S2 NetBox VR Quatro
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | June 10, 2013, 7:00am AEST
I WAS much impressed by S2’s Pronto VR early in 2012 so it should come as no great surprise to find that the company’s new NetBox VR Quatro is just as pleasing. Best of all, this latest system comes with 18 months of polishing to an already slick repertoire of function.
Quite simply, S2 Quatro is a network-based solution that combines alarms, access control and video surveillance functions like Forensic Desktop, in a browser-based environment. The strengths of this solution are its simplicity, ease of installation, accessibility and its ability to bring together multiple remote systems locally or anywhere in the world.
Management of the S2 NetBox VR Quatro is handled by a combination of the S2 NetBox enterprise-class security management system (SMS) with S2 NetVR, a video management system (VMS). Operationally, Quatro’s basic system supports 4 IP cameras and 4 doors with expansion to 8 cameras and 8 doors. The internal 4-slot card cage takes standard S2 blades and these include access control, supervised alarm monitoring, relay output control, and analogue temperature monitoring.
Importantly, the program and system data (it’s robust Linux Ubuntu) are tucked up on a non-volatile SSD, while cameras are recorded on an internal hard disk (1-3TB). This big capacity gives 30–90 days storage depending on resolution and frame rate.
“Picture yourself somewhere on a LAN or WAN browsing into an appliance through any workstation or mobile device. If you think it all sounds too simple, then you’ve got it”
S2 NetBox Quatro is happy as a stand-alone system where it supports SME sites or bigger domestic applications. But there’s more to Quatro than meets the eye. Its open architecture means that any S2 system is a finger-snap away from being part of a global security solution with none of the complexity or expense typical in client-server architectures. That’s the beauty of a browser-based architecture.
In the flesh S2 NetBox Quatro is a well-proportioned aluminium housing more square than rectangular. The box has plenty of breathing space knuckle room and knockouts. Inside are the network controller, an access control module and room in the box for another 3 modules. These can handle 2 full portals (that’s 2 readers, 4 inputs, 4 outputs), 8 outputs or 8 temperature points.
Getting the beastie onto the network is easy. This is a thin client – a network appliance – and all it demands is power and a Cat-5/6 drop cable to a network switch. On the inputs side, you carry IP cameras into the video modules in the usual way and alarm inputs into the alarm input blades. Same with readers – they arrive at Quatro on Weigand runs. Once this is done you simply go to any workstation and browse an IP address.
If you’re trying to imagine S2 NetBox VR Quatro conceptually, picture a single case with the server board, reader blades, alarm input/output blades and storage bins all onboard. Now picture yourself somewhere on a LAN or WAN browsing into an appliance through any workstation or mobile device. If you think it all sounds too simple, then you’ve got it.
When it comes to the management side, well, that’s the best part, in my opinion. No Windows software, licenses, servers or third-party HLI torture. And because it’s browser-based, no matter what OS you run, Mac or Microsoft, you just step right into the system and get to work. And that simplicity scales – all the way up.
Giving me a driving lesson on the system down at Sargent Security in Caringbah are BGWT’s Josh Simmons and R. Todd Smith, S2’s VP Worldwide Sales. Smith’s mind is well and truly on the blue cable and he sees S2 as offering installers and end users a solution they can’t get anywhere else. For Smith, browser-based products like S2 are the future and everything else is attempting to bridge the yawning gap between yesterday’s analogue and the digital future.
According to Smith, S2 uses core software technology from Exacq Technologies and that means more than 700 cameras are supported.
Performance on the video side is solid, with S2 NetBox VR Quatro delivering 1-25 frames, and compression and bandwidth options selectable depending on camera set up.
“Basically we try to design onboard storage so that if you have 30 per cent motion at 7 frames per second then you’ll get 30 days storage,” Smith explains.
“The cost of Quatro is around $A4000 to the end user – that’s for access control, alarms and video surveillance with full local and remote management, so it’s very competitive. S2 also supports all Mercury hardware which allows it to support legacy installations if required.
“A key aspect of Quatro is that we have no licensing,” Smith explains. “The system comes pre-loaded with a camera capacity and you don’t have to download camera licenses or MAC addresses.”
Something that has to be pointed out is the modular nature of Quatro, something it shares with all S2 solutions. You can tie multiple S2 solutions of all types together into a single system using S2’s Global Security Operating Centre management solution.
“All the S2 systems are Global-connected,” says Smith. “Some users might use S2 Extreme or S2 Enterprise in corporate head offices, while in other offices they might use Quatro. Other corporations might use hundreds of Quatros.
