Brian Sims

The Connectivity Equation

While cyber attacks are high on the list of security threats at present, preventing unauthorised physical access to a critical infrastructure site, for example, or to critical areas within a site remains vital. Heads of security need to consider both physical and network security in tandem as they’re equally important when it comes to the protection of people and assets, asserts Ben Linklater, not to mention maintaining business continuity and resilience

IN NORMAL circumstances – which most certainly wasn’t the case in 2020 due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic – the risk of disruption to a country will typically be linked to attacks perpetrated on its infrastructure or citizens. Ultimately, the outcome of such episodes can range from losing the ability to operate transport systems, utilities or border control though to an inability to make any financial transactions if underlying systems are brought to a halt.

Moving from the macro to the micro level, there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to tackling site security. The end result is really all about a combination of physical and electronic security components working together, from security fences and intrusion detection systems through to access control and intelligent video surveillance.

Security systems must first detect an intruder. The earlier an intruder is pinpointed, the better the chances of them being stopped before any damage can be done. The system needs to detect any effort to breach an outer perimeter (eg someone trying to go over, underneath or through a perimeter fence). The systems regime must then apply ‘logic’ to determine whether an event is in any way unusual or suspicious and warn the security team accordingly. Finally, security systems must be able to track an intruder if they manage to enter a given site such that they can then be intercepted.

It’s hugely important to ensure that the implementation of physical security systems is tailored around the pre-defined Operational Requirement for the site. Those systems should provide flexibility and not interfere with business productivity. Instead, the systems need to be seen to play an active and positive role in enhancing operational efficiency.

Making connections

In today’s world, connectivity is an absolute necessity for security systems. While the UK was once traditionally enslaved to coaxial cables and landline alarm transmission, across the last 15 years there has been a shift towards both IP and wireless connectivity right across the industry spectrum.

Wireless networks are becoming more sophisticated and secure. They’re ideal for commercial applications ranging from rapid deployment and temporary projects where their inherent flexibility allows swift deployment without the need for any cabling or civil engineering. Emergency Services or military personnel often need to have a system put in place in a matter of minutes for specific area monitoring. Securing construction sites, maintenance areas and special events often requires a quick and easy installation. Remote locations away from mains power will demand the use of wireless technology.

As a sensor manufacturer, part of our own development effort is focused on making very low current consumption products such that they can be battery-powered and rendered easy to install. To provide more flexibility, sensors can be configured to be agnostic and employ universal wireless transmitters.

We’ve actively developed partnerships with wireless solution manufacturers to enable more advanced communication between the intrusion sensors and the alarm panels, in turn facilitating a more dynamic system. A Ricochet-enabled wireless transmitter allows an alarm panel to recognise the different types of outdoor wireless PIRs or dual-tech models connected to it and also enables the system to be pre-configured to recognise the various triggers, alarms and tampers, etc. Other partnerships with the likes of IDS, Ksenia and SAET enable a two-way communication between sensors and panels to realise a system that’s more reliable and flexible.

Using IP networks

The other way in which to connect equipment together is via the IP network, through a cabled network or via Wi-Fi. Where some sensors are IP devices by default, most can become IP thanks to the use of an encoder. Again, this helps to connect various physical security elements and transmit important data to the management software located either on site or in the cloud.

Each security system manufacturer has its own expertise and it’s rare – if not impossible – that a perfect solution can be provided by a single company. There’s now a requirement for various security components to ‘talk’ to each other. From our perspective, we believe that it should be the manufacturers’ role to work together to provide connectivity and interoperability and ease the tasks set for system integrators and installers.

When we started bringing IP sensors to the market, integration became a high priority for us. For the last eight years, we’ve been working with all of the leading video management software (VMS) platforms to integrate our connected sensors. Until now, that task has been performed through the integration of our event code and has proven to be successful. Part of the process we insist on is that the device monitoring a security system must know if any device on its network (including our sensors) has been tampered with, lost connection or isn’t functioning normally. This constant ‘health check’ requirement is key to maintaining the integrity of the security system.

While we believe that a one-to-one relationship with our technology partners is really important, we’re also embracing the standards created to simplify communication between devices and software platforms. For instance, we’re currently moving towards ONVIF for sensor data transmission. Making our new sensors and our IP Gateway ONVIF-compliant will increase the flexibility of using these solutions with any ONVIF-compliant platforms or devices.

