Replacing the Hodgepodge

School district reaches into the future with software and IP cameras

Covering 250 square miles in northern Brazoria County, just north of Galveston Island, Texas, Alvin Independent School District has 17,500 students and 23 schools. Its multi-building video surveillance system consisted of a hodgepodge of analog DVRs and cameras, according to the district’s technology services coordinator, Charles Colwell. While evaluating its goals for maximizing school security, the district began implementing a comprehensive video surveillance system in 2010 that was affordable, could integrate easily into its existing technology infrastructure and would be able to work with its preferred camera provider, SC Black.After coming across Video Insight at an education trade show, Colwell went to the Internet to further research the company’s VMS. Colwell evaluated case studies on the company’s website and said he was particularly impressed with Video Insight’s success in nearby Pearland ISD. Delving further into what the company could offer, Colwell discovered that it would meet Alvin ISD’s pricing and feature and expansion capability needs.

After determining this, the district selected Video Insight through a competitive awardprocess. Once the implementation began, software developers worked with SC Black to integrate the software so that it would work with the district’s video cameras: the 2.0MP BLK-IPS102M CS-mounts (including megapixel lenses, enclosures and mounting brackets) and 34x indoor IP domes.

“Video Insight currently supports more than 970 cameras from more than60 manufacturers,” said James Whitcomb, chief technical officer at Video Insight.“If we don’t support a certain camera, we will get development on itright away, as was the case in Alvin ISD and what we have done for manyother customers.”

Economical Implementation

After a successful beta-test that beganin February 2010, Alvin ISD began implementing the VMS districtwide in May. It deployed 568 SC Black IP cameras, joining the more than 200 existing analog cameras that easily integrated into the Video Insight IP software with encoders.

“The ability to work with existing equipment saved money on the project,”Colwell said. “If a campus is only 3 years old, there is no need to scrap the analog cameras we have there. We get good quality from these cameras using Video Insight encoders, so we will continue to use them until we can replace them in our next implementation phase.”

Another way the district reduced the project cost from a local contractor estimateof $2.6 million down to less than half a million dollars was using highschool and college student workers topull cable for the project and to install, mount and program cameras.

“We were very impressed by howa sophisticated software product likeVideo Insight is so easily programmed,”Colwell said. “It was so easy that I wasable to use my summer help consistingpredominately of high school studentsto work labor on the install.”

Maximizing Efficiency

Sensibly located in the center of its expansive250-square-mile district, theAlvin ISD technology center has 10 GB of bandwidth toward all campuses. Itsservers are Dual Quad Core Xeons runninginto a 30 TB Promise Array. Accordingto Colwell, “everything pipesout from here with nothing at the campuses except for a network switch and fiber link.”

This backbone effectively supports the VMS all campuses are using. Colwell has installed the monitor station ateach campus administration office and trains staff in the software so principal sand campus secretaries can access the cameras at their campus easily. Cameras are usually placed in high-traffic areas such as doors, parking lots, cafeterias and hallways. Colwell has taken the added step of installing dual display cards and dual monitors at some campus offices so users can always see the monitor station and access cameras without interrupting their work.

For districtwide surveillance, which is monitored by the Alvin ISD Police Department, Colwell has constructed an impressive video wall with 15 large52-inch monitors in the police dispatch center.

Cowell said the district maximizes the efficiency of its servers by sticking to a 10- to 15-day storage period of recorded video from all campuses. The district’s growth plan includes adding two more 15 terabyte storage arrays and servers soon, as well as deploying more SC Black cameras as analog cameras are replaced and as new construction dictates.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Security Today.

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