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Winter/Spring 2015

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Otterbine urges groundskeepers to pre-empt water quality issues ahead of Summer

Before and after Otterbine at Enfield Island Village

Before and after Otterbine at Enfield Island Village

While warmer weather may seem far-off, water management specialist Otterbine is advising groundskeepers to be pre-emptive when it comes to the challenges summer can throw at water hazards.

Water quality is a critical factor in successful park management all year round, but with the arrival of summer comes warmer water, plentiful sunlight and excess nutrients; a combination that, without a proper water management system in place, can leave lakes and ponds with algae, aquatic weeds and odours.

But with Britain still in the midst of winter, Roger Lupton, Otterbine sales representative at distributor Lely UK, explains why it’s vital to implement preventative measures now and not later.

“Oxygen depletion or stress situations occur for different reasons, but many lake management issues are related to both the light and heat generated by the summer sun,” says Roger.

“Although we’re a way off summer, now is the perfect time to be assessing potential challenges. Waiting until symptoms of poor water quality appear before implementing good water management could be detrimental to both the environment and groundskeepers’ budgets,” he warns.

Low oxygen levels, combined with minimal circulation, prematurely ages water and throws the natural ecosystem out of balance. Only then do symptoms of poor water quality begin to appear, which as well as algae, weeds and odours, include sludge build up and dead fish. These symptoms not only impact on the park’s reputation, but the cost of fixative programmes far outweighs preventative measures.

Roger says: “It’s vital that lake managers are fully aware of the financial implications of not acting until it’s too late – once a lake has lost its ecological balance and goes into crisis, the costs of restoring the lake increase dramatically. As well as often being more expensive to implement, reactive solutions tend to be less friendly to the environment too.”

Roger advises how to avoid an ecological imbalance, suggesting groundskeepers create an environmentally friendly programme that is preventative in nature.

“The most natural water quality management solution is to introduce aeration in to a pond or lake to eliminate stagnant water. That’s where Otterbine’s aeration systems can help,” he says.

“By increasing oxygen levels and circulating oxygen rich water throughout a lake, water quality can remain high, inhibiting algae, aquatic weeds and foul odours.”

Otterbine’s aeration systems consist of aerating fountains, industrial aerators and diffused air systems – each with unique features that should be reviewed when determining the needs of your water feature.

For more information on Otterbine aerators, contact distributor Lely UK on 01480 226948 email turfcare.uk@lely.com or visit www.otterbine.com.

LELY EXPANDS TRAINING OFFERING FOR GROUNDSMEN AS 2015 GUIDE RELEASED

Toro distributor Lely UK has launched its new Turfcare Training Programme for 2015, which sees new courses and training venues introduced for the year.

Accessible via www.lelyliterature.co.uk, the 12-page guide comprises all of the industry-leading courses Lely is recognised for; from certificated Toro operator training sessions to turfcare mechanic and spray technician courses.

New for 2015, however, is the introduction of tractor driving courses, added to complement the TYM range Lely distributes. “Our new TYM Compact Tractor Driving Award allows even the most experienced tractor drivers to update their knowledge and skills and get the very best out of the machinery we supply,” says Neil Adams, head of training at Lely UK. “The new course is already proving popular with experienced and novice operators alike.”

Also showing popularity early on are Lely’s sprayer technician courses; a trend thought to be affected by upcoming legislation changes. Currently, anyone born before 31 December 1964 does not need a specified Certificate of Competence (CoC) to apply professional plant protection products (PPP). As of November 2015, however, everyone will require a CoC to apply pesticides. Lely is now City and Guilds (NPTC) accredited to offer this training with its Advanced Pesticides Application course.

As well as chemical application training, Lely is able to offer City & Guilds vocational training in a variety of land-based machinery disciplines to its customers, similar to that currently offered by colleges and other training providers. This follows the appointment of The Toro Company as an approved City & Guilds training centre in Europe.

Along with being associated with a global leader in skills development, Neil says an added benefit of becoming City & Guilds accredited is a significant drop in course prices. “We’ve essentially cut out the middle man, allowing us to offer our customers some fantastic training opportunities at a lower rate than past years.”

Together with the introduction of a new course and lowered prices, Lely has also announced that they will be trialling three new training venues this year. Cutting Technology and After-cut Appearance, a course that always sees a high uptake, will now be available at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport; Elmwood Golf Club, Fife, Scotland; and ReelTech, Ireland.

Neil explains the firm’s motive for expanding their offering beyond Lely’s training base in St Neots, Cambridgeshire. “We’ve always offered the choice to deliver courses at our customers’ own premises, but often it’s more cost effective to train employees off site for the smaller companies. By making the courses more accessible UK-wide, we hope to encourage a higher participation in training,” he says.

While Lely is offering just one course at more locations currently, the company plans to expand this offering across all courses if customer feedback is positive.

Getting Localism Right

Paul Connolly

Paul Connolly

Localism: seen by many as the answer to almost every local government question.

With good reason. Councils are close to the communities they serve. They are more immediately accountable to citizens than Whitehall departments, able to respond faster to what communities want.

