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Visium Networks has installed an IP-based access control, intrusion and video surveillance solution on a fibre network for a key client that incorporates ICT’s Protégé GX alarm and access panel, and Visium’s own cameras and NVRs. This system highlights the nature of Visium’s innovative approach to integrated solutions.

WAY back in the year 2000, Visium Networks first installed a video surveillance solution at a customer’s distribution facility. That solution integrated Fastrace and Tecom in order to replace a security officer with remote video authorisation of access control. 

According to Michael Brown, IT&C director of Visium Networks, this solution saved the client significant amounts of money and resulted in no losses. 

“In 2014 the longstanding success of the system led to our customer requesting we design and install a similar solution at its new and substantially larger site,” Brown explains. “The client was looking to maintain the very high level of site security in order to protect its stock, while facilitating afterhours managed access for pick-ups and drop offs to reduce costs.”

Putting together a solution capable of offering the sort of reliability, resolution, integration, low latency and secure comms across multiple security sub-systems requires delicacy when it comes to selection of hardware and software. The ring master is ICT’s Protégé GX alarm/access control platform which has been integrated with Visium’s own camera range and recording solutions. 

When it comes to network infrastructure Visium chose a redundant fibre optic network, cabinets, switches and power systems, which were designed and installed by Visium’s own technicians. Given the size of the site and the complexity of the operation, many components have special firmware to support Visium’s video and management services over IP.

“Visium doesn’t horse trade on parts, we have spent 10 years refining our product range specifically for the delivery of video services,” explains Brown. “This is difficult, even impossible to achieve if your monitoring centre and field services department are burdened with a dizzying array of field technologies.” 

As well as installing the system and supplying key components, Visium also designed the solution. According to Brown, because integrating alarm, access solutions and CCTV with video services over IP is so rare, consultancy and system design has become an intrinsic part of the Visium Networks offering. 

Visium’s solution

At all sites it undertakes integrated solutions, Visium’s security backbone is a redundant security LAN installed in dedicated cabinets and racks with tamper alarms. In this challenging semi-industrial environment, Visium selected products capable of handling harsh conditions. As well as being robust, network field switches have UPS backup.

“All components of the system, including detectors and cameras are Ethernet-enabled and connected back in real time to Visium’s monitoring and data centre over dual redundant and secure IP communications,” explains Brown.

“In terms of this backend, we have just moved our control room into an A1 – T1 facility, which has an IP services desk that only monitors ICT protégé for real time services over IP. This is unique in an industry that monitors any alarm panel type with no real outbound services capability.

“Our entire topology enables the delivery of real time services, like video verification of alarm events, and remote video-managed access. There’s a suite of applications Visium has written around logistics management that support these services, including an after-hours managed whereby customers can pre-authorised an after-hours delivery.” 

The solution incorporates Visium’s own branded 3MP IP CCTV cameras mated with Optex detection indoors and out. Visium wouldn’t disclose the camera and detector numbers other than to say coverage is extensive and was never compromised by budget. One interesting aspect of the CCTV was sub stream event playback so that even if comms was in fail over remote operator can always quickly verify the presence of an intruder onsite in order to issue an audio challenge and call police. 

“We use a Visium Networks range of cameras that we have had developed specifically to support video services,” Brown says. “We don’t pick and choose cameras based on the installation, as our cameras form part of the larger Visium Networks-monitored CCTV WAN.” 

Do Visium’s customers seek solutions that are future-proof in that camera upgrades can be made at any time to existing infrastructure?

“Yes, absolutely,” says Brown. “Our model is a system that is installed and managed and upgraded over time. Our very first manpower replacement site has had several technology upgrades over its life as part of a Visium-managed services plan. That earlier system stared out as an analogue solution with Axiom detection and Tecom alarm access control and it ended up as 3MP system CCTV solution with Optex Redwall intrusion detection and ICT Protégé GX alarm and access control. 

“Central to such applications is that Visium’s whole model is geared around treating all sites as part of a broader security network, where no single site can is left to become redundant and un-manageable from our network operations centre. This is contrary to the race in, race out mentality many systems integrators seem to have, which is concerned with amassing text-reporting monitored alarm lines of any make and model. 

“Our entire outlook is long term,” Brown explains. “We expect our customers will be using the latest Visium Networks technology in 15 years and still monitoring their sites in real time for video alarm events and video managed access, though with much higher resolutions and faster communications.”

An interesting aspect of Visium’s business is the depth of its vertical approach to market. 

“We have in importation business as part of our business model, so we rarely deal with distributors,” Brown explains. “In terms of manufacturers we deal more on a whole-of-business level for R&D not specifically on an individual site. 

