Case study: Stars of CCTV

30 Jan 2006

Petrol station owners the length and breadth of Ireland must collectively suffer sleepless nights. Rising crime levels, larceny, safety concerns and ensuring staff are where they are is high on the agenda of owner-managers of petrol station forecourts. Oil distributor and forecourt player Tougher Oil has employed a novel 3G solution from Vodafone to ensure managers can keep an eye on what’s happening in petrol stations both on the forecourt and behind the till.

Tougher Oil Distributors was established in 1980 and the company specialises in home heating oil, petroleum, retail, hospitality and property in Kildare, Carlow, Wicklow, Laois and South Dublin City and County. The company has grown dramatically since its founding, with more than 200 employees, five bulk oil depots, 35 trucks, 10 forecourts/shops, two restaurants and a business park. Operations are all controlled from the company’s new head office in Toughers Business Park, Newhall, Naas, Co Kildare.

“Basically we can dial into any forecourt or shop and see real-time what’s happening,” explains Joe Fraser, business development manager with Tougher Oil. “If an alarm goes off a manager can look at the screen on his or h er handset and switch between around 15 CCTV cameras deployed across the petrol station or depot.

From its head office in Naas, Tougher Oil has a digital video recorder (DVR) black box system that records everything happening across the company’s locations. Protected via a firewall, the DVR is connected to static IP addresses that Tougher executives equipped with the 3G handsets can access at any time. Each and every forecourt and depot boasts up to 16 CCTV cameras, which were installed by Dublin firm Temple Sales, which specialises in telecoms, networking and security. The system allows the remote user to access the system via their mobile. They can view real time live images and access the system functions to view history. It can also be used to activate and deactivate alarm system, open and close doors etc. and can be fully integrated to access control systems and alarm systems. It can be set up to notify your mobile phone when there is activity in select grids of the CCTV system.

“Effectively managers and regional managers can be at the site without physically being there.

“If an alarm goes off in the middle of the night I can view on my mobile all the CCTV cameras on site and make the appropriate decisions regarding escalation and actions. At the minimum it saves me unnecessary journeys; and I can qualify a situation before bringing in the Gardai,” Fraser explains. He recalled an actual situation in recent weeks when one of the company’s forecourts was attacked by armed raiders and he was able to describe the situation to gardai via what he saw on his phone’s screen. “On health and safety issues we can ensure the safety of the environment so as not to put staff at risk.”

Fraser explained that the company is also implementing a ‘cash scan’ system that enables managers to remotely view items being scanned via a Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 enabled mobile phone.

Chris Burton, manager, Solutions Architects at Vodafone Ireland explained that the system deployed by Tougher Oil is unique in the world of 3G so far. “Up until now, firms deploying 3G tended to focus on order entry type systems, but with newer technologies people can work smarter and faster. What Tougher Oil is doing is changing the way they manage sites but at the same time reducing the operating cost of security. They have a good solid business model. On the forecourt in Ireland they are the price leader and margins have to be tight. To make money means working smarter, and working smarter means know what happens sooner.

“Tougher executives can use their 3G phones to look at what is happening in the stores in real-time or go back through the history through their link to the DVR black box at head office.

“Going forward there is the possibility for Tougher to overlay what is being registered on the cash till and look at what’s happening in the store and transaction information on the till simultaneously,” Burton concluded.

Pictured are Chris Burton, manager of Solutions Architects, Vodafone Ireland; Paddy Collins, head of solutions, Vodafone Ireland; Joe Fraser, business development manager, Tougher Oil Distributors

By John Kennedy