SECURITY CATCHES THE BUS
Oct 1, 2002 12:00 PM
Security has become the a hot topic for all forms of public transportation. It takes intense effort to protect lives and property in public environments where high traffic volumes reign. Fortunately, technological advances during the last 15 years have spawned security solutions perfectly designed for these applications.
While national attention has been focused on security at airports and on airplanes, other forms of transportation also merit attention. Public, educational and private buses, subway systems, light rail, trains and monorail cars as well as platform and station facilities can be just as vulnerable to criminal or terrorist activity.
The Federal Transit Administration's National Transit Database reports a total of 132,293 criminal incidents related to surface transport in the year 2000, including 12 homicides. Data reported for the survey came from nearly 450 transit agencies. The crimes included rape, robbery, aggravated assault and theft.
Especially since Sept. 11, transit agencies have scrambled to beef up passenger security by looking to new technology, including mobile video surveillance systems.
Mobile video surveillance products are being used extensively in bus and light rail transit applications. Roughly half of the transit agencies responding to a June 2001 survey said they have buses equipped with video surveillance for an average of 27 percent of the fleet. Studies have shown that video monitoring leads to reductions in crime and vandalism, fewer fraudulent insurance claims and increased ridership.
These surveillance systems can monitor and record onboard events, collect footage from inside or outside the vehicle, store operational data and generally improve the quality and safety of the ride. Mobile security systems such as those manufactured by Loronix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Verint Systems Inc., Woodbury, N.Y., provide a timely solution to numerous security concerns in the transportation industry.
Three of the country's transportation authorities awarded contracts for the installation of Loronix CCTVware Mobile Systems this year. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Jose, Calif., has begun its implementation of mobile security systems on approximately 630 light rail vehicles and buses. The San Francisco Municipal and Charlotte, N.C., transportation authorities were the second and third, respectively, to award contracts for Loronix equipment.
During the testing phase of the Loronix system on VTA vehicles in California, more than 200 arrests were made for vandalism alone. The system continuously records and holds about 80 hours of video. When an incident occurs, drivers are able to push a button to flag the video which indicates that a recording will not be overwritten. Security personnel can pull video nightly or go on-site to an incident and view video for analysis. Recording occurs at 7.5 frames-per-second, allowing for high resolution and less gaps between frames, so more history of events can be seen.
The Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) project includes systems on 285 buses. Each bus is fitted with a six-camera system that captures both video and audio data. CATS plans to use the cameras for three main functions: accident investigation, driver training and enhancing security on the fleet. "These video cameras continue CATS' safety initiative to provide a safe, convenient and affordable transportation service for our customers," says Ron Tober, chief executive officer of CATS.
In each of the six camera systems, two cameras will record the exterior of the vehicle ¡ª one in front of the bus, and the other on the passenger boarding side. Inside the bus, the cameras are positioned to see boarding, fare payment and the rear of the bus. No sound is recorded until emergency events occur. "The camera system is one of the largest single transit purchases and installs in America," says Keith Parker, chief operating officer of CATS.
San Francisco Municipal's system includes coverage of 290 buses, 235 of which have already been installed and are currently running. Each bus is equipped with four cameras capturing video and audio.
Features of the Loronix system such as video marking ¡ª whereby a driver can flag an incident on video by pressing an alarm button ¡ª can help transportation agencies overcome costly insurance liabilities. The Loronix system motion sensors also ensure the system is turned on by activity instead of a vehicle's ignition switch. This enables transportation providers to curb incidents of vandalism and other unlawful activities and help prevent unauthorized access to the vehicles upon entering the depot areas. Systems integrated with the ignition switch will only record video when the bus or lightrail is actually running.
The Loronix Mobile solution is a Windows NT-based system consisting of two main components: the Mobile Digital Video Recorder (MDVR) and the Video Review Station (VRS). The MDVR is an industrial computer designed to digitize, compress and record video from up to eight color or black-and-white cameras onto a removable hard drive or "Data Pack." The system also provides an option to record audio. The MDVR does not require operator intervention except to exchange Data Packs. The MDVR communicates on standard PC communication interfaces, and integrates with the Loronix CCTV-ware Enterprise solution.
The VRS allows the operator to simultaneously review the recorded video and alarm events from up to four cameras. The system ensures video integrity through its Enterprise Authentication process, which performs a mathematical authentication algorithm to produce a "video fingerprint." This fingerprint is compared to the fingerprint created and stored when the video was originally captured. If the two fingerprints are identical, the video is verified. If the two fingerprints are different, the video is failed, indicating that the video has been altered. A video clip may be authenticated wholly or by individual segments. VTA has used this video authentication to win more than 200 court cases regarding vandalism to the buses/lightrails.
Loronix/Verint Systems Inc. 23