Wireless or Close Circuit? It’s an Open Question


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Article by David Ward as appeared in September issue of FM World http://www.fm-world.co.uk/

For many years, CCTV reigned supreme when it came to remotely monitoring sites. But Wireless Intruder Detection Systems, or WIDS, are becoming an increasingly popular way for facilities managers to keep a watchful – if remote – eye on property and assets. David Ward, managing director of Ward Security, explains the differences between the two systems and considers which one provides the best solution for facilities managers.

According to a recent report from the British Security Industry Association, there are between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras in the UK. Regardless of whether you take the higher or lower estimate, it’s fair to say that CCTV has come a long way since Merseyside Police experimented with four covert cameras in Liverpool city centre in 1964.

CCTV has been – and remains – a hugely useful security tool, both in terms of deterrence and in terms of identifying criminals. But it is not the only type of camera at the facility manager’s disposal.

At Ward Security, we are witnessing a growing appetite among clients from a variety of sectors for Wireless Intruder Detection Systems (WIDS). Construction companies, property estates, motor groups and commercial property firms are all using them. But what is the difference between WIDS and CCTV, and which one provides the better security solution?

Unlike CCTV, which captures footage continuously, a WIDS only begins to film when it is activated. Integral to a WIDS are movement sensors, and when they are activated a 10-second video clip is sent via the mobile phone network to a control room or your mobile device where the footage can be viewed immediately. Security staff can then challenge the intruder through a two-way voice system, and then make the decision whether officers need to be deployed to the scene.

The benefits of WIDS are considerable. A WIDS is portable because it does not require mains power and it can be an internal or external system or a mixture of both. It can also feature alarm sirens and smoke sensors.

One of the big attractions of WIDS is its cost-effectiveness. WIDS can provide an alternative to the 24-hour manned guarding of sites, while the ability to review footage remotely and determine whether there has been a genuine security breach eliminates call-out charges triggered by false alarms. This type of system now satisfies police response regulations and an individual WIDS can be given a Police URN (Unique Reference Number), which ensures that officers will respond to a request for attendance following an alarm activation.

In some cases, WIDS can be combined with dog handling teams to provide a hybrid – but highly effective –security solution. One example would be a vacant office block with warehouses in South London where Ward Security was asked to provide security. Initially, the managing agent asked for two dog handlers providing 24/7 cover, but after consultation with the client instead of deploying two dog teams we deployed one team and a WIDS. The WIDS protects the warehouse area and if an activation occurs the dog handler can investigate immediately. This has almost halved the security cost without compromising the site’s security.

Another client has a considerable portfolio of properties in London, both residential and commercial. When they are empty, a WIDS is deployed. They can be installed without damaging the fabric of the building and are easily removed once the property is again occupied. Hired monthly they give the client peace of mind for a relatively small cost.

While each site in need of security is different, WIDS is usually be far cheaper than a full CCTV system and deployed within hours. A typical CCTV system costs between £6,000 and £10,000 to purchase and instal, with monitoring and maintenance costs adding on between £2,000 and £5,000 per year. WIDS, on the other hand, cost between £180 and £600 per month, with the only additional charges arising from call-outs to confirmed intrusions.

The reason for the cost difference is that, as effective as they are as portable, low-maintenance and low-cost devices, WIDS do not provide the level of protection of a full CCTV system. CCTV is permanently ‘live’ and can be recording everything within its field of vision, and is always free of interference.

But while wired CCTV provides higher quality footage that is running around the clock, WIDS are proving popular as a cost-effective security solution in a variety of settings. Among the locations where WIDS have been used are warehouses, farms, garages, shipyards, marinas, construction sites, fuel depots and water treatment plants.

As each security brief is unique, it is impossible to be too prescriptive about when CCTV should be used and when a WIDS should be deployed. But, as a general rule, if you need temporary security at a site with no mains power, and if you have a restricted budget, then WIDS is the answer. For more permanent security requirements, then CCTV may well be the solution.

But for a camera-based security system to really work, facilities managers need to consider the best means of installation, monitoring and maintenance. Technology undoubtedly helps provide security for assets, people and premises, but careful thought is needed to ensure that such technology delivers exactly what your organisation needs.

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