And localism has the wind in its sails, as evidenced by recent announcements that Manchester will get a new Mayor and Executive to control much of its local public sector, including NHS spend. Yet localist theory should be tested to the limits, not least by its adherents. We all want to get localism right. This means ensuring the theory can survive the following challenges in practice:

Cuts – Because of spending protections in other parts of the public sector, councils have suffered disproportionate pain in the initial phase of deficit reduction. And actually they have done well, reorganising back office and support services, collaborating with each other and across sectors to secure more for less. But deeper cuts are expected in the next Parliament. On current projections central government grants to local authorities will disappear by 2020, leaving many councils, especially in deprived areas, in dire straits. This may require rather more than just localist solutions.

Capacity – Many local leaders want radical devolution. But while a Manchester, benefiting from a decade of collaboration with neighbouring authorities, has the institutional muscle to manage a range of new obligations, it is questionable whether all councils, including many covering less clearly definable ‘places’ than Manchester, have the necessary infrastructure. Devolution must be accompanied by considerable transfer of money, but also of skills and capacity.

Then there is Control. Where capacity or the “identity” of a place make devolution challenging, giving responsibility for the service to another agency, to a regional or national body, might also make operational and financial sense. Indeed, some current local responsibilities, such as those concerning business regulation, may suit more national or regional delivery structure. Such structures do not necessarily mean an end to local accountability. National delivery bodies can easily develop local arms with local governance structures. Indeed, the assumption that local council service control guarantees local accountability is misleading. Low local election turnout undermines the case. While localists argue that transferring more services to local authorities would animate voters, many services already administered by local councils – aspects of social care, for example – have little bearing on local election outcomes. But they are hugely important to users. Giving councils control is not the same as giving people control.

The critical concept here is Community. Councils have evolved over time, through different reorganisations and initiatives. Their identities often relate to recognisable communities. But sometimes they don’t. Councils can have odd names and odder boundaries. And they are geographically static. People, however, are not. In the Digital Age, they are especially mobile, forming fluid communities that relate imperfectly to the geographies of UK governance.

Importantly, there is also the challenge of Coherence. Localism is a ‘let many flowers bloom’ philosophy of difference. Quite. Places are different. But the local responses to austerity evidence both rational (and accountable) variations and unaccountable, preventable incoherence. This is understandable. There is no shared understanding of local government’s proper scope and responsibilities. Even informed commentators would struggle to define their council’s remit, especially in two-tier areas. Recent experimentation and innovation in local governance and delivery are welcome. But they have brought their own uncertainties.  Councils’ scope, structure and purpose, what they are really suited to and what they are ill-adapted for: there is little unanimity on these questions.

The Management Consultancies Association’s report recommends a conference, early in the next Parliament, to examine what councils are, what they should do, what their limits are, and what works best from the perspective of citizens. Comprising representatives from civil society, as well as local and central government, the conference would develop common principles against which the validity of Manchester-style devolution proposals, as well as different approaches (shared services, regionalisation or national organisation) could be tested. The Independent Commission on Local Government has recommended a review of whether councils have the resources to meet their statutory responsibilities. It is easy to see how this could be linked to a fundamental assessment of what councils are for – and what they should be for.

Indeed, the real test of localism is Citizens: what benefits them. Our report suggests that if communities are better placed to deliver services themselves, they should. New ‘free services’ could be developed by communities – of place, but also of interest, in line with how people live in the Digital Age.

Localism remains the most comprehensive answer to local government’s current challenges. But it should be based on a better understanding of what councils are for. In an era of scarcity, providing that clarity is now urgent.

Author, Paul Connolly, is Director of the MCA Think Tank.

Collecting Council Tax and helping those in debt

CTA_Logo_Official_2014-NEWThe Stour Valley & Poole Partnership (SVPP) which collects Council Tax on behalf of four Dorset Councils has teamed up with Council Tax Advisors Community Interest Company (CTACIC) to help local people with debt problems.

The initiative coincides with a rise in media attention highlighting the increasing revenues owed to councils and the need to favour affordable repayment plans over the use of enforcement action to recover debts.

CTACIC is one of a network of approved organisations that SVPP is working with supporting people in arrears with council tax, housing benefit overpayments, business rates and other sundry debts. It is a not-for-profit provider of free debt advice and mediation services, specialising in helping those who owe money to local authorities.

The two organisations have signed an agreement to provide immediate dedicated support to SVPP customers through a direct referral telephone facility.

CTACIC has a successful history of helping vulnerable people overcome their debt problems. Managing Director, Chris Richards, explains the partnership’s objectives:

“We’re excited to be working with the Stour Valley & Poole Partnership. It’s important that people who need help get the necessary help, whatever the debt, just as it is essential to treat the long term problem and not just the immediate consequence. A well-known charity recently revealed that they’ve seen a 372% increase in people contacting them with council tax arrears from 2010 to 2014, and it’s a rise we’ve experienced as well.

“We believe that in times of austerity this innovative approach will significantly improve collection rates and separate the ‘can’t pays’ from the ‘won’t pays’.”

