High tech route to farm security

Floodlights, surveillance cameras and intruder alert systems are the best ways of deterring unwelcome visitors. Peter Hill rounds up some the latest technologies available.

Controlling access to farmyards used to be all about remembering to close the gate. But these days, with farms and other rural enterprises an increasingly common target for thieves, deterrence by surveillance is a popular measure.

It’s not all negative, though. On farms where there are few people about, it can be quite handy to get a text alert when a vehicle pulls into the yard and it turns out to be a forgotten grain collection or feed delivery.

A huge choice of individual components and complete systems is now available to farms wanting to make their premises more secure. And while there is no doubt plenty of dross to avoid there are also some high-quality items and some that have been put together by operators with a good knowledge of the agricultural industry and what it needs – in terms of both practical usage and durability in a hostile environment.

The development of reliable wireless technology is helping bring down the cost of installation and provide the versatility that comes from being able to move sensors and cameras to wherever they are needed at different times of the year.

And the ability to receive text message alerts and video clips on mobile phones and view camera outputs over the internet on the office computer has added a new dimension to access control.

The use of CCTV cameras are effective in deterring unwelcome visitors.

Moreover, solar and wind power and longer-lasting batteries, together with the universal mobile phone coverage provided by GPRS, enables camera systems to be operated in the most remote of locations.

While no-one wishes to pay over the odds for such facilities, quality is a key issue here. Not only in the daily and longer-term reliability of wireless systems and other components but also in respect of the quality of images captured by cameras.

In theory, it is the mere presence of cameras that should act as a deterrent. But we all know that if the day comes when they record a thief in action, we will want to be able to see his face clearly enough to stand a chance of recognition and prosecution.

3rdiSecure camera and phone.

Keep a eye out with the 3rdiSecure camera

The 3rdiSecure camera transmits images on all mobile phone networks (with the exception of “3”) so buyers sign up for a monthly airtime plan in addition to the £400 purchase price. The phone must be data-enabled to connect to the internet, Java-enabled and have a colour screen. A movement sensor activates camera recording and a text message alert; the user can then view the online recording, which is retained by the 3rdi control centre for 30 days in three sizes and three quality settings. Users can also access the camera view by mobile phone at any time. The package includes a CMOS camera, PIR motion sensor, GPRS modem with internal SIM card and antenna and a DC power supply.Pedagog 01443 812777 www.3rdisecure.tv

Who watches the watchman?

The Wireless Watchman system is designed to monitor for intruders and fires in remote locations or on temporary sites. Using outdoor sensors and GPRS communications technology, the systems provide text message or email alerts to up to eight mobile phones, with purchase prices starting at £1995 and short-term hire available from £110 per week. Optional built-in day and night vision video cameras provide activity recordings triggered by movement sensors, which can be viewed on a data-enabled mobile phone with internet access or online and, if required, by staff at an approved control room. Allsite Security 0845 459 9990 www.wirelesswatchman.co.uk.

ECT 105 camera
The floodlight that doubles as a video camera

The ECT 105 camera light may look like a conventional motion-sensitive PIR floodlight but in fact it also houses a discreet camera lens in the sensor. It can work as a digital stills or video camera (or combined), with remote switching between the two modes. Images viewed on an office computer can be downloaded and stored on a hard-drive, with time and date stamps in the case of stills. The three megapixel camera is said to be capable of recording images up to 9m away at a viewing angle of approximately 65°. The powerful 500W halogen floodlight acts as a deterrent in its own right but also enables the camera to record at night as well as in the day, providing security logging of people and vehicle movements in yards and around buildings or web camera images for livestock monitoring. It is priced at £95. Available from agricultural supplies specialist APM 01794 388622 www.apm-supplies.co.uk.

Parabeam spots intruders

At the heart of the Parabeam driveway and perimeter security alert system is a long range infra-red beam generator/transmitter that is continuously recharged by solar panels so it can be installed in remote locations without any wiring.

The infra-red units are used in pairs to provide a twin beam set-up designed to minimise false alarms. When something solid breaks the beam, which can span up to 50m, a signal is sent to a pocket receiver (range up to 100m) or via a multi-channel base receiver with a range of 400m or 3km with an external antenna installed.

The receivers provide an audible and visual alert, giving advanced warning of a visitor or intruder. Multiple pocket receivers can be used and the base unit can work with up to six beam transmitters.

The system can also operate external sirens, security lights and CCTV cameras, and alert texts can be sent to up to eight mobile phones. Parabeam 600-P kits with pocket receiver costs £249 (£29 for mains power adapter, £49 for additional receivers) and the 600-S with six-channel base station is £349. High Performance Products 01904 295 250 www.parabeam.co.uk.

