“It’s clear to us
that the humble alarm dialler has its days numbered and that ultimately IP
communication is going to be standard not only in terms of communication from
the alarm system to the monitoring centre but communication from the alarm
system to handheld remote devices”

HILLS Industries
has been busy. Over the past couple of years the company has cleverly
repositioned itself as far more than an electronic security wholesaler. Hills
is now a manufacturer and developer of security technology and each of its
strategic moves underscores the melding of long experience and singular
resolution. 

It’s only May and
Hills has already made 2 pivotal moves this year. The first was the purchase of
the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the NX range of alarm panels in
Australia and NZ. This agreement cleans up the relationship between DAS and
GE’s alarm panels – guaranteeing the local alarm panel business while freeing
up DAS to get on with product development at its own pace.

But the second
move is more significant still. Through the acquisition of a controlling stake
in comms and monitoring manufacturer UHS, and an alliance between DAS and
Telstra, Hills has won an interest in the benchmark Telstra Secure monitoring
service. What’s most interesting about this is that DAS won’t just be selling
the UHS-built hardware – it’ll be supporting the monitoring services as well.

According to DAS’
Gabriel Daher, the year’s developments mesh together perfectly.

“This is an
extremely important new direction for us,” Daher explains.

“The arrangement
between Hills and Telstra for the provision of Telstra Secure is that DAS will
have an agreement with control rooms and the control rooms will manage their
connections and disconnections by dealing with Hills.

“Meanwhile,
bureaus can buy the UHS Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) from Hills install it
in the field and connect it to control rooms of their choice that are set up to
support Telstra Secure.”

No account of
Telstra Secure is complete without recognition of the fact that this solution
is fully certified to Australian Standards C1 to C5.

“Today Telstra
Secure it’s the only product that has certification to C5 – the certification
is owned by Telstra not Hills and it’s certified on the Telstra VPN,” Daher
explains. “This is a very important distinction. At no time are alarm signals
on the Internet – instead this is a carrier-grade virtual private network.

“The Telstra
Secure VPN has 2 parts – there’s a Land-based VPN and a wireless-based APN –
that’s what the GPRS and Next-G services run on but they all come back to
Telstra’s Next IP core which is the heart of the new Telstra network,” Daher
explains.

“Telstra
essentially provide all of the services so they manage all the servers and all
the connections into the network,” he says. “If anything goes wrong calls are
escalated to Telstra so it’s a fully managed Telstra solution.”

Ultra High Speed
Solutions

While Hills has been
talking to Telstra about Telstra Secure for some time now, at the core of
Hills’ push into monitoring is the acquisition of a controlling 51 per cent of
Ultra High Speed Solutions, a company founded by a group of Alcatel engineers
way back in 2000.

“Importantly, UHS
understands Securitel very well because Alcatel used to be the supplier of
Securitel for Telstra,” he says. “For these and other reasons the latest
generation of UHS product offers excellent connectivity and is the perfect
Securitel replacement.”

The UHS
acquisition is vital because it gives Hills access to UHS’ vaunted CPE, a
device that carries alarm signals from multiple sources like wireless,
Securitel STUs and other alarm devices, onto Telstra’s highly secure VPN. 

“Given its telco
expertise the UHS team foresaw an inevitable change in telecommunications
infrastructure a decade ago,” Daher explains. “More specifically they
understood that telco systems would one day become a very large IP network and
there would be many telco client vertical markets.

“These include
traffic and roads, utilities, fire and security – all of which have many
expensive legacy products that will not operate on the new IP networks,” Daher
says. “UHS saw this as an opportunity to build a device that could translate
all the old legacy product transmissions over the new IP networks – that device
is the CPE.”

As Daher rightly
points out, the process of developing a solution capable of carrying multiple
alarm communications onto networks involved more than just building a solid
state device to handle the task in the field. There was also server support,
equipment for client sites and monitoring stations, as well as gear for inhouse
monitoring centres. And there was significant software development as well.

“UHS saw security
as a particularly important vertical for them and they put a lot of time into
developing connectivity into the sort of communication paths we find in the
security industry,” Daher says.

“And the fact
security is an important part of the UHS strategy made UHS an important part of
the Hills strategy,” he explains. 

Perhaps what’s
most interesting in all this is the depth of Hills’ penetration into the
monitoring market. Hills agreement with Telstra will see DAS become the
preferred provider of Telstra Secure – it’s a powerful position for the company
to be in.

Something else
that’s obvious here is that Hills believes IP is the reporting path of the
future.

“It’s clear to us
that the humble alarm dialler has its days numbered and that ultimately IP communication
is going to be standard not only in terms of communication from the alarm
system to the monitoring centre but communication from the alarm system to
handheld remote devices and back,” Daher explains.

