February 23rd, 2018

Companies have long been sold on the idea of conserving energy as a means to be better stewards of both natural resources and their own financial resources.

Energy managers have sought ways to reduce their organization’s carbon footprint, reduce emissions, reduce waste, reduce power use and more. When it comes to power use in particular, most of the effort and emphasis has been on conservation: how can we use less power?

Answers have included everything from switching to LED lighting to investing in sophisticated building control systems that monitor usage and identify opportunities to maximize efficiency.
What’s next for organizations that have maximized their conservation options? The next step might be actually producing and/or storing their own energy.

Some technologies to watch:

Microgrids. Communities and even single facilities are increasingly turning to microgrids to deliver power needs. Microgrids typically connect to local resources – often renewable energy options like solar or wind power – for operation. Microgrids are connected to the main power grid, but can operate independently. Microgrids allow communities or facilities to become energy independent, and in some cases even sell energy back to the main grid. The effect reduces overall energy costs and may even become a revenue source.

MicroCHP. Combined heat and power systems combines the production of heat and electricity and converts waste heat to electricity. The systems are more efficient to operate, and may be powered by a variety of fuels including natural gas, biomass, solar and more. MicroCHPs make it possible to keep power generation extremely local (a home or office building), thus reducing the loss incurred in transmission of energy over distances. MicroCHPs can produce surplus energy, making more available to sell back to traditional energy suppliers.

Energy storage. Utility companies are now starting to experiment with using batteries for energy storage, but smaller scale solutions for homes and smaller facilities are on the horizon, too. The development of battery storage will allow producers to capture power generated by renewable energy sources like solar and wind and store for use when production is not at peak. For homes and businesses, this could open up the possibility of generating and storing their own power, and possibly even selling it back to the grid.

February 14th, 2018

Remember that time hackers wiggled their way through security weaknesses in Internet-connected security cameras and unleashed the Mirai botnet, taking down major sites such as Twitter and Spotify?

The event highlighted the vulnerabilities exposed by IoT (Internet of Things) devices. The same devices that offer us incredible scalability and insight can also be used to disrupt our world when exploited by bad actors. That event and many others like it have prompted device developers to innovate and launch new platforms that step up security for connected devices.

Axis’ new Device Manager is the latest entry in the market. The new platform, which replaces Camera Management, offers users the ability to manage thousands of cameras, access control and audio devices in one place. Features include the ability to automatically assign IP addresses; install, configure, replace or upgrade devices; set restore points and factory default settings; upgrade device firmware; manage user accounts and passwords; copy configurations between thousands of devices; connect to multiple servers and systems; and deploy and renew HTTPS & IEEE 802.1x certificates.

“Being able to access and efficiently install, adapt and secure all of the devices on your network saves a tremendous amount of time and effort. AXIS Device Manager is the go-to tool for reaching all Axis devices — whatever stage of their lifecycle — and make needed adjustments,” said Ola Lennartsson, global product manager, System Management at Axis Communications in a press release.”

“In today’s fast-paced world, any device or network that is static is not only old-fashioned, it is potentially prone to cyber threats. Therefore it is important we ensure our customers can use a tool that allows them to easily, rapidly and decisively manage all of the devices on their network. AXIS Device Manager is that tool.”

Dynamic, centralized control of devices makes it easier to stay a step ahead or security threats, especially for larger installations across multiple locations.

Interested in learning more? Our team can take you through a system integration project from design to completion. Call (800) 567-1180 to arrange for a consultation.

February 9th, 2018

Shortly after the New Year, news broke world wide of potential weaknesses in the hardware that drives nearly every device on the planet from computers to smart phones. “Update everything now” dominated the news cycles for several days.

Now that the conversation has calmed a bit, facilities managers may be wondering, “What exactly was that all about, and how might it impact my integrated systems?” Here’s a high level explanation:

Last summer, researchers with Google and several universities discovered a new way hackers might be able to work their way around modern processors to gain access passwords and other sensitive information. One type of exploit was patchable, and patches were quickly developed and deployed.

The other approach is not so easily patchable, and will require a redesign of processors themselves. That will require years of research and work.
So, where does that leave the rest of the world? The situation may not be quite as dire or threatening as it seems. Keep in mind, these exploits were discovered by researchers. They are extremely novel approaches and will require a high level of expertise to develop attacks. To date, there’s no evidence that any attacks have been made using these weaknesses. Make no mistake, however, hackers are likely hard at work trying to figure out how to exploit these vulnerabilities, but right now security experts remain one step ahead with patches and other fixes.

