Managing director

Author Bio ▼

Since 1998 Frank has held senior-level positions in the security and CCTV market. After several years growing CCTV equipment manufacturer Charles Grant Limited as managing director there and sealing OEM supply agreements with the likes of Axis, Panasonic and Vicon, he co-founded IP video specialist NW Systems Group in 2004. As managing director there he has led the creation and consistent growth of the UK’s leading online IP camera store NetworkWebcams; cloud-based remote video monitoring service RemoteManager; and live video streaming service Streamdays for the tourism and leisure markets. He also leads NW’s successful systems integration business with enterprise clients in a wide range of sectors including transport, ports, manufacturing and education. NW Systems now employs more than 20 people and is headquartered in Wirral.
May 4, 2016

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Whitepaper: Effective Techniques for Robust OT Security

IP CCTV Could Offer Your Fastest Route to Unlocking Efficiencies

As IP video technology matures and becomes more sophisticated there is very real evidence of its use to unlock business efficiencies in a wide range of sectors.

Key areas which warrant special attention when deploying IP CCTV systems today are:

  1. Ability to distribute live (and recorded) video to place of need via smart mobile devices
  2. Use of increasingly sophisticated edge-based video analytics to help transform visual data into business intelligence which firms can act on to improve the way they operate
  3. Recognition that visualisation of a problem (from studying video) is a much more effective way of analysing processes and procedures before making improvements

axis dome cameraPower of distributing video

Firstly, there is no doubt that distribution of video significantly improves collaboration between people who may be working some distance from each other. This collaboration unlocks efficiencies.

Take the scenario of the rail station manager and his team of platform managers. Too often surveillance monitoring is highly centralised and reactive.

Central control room staff collect, analyse and distribute security incident reports and images after the actual events have taken place. If however, platform staff are given rapid access to relevant video when a high risk incident is unfolding on a platform (a fight close to a platform edge for example), this will help them make better decisions to diffuse a potential hazardous situation more rapidly – keeping passengers safe, rail infrastructure secure and train services running on time.

We need to start using surveillance much more proactively to analyse and alert managers to a range of predictable threats.

Distribution of images in real-time is also proving vital for a range of complex and difficult tasks, including surgeons performing ground-breaking operations. One of the largest construction firms in the world has, for example, created a visual control system to support the operators of large tower cranes that now puncture the skyline of the City of London.

The new system enables operators to gain better visibility of the materials and equipment that they are lifting hundreds of feet below them.

More importantly, cameras (situated in key locations on the crane) can also relay high quality real-time HD video images to expert trainers anywhere in the world. These remote trainers, perhaps based on the other wide of the world, can use the video images to support the crane operator during live tasks in London.

Tower cranes can cost in excess of £10,000 per week to hire, so technology which enables the operators to move materials more efficiently and safely, can also deliver thousands of pounds of savings per job.

Several zoos today are sending video recordings of animals that they look after, to remote experts when they are concerned about any aspect of their behaviour. For example, one zoo based in Ireland, sends video recordings from its elephant training area to Alan Roocroft, a world-renowned expert in elephant behaviour, who is based in San Diego, California.

Alan reviews recordings of these training sessions and informs zoo keepers of any concerns, all without the expense of flying him over to gain these insights. Veterinary consultants can also be sent recordings if keepers have health concerns for the animals they are looking after.

Through in-depth study of recordings of the zoo’s daily elephant training sessions, the zoo is able to build up an accurate picture of individual and group animal behaviours. The new camera system’s recordings offer indisputable scientific evidence of certain behaviour, which can be easily shared with the animal welfare and conservation communities around the world.

We’ve deployed cameras in automotive production plants to keep a watchful eye on robots spray painting components. The live views are fed directly to plant managers to give them an early warning if the robot is malfunctioning or needs maintenance.

Images can be recorded and sent onto the manufacturers of the robot in case of operational failures which cannot be fixed by the plant’s own engineers.

Video analytics helps turn video data into business intelligence

One of the most obvious ways in which video content analytics can deliver increased efficiencies is in the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) software which can be uploaded into IP cameras today to take an image of the front of a vehicle at a barrier and extract the number plate from that image in real-time.

That number plate can then be checked against a database of authorised vehicles. In an open systems environment it is possible to integrate the database with the barrier control system so that authorised vehicles can be automatically let into a restricted area such as a manufacturing plant, distribution centre or school.

