Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
December 12, 2017

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CSL Insurers’ Forum

Modernisation of telecoms infrastructure will take 90 seconds off alarm call-handling process

A large Bell System international switchboard in 1943

CSL’s latest Insurers’ Forum was very much focused on a potential future shift to IP and IoT technologies that’s transforming business models, improving physical security but also amplifying the cybersecurity threat.

The event took place in the headquarters of UBM, the organisers of IFSEC and FIREX International.

Pitching itself as providing secure connectivity for machine to machine and IoT devices, CSL long ago anticipated the sea change already underway.

The alarm signalling giant’s group MD, Simon Banks, highlighted CSL’s growing list of partnerships with leading panel manufacturers – so far including Pyronix, RISCO Group and, most recently, Eaton, with more in the pipeline – for its professional monitoring service.

CSL Connected, which provides critical connectivity between DualCom signalling with your alarm panel, offers faster UDL sessions, lower capital outlay, GSM, LAN, WiFi and ARC connection variants and other benefits, according to CSL.

Banks also reflected on the shoddy security response to the Hatton Garden raid. The control panel, he quipped, was “in a state rather than state of the art”.

He also expressed noted that the heisters were able to drill through a concrete wall thanks to ready access to the water supply, which helped cool the drill during operation. If the premises of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company were ‘secure by design’ – where security is a guiding principle at the very outset – drilling would not have been possible. In other words, don’t make it easy for criminals and design out their opportunities.

NSI CEO Richard Jenkins reflected on surpassing a major milestone: more than one million certificates provided for NSI-approved installations. Certification of installers by the NSI – either to Gold or Silver standard – offers customers the reassurance that all relevant personnel have been security screened to British Standard 7858 and that they can expect a 24-hour callout service and emergency responses within four hours (24 hours for CCTV and access control).

Outdated infrastructure

Alongside championing and finessing certification and standards, upgrading outdated infrastructure is a major focus for the NSI. The alarm chain is technologically out of date, said Jenkins, with signals still being transmitted by telephone hardwire.

The NSI has therefore backed the ECHO (Electronic Call Handling Operation) project, under which electronic transfer of alarm calls will be mandatory by 2020. Formed in August 17, the initiative aims to centralise and fully automate the call-handling process.

he installation will remove human error from the equation and shave vital seconds off average response times, easing pressure on overstretched emergency services.

The electronic transfer of alarm calls removes human error from the equation and shaves vital seconds off average response times, easing pressure on overstretched emergency services

Pilot schemes have already proven the worth of the initiative, which, said Jenkins, is already winning support across the industry.

John Livermore, the All IP Programme Leader for BT, talked about BT’s plans to make all customers’ telephone services digital by 2025. The telecoms giant is introducing a naked VDSL-style service that will accommodate a standalone superfast fibre broadband line that doesn’t need a phone service. Called SoGea (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access), the new solution will be available from Summer 2018.

BT is also providing a ‘PSTN’ router port that supports 50v and dial tone signalling.

Vodafone, whose head of M2M in the UK, Ray Kay, also spoke at the Insurers’ Forum, is also developing product that bypass traditional copper phone lines.

Ken Meanwell, Security Systems Group Staff Officer at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), reassured attendees that URN (unique reference number) fees were not likely to rise at this juncture.

Picking up on Richard Jenkins’ theme, he also suggested that ECHO would take 90 seconds off the process.

False fire alarms and Grenfell

Martin Harvey, head of regulatory affairs EMEA at Tyco International, reflected, among other things, on false alarms and the Grenfell tragedy. False alarm standards had not moved forward for some time, he said.

While the causes of false alarms are myriad, 15-16% of them – caused by accidentally triggering of the call point – could be prevented with a simple, inexpensive solution: call point covers.

Detectors that discern the difference between types of smoke can also make a huge difference, he noted.

Martin Harvey said responsibility for fire engineering was too dispersed throughout the supply chain

On Grenfell, he was understandably reluctant to say too much with Dame Judith Hackett interim report pending. What he did say was that responsibility was too dispersed throughout the supply chain and that a consistent approach was hampered by a patchwork of myriad licences issued by councils.

He also predicted that Hackitt might suggest that fire engineers should have to sign off buildings and that there would be an overhaul of regulations.

Speaking to the BBC World Service in the wake of the fire, Harvey noted that Grenfell was “a very large fire but it isn’t unprecedented when you look around the world, these types of fire are starting to occur on a more regular basis.

“Certainly our industry has concerns over fire safety in the current built in environment. As a sector, we’ve been asking the government to look at this for a number of years.”

Cybersecurity for installers

No security seminar is complete these days without mention of cybersecurity and John Goy of CSL took up the challenge.

Noting that no fewer than one million Hikvision and Dahua cameras were in in operation with default passwords and insecure port 80 logins, he urged installers to change the password out of the box and keep software up to date. The risks of not doing so were also recently illustrated by the NHS breach.

Recognising the gravity of the issue, CSL has an endpoint router coming to market that introduces multiple new cybersecurity protections. With GDPR on the horizon, the router will provide piece of mind by encrypting transmissions and rerouting dodgy wifi onto CSL’s secure private network.

The cybersecurity threat and the migration to IP means that traditional installers could not survive without upskilling, Goy noted.

Simon Banks completed the half-day seminar with an update on the Apprentices for Fire & Security drive in which CSL has been instrumental. The 4,000 mark had now been passed in terms of apprentices recruited, but 30,000 are needed in total if the industry is to plug the skills gap that threatens to drive up labour costs.

It’s not a problem restricted to the fire and security industry, with Banks noting that Sir James Dyson believes that the UK needs two million engineers by 2022.

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