HOA Security Assessments and Solutions

For an HOA to meet the expectations of their residents, they must focus on more than amenities and payment systems. A critical issue for the board of directors and association managers is criminal risk and exposure. Whether the security solutions in place are sufficient in addressing the community’s exposure to criminal risk is determined best by a walk-through threat analysis with an industry professional, which can help the HOA board to determine what is lacking in their security measures.

HOA boards of directors are required to quickly respond to risks or suspected criminal activities as part of their fiduciary obligation to their members. If the board fails to act on a foreseeable or reported problem they can be held liable. But before spending on expensive security measures, the HOA must properly assess their risks and determine the solutions that are most realistic for the property.

In many cases boards perform their own walk-through security evaluations or ask local law enforcement to assist. While this can be helpful in identifying risks with simple solutions, HOAs with properties of greater size and those experiencing a string of break-ins, vandalism, or other security threats may benefit from a professional consultation. Such an assessment can help the HOA look for effective and affordable security solutions with a minimal effect on the livability of the community.

 

The Property Security Assessment

This assessment is grounded in the on-site inspection of the property, and includes a walking of the grounds, commons, and an internal and external inspection of several units. Also important is interviewing a sample of homeowners or tenants to get a ground-level perspective on community concerns and security events that may have gone unreported.

 

The inspection should seek to address the following:

  • What are the HOA’s security exposures and vulnerabilities?
  • Are entry doors solid core and installed with deadbolts and eyeholes?
  • Are door strike-plates secured with 3” screws to prevent being kicked or forced open?
  • Are locks re-keyed and not moved to another unit or amenity building? (This is more broadly relevant to a rental community than to ownership units)
  • Are all keys for common area facilities closely controlled and accounted for?
  • Are door jambs constructed with solid wood and free of any rot, breaks, cracks or other damage?
  • Do all windows, including those on the second floor, close properly and are they equipped with locks?
  • Are sliding door locks intact? Do they have more than one lock to prevent lifting the doors out of their tracks?
  • Are the outdoors areas of the HOA complex well lit? (Good lighting should be the norm at all entrances and dark areas, including open parking areas and garages)
  • Are shrubs and other landscaping trimmed to discourage hiding for an intruder?
  • Is there control over who enters and leaves the building or association property?
  • Are fire stairs locked from the outside so that residents can exit but others cannot enter?
  • Are mailboxes and public areas well lit and equipped with good locks?
  • Is the property well maintained? Are burnt-out light bulbs replaced promptly, landscaping maintained, and graffiti removed immediately?
  • Are residents in the complex trustworthy neighbors who watch out for each other?
  • Is there a “Neighborhood Watch Program?

(echo-ca.org)

After the security assessment is performed, the cost of recommended services, equipment, and possible employment of on-site guards can begin to be determined. The HOA can then finalize the threat assessment document, including risks, vulnerabilities, and recommended actions. This document can be used in possible future litigation.

 

Implementing the Solutions

Whatever the board has determined to best address their threat assessment and be within their budget should be installed by a security integrator. This can include IP cameras, visitor management systems, license plate reader cameras on entry and exit points, and access control systems on public areas and management only buildings.

 In addition to these, there are a number of cost-free ways to improve the overall security of the community.

These can include:

  • Maintaining and upgrading (when possible) the overall appearance and upkeep of a community
  • Keeping close cooperation with local law enforcement
  • Removing any graffiti promptly
  • Directing residents to call law enforcement instead of board members or the manager when suspicious activity occurs
  • Working to help neighbors know and recognize one another (community events, newsletters, etc.)
  • Making sure parking space numbers do not match house numbers

(echo-ca.org)

By combining these measures with the implementation of security hardware and systems, the overall safety and security of the community can be greatly improved.

Through a thorough threat assessment and coordinated deployment of these solutions, the HOA can tangibly and measurably better the community. While it may cost up-front, the value of having a reputation as a clean, crime-free community cannot be overestimated and returns value in spades.

Sources:

    (echo-ca.org)

    (https://securitytoday.com/)

 

As a Security Integrator, Security Technology of South Texas is prepared to build a tailor fit system to meet the needs of the HOA and property management markets. Please contact us through email at admin@gostst.com on our website or via phone at  210-446-4863   24/7

FRONTSTEPS: Property Management Solutions

 In an average month, a community management company can expect to spend over 500 working hours compensating for inefficient workflow. That is roughly equivalent to 3 full-time employees. The causes of this inefficiency stem from using too many separate tools, time-consuming and non-centralized communications, and the processing of paper checks.

