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IP video innovates access

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Integration between video management systems (VMS) and access control systems (ACS) will soon offer the ability to incorporate ACS access and biometric data with video surveillance footage. But there are some pitfalls to look out for, writes MARC VAN JAARSVELDT.

Currently, there are integration options available, but not all solutions offer a seamless link-up of the traditional ACS data with the IP network. This is according to.

There are some convincing implementations locally, where the integration is solid and results are positive. We have no doubt that the integration will improve over time, but for now users need to be aware of the pitfalls.

What is making a difference and an impact on the ACS market is the continued growth and acceptance of IP networking as the de facto standard for video management systems. “We have seen that several access control (AC) vendors have started to offer IP interfaces with their hardware because of the prevailing nature of the network-based security technology. Some examples are Suprema, which produces biometric units with IP interfaces and Genetec that offers an end-to-end AC plus VMS system, including hardware and full integration.

Typically the AC unit (a car or fingerprint reader)) is IP enabled and uses a UTP network cable to allow communication with the LAN, but it still retains traditional signaling interfaces like Wiegand or RS485, which need to be wired in via an IP enabled controller. Examples of these devices are made by Axis, a market leader in network video. In some cases the IP link-up happens where the main AC controller resides, but door units are still wired the traditional way. Even though there are various levels of integration, the ability to incorporate AC data with video surveillance footage has changed the game plan somewhat for ACS vendors. It has also had a positive impact on the role of biometric data within an overall VMS.

The main advantage of this approach is that it allows biometric data or AC information to be extracted and displayed on a suitable PC. It is here that the VMS comes in. Once that IP interface is available, developers can write a specific software program to interrogate the AC device and bring biometric or simple access data into the VMS and incorporate it with video.

The data will be included with the video footage, providing a deeper layer of security information as the video system now displays all AC data including personnel information, credentials and video images. This enhances security and situational awareness. The great thing is that in this instance, operators are now using a single interface for video and AC, as opposed to separate interfaces.

An example, he says, is that you are not just viewing a person as they enter the building, but now having access to all the data about that individual embedded or included with the video. In doing this, companies are able to set up alarms that allow for rule or exception management, which is a powerful security tool.

Integrated ACS and VMS systems are no longer science fiction. They are an important part of the future of the security industry. Locally, we still have a long way to go to get the integration with VMS seamless and deliver acceptable outcomes. Companies need to understand and have a quality VMS system installed first, and then work towards adding value and extra layers of security such as the integration of AC.

Tips for choosing your system:

1. Choice of VMS and ACS is critical because it will define which hardware can be integrated. Most VMSs offer basic AC integration with a very limited sub-set of brands.

2. Realise that there is intelligent integration where the door or biometric unit integrates fully with the VMS and all of its functionality is supported versus un-intelligent integration where the unit communicates with the IP LAN via a simple controller that allows the RS485 cable to be plugged in. These will only support basic functionality and limited data integration.

3. With very long cable runs, or in very noisy environments, you may need to stick with traditional RS485 and cabling and link to the IP network on the backend.

4. When the integration plug-in is written by a 3rd party company (as is often the case), keep in mind that VMS version upgrades or ACS firmware upgrades can break the inter-device communication.

* Marc van Jaarsveldt, consultant with the The Surveillance Factory

Cars

Mercedes brings older models to the connected world

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to bring older Mercedes Benz models into the connected world, allowing one to keep a close eye on the car via a smartphone. SEAN BACHER installs a unit

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In this day and age, just about any device, from speakers to TVs to alarm systems, can be connected and controlled via a smartphone.

In keeping with this trend, Daimler Chrysler has launched a Mercedes Me Adapter – a system designed to connect your car to your phone.

The Mercedes Me Adapter comprises a hardware and software component. The hardware is an adapter that is no bigger than a match box and plugs into the OBD2 diagnostics socket under the car’s steering wheel column. 

The software component is the Mercedes Me app, which can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices. (See downloading instructions at the end of the review.)

Setting up

Before you can start using the Mercedes Me Adapter, you need to download the app and begin the registration process. This includes setting up an account, inputting the vehicle’s VIN number, the year it was manufactured and the model name – among many other details. This information is sent to Daimler Chrysler. It is advisable to get this done before heading off to Mercedes to have the adapter installed, as it takes quite some time getting all the details in.

The next step is locating your nearest Merc dealer to get the adapter installed. You have to produce the registration papers and a copy of your ID – something Mercedes neglects to mention on its website, or anywhere else, for that matter.

What it does

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to show the car’s vital statistics on your mobile device. On the home screen, information like parking time, odometer reading and fuel level is displayed.

Below that is information about your most recent journeys, such as the distance, time taken, departure address and destination address. Your driving style is also indicated in percentage – taking into account acceleration, braking and coasting.

