Sep 1, 2002 12:00 PM

Bank One's digital video surveillance system is one year into its rollout and more than 350 Bank One sites across the country are up and running, with another 150 slated to be upgraded before the end of 2002. During its transition to digital video, Bank One faced challenges similar to what many physical security groups are faced with how to make the switch to a digital video solution across hundreds of sites nationwide and do it both cost-effectively and with an eye to the future. Based in Chicago, Bank One Corp. is the sixth-largest financial holding company and the third-largest credit card issuer in the United States, with assets of more than $260 billion.

While it was easy to identify the advantages of digital video versus analog-based CCTV systems, reestablishing criteria to select the right system for the bank's needs was more demanding. Requirements included a myriad of video quality, bandwidth, network compatibility, operational and system management functions, as well as anticipated capabilities for future security applications.

Ultimately, Bank One chose to deploy a networked digital video solution from manufacturer March Networks, Ottawa, Ont. The system is already proving its value through operational efficiencies and improved reliability.

A key benefit of most Digital Video Recorder (DVR) systems is the ability to bring video recording and storage online. For Bank One, this capability eliminated the need to have its banking center-based customer service employees regularly changing VCR tapes a task that often took them away from the business of banking.

There are no more racks of tapes to organize, maintain and store. All video footage is archived on the DVR for online access. High-quality video storage and easy access to the recorded video via Bank One's IP-based corporate WAN were important requirements for its DVR program.

Investigators can now search for a specific video clip quickly by date/time or event flags from any DVR on the network using an advanced viewer software package. With triplex functionality, searching and viewing archived footage, as well as streaming video in real-time, can be done without impacting recording. The March Networks system also allows multiple users to view footage simultaneously another benefit in a geographically-dispersed corporation like Bank One.

Retrieving and distributing selected video footage is also easy. Bandwidth requirements for downloading video can be limited through the March Networks DVR (an important factor in a banking environment where mission-critical data is of primary importance). This capability also won favor with the company's Information Systems group which became involved early on in the evaluation process.

Once the required video footage has been downloaded using the viewing software, investigators can simply save it as an AVI, BMP or JPEG file for e-mailing, online viewing, or burning to a CD-ROM. A critical frame can also be printed as a still image for hard-copy distribution. The process can be completed in just seconds, remotely and from any software-loaded PC.

The streamlined process also enables sharing of footage with law enforcement. Bank One has provided video footage to several law enforcement agencies since installing the digital video solution, and its investigators have received favorable comments regarding the overall quality of the video and its value as a tool to identify and convict criminals.

In one instance, Bank One retrieved video footage to help police in Michigan identify a man who had abducted a woman from a shopping mall and forced her to withdraw cash from one of its drive-thru ATMs. The bank's regional security investigator was able to find and retrieve the footage in minutes and to provide clear pictures to expedite the investigation.

Bank One's investigations are not always that dramatic, of course, but whether it is a person contemplating fraud, robbery or vandalism, the fact that they know they are being captured on video can act as a deterrent. The bank's main focus, however, continues to be using the system for investigative purposes, where absolute reliability means having evidence when it is required.

While investigators at Bank One have access to all archived footage using viewing software, all configuration, health status monitoring and upgrading are handled by an authorized administrator using another PC-based software package. Central management is critical to reliability for any digital surveillance solution and was high on the bank's list of evaluation criteria. It allows investigators to access and download the video they need without worrying about accidentally taking a DVR offline, or resetting a specific recording schedule.

The efficiencies gained by central system management are key to implementing an effective digital video program. If there's an issue with a DVR in a Bank One office tower in Arizona, for example, the administrator at the Chicago-based central administrative center will be alerted immediately. If a camera at one of the banking centers in Ohio stops working, the administrator will be able to detect the loss of the video signal. In both cases, a regional service technician can then be dispatched to resolve the issue.

Ultimately, central management is the most efficient approach to managing hundreds of banking centers, each with at least one DVR connected to as many as 16 cameras. For Bank One, finding out that the video footage required for a specific investigation is not available because of a just-discovered technical issue is unacceptable.

In addition to eventually rolling out the DVR system to all 1,800 banking center locations, the security team selected a system that offers the flexibility to look at programs such as ATM data integration, risk management, real-time monitoring and video-system customer dispute resolution at the banking center level.

Bank One recently piloted a program to install March Networks viewing software on the PCs of about 70 banking center managers. With the software, these managers have the same access to archived footage as the investigators, but for their banking center only. If a customer comes to them with a concern, the manager can retrieve video and view it with the customer right on the spot. Most managers involved in the pilot found it to be a great tool and had no difficulties using the software with the help of an instruction booklet.

Fred Miskulin, CPP, CFSSP, is first vice president with corporate security at Bank One.

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