 

The purpose of an all-encompassing property management solution like FRONTSTEPS is to automate much of the time-consuming processes that drive that number so high. By offering resident requests, work orders, digital payments, accounting and a suite of security options in one centralized solution, FRONTSTEPS can help put those hours back into the company. This saves significant time and money every month and allows for portfolio expansion even without adding to staff.

 

FRONTSTEPS Community and Connect

FRONTSTEPS, the creators of dwellingLIVE, offer a range of products for the HOA and property management market to enhance and streamline visitor management, payments, security and more. Their entry-level solution “Community” aims to bring convenience to the online customer communication and service process and offers a suite of tools for that purpose, document storage, and digital management.  It also provides a secure method for accepting online payments. To create a platform for communication across the entire community, a digital bulletin board, templated emails, and mass texting is built into the solution. Resident feedback can be brought in through single question surveys and residents kept connected by Android and iOS apps.

 

FRONTSTEPS “Connect” is the next level of service and includes all tools from the previous level as well as several advanced features. Connect is ideal for communities with several amenities and public spaces.

 

Some communities feature amenities requiring residents make reservations. This can be handled in the app where managers can keep track of and approve requests. Calls and emails for maintenance can be greatly reduced by making the switch to taking these requests through the app, and scheduling and status of maintenance can be updated easily. Another interesting feature is the Community Classifieds. This private classifieds tool hosts a safe way for residents to buy and sell with others in the community.

 

FRONTSTEPS Secure

As the industry’s only true all-in-one solution for every aspect of property management, FRONTSTEPS’ security offering is integrated with top hardware providers to avoid the expenses of tearing out and replacing existing hardware. Along with accounting, resident engagement, on-boarding and more, it is not uncommon for communities to be using upwards of 4 platforms. FRONTSTEPS securely provides all property management needs in one use-friendly platform. With “Secure”, residents can create and send one-time digital passes to guests and vendors to allow them through a gate. If your community does not have full-time guards or gate attendants, visitors can grant access by phone.

 

 Access control is easy to manage centrally, and times of access are controlled for specific facilities for both residents and staff. “Secure” also features real-time forensic reporting, allowing you to access important data showing who was in various places in the community at any given time. This is crucial in assisting with investigations should an incident occur.

 

The platform integrates with hardware providers Kantech, HID, Doorking and most 26-Bit Wiegand readers. Community directories ensure that intruders are kept out by maintaining a community-wide watchlist. A pet directory exists to help residents keep up with lost animals.

 

Access control involves the monitoring of an unlimited amount of doors, entry points, and vehicle gates in real time. The software integrates with existing system infrastructure. This can include “clickers, key fobs, proxy cards, [and] vehicle transponders” (frontsteps.com) which gives another layer of security for community assets. This web-based system is backed with local storage, allowing admins to view status and connectivity of hardware in real time.

 

Doors can be unlocked remotely and all transactions monitored. In this way, guards and admins can know who accessed a facility and when, improving incident reporting. Another feature is license plate recognition. In seconds, visitor and resident license plates are identified and logged into the system with entry either being approved or denied. Camera integration protects assets and residents through cloud-based surveillance cameras.

 

A key aspect of FRONTSTEPS’ solution is “Mobile Patrol”. The fully mobile application allows security admins instant access “to patrol status updates and critical information, like incident reports and messaging.” (Frontsteps.com) Guards can give live updates in just seconds and share information for different checkpoints along a given patrol route. GPS GeoTagging assists in this process. This vastly improves the productivity and accountability of security staff as they must check in to their patrol checkpoints.

 

FRONTSTEPS Secure can be purchased bundled or in parts. If your community just needs access control then an entry-level option is available. As you add on services, more premium features such as the phone entry system and visitor management are included. Whether you have just one property to manage or an entire portfolio, FRONTSTEPS can help bring the management process into focusand improve the experience for both residents and staff. It is a truly best-in-industry suite of solutions and gives an edge to management by bringing all aspects of the business together.

 

 

Security Technology of South Texas is happy to offer custom access control and surveillance solutions to the HOA market, and is partnered with FRONTSTEPS to bring you the best in property management and security solutions.

Please contact us through email at admin@gostst.com on our website or via phone at 210-446-4863 24/7 to schedule a consultation.

