Nov 1, 2002 12:00 PM

From corporations, to small businesses, to the government and the guy next door, CCTV and video surveillance have increasingly become a part of the American landscape. Of particular interest are new and innovative ways users are installing and implementing these solutions, whether alone or as part of an integrated security system. The Internet and the Web-friendly nature of today's video surveillance solutions are making the term CCTV (closed circuit television) obsolete.

Feedback from end-users is driving innovation in design and implementation of video surveillance. "If it weren't for the feedback from our CCTV end-users and their expanding upon the applications of existing technology, the factories wouldn't have as clear a road map for future product development," says Kerby Long, national sales manager of JVC's Video Imaging Systems Division (VISD), Wayne, N.J.

Here's a look at some recent installations that are improving the overall CCTV landscape:

  • One of the keys to freeway management is providing as much up-to-the-minute information as possible, so the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) wanted a CCTV system that would give visual traffic updates to travelers in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The MnDOT's metro traffic engineering team installed more than 60 small Axis video servers to digitize the feeds from its existing 238 analog traffic cameras, thus enabling real-time traffic images to be distributed over the Internet. "We consider this installation to be a tremendous success," says Patrick Osborn, information technology specialist for the MnDOT. "We found a cost-effective solution that helps us accomplish our goal of making freeway travel easier and more efficient for the residents of the Twin Cities." By using video servers to digitize its existing cameras, the MnDOT is able to distribute images of freeways and traffic conditions to commuters via its Web site.

  • Harley Davidson's premier motorcycle and apparel showroom in Las Vegas, the world's largest motorcycle dealership, recently enhanced its CCTV system. Using Pelco color dome cameras and 24-hour digital recorders, multiplexers and a matrix switching system from various suppliers, virtually the entire facility can be monitored simultaneously by security personnel and management both on and off site. The expanded system was implemented to further improve the dealership's loss prevention measures and as a management tool to monitor floor sales traffic and daily operations. "Harley Davidson of Las Vegas has a great deal of customer and tourist traffic which requires a more extensive video surveillance system to provide coverage of the dealership's large showroom and facility, as well as the perimeter of the facility," says Ron Freschi of North American Video, Brick, N.J., the supplier of the system. "We improved their video surveillance capabilities with products providing comprehensive coverage of their facility with multiple monitoring sites for enhanced security and management operations." The showroom's new video surveillance system includes a Pelco matrix switching system with 24-hour real-time recorders and Genex multiplexers. The main system components are configured in a 52-inch vertical rack to maximize space in the dealership's security office. In addition to controlling the system from the security office, additional matrix controllers are installed in the offices of the dealership's upper management to monitor floor activity and operations. Spectra color integrated dome camera systems providing 360-degree monitoring were also added, and they blend in well with the showroom's aesthetics.

  • The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians based in Michigan own The Greektown Casino in downtown Detroit one of six casinos operated by the tribe and the first tribal-owned casino in the U.S. to open on non-tribal land. The casino occupies more than 75,000 square feet spanning two floors with more than 2,500 slot machines and 90 gaming tables. It's a large, but secure environment protected by a well-trained security force that uses the latest surveillance technology from Panasonic. Security personnel watch more than 1,000 CCTV cameras and Panasonic color monitors from a command center. All cameras are recorded in real-time using more than 450 Panasonic VCRs. The cameras are managed with Panasonic's Matrix System 850, which allows individual operators to call up and control any camera in the system from a monitoring station. The systems enables the staff to track an individual virtually anywhere inside or around the casino, including the parking facility. "Our cameras provide high image quality and reliability that we need to maintain security around the clock," says William Page, vice president of surveillance and security at Greektown Casino.

  • Canton High School in Mississippi wanted a security system that would help prevent crisis situations and create a safer, more productive educational environment for teachers and students. In addition, the school needed to find a solution that could be installed, operated and maintained without becoming a financial drain on the school's budget. CameraWATCH, Jackson, Miss., a company specializing in security systems for schools, installed 24 networked cameras, allowing the principal, teachers and police officers to view live images of school grounds via the Internet. CameraWATCH employees also observe school grounds from the company's real-time remote monitoring station during off-hours, eliminating the need for a night watchman. "Students typically think that no one is watching them when they are in a crowd, and most of the time, they are right," says Jim Walker, vice president of CameraWATCH. "The best way to prevent crime on campus is to let students know someone is monitoring their behavior." After the installation, fights and crime in the school have virtually halted, while teachers and students have an increased sense of safety and security on campus.

  • The U.S. Postal Services' Criminal Investigation System (CIS) is designed to provide video coverage of restricted processing areas where mail is sorted for delivery. The CIS installations incorporate Vicon dome cameras with pan/tilt/zoom operation controlled by a Vicon matrix switcher. To view areas where the public has direct access, the U.S. Postal Service employs Retail Security Systems (RSS) to monitor traffic and customer activity. "The Postal Service has become a major focal point in the fight against terrorism here in the U.S.," says Ron Freschi of North American Video, the installer. So far, North American Video has completed more than 175 video surveillance system installations at postal facilities in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including facilities affected by last year's Anthrax attacks.

  • The Pacific Pipeline System LLC (PPS), a crude oil transportation company, needed a system to allow its operational staff to ensure off-site workers' safety. In addition, the company wanted to guard against trespassers at remote sites and make certain that equipment at remote pumping stations was operating efficiently. PPS installed 10 video servers at 12 of its remote pumping stations. The video servers digitize signals from analog cameras and transmit video to operational and maintenance staff at a control center via a private communications system. "The video servers have saved us thousands of dollars in lost throughput and maintenance costs because we can visually verify an alarm before stopping operations, and we can easily monitor the integrity of repairs," says Kurt Nelson, IT director of PPS. With a new Internet-based CCTV system, PPS's control center staff can maximize operational efficiency, zoom in on equipment problems and monitor for unsafe operating procedures in real-time. In case of equipment failure or unsafe working conditions, the controllers can easily pinpoint the situation and take the necessary action.

The explosion in demand for video surveillance solutions and the popularity of Internet Protocol (IP) based products has not only offered better security to organizations, it has also created new opportunities for small CCTV installation businesses across the country. Internet Camera Solutions, Seattle, a re-seller and installer of digital IP-based security systems, is a prime example. "We provide our clients with a complete digital surveillance solution for their business, allowing them to record at a higher resolution and better frame rate than traditional CCTV systems. Our customers can also monitor their business remotely over the Web," company president Larry Mar says.

It's perhaps no surprise then that Mar's advice for selecting a CCTV system is simple: "Go digital," he says. "IP cameras offer seamless integration of a pan/tilt/zoom network camera into existing Internet-based surveillance solutions. Surveillance software without the need for additional video servers saves users installation and support costs. Existing analog CCTV installations are beginning to make the transformation to digital solutions, and soon IP cameras will be the norm for new installs."

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a contributor to Access Control & Security Systems who also writes for sister magazines SRO and Video Systems.

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