“Having said that, this recent application was the first of 2 sites where we deployed direct IP-connectivity between detector and alarm panel, so ICT has been involved on an R&D level for this specific piece and have been of great support. We’d like to thank Hayden Burr, the ICT CEO and his team for supporting our vision of the future.” 

The installation process

Large sites can be challenging to install, with demands relating to cabling, fields of view, obtaining access to high mounting points and maintaining safe work standards in a busy environment. Visium assigned 3 installation techs and 2 commissioning techs to its latest application, along with system designer and project manager.

“Large systems are never without their installation challenges, though Visium minimises project risk thanks to its unique business model,” says Brown. “We fit the same alarm and access control panel and the same camera and recording platform to all sites and we have an IP video alarm installation standard we’ve been refining for more than 6 years. This means our company-wide product and installation knowledge is narrow but very deep and it typically exceeds that of local suppliers. 

“Visium’s innovation extends into the communications realm – the onsite security LAN for all our sites has omni-directional and redundant IP comms to the remote Visium video services centre. Many comms solutions in the security industry are about outbound reporting and failover, but we have developed inbound comms failover to support services over IP where the connection to site is as important as the connection out.” 

What issues dominated the installation from a technical perspective – were there key challenges or were things managed easily? Given the busy environment, could you outline the planning that was involved in getting the system installed? 

“Visium Networks is tightly focused on this type of market segment so we are used to provisioning large sites with outdoor areas,” explains Brown. “As such there was no key challenges apart from the restricted time you normally have from say, the go-live of power and the commissioning of automatic prior to hand over. 

“This system, as is most of our work, was installed as part of a new building project, so the project worked in around and with the builder’s project planning,” Brown says. “Most of the work was done during day time/building hours, though there was some night time intrusion walk testing, which is always a key part of video alarm monitoring commissioning.” 
Did you work with your client’s IT people/management or did you handle the network side yourselves?

“The Visium network is redundant fibre with UPS-supported field switches and it’s completely standalone from a customer’s data network, with separate management and maintenance contracts – we are wholly responsible for the network uptime,” Brown explains. 

“Hanging CCTV off a company’s data network may work for some but we came to the conclusion corporate networks weren’t a suitable environment for alarm and access control traffic, considering the need for physical protection of asset tampering and controlling of access to security assets. 

“While we install physically segregated networks, for some customers we do interconnect to their data network for restricted access allowing camera streaming to authorised company workstations.”  

Are these one-off installations, or could there be further upgrades of other sites in future?

“Visium has done many integrated installations for large customers and we have a large pipeline of installs nationwide as more and more customers recognise the benefits of replacing guards with technology,” explains Brown. “While our install base and project pipeline varies in terms of camera and detector count, the networking methodology and parts are the same site to site.” 

Visium Networks started with a single video monitored site, back in 2000. At the time the company was called Australian Security Rentals and was buying parts from local distributors to try and piece together integtrated video alarm systems. 

“Visium Networks in its modern form really started 5 or 6 years ago when we finalised our single platform monitoring centre philosophy and abandoned all the technology and security industry practices that were an inhibiting the commercialising of video services,” explains Brown. 

“This included moving to importing the majority of parts we install and undertaking lots of development with our manufacturing partners in order to integrate disparate CCTV and alarm/access control into a cohesive network for the delivery of video services. 

“This path has seen us evolve our staff, technology and practices to the point we are a network company first, which happens to have a primary application in the security space,” Brown says. 

There’s no doubt that Visium’s vision and commitment to its ideas have come together in the confluence of new technologies, particularly the expansion of IP network communications.

“It has been a painful to forgo a lot of easy revenue doing this, such as taking over PSTN dialler sites,” Brown says. “But things are certainly getting exciting as we develop new network-based services that would have been utterly impossible using traditional communication technologies.”  

Conclusion

Visium creates fascinating applications in a number of ways – not only in terms of IP links from sensors to control panels, but as a reflection of Visium’s approach to supporting its customers through a powerful long term business model. 

“As you can tell we are pretty excited about our major installs,” Brown says. “We’ve invested a lot of time and effort in hanging all these technologies and services together in a way that’s seamless from the point of view of our customers.

“Our model is to work directly with large corporate to build standardised national security networks so we always consult closely with the end user,” Brown says. “At all times we work towards a long term relationship with our customers,”

Reflecting this is that Visium’s commitment to its solutions is open-ended as far as MTBF. It’s something clients are likely to appreciate. 

“Part of this solution is ongoing preventative maintenance and full term warranty,” says Brown. “For instance, if a camera fails in 4 years’ time, a video-lost alert will be sent to our video monitoring centre and our techs will go out and fix it with no additional charge. 

“Our customers always love this fully managed service offering which gives them the certainty of their security spend and assurance that their security solution works as well in year 5 and 10 as it did at year 1,” he says.♦