Patches have already been pushed out, and longer term fixes will likely be ready by mid-year.

So what should you do in the meantime? The best thing to do is to make sure to implement all system updates in a timely fashion.

For our part, we have been vigorously researching the problem to determine if our customers’ integrated building systems will be impacted. Our goal is to bring you solid information and solutions that securely function and provide value.  We currently have no indication that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data, and we will continue to closely follow this situation.

ECT Services is dedicated to the safety and security of our customers.   As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates.   In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like further information, please contact us at (800) 567-1180. Thank you.

February 2nd, 2018

Were it not for the location, perhaps we wouldn’t have even paid much attention to it.

But last week’s school shooting in Marshall County, Kentucky was close to home. Two students were killed, and more than a dozen injured when a student opened fire with a handgun in the school’s commons area.

It was the eleventh school shooting of the year. And since then, another has hit the news waves. That remarkable statistic is even more remarkable given the fact that the end of January was nearly a week away when the shooting took place, and most schools across the country didn’t get started until several days into January, and many schools across the Southeast were out for several days due to inclement weather.

On average, the United States has around a school shooting a week, and there have been more than 300 school shootings since 2013, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Political solutions don’t seem to be in the offing, though one Kentucky lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow school districts to employ marshals with concealed carry permits to patrol school grounds. In the event of an active shooter situation, the lawmaker hopes a marshal would be able to subdue the shooter by returning fire.

In response to the Marshall County shooting, some other Kentucky schools have held active shooter drills, reminding students and teachers to “run, hide, or fight.” Active shooter drills are now as much a part of safety training as tornado and fire drills.

Just as tornado and fire alarms are standard protection systems in schools, perhaps it’s time to consider shot detection systems as the standard, too.
Shooter Detection System’s Guardian uses acoustic and infrared sensors to instantly identify gunshots inside a facility. The precise location of the gunshots is noted, and authorities are alerted immediately. Warnings are also instantly sent out to people in the facility and vicinity advising them to evacuate or take cover. Guardian gunshot detection can also be integrated with a number of other systems, including text alerts, incident management dashboards and building systems like door locks and video surveillance.

Interested in learning more about the Guardian active shooter detection system? Register now for one of our Live Fire events to see a live demonstration, or call us at (800) 567-1180. Our next event if February 28th. Please join us to learn more information.

January 24th, 2018

Flu activity is now widespread across much of the country, and hitting hard in the Ohio Valley. The strain going around this year seems to be particularly vicious and not included in the flu shot.

If it hasn’t already made its way through your staff, it probably will soon. Team members will be out sick or caring for sick family members. While having a team member out can be a challenge in terms of workload and project deadlines for the rest of the team, can it also pose a security risk?

Without proper planning and redundancies, yes. Being short staffed can lead to weaknesses in processes as overburdened staff members scramble to fill in gaps, especially if they are unfamiliar with systems or don’t have access to systems.

Here are some ideas for reducing the risk:

– Prevent the spread of the flu. The strongest weapon to combat the flu is simple hygiene. Make sure bathrooms are well stocked with handwashing supplies and cleaned and disinfected regularly. Post reminders in bathrooms and breakrooms about handwashing. Cleaning crews should also regularly wipe down light switch plates, door handles, counter tops, phones and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.

– Give clear guidance that those who are experiencing symptoms – fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea – should stay home. Support that by giving adequate sick days or allowing work to be made up later. Keeping sick workers out of the office is key to keeping the rest of the staff well.

– Cross train and document key roles. Make sure roles and basic duties are documented, and buddy up team members to cross train one another. Use regular staff meetings to give updates on key projects and issues so everyone has some familiarity with what other team members are doing, and can step in at a moment’s notice. Make it a practice to run emergency drills and review policies and procedures regularly, so staff members are always prepared.

– Where possible, allow work from home. If flu starts making its way through your staff, it might be best to allow team members to work from home to reduce their chances of being exposed. Consider flexible work policies when possible.

 

January 18th, 2018

Strong security includes good integrated systems – video, indoor gunshot detection, alerts – backed up by well-thought out policies.

Those are great and crucial elements, but have you considered your physical space?

