VIDEO monitoring of secure premises by
third party monitoring stations is not new in Australia but while it has been
employed overseas with huge success, such services have never gained the
traction they’ve deserved locally.

Now Melbourne-based VideoControlRoom
believes it has come up with the perfect formula for video monitoring of alarm
events. That system is a combination of hardware installed at a customer’s site
that’s linked to a remote monitoring station, with alarm events driven by a
combination of VMD and/or alarm sensor activation.

You’d expect a company that’s prepared
to devote a significant amount of time and money to developing a boutique
service like this to have some serious self belief. VideoControlRoom’s Michael
Brown has that self belief and he’s bold enough to annunciate some of the
questions every thinking security person has considered in relation to the
response end of the Australian alarm monitoring model.

“You can have triple-path, military-spec,
millisecond-polled alarm coms, but if all the system does is send some text,
then you still have to wait half an hour for someone to buzz past in his car
with a flashlight then what was it all for?” asks Brown. “It’s like building a
Ferrari then forgetting to put the wheels on.

“Many of our customers in the past have
had a grade A1/Securitel service and insurance costs that, following multiple
breaks ins, just kept pace with their real risk,” he says.

“These customers all realized our
market’s inconvenient truth. The security industry has spent years perfecting
and enshrining something that (thanks to slow patrol response) doesn’t actually
stop a break-in.”

Part of the problem, according to Brown,
is the telco rebate. He believes this has a negative impact on the development
of new technologies. Importantly, VideoControlRoom services don’t qualify for a
rebate and instead the service is sold on its undeniable merits.

“The telco rebate certainly has been the
gilded cage for the monitoring industry,” Brown says. “With that much income
from PSTN lines it’s understandable many don’t want to rush headlong into IP.
Trouble is, if you’re not getting into IP in a big way then video is going to
prove one mighty challenge. Luckily at VideoControlRoom we started from scratch
so we are not invested in this artificial income stream.”

Brown explains VideoControlRoom is part
of a business model in which a group of tightly integrated companies exist for
the express purpose of delivery video monitoring solutions to the end user market.
These companies include a monitoring centre, VideoControlRoom, an installer,
Australian Security Rentals, and a network specialist SoIP Networks. This
latter provides broadband network services tailored for the challenges of shifting
video over public and private networks.

The VideoControlRoom solution

So, just what is the service
provided by VideoControlRoom? Brown explains that in the event of an alarm
activation being received by operators, the event is confirmed using video
surveillance and an urgent response then organized. This includes dispatching
security patrols, calling after-hours client contacts and most importantly, police.

Brown says VideoControlRoom confirms with
after-hours contacts that no staff are onsite to avoid sending the police to a
false break-in but once confirmation is received response is no longer limited
to security patrols. 

“Police do respond,” says Brown. “Regulation
aside, it’s hard not to respond when someone has visual verification of
intruders onsite. It’s the same as sending a guard onsite to figure out whether
there are intruders before then calling police, only this is much, much quicker.

“In our experience, police love catching
the bad guys in the act,” he explains. “We have had that many arrests its hard
not to see that this is clearly the future. We are actually stopping breaks-ins
at the rate of one a week.

“I can’t disclose specific incidences
but what we do really works,” Brown says. “It’s a really exciting development
that’s innovative and delivers great value for money.”

According to Brown, the company’s
monitoring solution is based on hardware and software developed inhouse and
with OEM partners.

“After using a number of off-the-shelf
solutions it was clear that what was needed to crack the Australian video
monitoring market simply didn’t exist,” Brown explains. “In the end we
developed our own DVR with an OEM partner in Asia, and we then developed our
own control room monitoring software suite in-house in Melbourne.” 

According to Brown, VideoControlRoom
uses both VMD (smart video) and conventional motion detection depending upon
the install environment and budget.

“We integrate conventional alarm
detectors as the alarm trigger,” Brown says. “And currently we are running a
global detector challenge to find the world’s best outdoor detector. Video is
very transparent so clients are demanding the best and we intend to deploy it.”

Importantly, Brown says the system is
capable of operating both fixed and PTZ cameras, with domes being especially
useful for alarm verification in real time.

“PTZ’s are great because they have that
ability to search during and after an alarm event and they can also be used for
conducting remote video patrols. We have managed to make PTZs very affordable
by importing directly.”

Brown says as part of the service, VideoControlRoom
installs an integrated alarm and camera system to handle management and remote
video monitoring.

“We try and leverage as much value out
of the technology as possible to make it affordable,” Brown says. “And the
systems we install meet the AS 2201.5 standard for alarm transmissions. We can
use any camera in the system, but prefer to fit our own new units for the job
of video alarm verification.”

A key element of any monitoring service
is price. Typically, alarm systems are monitored for $1 dollar a day. The
VideoControlRoom service’s costs vary depending on whether they involve simple
alarm verification or more complicated services incorporating regular remote
video guard tours.

“Our solutions range from a few dollars
a week to several hundred,” says Brown. “We haven’t looked to limit our market
within a particular price bracket. Instead we have a suite of service plans
that suit every budget. We offer both a graded and non-graded service with
a price point to match.”

According to Brown, the VideoControlRoom
service uses a combination of reporting technologies.

“These customers all realized our
market’s inconvenient truth. The security industry has spent years perfecting
and enshrining something that (thanks to slow patrol response) doesn’t actually
stop a break-in.”

“We use multiple communications
technologies,” he explains. “This is important as Australia is not covered by one
national coms solution that fits all sites, budgets and applications.

“We have developed our own
telecommunications business called SoIP Networks to sell broadband solutions
for IP as most off-the-shelf products from telcos don’t suit the security-over-IP
space – particularly in relation to remote monitoring of video surveillance.”

The comms plants used to get video
signals moved around vary depending on the install environment.

“We use LAN and coax cable runs depending
on the local install environment,” Brown says. “We don’t want to restrict
someone to LAN cabling because they might have spent a fortune already
installing perfectly good RG6.”

It terms of meeting relevant standards,
Brown says there is an Australian standard for video monitoring.

“That standard is founded on the British
Standard BS8418,” he explains. “It refers to conventional alarm monitoring
standards. We set out to conform to this about 5 years ago, as it represents
world’s best practice. This has geared us perfectly for the Australian
Standard.

Brown says the market has responded very
positively to the release of the VideoControlRoom service.

“People have responded amazingly well,”
he says. “We have an impressive national customer base, and have well and truly
broken even. Our archive of foiled break- ins speaks for itself.”

Brown believes that it is possible for a
service like this to feed off the success of video verified alarm events in the
UK.
There, police respond to all video verified alarm events.

“Based on our growing success it is more
than possible for video verification of alarm events to be as big in Australia as it is in the UK,” Brown says.
“We hope to see video monitoring take a large chunk of the market from
conventional text-based monitoring.”

Brown thinks there’s no point comparing
the VideoControlRoom system to past solutions like the pioneering Zone system
of the 1980s or more recently, E-pic. Brown says what makes VideoControlRoom’s
solution different is the research the company has put into uncovering what the
market wants.  

“We asked the market what they wanted
out of a video monitoring service we have not pre-supposed it,” Brown says. “We
are responding to a clear market need for video verified alarm events.”

“In our experience, police love catching
the bad guys in the act. We have had that many arrests its hard not to see that
this is clearly the future. We are actually stopping breaks-ins at the rate of
one a week”