Network security

As the majority of our intrusion detection sensors are IP devices that connect directly to the network, our development team is making sure that the communication protocols used in our sensors are secure for every kind of management platform, whether that be VMS or Physical Security Information Management-centric. The REDSCAN RLS-2020 Series, for example, supports the https protocol and we’ll be releasing new products which will support https SNMPv3/ IEEE802.1X.
Another example of how products can be designed with network security in mind is a new visual verification solution using an IP Gateway to a cloud-based portal. Network security was front of mind in developing that solution. The IP Gateway, namely the OPTEX Bridge which is located on site, sends secure and encrypted data using TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2 to the cloud and cannot be accessed via the network unless that access has been planned for maintenance purposes. That would be the only time the network port is open while in operation. Such an arrangement provides a very secure system and doesn’t leave the site vulnerable to cyber attack.

The security industry cannot be successful without collaboration between its constituent players. We’ve already outlined the importance of security manufacturers working together to make interoperability easier via the setting of security standards and open protocols. In addition, specific partnerships are now taking place to energise bespoke solutions for customers and/or industry segments. For perimeter protection, we welcome the fantastic solution Genetec has developed to integrate the LiDAR sensor at a deeper level and provide path fusion as well as very clever tracking functionality in the Restricted Security Area module.

Originally created for airports, this solution is now deployed across multiple sectors, affording security operators the ability to reduce the level of information received and be presented with a relevant, accurate and precise map whereby intruding individuals or objects are followed across camera views using the path fusion. 

Other VMS platforms have integrated the X and Y co-ordinates of our sensor solutions to create bespoke arrangements. Mirasys, for instance, has made good use of inherent functionality to map the storage shelves in warehouses and help processes, monitoring stocks and ensuring that high value items are picked according to the order. Beyond the benefit of fighting shrinkage, this solution is assisting with efficient business process.

Monitoring stations

In the UK, we’ve been working together with monitoring stations for many years now. With remote video response companies, the collaboration has been mainly focused on nuisance alarm reduction. If a system, or part of the security system, generates too many nuisance alarms, then it has to be disconnected which leaves the site partially or entirely unsecure.

The latter is detrimental to all parties: the customer, the installer and the monitoring station. That’s why site visits are organised – and support realised for installers – to assess the positioning and commissioning of outdoor sensors with the CCTV cameras and provide the right coverage and settings. Some sites have witnessed upwards of a 95% reduction in nuisance alarms.

In the last 18 months, we’ve also been working with Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) to introduce a cloud-based solution – dubbed ‘Intelligent Visual Monitoring’ – which adds video to monitored alarm systems using an IP Gateway. Without altering the grading or integrity of the alarm system, the IP Gateway allows security professionals to connect ONVIF-compliant IP cameras with the indoor and outdoor sensors or the panic button.

Participating ARCs will receive the alarm and can visually verify the associated video on the cloud and share it with specific parties if requested to do so. The solution has been designed to bring value to all parties and make security easier and more efficient. For their part, customers can keep their legacy systems and upgrade easily and cost-effectively with video. The installer can re-engage with existing customers, offering a better service and providing more value to new customers, while ARCs can offer a new service without having to invest in new infrastructure.

Through recent engagement with Monitor Computer Systems, the company developing and providing the Sentinel software, there’s a mutual intention to go one step further in the integration of ‘Intelligent Visual Monitoring’ and Sentinel and facilitate still further the tasks of operators at ARCs. This type of collaboration between manufacturer and service provider helps contribute towards improving the security sector as a whole.

Looking at combinations

We believe combining technologies, and harnessing the sum of the parts, provides a more complete and reliable security system. Using sensors’ algorithms and intelligent logic helps in creating systems which avoid event overload, while at the same time ensuring no critical event is ever missed. Connectivity, interoperability and system design are all absolutely key.

Training and development are further important factors that we think can make a big difference in our industry. With security systems and solutions becoming ever-more complex, it’s now critical for installers to fully understand IT software, networking configuration and the importance of firewalls, etc. Practising security professionals must be supported with the necessary training to develop and maintain the new skill sets required.

System manufacturers can play their part here by providing free online certification training, online tutorials and virtual classes, for example, thereby helping to develop and upskill today’s practising security professionals.

Ben Linklater is Sales Director for OPTEX Europe (

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Company Info

Optex (Europe) Ltd

Unit 13
Cordwallis Park
Clivemont Road

01628 631000

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