Importantly, no financial burden is placed on local councils as CTACIC is a community interest company and its services are free of charge.

SVPP’s approach supports the ethos of the Government’s Good Practice Guide regarding the enforcement of council tax. It offers guidance on the help and support local authorities should be giving to vulnerable people.

SVPP is a partnership of authorities: Poole Borough Council, East Dorset District Council, Christchurch Borough Council and North Dorset District Council. It collects Council Tax and administers benefits for the local authorities.

Council Tax Advisors Community Interest Company is a not-for-profit organisation offering free, independent and impartial advice, and resolution services to those in debt.

Formed in 2012 as a direct result of personal experiences with bailiffs, they specialise in providing advice and guidance on how best to deal with debt situations and offer long-term sustainable solutions including the organisation of repayment plans and professional mediation services.

LACK OF PHYSIO ACCESS COSTING HOSPITAL TRUSTS £200 MILLION A YEAR

New research has revealed that frontline NHS hospitals are losing an estimated £200 million1 a year due to staff being absent from work with muscle and joint injuries.

More than 60% of staff working in Acute Hospital Trusts take sick leave every year, averaging just over 20 days absence each. But that figure rises to almost 23.5 days per head for those suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) meaning that hospitals across the country lose an average of almost 14,000 staff days per year due to staff having conditions such as bad backs, sore necks or stiff joints.

But according to Physio Med, which carried out the research, faster access to physiotherapy could help to significantly reduce sickness absence, saving the NHS more than £100 million a year.

Phil Clayton, Managing Director of Physio Med, which provides occupational physiotherapy and ergonomic solutions to large organisations and a number of NHS Trusts, said: “Staff within the NHS provide vital services to the public. Many of the roles are physically demanding and therefore the prevalence of muscular and joint injuries can, understandably, be high. But when these employees are absent from work it can have a severe knock-on effect on the delivery of NHS services to the public. 

“The research2 we have carried out among Trusts across the country demonstrates that absence due to MSDs is higher than average and is costing the NHS £200 million a year – a figure that doesn’t even take into account the cost of cancelled and delayed NHS services.”

Physio Med’s research found that over a three year period:

  • An average of 60% of NHS staff took sickness absence, with the average absence being 20 days
  • Around 16.5% of all absence was due to MSDs, with the average length of absence rising to almost 24 days
  • This equates to an average of 13,842 lost days per trust, per year or 6,000 employees absent every day across all NHS acute trusts

The research reinforces the findings of the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy (CSP) Fit Enough for Patients? report3 in 2013, which identified that more than a third of trusts did not have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, and nearly one in five trusts did not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy, despite being recommended to do so by the 2009 report, the Boorman Review4.

Phil Clayton: “We work with a number of NHS Trusts across the country, providing fast access to physiotherapy services which allows staff to be assessed by a physiotherapist within days, sometimes even hours, which has delivered significant reductions in sickness absence and improved productivity. One Trust has recorded 58% reduction in days lost in the employees that were referred to our service.”

EcoSteer: Benefits the public sector through energy measurement and monitoring

logo300dpi-flat The technology industry’s latest trend, the Internet of Things (IoT), might on the face of it appear as a daunting leap in the dark or as an overhyped consumer fad. Many examples of its use often look good on presentation slides or sound like the sort of thing dreamed up by overactive imaginations in Silicon Valley, but there are straightforward and pragmatic applications arising out of IoT.

One area of immediate interest is monitoring and measurement, especially of critical, expensive or remote resources, such as energy. This of course is not new, but recent advances are making it possible to extend energy monitoring and measurement in ways that have not been either possible in the past.

The consumer adoption of many technologies has driven down prices and shifted even industrial products towards simpler, sometimes stylish and generally more easily and readily replaceable design. For monitoring, measurement and data collection this means much broader availability of a huge range of lower cost sensing devices.

In addition, widespread connectivity through the availability of high capacity fibre networks and increasingly data capable wireless networks means that connecting sensors for monitoring precious resources at almost any remote site becomes technically achievable.

Many things are technically possible, but are they worthwhile and commercially viable, and would that include public as well as private sector applications?

The collection of accurate information from a variety of sources in order to make real-time decisions – a pragmatic definition of big data – could be not only interesting, but of real benefit. According to public sector responses in the research covered in the Hitachi Data Systems’2014 Information Innovation Index study, the biggest benefits from big data would be real time access to information, leading to better planning and opportunities to save cost. Three quarters of those surveyed thought the main drivers for public sector investment in big data were to support the overall organisation’s strategy, with almost two thirds acknowledging the requirement to comply with legislation and regulation. These drivers were much higher in public sector than in other industries.

Getting to grips with monitoring overall energy usage fits directly into two of those areas of immediate need – saving costs and compliance with legislation.

Existing approaches tend to be a little patchy. Some organisations will collect data from their supply meters, but often only periodically and in any event the meter gives no insight into details or specific usage within different parts of the organisation or power hungry applications. Neither does the data contain other intelligence that might explain peaks and troughs, which might be gleaned from occupancy data or environmental sensors capturing temperature and humidity.