“Telcos have
chosen to go with IP as the protocol layer – they’re very keen not be lumped
with one physical layer,” Daher says. “But this demands they have the ability
to talk across many physical layers – satellite, radio (GPRS, GSM, Next-G, 3G),
ADSL, BDSL and frame relay.

“The complexity
of the task is clear to see,” he explains. “Telcos have to manage all those
physical layers which end up at the same physical layer which is IP. So UHS had
to make sure their equipment could manage all this.”

Daher says UHS
has about 20 engineers and all come from the telecommunication industry.

“This
telecommunications focus makes a lot sense – telco experience drove UHS to
develop what we call telco grade equipment,” Daher explains. “A telco grade
device has to be very robust and very reliable. It needs zero touch
configuration, programming and setup and everything has to be accessible from a
central point.

Daher says that
on the basis of the company’s pedigree, UHS was chosen by a number of telcos
around the world to provide high security alarm monitoring technology – the
most notable being Telstra and British Telecom.

UHS’ Customer
Premises Equipment

At the core of
Hills’ involvement with Telstra Secure is the UHS CPE, a device Daher says is
far more sophisticated than the average alarm panel.

“The CPE comes in
a metal box, has provision for power supply and battery and does its own
battery monitoring,” he explains. “The device has 16 configurable inputs, as
well as outputs you can control remotely.”

The CPE’s
capabilities are impressive. It’s a jack of all trades that can carry pretty
much any comms onto Telstra’s VPN. Not only that, the CPE can seamlessly
communicate with legacy gear like Securitel STUs in one direction while passing
IP signals onto the VPN in the other.

“The CPE has
dialler capture, the ability to communicate over the telephone line as Contact
ID or as dial-up IP,” Daher says. “If you want a permanent dial-up connection
the CPE provides that as well – no other device can do that. The CPE also
supports Ethernet, ADSL, serial connections like TTL and RS232, which will be
used to replace existing serial STUs.

Daher is a
renowned technophile and the fact he has no doubts about the strength and
flexibility of the UHS solution comes across clearly.

“I’m certain the
UHS CPE is the most compatible monitoring device there is on the market today –
it does virtually everything,” Daher says. “It can handle multiple protocols
from ASIAL serial to PINS, it can handle dialler capture – it can do all the
obvious things and it actually emulates the Securitel network as well.

“What this means
is that all those legacy Securitel panels out there that are an integrated
alarm STU – products like MCM, Ness and some Honeywell panels – that would have
to be replaced without the Securitel service can now be retained. The UHS CPE
has the Securitel scanner protocol built into it so you can plug the STU
straight into the CPE and it will work perfectly.”

The standard CPE
comes in a GPRS or NextG version depending on local coverage and has the
Securitel scanner protocol so all existing STUs can be connected with no need
for replacement. Price point is exceptionally good – Daher says Hills will
bring the UHS CPE to market for under $300 and he says costs for monitoring
stations to get onboard with Telstra Secure are very competitive indeed.

According to
Daher, one of the key features of the CPE is the fact it’s built to telco grade
and that means high reliability and the easy firmware upgrade across the
network with no messing about on site. Every tweak of the software happens
across the entire network – it’s very clever stuff.

From an
installer’s point of view, the CPE is something that’s bought over the counter
installed alongside an alarm panel and then connected to a control room that
has Telstra Secure receivers fitted. 

“The way it works
is that Telstra Secure control rooms send Hills an application to connect a CPE
to their network and then we activate that CPE for them in a very rapid time –
an hour after their request – over the network,” Daher explains.

Importantly he
says the control room has all its normal agreements with bureaus and end users,
as well as the Telstra Secure agreement with Hills.

“In terms of
hardware, monitoring stations have a primary and a redundant receiver,” Daher
explains. “They can be GPRS and Next-G for rapid deployment and they will meet
C3 certification. For C4 certification, the primary receiver needs to have the
addition of an ADSL connection.

“All these
connections go directly to the Telstra Secure VPN from the receiver and a
system with the right connection speeds can handle more than 10,000 connections
to the VPN per receiver making this a very powerful solution.

“Telstra has a
great network, they’re using a great product with UHS’ CPE and what was needed
was a really good business-to-business interface and that’s where DAS comes
in,” Daher says.

“As part of the
Telstra Secure service DAS provides all of the logistics, product training,
product support, stocking and all the management of the CPE devices – the
connections, the disconnections.”

“Hills will also
do the billing so each of our customers doesn’t have to enter into a separate
arrangement with Telstra. This significantly simplifies the process of managing
Telstra Secure,” Daher explains.

“For our
customers it’s no different to buying an item of hardware from DAS. There are
the same terms and conditions – we provide a more familiar interface to the
customer than one you might have with Telstra.”

“One of the key
features of the CPE is the fact it’s built to telco grade and that means high
reliability and the easy firmware upgrade across the network with no messing
about on site. Every tweak of the software happens across the entire network –
it’s very clever stuff”