A Start Cockpit button displayed on the home screen includes a range of widgets offering additional information, including where your car is parked – right down to the address – as well as battery voltage, total driving time, distance and driver score since the adapter was installed. A variety of other widgets can be added to the screen, allowing for complete customisation.

Many users have have pointed out that that there is no real point to the adapter. However it does offer benefits. Firstly, your trips can be organised into personal and business categories and then exported into a spreadsheet for tax purposes. Secondly, you can keep a very close eye on your fuel consumption, as it automatically measures how many litres you put in each time you visit the garage and the cost (the cost per litre must be entered manually so it can work out total refuelling costs). This is also quite beneficial in terms of working out how much fuel you go through, without keeping all the pesky slips when it comes to claiming at the end of the month.

Probably the most important benefit is that it monitors the engine, electrical, transmission and gearbox, sending notifications as soon as any faults are detected. A perfect example was encountered on a recent trip I made to Pretoria. Upon arriving, I received a notification that I needed to check my engine, with the Mercedes roadside assist number blinking and ready for me to dial.

The notification did not even show up on the actual fault detection system, except for the faint glow of the orange engine light, which I would never have noticed in the bright light. I immediately took it Mercedes and they diagnosed it as an intermittent thermostat error, which they said is fine for now but that I have to keep an eye on the engine temperature.

Conclusion

The convenience of easily being able to export mileage for tax purposes and refuelling stops as well as being able to locate your car at anytime should be more than enough to qualify it as a pretty useful companion for your car.

Add to this the fact that it is completely free from Mercedes, and that makes it an absolute no-brainer. Should you not like it, simply unplug the adapter and uninstall the app. The only thing lost is half an hour while the Mercedes technician sets it up, ensures it is working and gives you a crash course on how to operate the app.

The adapter will only work in Mercedes Benz models from 2002 onwards. No warranties are lost, as the adapter does not increase the car’s performance and is a genuine Mercedes part.

2017 models and above do not need the adapter as everything is installed when the car is manufactured. All one needs to do is install the app and pair it with the car.

Get the Mercedes me iOS app here

Get the Mercedes Me Android app here

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Durban FilmMart wants African documentary projects

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Submissions for documentary and feature film projects in development for the Durban FilmMart  (DFM) close next week on 31 January 2020. The organisers are making a special call-out to documentary filmmakers who have projects to submit.

“We invite documentary filmmakers to submit their projects no matter how early in its development it is, so long as it has a producer and director attached to it,” says Don Edkins well-known documentary filmmaker and the DFM’s documentary film mentor. “The DFM is a brilliant way in which filmmakers are able to galvanize interest in their ideas, get people excited about being involved or helping them develop the project. It may be that the project could then be taken to its next level by being invited to another market for further development, or find financing through the pitches. The possibilities are endless.”

The DFM, which takes place from 17 to 20 July 2020, will host 10 documentary and 10 feature projects at its co-production and finance forum. The producer, director or writer on the project must be an African citizen and can either be living on the continent or in the Diaspora.

‘Documentary filim has over the last years really come into its own,” enthuses Edkins. “We see how the genre has evolved from its more information-driven newsreel-style to a narrative or ‘story-driven’ approach,” he says. “It makes the film genre so much more accessible for its audience, drawing them in and engaging them, yet still making strong statements or creating its requisite impact.”

Countless film projects have gone from a simple concept and idea at the Durban FilmMart to the big screen over the 11 years.

Some examples include the 2011 project Buddha in Africa directed by Nicole Schafer (SA) which premiered at HotDocs 2019, and had its SA premiere at Encounters and won Best SA Documentary at DIFF making it eligible for consideration for an Oscar nomination.  2014 projects which made it to the big screen include Kula – a Memory in 3 Acts directed by Inadelso Cossa (Mozambique), The Colonel’s Stray Dogs directed by Khali Shamis (SA), The Sound of Masks directed by Sara Gouveia (SA/Mozambique), Alison directed by Uga Carlini (SA). The 2015 alumni projects which were completed include Amal directed by Mohamed Siam (Egypt), Not in my Neighbourhood directed by Kurt Orderson (SA), The Giant is Falling (working title After Marikana) directed by Rehad Desai (SA) had its international premiere at IDFA. The 2016 project The Letter directed by Maia von Lekow and Chris King (Kenya) premiered at IDFA in 2019 and also from that year, Working Womxn directed by Shanelle Jewnarain (SA) is in production.

“There are plenty more examples of films that have pushed through from their initial concepts, into production and then onto distribution and or screening,” says Edkins. “The documentary film community in Africa is still small and working with the DFM we try to find new talent constantly and work with the industry to hold space for the documentary. I know there are highly creative and talented people out there who have brilliant ideas, and I would like to encourage them to submit these for consideration for this year’s edition.”

To submit a project go to http://www.durbanfilmmart.co.za/ProjectSubmissions

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