Where smarter meters are in place, the solutions are often supplied with their own proprietary software, meaning that different sources of data are much harder to combine, especially in anything approaching real time. Across any organisation there will be multiple locations and a legacy of existing systems in place, many different.

So there is still a significant challenge. With a diversity of systems, meters and various sensor manufacturers, how can an organisation ensure that they can gather data from all the sites they need to monitor in order to have a complete picture of energy usage? Fortunately there are solutions at hand, but costs can escalate rapidly as more monitoring points are added.

For these reasons, EcoSteer, an energy and environmental monitoring software start-up based in the UK, has taken a different approach. Its platform is open, with a logical data model configurable to directly match organisational structures and business requirements, and a web user interface. It is sensor agnostic, to accommodate any type and manufacturer of device, and designed with a distributed cloud-aware architecture, to scale to huge numbers of sensors from large numbers of sites.

These technical arrangements are useful and important to deliver an enterprise grade service, but commercially the EcoSteer pricing model is far closer to a consumer model, meaning that it is highly cost effective to start with only a couple of sensors on a single site, and scale up without changing the underlying software or losing any data already gathered.

With recent advances in sensor and networking technology, now is the right time to invest in gathering more intelligence about energy usage. EcoSteer makes it possible to start early at low cost, learn, and grow to massive scale. Its recent news of a partnership with HP, where HP will embed and resell the EcoSteer platform in HP’s energy efficiency management solution for telecoms and utilities, demonstrates that the EcoSteer monitoring solution is anticipated to deliver both big data and smaller costs. Just as other industries expect to benefit from this, so too should organisations in the public sector, and they can start by taking small pragmatic steps, not a leap of faith into the dark.

Why Demand Management is important to local government

Martin Creswell is Chief Executive of iMPOWER and a member of the MCA Think Tank

Martin Creswell is Chief Executive of iMPOWER and a member of the MCA Think Tank

Carl Jung once talked of synchronicity, of separate events connected by a form of ‘meaningful coincidence’. Such connections, difficult to explain through the standard scientific method, were somehow deliberate and that the manifestation of one was reliant on the other. This art, of seeing the irregular links and patterns in what appears to be chaos or regimented uniformity, is not unlike one’s first attempt at a behavioural analysis.

Take for example a parent using the free school transport service for their disabled children, a service which costs local authorities a small fortune in taxi fares. On the face of it a rigid and uniform system; it is right these children attend school therefore by virtue of them being considered ‘in need’ by the state they are provisioned with a service to address that need.  When iMPOWER explored this problem further we found a previously unrecognised behavioural trigger, the council we were working with was simply offering the service to any parent who qualified. When they changed to asking those same parents ‘How are you going to get your child to school?’ the numbers of people accessing that particular service fell dramatically. Behavioural analysis allowed us to look beyond the linear nature of the problem and to find an innovative and cost effective solution. By simply reframing the offer of the service we unlocked a different set of behaviours in service users. This is just the tip of a big iceberg, and an area which has received recognition today from our industry Think Tank.

The new Management Consultancies Association (MCA) Think Tank report, Local Government – Time for Reinvention highlights how effective demand management really can transform local services. The report recommends that by taking a more imaginative look at service users through the deployment of behavioural analysis (and not just the traditional assessments of socio-economic need), councils can segment and tailor services in ways which may see reduced levels of demand.

With local government likely to be burdened by a further reduction of 30% in its overall spending power the sector will be in need of support and fresh thinking. If raw financial numbers behind the cuts are not enough, consider the 400,000 jobs lost in local government (according to UNISON), many of them from the councils corporate core; the critical thinking capacity if you will. What is left is essentially the front line. If local government wants to navigate its way through the next five years of fiscal contraction then it needs to start embracing new tools like behavioural analysis if it is to address the white elephant in the room that of increasing demand for public services.

The real danger to the sustainability of public services isn’t the fall in public spending; the amount we contribute to public services has fluctuated over recent history. Rather the real threat is that of unchecked (and poorly understood) increases in demand. As the MCA Think Tank point outs, managing this demand will be a significant part of most local authorities answer to their funding challenge. Behavioural analysis is one tool that will help to unlock better demand management but it is not the only. We at iMPOWER see this as a broader opportunity to expand on the orthodox socio-economic forms of analysis that have traditionally informed senior decision making in local government.

The MCAs new report into the future of local government makes this point clearly. We’re now operating in a world that is rapidly downsizing and where our populations are more mobile and increasingly transient. What this mean for ‘place based’ delivery of public services is still be decided. What is clear is that a one size fits all approach is not the answer, it’s one of the contributing factors to our current problems. We see a different public sector emerging, one where the stock in trade of local government will be the ownership of our most complex social problems, and in truth, many are not solvable. At least not by singular one shot solution. Rather, they are managed and ameliorated over time, evolving into ever more manageable versions of themselves.

Political commentator Janan Ganesh recently noted that those of who are 35 ‘have already lived through one re-imagining of the state’ and that we are now about ‘due for another’. I’m inclined to agree with him. Managing demand is not just an important part of the future of local government service delivery; it is also a gateway to the next generation of the state. 

