Case study: Keeping watch

21 Jun 2005

If you thought IT security is only good for fighting ‘virtual’ threats such as viruses, think again. Technology can also protect a warehouse, storeroom or construction site from unwanted intruders — and the security guard doesn’t even have to be in the same location.

Carlow-based Netwatch is taking the well-established closed-circuit TV camera and adding a few extras of its own to provide its service. The result? The company that was founded just three and a half years ago now employs 30 people, has more than 260 customers and is on course to reach revenues in excess of €4m this year.

Its main service works by connecting the CCTV cameras on a customer site to the Netwatch command centre in Carlow. Each of the camera housings are fitted with a transmission box that converts the camera signal to send it down a broadband connection. The command centre has 20 workstations, each with twin screens. The connection to every customer site stays live but the screen at Netwatch’s HQ only comes to life when triggered by an alarm such as a break in.

An extremely useful feature of the service allows Netwatch personnel to broadcast a live, personalised audio warning to any intruders over the customer site’s PA system. This seems to be an effective deterrent, with Netwatch claiming that in 95pc of recorded cases the intruder leaves without committing a crime. The warning can be made as part of a protocol agreed in advance with every customer, which often dictates that gardaí are alerted before any message is relayed to the site.

Netwatch has sample video footage showing the audio warning service at work; clips are available to download on its website, The site also has a password-protected area where customers can view their own incident reports.

Gardaí also benefit from the system as they are not simply called to investigate an alarm sounding, which may or may not turn out to be genuine. “When we’re calling the gardaí, we’re doing so as eyewitnesses,” points out David Walsh (pictured), co-founder and joint manager of Netwatch. “We can pick up car registrations or very good descriptions of individuals on a site.” He adds that there have been several successful prosecutions based on evidence supplied by Netwatch on behalf of customers.

Previously, Netwatch customers connected to the command centre via ISDN, but the arrival of broadband has had several benefits and many clients are in the process of changing their connections. “The value of broadband is that it’s on all the time,” Walsh relates. “Within two seconds of a break in, we’re watching it live. With ISDN, the footage took up to 15 seconds to appear.” Broadband helps to reduce customers’ telecoms charges as they no longer have to foot the bill for additional ISDN links.

The speed of the broadband connection also allows personnel at Netwatch’s command centre to control the CCTV camera remotely, zooming in on any important details that can later be provided to the gardaí.

“The technology that we employ would save our customers somewhere in the order of €80,000 a year, when you take in the cost of hiring someone to patrol a place around the clock. Our system is a fraction of the cost,” says Walsh.

By Gordon Smith