“It’s a snap-in architecture that does not require a bunch of engineering services – it’s a kind of lego block model – lots of lego blocks make an enterprise solution via the browser-based S2 Global head end. There’s a scalability that you don’t see with other brands.”
What does this actually mean for users? It means that each system operates standalone but you have global monitoring and global addition or deletion of card holders. If an authorisation changes, then that change propagates across the global system in virtual real time.
Smith shows me how this works and response between Caringbah and London takes about 4 seconds – there’s no daily update between servers that can leave sites vulnerable for vital hours. As Smith makes the changes to an access control template we can see the data flowing through seconds later.
“I can also go in under admin functions and I can make a global access level that is assigned to the global network for a cardholder. The update is 5-10 seconds,” Smith says.
Managing the system globally is effortless. You open the S2 Global browser and on the screen are frames representing linked sites. Within these rectangular frames are status details showing that the remote site is operational, how many users are onsite, etc. To delve into this remote system you just click on the frame and you have instant access to all system functions, monitoring, alarm reporting and video.
“The most vibrant and advanced thing is that you know instantly which systems are online and operating or not,” Smith says. “And you can see all the alarms being updated live. You can replay video clips from 10,000 cameras around the world. The video clips are of alarm or access control events, so there’s no shifting huge amounts of unnecessary data around the network.”
This seems a simple set of functions on the screen but to co-ordinate such functions globally so that when you acknowledge an alarm it registers to remote systems and stamps events to audit trails so they are traceable – that’s complicated. Handling this with a client-server setup is not easy.
“Fundamentally, the S2 Global system allows you to do 3 things,” Smith explains to me. “It gives you a unified card database and this allows access to all sites after a record is made in S2 Global – does this in real time – takes a couple of seconds.
“In comparison, client-server architecture can aggregate multiple servers but they are limited and update once a day. Other systems only allow you to push data to local sites and don’t allow you to pull data back, creating a bottleneck.
“The second thing Global does is allow you to run reports for a card holder, or for an access point, and it can do this with video,” Smith says. “The system interrogates all the systems and emails you one report. This report might be scheduled for once a day, or once a week.
“And the third thing this Global Security Operating Centre system gives you a consolidated operating centre, a dashboard to give you a video, access control and alarm management environment that can be handled by multiple operators.
“With alarm management logic is applied to an alarm and operators adopt an alarm – that alarm is then shown in their own queue. This stops multiple operators working on same alarm.”
Not surprisingly, there’s a mobile app for video and access control and Smith says S2 is working on advanced apps – mobile security officer apps – that allow officers to do more than just see video and unlock doors.
“There’s also a lock-down function for mobiles – it uses threat level logic to lock down or to unlock the facility. This function is easy to access even under duress and for security, the phone has to be tagged to the system and authorised.
“There’s also a mobile video app that just shows cameras and you can use a camera on a device to supply video to the system.”
BGWT’s Josh Simmonds says S2 leverages the latest technology and he says the simplicity of the company’s solutions is unmatched.
“All S2 solutions are appliance-based – it’s an out-of-the box solution that you plug into the network and can use right away,” he explains.
“What S2 Quatro offers is a solution that supports the 90 per cent of access control systems in Australia that are up to 8 doors.
“Compared with other access control systems, installation and setup are much easier. With traditional systems you might have a control module, then a TCP/IP module to get into the network, then software has to be loaded onto a PC.
“Quatro and all S2 systems are plug into the network and web browse for the IP address – there are no computers involved. Some models even support PoE locks and there’s integrated video and remote management.”
Meanwhile, BGWT’s technical manager, Graham Clark says something else that’s great about this solution is that combining access control and CCTV enables users to tie events together.
“You can see user events – there’s no need for HLIs or any other integration,” he says. “You also remove the need for Windows operating system, licensing, anti-virus and patching.”
Quatro is another strong solution for S2. Leveraging the latest technologies, S2 is winching access control and video surveillance into networked environments in a way no other manufacturer ever has.
Features of S2 Netbox VR Quatro
* Integrated access control and video
* Network appliance handles its own administration
* Browser-based user interface
* Single cabinet with expansion space for 8 portals
* Supports proven S2 blade hardware
* Widget Desktop support for customized monitoring displays
* Built-in documentation library with web browser access
* Forensic Desktop function locates and exports video evidence
* Forensic case creation with single frame and full video export
* Includes 2-year hardware and 1-year software warranty.