigations (CPI).

CPI was established by a number of experienced law enforcement agents, forensic investigators and corporate security officials, primarily to investigate a high-level cartel for one of the largest parastatals in South Africa.

Currently, CPI is the sole supplier of investigations to several parastatals, with an acknowledged record of addressing copper cable and other infrastructure-related crimes successfully, achieving very high recovery levels. CPI arrests between 35 to 85 cable thieves per month and maintains a conviction rate on average of 90%.The impact of downtime for a substation hit by material theft can be significant

Preventing power loss

As a corporate investigations firm comprising over 900 staff members across 18 locations, CPI specialises in the prevention and investigation of non-ferrous metal theft. The company’s main objective is to support electricity supply companies and railway service providers in their fight against organised crime syndicates targeting electrical networks for illegal gain. 

Copper and metal theft targeting the power transmission infrastructure has become a real problem for maintaining the reliable supply of electricity in South Africa,” says Roy Robertson, Principal Director of CPI.

The impact of downtime for a substation hit by material theft can be significant, with loss of power to homes, hospitals, schools, factories and public transport services."

Intelligence-driven approach

"These incidents can also have a massive detrimental effect on the provision of key support services, as well as to basic health and safety, so it was vital to our client that not only should the perpetrators of these crimes be investigated and brought to justice, but that the theft incident rate should be significantly reduced.”

To do this, and as a priority, we needed to protect the most vulnerable and remote electricity substations, as these sites were being targeted and experiencing the highest percentage of theft and associated service disruption. At CPI we strive to capitalise on the latest technologies to support our intelligence-driven approach. As such, we approached global surveillance leader Hikvision, to provide the latest electronic security solutions to effectively combat the thefts.Hikvision Smart Video Content Analytics (VCA) technology embedded into the cameras was set-up for intruder detection

Smart video analytics

Providing a technical team to assess at remote sites, CPI collaborated with Hikvision to assess the most effective technical specification of products to detect and deter thefts. This specification then formed a blueprint to be rolled-out across all of the most vulnerable electricity substations across South Africa. 

Using their own engineering teams, CPI installed Hikvision DS-2CD2T42WD-I8 and DS-2DE5120W-AE cameras covering the internal and perimeter areas of each remote site. Equipped with 4MP resolution, 120dB Wide Dynamic Range, 3D DNR, EXIR high performance LEDs and 80 metres IR range, the DS-2CD2T42WD-I8 4MP EXIR Network Bullet Camera was the perfect choice to monitor the remote substations, utilising its advanced performance to provide crystal clear images day and night.

Additionally, the Hikvision DS-2DE5120W-AE 1.3MP 20X Network PTZ Cameras were used to provide 3D intelligent positioning and 20X Optical Zoom, to deliver instant visual confirmation on any on-site intruder detection – and all in crystal clear 1.3MP resolution.

In conjunction with PIR devices covering the sites’ perimeters, Hikvision Smart Video Content Analytics (VCA) technology embedded into the specified cameras was set-up to perform intruder detection utilising line detection, to confirm alarm activations and eliminate false alarms.Hikvision’s advanced iVMS 5200 professional software with video wall driver was used to monitor thousands of remote sites

Central monitoring

Recorded locally to Hikvision IDS-9632 NXI-1816S Embedded Plug & Play NVRs, specified due to their superior performance and system stability, the NVR’s simple installation reduce engineering installation and set-up time on site, whilst up to 6 megapixel recording resolution and a capacity of up to 4 SATA interfaces ensured the high-quality of local recording needed.

Both live and recorded images are transmitted over a wireless LAN, back to CPI’s own control room located at their National Operations Centre in Johannesburg.

At the control room, Hikvision’s advanced iVMS 5200 professional software with optional video wall driver was deployed to enable CPI operators to monitor the thousands of remote sites on 24/7 basis, via a ‘monitoring by exception’ basis.

Intrusion detection

Monitoring the massive Hikvision integrated surveillance system, in the event of an automated intruder alert being activated to indicate unauthorised movement on-site, surveillance operators are able to quickly visually verify the activity in seconds, examining the high-performance camera network’s high-resolution images.

During the process, all evidential video is tagged and automatically archived for future identification and prosecution usage. In the event of unauthorised intruders being detected, the CPI control room operators can instigate a host of anti-intrusion measures, including the dispatch of rapid response teams to a specific locationWe no longer need to deploy response personnel to a site when it may be the subject of a false alarm

Integrated surveillance

"These teams comprise highly trained operatives ready to tackle any situation,” continues Roy. “The Hikvision surveillance system ensures we can respond very rapidly to any intrusion detected at the sites, and our manned guard response teams are equipped to get to sites as quickly as is possible, to catch the perpetrators in the act.

"We can even call on our Robinson helicopter R44 Police equipped with infra-red camera that can rapidly deploy personnel to reach the most remote locations in just a matter of minutes.”

We work closely with the police and various local authorities, using the evidential video footage produced by the Hikvision systems to very good effect in prosecution cases. The high-definition quality of the Hikvision camera images have proved critical in detecting and prosecuting offenders of metal theft."

"Not only is it reducing these incidents, but it enables us to visually confirm the precise cause of an alarm at any remote site at the touch of a button. This means we no longer need to deploy response personnel to a site when it may be the subject of a false alarm – negating the waste of valuable man hours and costs, and vastly improving the effectiveness of our security operation.We plan to harness more Hikvision technology to fortify power transmission security in South Africa

Drone-assisted surveillance

We have been so impressed with the Hikvision surveillance technology and the support we have received that we are continuing to roll out this Hikvision based security blueprint to many other power substation sites across South Africa, Roy continues.

“To date, over 1,000 electrical substations are protected by Hikvision systems - making a real difference to the provision of a reliable power service to all sections of industry and society across South Africa.

In future, we plan to harness more Hikvision technology to fortify power transmission security in South Africa. From additional electronic surveillance systems, to the use of camera-equipped Hikvision Quad-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) to protect remote sites and respond to incidents – we’re looking forward to completing more successful projects with the assistance of Hikvision’s highly capable technology solutions.

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