CowCam has security potential too

The CowCam is being promoted as a high-tech solution to remote monitoring of housed livestock but also has security potential with images sent to a portable rather than fixed monitor. First, a camera sends images and sound by a short cable to an outdoor antenna/transmitter, which sends the signal wirelessly up to 800m to a receiving antenna connected to a videolink unit. This sends images up to 25m to a handheld monitor with a 2.5in LCD screen and four-hour rechargeable battery life – so the images can be viewed anywhere in a farm house or offices. Alternatively, users can set up an account with cowCam online to view the password-protected images on any internet-enabled computer or mobile phone. The cowCam package, including one camera, videolink, handheld monitor, antennae and cables is £500; an additional camera is £150. An annual online subscription costs £133 but it is also available for three-month and six-month periods at £61 and £88, respectively. Agrihealth 0800 731 2490.

Wireless camera reads plates

Wireless broadband technology and alternative energy sources can bring security monitoring to remote locations by removing the need for cable connections. Airzone CCTV provides single or networked Mobotix digital cameras that transmit high-resolution images by radio waves to a receiver and control unit or to a remote monitoring centre. Images and/or video can be viewed via a password-protected link on a computer or web-enabled mobile phone. A choice of 360°, fish-eye, wide-angle and telescopic lenses cover different viewing requirements and dual lens installations are available for long-distance and wide-angle coverage from one unit or automatic switching between daylight and night vision. Built-in microphones and speakers can provide two-way communication and the cameras can be powered by solar or wind energy, as well as mains electricity. Also, they can be installed prominently for maximum deterrence or hidden for covert surveillance. A single camera system is priced £1200. Central monitoring and offline image storage options are available. Airzone CCTV 01277 888 822 www.airzone.net.

No mains power or internet?

Long-life battery powered cameras with movement sensors are at the heart of the Remote Alert Farm CCTV system, together with wireless image transmission via GPRS mobile communications. Designed for use in remote locations where there is neither a power source nor broadband internet access, up to 20 camera-sensor units can be installed in a single network overlooking entrances, yards and buildings, livestock and fuel and fertiliser stores. Being wireless and with an in-built power source, they can be repositioned at any time as required for security or stock monitoring, and two-year battery life minimises maintenance. The system is “armed” remotely using a keypad and when “on” uses infra-red sensors to detect movement. A 10 second video clip is then sent to the user’s mobile phone via universally-available GPRS or to a computer with internet connection. As an optional service, users can have the camera output monitored as required at a secure control centre. Movement sensor-triggered alarms and floodlights can be added. A two-camera system with control panel, keypad and telephone technical support costs £1500, plus typically £20 a month for GPRS. Rental terms are also available. The optional monitoring service is £150 a year. Camvista Global 01592 659 111 www.camvista.co.uk

The Ultra Secure Vehicle Detecting Probe

Probe detects movement

The Vehicle Detecting Probe is designed to detect cars and other vehicles as they pass through a gateway. The magnetic metal-sensing probe is buried alongside the driveway (beneath a grass verge, for example) and will detect only moving vehicles when passing by within 3-4m. The probe is connected to a 9v battery-powered transmitter, with a choice of hard-wired or wireless versions to suit different locations. Wireless models have 900m line of sight range to a mains-powered receiver with capacity to handle four probes. A 12v output can trigger diallers, lights, sirens, synthesised speech alerts, etc, and the receiver can also be used with other types of sensor, including infra-red, gate contact and temperature. Prices £164 (hard-wired) and £228 (wireless); additional probes £164. UltraSecure Direct 01604 589 414 www.ultrasecuredirect.com.

Deter them with a motorised gate

Powered sliding or hinged gates with remote or keypad control help restrict access to property by vehicles. The buried or gate-back arm mechanisms for folding gates of modest size are available but the AgriWheel is designed speedily open and close large farm gates up to 8.5m. It comprises a rubber tyred wheel mounted on parallel linkage giving free up-and-down movement over an uneven surface and up to 300mm or 400mm drop. The wheel is driven by a low consumption electric motor powered from the main or by a solar-charged battery. There is an electronic solenoid activated locking mechanism released by remote blipper, keypad with wireless intercom or hidden button. The optional “pedestrian” mode opens the gate only a short distance. Prices from £1095 to £1640 mains powered, £1494 to £2096 with solar-charged battery power. UltraSecure Direct 01604 589 414 www.ultrasecuredirect.com.

Tailor-make a system

The FarmGuard range of UK-manufactured wireless security products can be assembled into a tailor-made system to suit individual requirements and yard/building layouts. Each system will have a receiver, typically located in the house, and a selection of movement sensors/transmitters protecting farm entrances, vehicles and out-buildings. Deterrent sirens, pocket-pagers and remote monitoring using GSM or landline diallers can be included and, with no cables to lay, systems are said to be both cost-effective and quick to install with potential to move and add sensors as the need arises. A complete eight-channel system with remote control is priced £1299. Also wireless and hardwired CCTV, infrared perimeter and fuel tank alarms, etc. Alarms for Farms 01573 440761 www.alarmsforfarms.com.

GPRS v GSM – What’s the difference?

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is a standard for wireless communications which runs at speeds up to 115 kilobits per second. GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) runs at 9.6 kilobits per second.

GPRS supports a wide range of bandwidths and is an efficient use of limited bandwidth; it is particularly suited to sending and receiving small bursts of data, such as email and web browsing, as well as large data volumes.