West Midlands Police, the UK’s second largest police force, has developed a dedicated ANPR (automatic number plate recognition)mobile data platform. Built by M2M managed services provider Wireless Logic, the platform is a tailored, resilient and minimal CAPEX solution. It provides a choice of mobile networks across the platform to enable a more flexible and efficient approach to device optimisation.
Developing the right environment
For systems integrators, local authorities, police authorities and organisations involved in the implementation, management, delivery and integration of camera technology, such as CCTV and ANPR, the transference of critical data securely and efficiently is a key aspect in creating resilient systems.
Challenges that such operators can face include the need for static IP to the device, the creation of secure connects and interconnects, and the overall management and control of numerous deployed units connected, in the main, across cellular networks.
Connecting across cellular networks
To implement appropriate platforms, such organisations turn to mobile network operators (MNOs) and managed services providers to steer a course to suitable solutions. And it is here that seeking relevant and cost-effective connectivity platforms can mean success or pain.
Today the choice of provider and their sector knowledge can dictate the direction in creating systems that work, or ones that excel - tailored to the precise demands of the sector.
As an example of this West Midlands Police were operating an estate of ANPR cameras - both in-vehicle and fixed sites. Having adopted an ‘off-the-shelf’ MNO solution as part of an existing voice-focused framework agreement, the structure set in place was far from efficient.
Individual VPN tunnels to each device required complex management to achieve the links in, plus the termination of data directly into their internal network - something that from a data security perspective was unsatisfactory. In essence, the force was utilising an adapted mobile solution with high latency levels.
Consolidating the solution
Having audited the existing platform, West Midlands turned to Wireless Logic to identify a more focused ‘end-to-end’ solution to the cellular connectivity challenge. The Wireless Logic team were able to deliver a consultancy-led review and approach to the challenge employing direct experience gained from similarly implemented applications.
Additionally, as a ‘network agnostic’ provider, they would bring choice by enabling the force to select multiple MNOs within their chosen platform instead of being tied to only one network.
To counter the complex management of VPN tunnels and associated costs, the first recommendation was to employ a single VPN terminating at a demilitarised zone outside of the authority’s internal network. To achieve this, Wireless Logic introduced ‘NetPro’, a single encrypted and highly resilient platform with dual-failover, sitting across all of the major MNOs within the UK.
CAPEX costs for the setting-up of such infrastructures are often prohibitive to organisations that don’t typically factor in expense for secure connectivity. With NetPro, CAPEX was factored as OPEX when combined with monthly SIM subscriptions.
From a control perspective, Wireless Logic’s SIM provisioning and control platform ‘SIMPro’ was integrated into the overall solution. When linked with a SIM’s fixed IP and the NetPro VPN, SIMPro can individually monitor and control data usage in real-time, setting up alerts and instructions when thresholds are reached.
Single source provision
To create a seamless one-stop procurement, Wireless Logic provided pre-configured CISCO routers and other associated hardware. This, along with the connectivity and platforms enabled West Midlands Police to acquire the entire solution through a single source.
Provided as a proof of concept model, the trial initially connected 70 mobile camera sites. With minimal commitment and commercial risk from the outset, the solution allowed the force to road test the infrastructure with confidence prior to a major rollout featuring multiple fixed and mobile units.
And with the flexibility of utilising several mobile networks across the one platform, West Midlands can now implement connected solutions based on optimal coverage.
This example highlights how public sector camera operators can effectively streamline connectivity services, decrease both CAPEX and OPEX, and meet the dictates of delivering secure, two-way communication, all achieved by the leveraging of market knowledge and expertise from a specialist M2M provider such as Wireless Logic.
For West Midlands Police, the existing solution was de-constructed and rebuilt to deliver a comprehensive platform, fit-for-purpose and highly scalable. Providers such as Wireless Logic have the capability to deliver custom solutions rapidly whilst complementing the generalist services from a MNO.
Jon-Paul Clarke, business development director, commented: “This project demonstrates how organisations like Wireless Logic can overlay a suite of services across standard cellular connectivity to add significant value and benefits.
“Working with the ANPR team at West Midlands, we were able to provide a complete end-to-end solution without the need for them to enlist a number of specialist companies as part of the supply chain.
“With security, resilience and cost management all high on the agenda within public sector applications, this project illustrates how, with consideration, authorities can implement fit-for-purpose camera connectivity solutions, consolidated across a tailored, safe and cost-effective platform.”