Source: frontsteps.com

Biometrics in Access Control

Overview

The word biometrics has its etymological roots in Greek. Bio has the meaning “life” and metrics refers to “measurement”. While biometrics have been used for decades in physical access control, emerging technologies are expanding the field and making its technologies increasingly robust. In many cases, biometric methods are chosen over traditional means of identification such as PIN numbers and passwords due to their precision and sensitivity. Biometrics systems today look at more than just fingerprints, and can include vein pattern recognition, retinal scans, hand geometry, voice ID, facial recognition, and even DNA. Here we will look at the types of biometrics sensors and systems, how they work, and where the technology is moving in the future.

              A biometric sensor is composed of a transducer that modulates a biometric signature into an electrical signal that can be processed by a computer. These sensors can read energies such as light, heat, and electrical capacity. Modern biometrics may include several sensors including IP cameras for facial recognition and microphones for voice ID. Instead of just fingerprint scans, some devices are made to scan the unique pattern of veins under the hand.

              These biometric access control systems are classified broadly into two types: Physiological Biometrics and Behavioral Biometrics. The physiological methods include the techniques looking at the unique signatures of the human body. Behavioral biometrics is a newer technology that uses analytics to identify based on keystroke, personal name signature, and the cadence of one’s voice.

Fingerprint Recognition

              Modern fingerprint techniques use a specialized program to look at features such as arches, whorls, the outlines of edges, and the minutiae and furrows of the fingerprint. Three ways of matching a fingerprint exist:

Minutiae Based: a digital representation of the fingerprint plane including a set of points are stored on the computer and matched against the corresponding points on the finger.

Correlation Based: an overlay of the fingerprint is matched against the scan and the association between pixels is calculated.

Ridge Feature Based: similar to minutiae based matching, this novel technique is useful as a confirming measure alongside the other methods.

              To capture the prints, optical sensors use a CMOS image sensor; transducer technology which uses thermal, capacitive, piezoelectric sensing. Ultrasound sensors can also be used. In this method, acoustic signals are sent by transmitter near the finger with the signals reflecting back and captured for processing. The fingerprint method has advanced over the years and has multiple levels of redundancy. This makes it a viable means for safeguarding entry to doors, keeping track of and restricting access based on identity, and even managing computer logins. Some banks are even employing fingerprint scans on ATMs.

  

Facial Recognition

              This technology has only recently become viable as machine learning has enabled computer vision techniques considered impossible a decade ago. These systems work by comparing over 80 “nodal points” on the human face including length and width measurements of the nose, cheekbones, eye sockets and more. These systems store this data as a “face print”. While not presently in widespread use as an access control method, the technology is used on phones reliably and on social media sites to tag photos. Because other measures are more precise for access control, facial recognition today remains in the realm of personalized advertising and smartphones.

Voice Recognition

              Voice Identification technology combines physiological and behavioral biometrics captured by speech processing tech. These programs measure nasal tone, frequency, inflection and cadence. Conversational technique and vocabulary form the behavioral component. This technology is generally not used outside of smart phones and government surveillance programs. For example, the NSA has built a bank of “voice prints” on an unknown number of people.

Signature Recognition

              This method leans towards the behavioral biometric approach. Here, a program is used to analyze the physical activity of signing a signature by hand. Pressure applied, speed and stroke order are measured and compared to visual images of the signature. Two methods exist: Static and Dynamic.

              Static mode involves the system taking an image of the signature written on paper and examining its shape. Dynamic mode has the user write the signature on a tablet where it is digitized and analyzed in real-time.

Moving Forward

              As we move into a new decade, we can expect access control to grow as an industry with biometrics in tow. With these technologies paired with machine learning, their accuracy will increase with time and become increasingly reliable. The advantage of biometrics techniques is that unlike a password or PIN, they cannot be stolen or copied easily. They remove security risks such as password sharing and enhance accountability. It is possible that we may reach a point where these technologies become so accurate that passwords will be made a secondary measure or obsolete altogether.

 

Security Technology of South Texas is happy to offer custom access control and surveillance solutions with video analytics to the greater South Texas area, designed either turn-key and from the ground up, or integrated into an already existing series of cameras.

Please contact us through email at admin@gostst.com on our website or via phone at 210-446-4863  24/7 to schedule a consultation.

Intelligent Video and Machine Learning

 

ML “Machine Learning”

Although we are still likely many decades away from anything considered close to “true AI”, many cameras and analytics systems are marketed and sold as being AI-driven or otherwise enriched through machine learning. While some of this is undoubtedly just marketing, there is truth to the notion that data analytics is making an impact in the field of video surveillance.

