Edinburgh City Council are now managing and securing their building stock in a unique and forward-thinking scheme, that is providing significant budgetary savings across the board, within just one year of its operation.

Thanks to security and management technology from i-COMPLY, Edinburgh’s mix of occupied and vacant council-owned buildings are being effectively protected around the clock, via a networked solution that could lead the way forward for many other authorities across the UK.

Frank Macfadden, Edinburgh City Council’s General Manager of Security arrived at the council in 2009, having spent many years in a similar role at Glasgow council. Creating a large control facility at Glasgow, heading the Streetwars Glasgow scheme, and over-seeing the installation of more than 400 CCTV cameras across Glasgow city centre, Frank arrived in his new role at Edinburgh looking to consolidate and maximize the resources at his disposal. He explains: “In the boom times of a few years ago, vacant and unused council buildings were an asset, as they could be sold to developers who were clamoring for period, city-based properties to develop. Since the economic downturn however, and the lack of movement in the housing sector, developers no longer require these sites or buildings, leading to an increasing stock of unused sites, in addition to the many functioning buildings in the portfolio that we need to protect.

“This increasing level of stock means that security management strategies need to come of age. In the past, and when I arrived here at Edinburgh, security for the council’s building network (both used and unused) was seen as an unavoidable outgoing, that couldn’t be reduced. A myriad of private manned-guarding and disparate security technology companies were all vying for an ever-increasing slice of the council’s budget. This had resulted in individual security arrangements for each building, and legacy electronic systems with no interconnectivity across the council’s properties. In addition to the operational difficulties of this arrangement, we were also experiencing a large proportion of false alarms – so many in fact, that a number of our properties were beginning to be denied Police response. To turnaround this problematic situation, we looked at a total shift of ethos, towards a program of employing integrated technology to maximize the resources we already had at our disposal.”

Smart management

Having previously employed i-COMPLY technology during his time at Glasgow council, Frank once turned again to the company to assist in the shift to a smarter, integrated, and more economical way of protecting council buildings and assets. The result is now, operators at a brand new control room can view images from every council owned building throughout the city, forming a centre-point for an integrated security network for the council’s properties.

Viewing internal and external areas of each council property on a large monitor-wall, operators can gain instant visual verification of any alarm activation in the council’s building network, Frank explains: “We’re currently responsible for ten individual council buildings and two hundred schools across the Edinburgh City Council area. With such a large amount of properties and an even larger amount of cameras, we cannot physically monitor all of them, all of the time. This is where our technology partner, i-COMPLY has proved invaluable, by providing the control room with only the visual and operational information that is needed at any particular moment, streamlining our operators’ workloads.”

Deep integration

At the heart of operations, and making the streaming of images from the sites to the control room possible, is i-COMPLY’s V-TAS Pro software. Integrating with multiple technologies from an array of disparate manufacturers, such as an Xtralis receiver in the control room, PAC Access Control, Honeywell alarm panels, Redwall perimeter detection and multiple CCTV camera manufacturers on-site, the V-TAS PRO software enables images transmitted over the dedicated wireless/broadband network to be displayed, controlled and archived in the control room.

In addition to the control and recording of camera images, the V-TAS Back Office database management system retains all the forms and data structure, including all reports from the manned guarding teams and mobile patrols.

Additionally, V-TAS’ enhanced data overlay and mapping functionality, detailing when, where and what type of incidents have taken place, is now provided an intuitive ‘incident map’ – to assist the easy identification of any emerging patterns.

Providing access to over 150 graphically enriched management reports, V-TAS is recognised as the industry’s leading Back Office management system and now provides the Edinburgh team with invaluable, detailed incident reporting that is used in a variety of ways, as Frank explains: “Our Council department operates almost as a private company within the council network, so the detailed reporting of our daily workload and performance is invaluable to justify our position. Instead of the constant leak of funds into the private sector the council used to experience, using the integrated technological ability we now have available at our fingertips, we can provide other departments with a full and auditable service, for a set fee – all within the council structure. This has streamlined the accounting process in council departments, and saved a quantifiable amount of the council’s budget – around £100k/year at a current estimate.

Powerful reporting

“Using V-TAS’ powerful reporting functionality means we can produce ‘customer’ reports that show a detailed story of the level of service they receive for their money, and allows us to calculate exactly how the changes we have introduced have benefited the performance of the service – in addition to how much money the council has saved overall.