You can see this in action at the entrance to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone today. Because you have to pre-register your vehicle to confirm the train booking for your car, the interface at the barrier immediately recognises who you are, based on your number plate captured by ANPR-enabled cameras.

This accelerates the verification process considerably, meaning that the system is able to deliver the all-important information of which train you are actually able to go on, bearing in mind existing knowledge of the numbers of cars queuing in front of you to board scheduled trains.

You are assigned a letter by the booking system, which ties your vehicle to a specific train (which may or may not be the actual one you originally booked). All this is done at the gate in under a minute, generally without any staff intervention whatsoever. It is enabled by IP video and ANPR analytics.

If we step into the retail sector for a moment, retailers are integrating dwell-time analytics software into the IP CCTV systems today to help analyse which aisles and displays are working best to attract and retain shoppers. Systems can also analyse dwell-time data alongside images of customers actually picking up products and putting them in their baskets.

Again it is valuable to cross-reference dwell-time data with customer action including actual purchase. However, if lots of customers are stopping to look at an offer or display and then walking away, this is a fair indication that something in this offer does not work for them.

Managers and suppliers can use this business intelligence to investigate further and make improvements.

It is also possible to use images of customers to analyse visitor demographics, specifically collecting age and gender profiles, as well as numbers of customers. Facial recognition software helps retailers to determine engagement levels of specific target groups with specific displays.

This software is increasingly used to establish the number of unique visitors to a store or display.

The resulting facts and figures can give added leverage to buyers when they are cuttings deals with suppliers wanting to display their goods in favourable locations.

To support this type of intelligence, store managers are increasingly deploying IP CCTV systems integrated with heat mapping analytics software offerings. Heat maps determine areas of most activity and highest footfall in the store.

The maps can be used to help direct managers’ discussions about the need for better store design to reduce ‘black spots’ where few customers venture, and stimulate customer flow through the store so they naturally travel next to some of the higher-value displays. Heat maps can be cross-referenced with till receipt data to confirm the effectiveness of new store layouts.

Specialist analytics software in IP video systems can also be used to generate real-time alerts when queues exceed pre-defined thresholds. These alerts might trigger management decisions to open additional tills and accelerate stock replenishment cycles – thus addressing the one customer experience that we could all do without.

Some smarter queue analytics software can also integrate with footfall data at store entrances so that additional tills can be opened before that fresh rush of new visitors reaches the checkouts.

A picture is worth a thousand words

The maxim often attributed to Confucius, is arguably truer today than it was when it was first conceived by the great Chinese philosopher. We live in a world in which we are bombarded by data in our working lives.

We wade through hundreds of emails each day, as well as social media messages, texts and spreadsheets. But for most of us, the best way to understand a complex problem is to sketch it out. In our line of work, building and configuring IP video-based solutions, we often make diagrams of how systems or processes fit together, thereby showing customers how different elements of a system need to interact.

Video Management Systems often show the location of cameras on an overhead map of the layout of the building in which they are installed.

If we need to understand why a mechanism isn’t working as it should, most of us prefer to go and have a look at it. IP CCTV systems increasingly provide those views, enabling real-time and recorded HD quality resolution video to be distributed to all decision-makers rapidly so that more timely, and better informed decisions, can be taken to perhaps carry out preventative maintenance, alter or reinforce health & safety procedures, or take other action based on a solid understanding of where risks, faults or inefficiencies lie.


IP video today has the capability to significantly improve collaboration between people within and beyond the organisation. In a working world, in which all the expertise that we need to access to complete a job is unlikely to be under one roof (and may well be outsourced), being able to share video (thereby establishing a single version of the truth more quickly) makes for much better business decision-making.

This is proving particularly valuable in higher risk environments such as manufacturing and food processing plants, as well as in food distribution centres and high value retail sites. The potential to empower front-line operational staff, by arming them with access to live and recorded video whilst on the move, has also not yet been fully exploited.

This is despite the fact that all the technology is now in place to make this all possible. Now is the time for the business community to look again at the next generation of IP video solutions and see how they can use these systems as key business intelligence and business management tools.

In doing so, they may be pleasantly surprised how many efficiencies can be unlocked and how quickly their investments pay off.

Free Download: The Video Surveillance Report 2020

Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector, directly from the people at its heart. We surveyed hundreds of professionals working in the field to bring you the 2020 Video Surveillance Report. Responses come from installers and integrators to consultants and heads of security, as we explore the latest trends in the sector including video analytics; cloud-based storage solutions; VSaaS; cyber security; the impact of COVID-19 and more!

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