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How poor cam choice becomes security risk

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Poor surveillance camera placement along with a bad solution design could end up compromising a security system and may render some cameras of little to no security value, says MARC VAN JAARSVELDT, consultant for The Surveillance Factory.

Despite the exciting features of today’s video surveillance cameras, poor solution design and poor camera placement compromises the end result and renders most cameras of little or no security value. He says that this ultimately results in a camera-system that may fail to solve security challenges on a site.

There is a clear lack of risk-analysis skills and the ability to design a solution that offers to maximise security value. What clients need today is a detailed site-audit and a resulting solution that solves security challenges and enhances the client’s awareness of their security environment.

Traditionally, video surveillance systems have been poorly designed and are still compromised despite the plethora of advanced features that cameras now have: Todays IP cameras can take advantage of some incredible features that they now offer: ultra-high resolution, advanced WDR (wide dynamic range), built in analytics and edge storage. But the design methodology used often does not make the best use of these features and fails to deliver on a security level.

The Surveillance Factory has seen many camera solutions constructed using what is referred to as a “general-overview” camera: These cameras are chosen to provide a wide or broad overview of a large area giving the sense that this area is adequately surveilled, but in reality, they offer nothing more than a bird’s-eye or panoramic view with no specific intention to manage risk within that area. If there is an incident of any kind, there is often no forensic value contained within the video footage because the overview is too wide and the camera, despite the fact that it may be a high resolution camera, is not performing a specific function by viewing an identified target.

In nearly all cases the video-camera position selected was incorrect. Placing it too far away and not using it to manage a specific area, makes it generally impossible to identify a target. The issue lies in the camera’s inability to capture the right number of pixels-on-target required for identification from that distance and position.

The solution lies in selecting the correct video camera suited to a specific area and more importantly, making certain that the camera addresses a specific risk and does not fall into the general overview trap: “You will then get excellent, high quality footage all the time and when video evidence is required, it will offer forensic value as the camera will provide clear images that cannot be contested.

Interestingly, he says that in South Africa, with its high crime rates, cameras are frequently pressure-tested and security managers often end up with useless footage that has no evidentiary value: This brings into question the entire premise that the camera system installed is valuable to the organisation and is actually enhancing security.

The average number of cameras deployed per site has steadily been increasing and this trend reinforces the need for system integrators to design solutions more carefully.

Here are some tips for selecting a camera and designing a solution:

1.    Choose your video cameras and positions carefully. Have a specific surveillance goal in mind for each device.

2.    Avoid general-overview cameras unless they are needed for an operational or process-control reason (e.g. to view an assembly or production line in a factory).

3.    Make sure that the camera resolution is high enough so that the footage it generates has evidentiary value. i.e. the number of pixels-on-target should agree with the standards for detection and identification, that the camera and VMS manufactures all publish.

4.    Select fewer high-resolution cameras that record at a decent frame-rate (no less than 15fps) for a shorter time frame, as opposed to many lower-resolution cameras recording at low frame-rate for a long period of time.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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