BT uses Irish technology to battle copper thieves

7 Mar 2012

BT delivery support manager Graeme Summers

BT is hoping to stem losses of up to stg£2,000 a day through the theft of copper cable by deploying state-of-the-art surveillance technology developed by Dublin company Kinesense. reported in January how Irish and UK police forces became the first customers to utilise an innovative new CCTV technology developed by Kinesense, which allows them to analyse and gather evidence from CCTV material. The enterprising company was set up in 2009 and is an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-up.

Telecoms companies are becoming a hot target for copper theft, whereby kilometres of copper wiring are stolen every day.

Eircom has reported that 2,500km of cable, costing it some €10,000 was stolen in 2011.

Thieves are stripping the valuable copper – valued at €6,000 per tonne – from utility poles and sub-stations, causing disruptions to the services.

The thieves are risking life and limb stealing the valuable metal, not to mention jail time if they get caught.

“Metal theft is a problem that has been getting progressively worse for us over the past three to four years as the way in which criminals are stealing these metals has become more and more sophisticated,” explained BT delivery support manager Graeme Summers.

“We have been pro-active in attempting to prevent these crimes, and we have brought in new technologies in order to stop these thefts occurring,” Summers said.

He explained the technology allows BT to analyse CCTV footage in 30 minutes compared with eight hours previously, speeding up the opportunity to arrest and prosecute thieves.

The cost of metal theft

In the last three years, metal theft has caused at least six deaths, 50 injuries, 60 fires and a total of 673 days’ worth of train delays in the UK. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the thefts cost the British economy an estimated stg£770m a year. 

Kinesense’s software is designed for specialist surveillance units and it automates searching video for crimes. It can search long CCTV videos and quickly pick out key events, saving about 90pc of the investigation officer’s time.

“We developed this technology for law enforcement, but increasingly we are being approached by private companies with the same problems,” said Dr Daniel Ellin, chief engineer with Kinesense.

“Now it’s being used by train companies and even logistics companies to cut down on criminal activity,” said Ellin.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years