Cell phone innovation changing the security landscape

The South African security market is one of the more mature and unique security industries worldwide. Mature in that its origins as a technology and armed response service go back as far as the 1950’s, and unique in that crime in South Africa is higher than many other countries. “This has led to a crime solution that consists of a mix of technology, alarm monitoring and armed response, with innovative products and services to allow South Africans to stay ahead of the crime wave,” says Stuart Clarkson, Managing Executive Fidelity ADT.

As with many industries, the move is towards harnessing the power of the cell phone. In the SA security market this is leading to innovation in two areas: personal safety and response to the cell phone, and management of security technology from a cell phone, both of which are supported by a 24-hour monitoring station and responded to by armed personnel.

Clarkson says while there are a number of different emergency apps available for cell phones, many of which are free, there remains a question around the effectiveness of a cell phone emergency button sending an alert to nominated contacts, with no professionally coordinated armed response to the user. “The Fidelity ADT FindU app is a multi-feature emergency button app for smartphones linked to a 24-hour monitoring station and a national footprint of armed response resources. The app can be activated by pressing the panic button, or by shaking the cell phone. The cell phone then emits an audio siren, flashing strobe and records a video at the time of the event. The video and coordinates from the phone are sent to the monitoring centre, which then calls the phone and coordinates a response,” he explains.

Home alarms, which form the first layer of electronic security for many South Africans, have also recently taken steps towards the mobile device technology trend. As one manufacturer described it ‘the keypad is moving to your cell phone’. “Alarms systems can now be armed and disarmed, zones bypassed, trouble conditions seen and activations received on the phone. In more sophisticated solutions, in-home and external video cameras can also be viewed, and even lights and switches can be operated from the phone, wherever you are and whenever you choose,” says Clarkson. On some platforms, security scenarios can be programmed to only send alerts on exceptions.

“In many parts of the world self-monitoring of these apps is the norm. Due to the high crime risk in the country, the South African market still requires monitoring of these apps through a security industry accredited and compliant central monitoring station, with armed response. Fidelity ADT has solutions in this space called Secure Home and Secure Connect. Consumers need to be cautious when looking at technology solutions off the shelf that do not have the facility to be monitored by control rooms, and responded to by armed response service providers,” he adds.

South Africans generally understand that security needs to be layered around their properties and lives. In simple terms, this extends from physical security (like fences, gates and burglar bars), to indoor electronic solutions (like alarms systems with PIRs and door contacts), and external detection devices like beams for early warning. The next layer beyond this is environmental (neighbourhood) security that includes community CCTV solutions, and more recently License Plate Recognition technology that reads vehicle license plates and has the ability to run the number against databases of suspicious vehicles. “This upstream approach is aimed at preventing a crime through triggering alerts when the threat is identified in the suburb before an incident can take place. The CCTV systems alone provide limited service, and once again it is the central monitoring centre receiving the alert, and acting appropriately to security resources on the ground that offers real value to residents. Fidelity ADT have over 100 cameras in neighbourhoods across SA in partnership with those communities to assist in reducing crime. The recent expansion of Fibre To The Home (FTTH) will also significantly increase the population and reach of these schemes,” he concludes.