The ideas behind machine learning reach back into the earliest days of computer science, but only recently (within the last 5-10 years) has both the volume of data and processing power necessary become affordable enough to start making real strides. There are of course the famous industry examples like Google’s DeepMind and IBM’s Watson, but even without access to supercomputer hardware like that there are still many useful things that can be accomplished with a strong, stable connection to the cloud and a quality camera to create good data for analytics to process.

 

As they employ a subset of Artificial Intelligence, it would be more accurate to refer to these “smart” devices as Machine Learning, (ML) devices, that is if ever the average consumer becomes weary of the term AI being thrown around every industry from phone apps to kitchen appliances.

The way this type of technology works is through building a mathematical model using sample data, sometimes referred to as “training data”. This model is used to make predictions or decisions without the need for a programmer to directly intervene in the process. Machine learning is particularly important in the field of “Computer Vision”, the science and technology behind a computer’s processing and analysis of images and video. Because of this, ML has come to reflect a considerable portion of industry leading video surveillance and analytics systems. Historically it has been impossible to use conventional algorithms to perform such a task effectively.

Instead of trying to answer the question “Can we build machines that think?”, ML proposes that we try to “build machines that do what we (as thinking entities) do”.

 

“Smart” Cameras

Here we will take a look at the effect of this emerging technology and its practical application in video surveillance and analytics.

Let’s take a look at what exactly is possible using intelligent video. Smart IP cameras are able to classify the objects they see on their own. Objects entering or leaving the scene can be identified as a person, car, bike, truck, or other object. Because the camera can differentiate objects, it can be told to only alert in the case of a break-in, ignoring things like leaves in the wind or animals wondering through. New low-light cameras allow color-filtering even in scenes with very little ambient light. Even at night, color detection is possible in this way.

Alarm detection can be set to be even more specialized. Rules can be configured to look for specialized behavior patterns such as fighting, running, loitering, path following, abandoned luggage, entering an area, and more. The alarm engine in each camera coordinates with the others in a logical way to interpret this information and determine threat status. All this allows for a very robust alarm condition solution and prevents false and missed alarms.

What’s more, stored metadata enables forensic analysis at a later time. This means that retroactive searches for a specific car or person is possible even if it was not a determined item of interest until well after the event was recorded. Metadata is compact and only barely adds to the size of recordings. It is quick and easy to search through to find a specific event.

 

The logical next step is to continue to improve analytics for video metadata until we approach 100 percent practical use. Predictive analysis of human traffic patterns can predict shoplifting and identify potential events before they take place, and the more data that can be made useful the more accurate these types of predictions will be.

The same technology can monitor customer dwell time at different displays in a store and determine the effectiveness of in-store advertising and product locations. Analyzing customer engagement with these displays can help increase customer engagement with products and lead to increased sales and revenue. As the IoT expands, this type of technology will be more and more critical as there will be many more points of data to analyze. There is no way to fully anticipate the eventual effects this will have on our industry or the world at large.

 

Even though huge volumes of video data are collected every day, most statistics indicate that only 10 percent of this data is ever used. The majority of data collected loses its value very quickly after being generated. The reason for this? Our primary focus tends to be delivering the correct information in a crisis or providing it as evidence after criminal activity has taken place. This causes much data to be “wasted” in the sense that we lose out on the opportunity to perform useful analytics.

Video analytics is an increasingly powerful tool. It helps to improve usability of these vast amounts of video information. Analytics software acts as the “brain” of a surveillance system and is built into IP cameras themselves or processed in separate computing infrastructure. This creates a smarter system that “knows” what it sees and alerts guards to potential threats as soon as an alarm rule or condition is met. Analytics gives operators the chance to act faster and more efficiently with better intel.

 

ML Analytics is like an ever-vigilant system operator within the security system itself. Content analysis information, a form of video metadata, is stored as well. As they reduce operating costs and increase efficiency, intelligent cameras deliver a solid return on investment which can be measured in tangible results to the business or other setting in which it operates.

 

Security Technology of South Texas is happy to offer custom access control and surveillance solutions with video analytics to the greater South Texas area, designed either turn-key and from the ground up, or integrated into an already existing series of cameras.

Please contact us through email at admin@gostst.com on our website or via phone at 210-446-4863  24/7 to schedule a consultation.