Good security planning starts in the construction of design phase. Some elements to consider:

Getting in, getting out. Are primary entrances and exits for each building located where employees have easy access to secure from the inside? In an emergency, employees should be able to quickly access doors and secure them from the inside.

What about secondary entrances and exits? Employees should also have access to secondary exits that lead into more secure interior spaces in the event of an emergency.

Safe rooms. Does your facility have one secure room large enough to accommodate several staff and guests in an emergency? Walls should be reinforced so bullets can’t pass through. Door frames and doors should be strong enough to take a battering and not cave in or break open.

Reliable communications. Safe rooms and other key areas should be equipped with landline phones that can be used for emergency calls. While mobile phones are ubiquitous, they might not be able to get a strong enough signal in some places to reach out in the event of an emergency.

Keeping an eye on things. Video camera placement is key. For all facilities, cameras should be trained on entrances and exits, high traffic areas and parking areas. For retail facilities, cameras might be positioned to keep an eye on merchandise and cash registers. Manufacturers and warehouses might need to keep an eye on loading docks. All camera placement should be well-thought out and well-documented in facility schematics.

Make space for the home team, and a traveling team, too. If on-site monitoring and security is in your plans, make sure the team is placed appropriately within the space. But don’t forget to include provisions for off-site, remote monitoring, too.

Need help designing and documenting your new build’s security features? We can help. Call us at (800) 567-1180 to discuss your goals.

January 2nd, 2018

Without question, the United States holds the dubious distinction of leading the world in mass shootings. As we grapple with answers as to why mass shootings take place more frequently here than in other parts of the world, a new insight has emerged: the link between domestic violence and mass shootings.

The shooter who opened fire during a worship service in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last fall, killing more than two dozen men, women and children, had a history of domestic violence. So did the shooters in recent mass shootings in Las Vegas, San Bernardino and Orlando. In fact, domestic violence was involved in 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, according to a study by Everytown for Gun Safety.

What can businesses and other public institutions do to reduce risks associated with domestic violence? Here are a few ideas:

Establish policies and supports. Providing employees who are victims of domestic violence with safety and job security is a strong first step. Employees who fear losing their jobs due to dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence may be reluctant to disclose their situation. That lack of awareness may leave a workplace vulnerable to threats. Craft policies that protect victims of domestic violence by helping them change work hours or locations, by providing them with escorts to parking areas, and more. Be aware that courts and some state laws recognize victims of domestic violence as protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and reasonable accommodations must be made for them.

At the same time, consider offering an employee assistance program that would afford employees access to counseling and other services. Make it safe for those who are at risk of lashing out to seek help.
Keep lines of communication open, but discreet. Instruct supervisors and managers to only disclose information on a need to know basis, and map those disclosures out as part of your policy development. For instance, security teams will need to be aware if protective orders have been issued.

Offer workplace violence and active shooter drills as part of your overall disaster preparedness planning. Use the Department of Homeland Security’s “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol as the basis for your planning.

Include integrated security systems solutions. The Guardian system automatically detects and reports shots fired indoors, and will notify authorities and alert stakeholders immediately and accurately. Automatic detection and alerts shave precious minutes off response times.

Want to know more? Call (800) 567-1180 now to learn more about our upcoming Live Fire demonstrations.

December 19th, 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be awesome and change the way we do everything.

Just as soon as we figure out what it is.

That’s one finding from a study conducted earlier this year by trade groups in the UK. According to the study, more than 40 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the term “Internet of Things.”

So, what exactly is IoT? According to Techopedia, “The internet of things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes the idea of everyday physical objects being connected to the internet and being able to identify themselves to other devices. … The IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than the object by itself. No longer does the object relate just to its user, but is now connected to surrounding objects and database data. When many objects act in unison, they are known as having ‘ambient intelligence.’”
In lay terms, that means that all sorts of appliances and equipment and tools can now talk to each other, making it possible to optimize for efficiency, gather data and more.

IoT has been at the top of annual trend lists for several years running, according to Energy Manager Today, but still has a ways to go before fully taking hold as the way commercial, industrial and manufacturing facilities are built and operated.
What are the barriers to full IoT adoption?

Legacy systems and piecemeal approaches. Retrofitting existing systems is a challenge.

Security. Some IoT products and tools have been used to exploit internet security weaknesses and launch attacks. That’s on top of the risk of having sensitive internal data available on the internet for exposure. It’s a concern for facilities managers and security professionals that must be overcome.