“These reports have now become a great advert for our services too, providing irrefutable and detailed evidence of how utilising our service can positively impact on performance and economy.”

The modular nature of V-TAS PRO has been designed to provide the ultimate in end-user flexibility and system configuration, and has allowed i-COMPLY to create specific applications to address the individual needs of Edinburgh Council

Security on the move

As well as providing a command and control solution, i-COMPLY’s integration expertise is tracking security personnel and vans around the city, implementing guard tours, protecting guards (via a Lone worker protection system) and tracking council assets via RFID tag systems – all thanks to in-depth third-party technology integration.

Interfacing with the Tom-Tom GPS navigation systems fitted on each council vehicle, operators can instantly track the position of any of the fleet of security cars – wherever they are in the city, with operators being presented with a live map display of the location of each car via V-TAS. This facilitates any alarm activation or reported incident to be dealt with quickly, allowing an operator to despatch the nearest patrol to a specific location.

Using the latest advances in mobile technology, i-COMPLY utilise RFiD to provide a cost-effective and reliable guard tour system. This allows Frank and the team to design an officer’s tour via the V-TAS interface, and then to either download or send it via 3G to each officer’s ruggedized PDA.

The software program knows which tags need to be selected and at what intervals, tracking progress of the tour and generating alarms to control room staff if a tag has not been selected, and/or the time interval has elapsed. The system can then automatically generate reports that include exceptions, frequency, and timing of each tour.

Minimising the amount of equipment each officer is expected to carry, i-COMPLY have integrated this technology into a ruggedized PDA, incorporating a mobile phone – containing GPS, 3G and RFiD.

i-COMPLY’s ‘Check call’ handling system also allows each guard to provide a schedule of check calls. On arriving at a site, each guard calls into the system and makes an ‘amber check call’, leaving a message on the system stating that they have arrived at the premises. If a check call is missed, the system will alarm into the control room via V-TAS. This assures an operator does not get involved in the process unless a check call is missed.

Integrated to Teltonika tracking devices, a panic alarm from a guard is presented to the control room operator via the V-TAS interface. Once the alarm is received from the panic alarm device or via a missed check call, the operator can confirm the last known position of a guard via the GPS tracking device, and refer to the amber check call recording.

Effective management

Also featured in the Edinburgh network, is i-COMPLY’s ‘Key and Asset Control module’. This provides audited, paperless key and asset management, replacing traditional and labour intensive paper-based peg systems to track keysets for premises, and council equipment, such as communication and tracking equipment. Frank adds: “To tackle the management problem of handling over two hundred properties, each with multiple keysets and expensive communication equipment leaving the control facility each day, i-COMPLY have provided a bespoke IT solution. It has simplified our daily operations and reduced equipment turnover, all within the familiar V-TAS interface.”

Since the introduction of the comprehensive new i-COMPLY solution, Frank’s team have enjoyed a policy of ‘lock and leave’ in the council’s building network. “Supported by our patrol’s scheduled tours, we no longer need to station a guard at each site overnight,” explains Frank. “Along with the associated cost savings, this system always means that our guards are fully aware of any situation they may need to attend on-site, before they arrive to deal with it.

“If an event is detected (from the PIR, alarm or perimeter detection technology), our control room operators are alerted and surveillance coverage from the nearest associated camera is automatically displayed on the media wall in the control room. Our operators can than make an informed assessment for the reaction to the alert, assured in the knowledge that all their responsive actions are archived via the V-TAS system. First off, we have the facility to address any intruders at the site via public address horn speakers adjacent to the cameras, with all speech also being recorded for reference. After this, we can alert our response team, dispatching them to the site if necessary. If the situation is more serious however, we have the option to directly contact the Police to request their attendance too.”

Frank concludes: “Thanks to an innovative way of working combined with the mix of advanced technology from i-COMPLY, we now enjoy an economical security network that delivers auditable results, alongside significant cost savings. When we first began work on the project, we were spearheading a totally new path, akin to trying to complete a jigsaw of a picture that no one had seen. But in partnership with i-COMPLY, we now have an integrated solution that will benefit Edinburgh City Council financial and operational for many years to come.