Kirklees Council chooses Sennheiser for new Lync deployment in its council offices

SC 60 USB ML lifestyle

SC 60 USB ML lifestyle

Sennheiser, a global leader in premium headset and UC solutions, has been chosen by Kirklees Council to supply its call centre staff with over 4,000 new headsets under a new Microsoft Lync implementation. Sennheiser was chosen following an evaluation by in-house staff of four leading headset brands. Read on to find out why.

The Challenge

Kirklees Council were looking to deploy 7,000 staff under a new Microsoft Lync implementation, with a key deliverable being to establish a more mobile workforce and ensure that the best approach was adopted in terms of employee healthcare. A significant percentage uptake in headset deployment was required to replace fixed handset devices. Staff required more mobility, increased comfort and no compromise in performance at a price point that was realistic.

The solution

“We chose a large group of 200 people to participate in evaluations of four of the main headsets that fell within our tight budgets, but which offered the best audio, comfort and performance overall,” said John Clayton, Principal Officer at Kirklees Council. “Feedback was overwhelming for the Sennheiser’s solutions, the SC 30 and SC 60. The benefits were a better build, better quality feel and more robust product.

When asked for reasons why the Sennheiser headsets proved so popular, one employee who preferred to wear a headset all day stated that they are “Very light and comfortable and I don’t know that I’m wearing it.” Other important factors included the impressive audio and noise cancelling microphone, but one of the main reasons why this rollout was possible was due to the price point.

“It was envisaged that customers would more readily adapt to headset use on this product as it is light, comfortable and has a premium quality look and feel” said John. “However the price point made it very attractive against the IT budget, and its robust design means we expect fewer breakages over time and a longer product life, reducing our total cost of ownership.”

Constructed from premium materials, Sennheiser’s headsets are built to last. A real emphasis on comfort, from large ear pads and a flexible boom to HD voice clarity and noise cancelling microphones, ensures that calls can be conducted smoothly and efficiency regardless of the environment, and with built-in ActiveGard™ technology to protect against acoustic shock, deliver complete peace of mind.

Sennheiser’s noise-cancelling technology certainly proved its worth with one contact centre employee, who gave their own review of the product: “Being a busy contact centre we really struggle with background noise. We have taken many steps to reduce this, such as silent keyboards, and were also considering noise-cancelling tiles as it was difficult for the staff during their daily shift and also listening back to calls on recordings. We evaluated the Sennheiser noise cancelling headset and were immediately impressed by this key feature, we couldn’t pick up any background noise and the conversation with the customer was perfect and clear. It was like they were in a room on their own!”

“We’d certainly recommend Sennheiser’s headsets to other similar establishments,” said John Clayton. “They have helped us deliver on our requirements. Acceptance of headsets has been 95%+ with users being truly able to hotdesk; we have deployed only a small number of handsets for specialist use. In addition, Employee Healthcare is very pleased with take up as this helps with overall posture and allows people to use the computer whilst on the phone.”

Kirklees council now uses Sennheiser SC 30 USB ML and SC 60 USB ML headsets in its contact centre and have deployed over 4,000 to date on the new Microsoft Lync development, with employees also using the Sennheiser products for dictation and text to voice.

About Kirklees

Kirkless uses headsets across all Council functions to handle public, contractor and partner calls. These can be confidential calls at the desk, into call centres, staff home working, reception areas and other functions dealing with everything from child protection, bin collection and council tax enquiries to planning and short term health needs.  Call centre staff spend around six hours a day on the phone and are sat at desks when taking calls, though many work from home. Calls are often transferred, with business support in many areas who pick up calls and pass on to relevant staff.  95% of its workforce now uses headsets.

The headsets

Employees of Kirklees are now using the Sennheiser SC 30 and SC 60 noise cancelling headsets. The SC 30 is a single-sided wideband headset optimised for Microsoft Lync, with a noise cancelling microphone and extra large ear pad for comfortable long-term use. The SC 60 is a deployment-friendly dual-sided headset also optimised for Microsoft Lync with built-in noise cancelling and is designed for users requiring stereo sound and full call control in a Unified Communications environment.

Both models include ActiveGard™ to protect against acoustic shock and sudden sound surges, with a bendable boom arm to ensure optimal microphone position and 340° pivotable boom for wearing flexibility on the right or left ear, and come with a 2-year international warranty as standard.

Counter Terror Expo 2015 to cover key terror threat areas under one roof

Counter Terror Expo 2015 comes at a time when terrorism and unconventional threat levels across much of the world are at heightened levels. Recent events in France and Nigeria, to pick just two, have accentuated the myriad of different threats that have proliferated since the 1990s. And as the threats have increased and mutated, so the responses of countries, government agencies, and non-government actors have had to change almost beyond all recognition.

Counter Terror Expo 2015 covers these key terror threat areas under one roof, and uses the underlying principles that form the “UK’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism”, to link everything. The four principles that make up what is also known as the also known as the “Contest Strategy” are: “Pursue”, “Prevent, “Protect”, and “Prepare”.

