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Tech is answer to security

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Physical security in South Africa is not a luxury, but a necessity. However, it is expensive. LAURENCE SMITH believes the best answer for most security companies is to rely more on technology, as among other things, it allows them to use their labour force more effectively.

In South Africa security has become a necessity and is no longer a luxury. While an indispensable commodity, the security industry is still subject to the same challenges that every other industry is facing: growing economic pressures, rising costs, increased crime levels and shrinking margins. In the face of these challenges, the biggest difficulty of managing a massive workforce that is tasked with providing protection for people, assets, homes and offices is the complexity that comes with it. As if these factors aren’t challenging enough, the issue of price cutting between security firms has created an industry that is difficult to sustain on price alone. Security companies must look for ways to do more with less. Technology is the key that will let security companies move beyond survival mode and allow them to thrive, while improving guarding services, cutting costs, improving efficiencies and boosting profitability.

Technology is the answer

The biggest challenge most security companies are grappling with is the question of how to effectively manage their labour force, which largely makes up the guarding element of their service. How can security companies manage these people better, more efficiently and cut costs while still using the same labour force? It’s important to bear in mind that we don’t want to reduce the labour force, just improve on its efficiency. By improving on workforce efficiency, security companies can take on more sites with fewer staff ‘manning’ these sites; with technology, efficiency is increased.

Technology is able to assist staff to work far more efficiently and importantly, effectively. Guarding is manpower-intensive and if guards are not adequately protected or executing their duties in an efficient and effective manner, this can prove to be a huge headache and a potential danger to clients. To make security guards more efficient, it’s worthwhile considering wearable technology, like tactical CCTV jackets. These jackets, which can be worn over the bulletproof vest, provides control rooms with low bitrate live video streaming and GPS information, so that control room operator has access to live footage as it happens. This enables the operator to dispatch back up when it’s needed. Such a wearable CCTV jacket also serves to ensure that ensures guards carry out their duties according to set procedures or policies with the ability to monitor their performance from a central station.

See more, do more with technology

It is also worthwhile upgrading technology used for CCTV surveillance purposes.  Remote CCTV can stream footage at ultra-low bandwidth capabilities whilst military-grade thermal cameras can detect people and movement at any time of day or night, with or without light in almost any kind of weather condition. In addition the use of Ultra High Definition (UHD or 4K) cameras deliver detailed images for enhanced viewing and detail. By increasing the functionality and power of these CCTV solutions, security companies can see more and thus take more action and further reduce crime.

Making surveillance even more efficient is the critical video analytics component. It is now possible to use a computer or analytics engine to do a lot of the work that a human would have had to do in the past – monitoring live feeds from CCTV cameras just became a whole lot more efficient with the addition of an analytics engine, which provides real-time incident alerts and fewer false alarms. Video analytics also simplify control room processes, ensuring personnel can quickly identify potential threats and incidents and execute on these, without delay.

Video analytics enables what is essentially “blank screen monitoring”, in that the system will give notifications of risks according to specific rules set up, and guards are not required to constantly have their eyes on the camera feeds. We’ve all read the statistic that reveals that, within 20 minutes of watching a bank of video screens, a guard is likely to miss 80% of what is happening. Video analytics allows the operator to minimise the labour that goes into 24/7 surveillance, because through the use of sophisticated algorithms and pixel-by-pixel analysis, video analytics can pick up on the smallest of details. Video analytics removes the scope for human error and drastically improves monitoring efficiency.

By automating many of the functions previously performed by humans, technology makes the guarding element of security far more reliable. The right combination of modern UHD cameras and video analytics software in the CCTV setup, as well as the addition of wearable CCTV cameras can enable tech-savvy security companies to provide their service at a lower cost, and at a higher efficiency level.

  • Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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