Funding. Upgrading can be an expensive proposition, especially if the business case isn’t clear.

What’s keeping you from fully embracing IoT for your facility? Where does it make sense to move forward with proven applications? How can IoT be installed securely? We can walk you through these questions and more. Call us at (800) 567-1180.

December 14th, 2017

For most bricks and mortar retailers, ‘tis the season for high-volumes of foot traffic through stores. The last two months of the year are make-or-break, and understanding how customers are moving through retail space, where they are stopping to look, how long they are waiting for help or waiting in line are all key to maximizing sales.

Did you know that security video systems can do double-duty as merchandising analytics tools?

It’s possible using Bosch Security Systems’ In Store Analytics. The cloud-based service uses position data generated by its cameras to provide detail on how shoppers move through a retail space.

Bosch panoramic IP cameras are installed and positioned to take in as much of the retail floor space as possible, so the maximum amount of data can be captured. Shopper position data is captured and transmitted to the cloud, where it is further analyzed and delivered back to merchandising managers for review via a customized dashboard. The interface is designed to be easy to use, and doesn’t require any advanced query or data mining capabilities on the part of the user.
From the position data, merchandising managers can see how shoppers are moving through the retail space. They can see which displays are attracting shoppers, at which are not. They can identify peak times of day for traffic down to the display level, and position staff appropriately. The data also reveals how long shoppers linger in different areas, and how strongly they are engaged with merchandise or sales personnel. The intelligence gathered can be used to reposition displays or personnel to maximize sales.

In Store Analytics may be just the tool bricks and mortar retailers need to better compete with online retailers. Online retailers have the distinct advantage of being able to collect large amounts of significant customer data, including the purchasing journey. Bricks and mortar retailers often miss that piece, and have difficultly pinning down just how customers move through the process to purchase. In Store Analytics can help close that gap by providing actionable insights on customer flow and helping identify missed opportunities.

The In Store Analytics platform is suitable for large footprint retail spaces and scalable across multiple sites. Bosch also plans to roll out In Store Analytics dashboards for operations and loss prevention managers.

December 6th, 2017

As 2017 winds down, trend watchers are looking ahead to 2018 and thinking about the trends taking shape. Artificial Intelligence is top of mind for many.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI), and what is the difference between AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning? According to techopedia, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.” AI computers might be used for speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving.

Machine Learning takes AI a step further, allowing computers to be challenged by and learn from new scenarios for testing and adaptation. The goal is for the machines to use pattern recognition and trend detection to “learn” so that it can make independent decisions about similar situations in the future.

Deep Learning collects what Machine Learning computers have learned and uses those algorithms to develop larger networks that mimic the high-powered decision-making capability of the human brain.

AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning all have significant potential for real-world application, particularly in video security.

The boom in digital video means a voluminous amount of data is available to analyze. Couple that data with more data available via API – weather data, financial data, etc. – and the possibilities for pulling together patterns and making predictions is nearly endless.

“While the technologies aren’t particularly new, this year they have more than ever captured the attention of the market due to various factors: an increase in data that’s available for meaningful analysis, the emergence of hardware devices with high computing power, as well as the maturity of networking infrastructure for both landline and wireless transmissions,” wrote William Pao of a&s International in a recent post on asmag.com.

Some are predicting a boom in AI-driven analysis. “The next step in video analytics is to dive deeper to gain very specific insights into video content, including analyzing human behavior through the use of neural network video analysis. Video will not only be used to track the usual movement of cars and people or detect items left behind, but will also be relied on more frequently to bring behaviors of interest to the attention of security personnel,” said Jammy DeSousa, Senior Product Manager for Security Products for Building Technologies and Solutions at Johnson Controls in the post.

Others are slightly more conservative in their outlook. “Machine or deep-learning is mostly used for video analytics, but I expect the technology will be an important component in many different applications and products in the future. Over time it will become a common tool for software engineers and will be included in many different environments and devices,” said Johan Paulsson, CTO of Axis Communications in the post. “However, the surveillance industry has a history of sometimes over-promising with video analytics, and we are especially conscious of that when it comes to deep learning. We think deep learning has to mature further before it is ready for market in a broader perspective.”

Interested in learning more about new products and integrations on the horizon for 2018? Contact us at (800) 567-1180.