  1. Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks;
  2. Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism;
    1. Protect: to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack;
    2. Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack

At Counter Terror Expo 2015, the overall scene – the “intelligence picture” – is set by the “World Counter-Terror Congress”. Presentations on topics as diverse as communications security in a “post-Snowden Age”, use of digital media by radical groups, and the impact of new terror tactics are joined together under the four “Contest Strategy” headings. More detailed intelligence updates on Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, to name just some of the terror groups that are most frequently reported on in the media. Supporting briefings and presentations are provided by the Quillam Foundation, RUSI, University College London, the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office.The cyber terror threat is covered extensively in the exhibition’s “Cyber Threat Intelligence” strand. The past few months have given much to consider here. From the hacking of Sony Pictures – possibly by North Korean agencies – through to the hacking of the US Defense Department’s Central Command (which had its Twitter and YouTube feeds taken over by a group claiming to be aligned with ISIS), this threat has seen massive changes of late. And it isn’t just the state-on-state threats (also seen in hostile Russian cyber attacks on neighbours) that present severe challenges. The use of cyber techniques by criminal groups is an equal challenge to law enforcement agencies as well as commerce. The “Cyber Threat Intelligence” strand sees key updates from UK Government Communications HQ, Europol, and the UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit, backed up by “coal face” presentations from key industry leaders in the area.POLICE DOWNING STREET 2

The threat to infrastructure from terror groups has been a constant, but growing one. From threats to oil/petrochemical facilities (such as seen in Algeria in 2012, as well as in Nigeria and Iraq), to potential attacks on nuclear power stations, the sector presents a range of opportunities to terror groups, and thus risks to governments. So taking the “Four P’s” as the guideline, the “Critical National Infrastructure” seminar ranges across the options for identifying threats as well as solutions. Vital concept updates are given by the UK Home Office’s Security and Counter Terrorism department, GCHQ, NATO, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. To provide pin-point clarity about exactly what this can mean on the ground, the seminar also has feature presentations on the challenges of security at sporting facilities such as Wembley Stadium (as an example of the mass of such facilities that can seat close to 100,000 spectators), and the re-built New York World Trade Center.

Furthermore, the myriad of threats aren’t just focussed against fixed infrastructure facilities: transport networks are a regular target for terror groups’ plans and attacks. From the 9/11 aircraft hijackings, through the 2004 Madrid Atocha train bombings to the similar attack on the London Underground in 2005, transport presents ideal targets for terror groups. Although aircraft are the highest profile targets, it is often transports means such as buses that see the most attacks – Boko Haram and Al Shabab have both carried out shocking fatal attacks on buses in Nigeria and Kenya recently. But the Transport Security Live Strand at Counter Terror 2015 will cover all these areas, with key addresses from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, the Department for Transport, and industry players such as Boeing.

Lastly, Counter Terror Expo 2015 covers that area whose importance springs into life when terrorists strike or “things go wrong”: the Blue Light Services, the fire and ambulance/medical services. The Ambition seminar covers preparing Blue Light Services for the scale and range of terror attacks, and the building of resilience in the services. On top of this, the manner of response of responders to high scale terror attacks – whether a “Mumbai-style” gun attack, or a chemical/biological attack is also covered by speakers from leading UK and European First Responder organisations.

Ideally, governments and companies wouldn’t have to plan for such events. But the past decades have shown that – unfortunately – the risks and range of terror threats have grown ever higher. Nobody can ignore contingency plans for terror/terror-style attacks, and the recent attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine shows that the risks to non-government bodies can be as high as those for state entities. This is why Counter Terror Expo 2015 aims to provide context, analysis and answers to the vast topic of counter-terror.>

With 300+ suppliers, from leading UK and international primes to specialist SMEs will be exhibiting their latest technology and equipment for law enforcement and security personnel. Some of the leading and innovative exhibitors will include Winkelmann UK, Tactical Electronics LLC, Alford Technologies, Digital RF and Chemring EOD which manufactures Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Counter-IED equipment; Geoquip Worldwide, Terrafix Ltd and Neosoft, producers of secure communications equipment; Counter Measure Systems which specialises in police and special forces equipment and training; ICM X-Ray which produces groundbreaking miniaturised portable X-ray equipment; and RFA Security, providers of explosive detection and sniffer dogs.

Unmanned vehicles are playing an increasingly important role today and CTX exhibitors include ICOR Technology which manufactures the CALIBER® family of robots, offers five different sized platforms providing remote capabilities for SWAT, EOD and Hazmat teams. iRobot’s unmanned ground vehicles are designed to reduce the risk to personnel, operate downrange, report data and deliver predictive intelligence. Unmanned ground vehicles are also a speciality of NIC Instruments, which develops the lightweight First Responder that can be configured to the needs of specific missions. The unit can easily be repaired in the field.

Visit www.counterterrorexpo.com

Vickers Energy Group welcomes Business Innovation and skills to its Trafford Park Headquarters

Vickers Energy Group welcomed the Permanent Secretary, Director Generals and policy makers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to its Trafford Park site last week to discuss the company’s success in the UK market and its growth overseas.

