IP adds dimension to picture-perfect security

Amidst all the sun and sand, safety and protection moves to sophisticated highs. With Ian Yates

One of the concerns facing small business owners is what happens at the office when you’re not there? Large enterprises can afford real live security staff to wander around after hours, but small business usually can’t justify the expense. However, if there was an affordable way to see what is happening, then the rozzers can be called when unauthorised activity is spotted.

Using remote video cameras for security is hardly a new idea, but what is new is doing it over the Internet with a camera that just plugs into an Ethernet outlet. NetComm’s new range of IP surveillance cameras have an entire Linux operating system embedded in their tiny bodies, so all you need is a Web browser and a password to see what they can see, from wherever you are, upstairs in the office or relaxing by the pool with your wireless laptop.

Popular Capricorn Coast resort Contiki Great Keppel Island is one such small business that has installed a digital monitoring solution from NetComm as part of its plans to increase security at key locations and boost online promotion of the complex to tourists via its Web site. Truly leveraging their investment, the cameras work as security hounds when required, then turn and point at the scenery to promote the resort while “off-duty”.

Although it’s not actually on the Great Barrier Reef, Great Keppel is the equal of most islands on the Queensland coast. Located 13km offshore, about 7.5 hours drive north of Brisbane, the island occupies around 14sq km, has 18km of beaches and attracts nearly 100,000 visitors each year. Contiki Great Keppel has installed NetComm’s NS4240 model IP surveillance cameras around the resort, mainly to discourage pilfering around key areas, especially where alcohol is served. You just can’t trust some of those holidayers.

“Thirteen cameras were installed throughout the island resort, mainly to monitor cash registers at the bars and local store,” says Gustav Mendizabal, information systems manager. “Also cameras were installed at the loading docks and internal passageways in the main hotel. They are all set to trigger and record when motion is detected.”

Mendizabal says the system has already been so effective that it is expected to soon pay for itself.

“The way we are going we expect this implementation to save us at least $10,000 a month.” The NetComm solution was chosen over other options such as CCTV because it fitted seamlessly with the resort’s existing network infrastructure, greatly reducing costs by eliminating the need for additional cabling.

“The fact that we were able to plug the cameras directly into our existing Ethernet network was a major incentive for us to go ahead with the NetComm solution,” Mendizabal says. “The biggest challenge was simply getting power to the cameras. The software for managing the images is very intuitive and quite straight forward so there’s no need to pore through chunky manuals.”

NetComm recently partnered with Danish company Attento to integrate its digital video recording software with NetComm’s IP surveillance cameras giving users the tools to manage thousands of date and time stamped Jpeg images. The cameras are also bandwidth configurable, so they won’t hog the entire network, and have ‘motion detection’ sensors so that recording only occurs when there’s something moving.

Security and authorised staff can now observe events across the resort’s bars and restaurants from standard PCs running Windows XP using a standard Web browser while images and video footage are all recorded and managed via the one central server. NetComm’s virtual playback feature makes it easy to locate a particular event by allowing staff to scan video footage at a rate of about 10 minutes for every hour of footage.

The cameras can also be configured to send SMS or e-mail alerts of particular events. “This feature is extremely handy and saves us a lot of time by not having to go through virtual playback all the time,” Mendizabal says. In addition to their role in tightening security, the resort is also using the cameras to improve online promotion of facilities to tourists and travel agencies.

“We are looking to install it to overlook some of the main watersports creating a link from our Web site where people can click and view real-time video,” Mendizabal says. “We also see the cameras as a general application for promoting the resort to overseas travellers.”

Fast facts: The NS4240 IP cameras used by Contiki Great Keppel retail for $2189 each. Each of these cameras can have three more “dumb” cameras connected to their back panel, allowing four cameras to view one area. Lower-priced models, such as the NS4000 IP, provide basic surveillance, and can still be accessed via the Internet using a Web browser at a cost of $820 each. All the cameras in the range support access via an optional dial-up modem or local ADSL connection for situations that require direct access, and each camera has a relay output to control external devices such as opening of gates and doors via HTML link.

Market analysts, Frost and Sullivan predict that by 2005 the global market for network cameras and video servers will touch $1.4 billion, a ten-fold jump from the $137 million spent in 2000.

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