The visit included a round table discussion about the importance of government support to growth, how exports are helping the company to grow and its plans for future development in the UK. The company is working with clients to help manage their energy consumption more effectively and reduce costs and C02 emissions.

This was part of a tour of Greater Manchester carried out by BIS to witness first hand Manchester’s vision for economic growth. The visit highlighted the importance of areas such as Trafford Park to the growth of Greater Manchester as well as opportunities and challenges for the local economy.

David Hilton from Vickers said: “We were delighted to welcome the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to our headquarters in Trafford Park to discuss our business alongside the opportunities and challenges we have in reaching out to expand our client base in the UK and abroad. Our proposition is pretty simple – our energy management system saves our clients thousands of pounds in energy bills and reduces carbon emissions. We are looking forward to a busy year as more and more businesses focus on environmental policies and the need to reduce consumption.”

BIS Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly said: “It is fantastic to see first-hand the innovative British companies that are leading the world, particularly in important fields like energy management.

“In Government we are working hard to support businesses to grow. Just this week, we invested a further £1 billion in local economies across England by expanding the successful Growth Deals. This will help to train young people, create thousands of new jobs, start hundreds of infrastructure projects and boost business support schemes.”

Vickers saves its customers over £75 million per year and is at the forefront of energy management technology in the UK. On average it saves its customers £18,000 per year.

Nottingham tenants among first to unlock high tech safety

Sharpes warehouse - Nottingham Community Housing Association

Sharpes warehouse – Nottingham Community Housing Association

Feeling insecure in their own homes is a thing of the past for some Nottingham Community Housing Association (NCHA) tenants. They are one of the first UK housing associations to take advantage of an innovative door entry system. Twenty flats at a converted warehouse, Sharpes Warehouse, have been fitted with the ability to lock and unlock front and entry doors remotely by the use of telephones.

Supplied by specialists in wireless intercom systems, Intratone, the pilot project aimed to improve access to each flat and increase security for tenants. The system uses GSM technology, enabling tenants to control access to their homes via their landline or mobile phone without the need for additional cabling. The whole system is monitored over a web platform, making lost keys, access for carers, contractors or visitors, or conversely restricting access, a thing of the past.

In control

The previous system was a spent hard wired door entry system and the access control on the panel (a coded keypad) was no longer working. Tenants had to gain access with keys and had to physically come down to the main door to let people in.

The NCHA maintenance team look after nearly 300 properties across the Sleaford area, making granting access to properties a difficult physical task. This is becomes time consuming and expensive as traffic increases when factoring in maintenance contractors, carers or tenants losing keys. Now visitors can call the caretaker on his mobile, who can let them in remotely.

Sharon Singleton, Regional Housing Manager said: “We were looking for a system that would put our staff and residents in control of access to Sharpes Warehouse apartments. We are very pleased with the outcome of the project which is already making a big difference, giving our tenants peace of mind and saving time and resources for our maintenance team.”

Putting the system to the test

Part of the challenge of this installation was the rural location. NCHA is a vast Housing Association with housing stock disseminated across the Midlands. So it was crucial that the system worked even with a weak signal, plus the ability to have control of the system remotely from a central location was vital.

The system offers value for money and low on-going maintenance cost, with no need to replace broken handsets or incur call out fees for fault finding on the cables.

Derby based specialist IT installers, Salt Network Consulting, have been NCHA’s preferred contractor for a decade.

Tasked with installing the new system, the team quickly realised the benefits of the new technology over similar industry standard products. Managing Director, Tim Salt said:
“Intratone is a unique and cost effective system that enabled us to install a reliable intercom system with minimal manpower and remote maintenance, making the job more cost effective for everyone involved. Initially, we were assisted on-site by the Intratone team, in order to grasp the new system’s setup process. Although unconventional, we now regard this product as a welcome addition to our portfolio of products and would consider this system as a great advantage to our other clients who have to fit a new system to an existing building, especially if they haven’t any cabling or it is spent.”

A resident’s satisfaction survey carried out on completion of the works show positive feedback on the ease of the system and reports an extra sense of security.
Pleased with the outcome, NCHA maintenance staff are reported to be over the moon with the system.

About Intratone

Intratone Telecom is a subsidiary of Cogelec specialising in wireless GSM intercom systems, including access control and security equipment. Founded in 2000, Cogelec is a French company, by 6 associates who were previously involved in the access control industry, with headquarters located in Mortagne sur Sèvre in the Vendée region. It now has more than 65 employees and a turnover of approximately €12 million across Europe. Established in 2007, Intratone enabled partner Orange be the first telephone operator to provide communication and wireless telephone intercom systems for collective housing. Intratone provides a complete range of GSM door entry systems : audio panels, video door entry systems, Visio intercoms.

Sennheiser and Apogee announce partnership at NAMM Show

At Winter NAMM, audio specialist Sennheiser and Apogee Electronics, industry leader in digital audio conversion technology, have announced their collaboration.

At the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Apogee’s Betty Bennett and Sennheiser’s Peter Claussen have jointly announced the cooperation of their companies. Peter Claussen, COO of Sennheiser, said that “Apogee and Sennheiser are a perfect fit. We both operate in the demanding premium sector, serving professional and semi-professional audio customers across the globe. Our product portfolios perfectly complement each other, and I am looking forward to collaborate with a company that has truly pushed the boundaries of digital audio.”

Betty Bennett, Co-Founder and CEO of Apogee, commented, “This is an exciting collaboration for us. Sennheiser is a highly respected brand with an incredible product portfolio and an extensive global reach. Our reputation for delivering premium products to the pro and prosumer markets are well aligned and our core competencies are very complementary. This collaboration will result in innovative, high-quality products that will truly inspire our customers.”

Details about the collaboration are to be revealed at a later date.

About Apogee

Apogee Electronics is an award-winning manufacturer of professional audio devices that advance audio recording and deliver ultimate sound quality, inspiring simplicity and incredible value. Apogee initially made its name with special anti-aliasing filters that solved many of the early problems associated with digital audio. Later, Apogee’s complete conversion systems pushed the envelope of digital audio quality and established Apogee as a key innovator in the field of professional digital audio. Today, Apogee converters and audio interfaces are regarded as the reference standard in the audio industry. Products such as Symphony I/O, Big Ben, Ensemble and Duet all have set the benchmark by which digital audio recording hardware is judged. Now with its latest products JAM and MiC, designed especially for Apple’s iPad, iPhone and GarageBand software, Apogee continues to be at the forefront of recording technology. Apogee’s mission is to build products that offer ultimate sound quality, innovative design and unparalleled value to all music creators from the aspiring artist to the discerning audio professional.

About Sennheiser

The Sennheiser Group based in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, was founded in 1945 and has gone on to become a leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Sales in 2013 totaled 590.4 million euros. Sennheiser employs more than 2,500 staff worldwide and operates plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company has a worldwide network of subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hongkong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and the USA. It also has long-established trading partners in other countries. Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin, a maker of studio microphones and monitor speakers, and Sennheiser Communications A/S, a joint venture making headsets for PCs, offices and call centers, are also part of the Sennheiser Group.

More up-to-date information about Sennheiser is available on the internet at www.sennheiser.com

UK SBS Appoints deputy director of property asset management

Laura Thomson, Deputy Director, Property Asset Management, UK SBS

Laura Thomson, Deputy Director, Property Asset Management, UK SBS

Shared business services mutual, UK SBS, has appointed Laura Thomson BSc MRICS as Deputy Director of its Property Asset Management service. She brings over 25 years private sector experience in corporate real estate to help deliver the strategic direction of UK SBS’ public sector clients. UK SBS works with clients across the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and its partner organisations, and the company manages  a combined property portfolio of 253,000 m2 occupied by over21,000BIS employees.

Prior to joining UK SBS, Laura held senior roles at Cushman Wakefield, Inter-IKEA, and DTZ where as Director for Corporate Real Estate she was responsible for the delivery of national integrated estates services for both Government and corporate clients including the Crown Prosecution Service and the Health and Safety Executive. Latterly she has acted as an independent consultant providing strategic estate management advice to corporate clients including the Manchester Airport Group.

“I am very pleased to be joining UK SBS at this exciting time and I see a great opportunity to bring my extensive experience of corporate real estate management to help create a centre of excellence for the provision of property services for BIS and the government sector”, says Laura Thomson, Deputy Director, Property Asset Management.

The sharing of business services sits at the heart of the Government’s strategy on economy, efficiency and reform. Laura Thomson will support Director, Roger Taylor, and his team in working with Government to help deliver this in the area of property asset management.

OPSWAT acquires email security provider Red Earth Software

OPSWAT, provider of solutions to secure and manage IT infrastructure, yesterday announced the acquisition of Red Earth Software, developer of email security and secure file transfer solutions.

The Red Earth Software acquisition now enables OPSWAT to extend its advanced threat prevention technology to protect email and file transfer in addition to servers, endpoints and proxy servers. Red Earth Software recently integrated OPSWAT’s multi anti-malware scanner Metascan® into its products Policy Patrol Mail Security, an email security solution for Exchange Server, and Policy Patrol Secure File Transfer, a solution that enables users to securely send large and confidential files. With the Metascan integration, Policy Patrol customers now have access to robust protection against malware threats.

With the acquisition, OPSWAT is acquiring Red Earth Software’s valuable expertise and extensive customer base in the email security and secure file transfer business, helping OPSWAT move faster in achieving its vision of secure data workflow: providing organizations with a central security solution for protecting data originating from various sources.

“We are excited about the Red Earth Software acquisition,” said Benny Czarny, CEO at OPSWAT. “Email security and secure file transfer play an important part in securing data workflow in organisations, and Red Earth Software technologies will be crucial building blocks for our new comprehensive security offerings.”

“With the acquisition, Red Earth Software will be able to grow its existing email security and secure file transfer business, as well as build new comprehensive solutions for securing the total data workflow in organisations,” said Mike Spykerman, CEO of Red Earth Software.