The Largest Mass Transit Deployment
Exclusive “dewarp” capability has helped CTA reduce violent crime and robberies by up to 35 percent
- By Sara Svendsen
- Nov 01, 2014
Helping the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) reduce violent
crime and robberies by up to 35 percent was a mission Sentry
360 relished. Providing their Ultra HD surveillance cameras and
systems, the Plainfield, Ill., camera manufacturer was involved in
the largest 360-degree install in mass transit history.
When Chicago Mayor Rham Emmanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool
set out to further enhance security for the massive Chicago public transportation
system—the second largest in the United States with 1.7 million riders daily—they
relied on Sentry360. CTA was looking to add additional video surveillance coverage
to its existing fleet of railway cars, but found they needed more than what
traditional video surveillance cameras could offer.
“Our end users were increasingly frustrated having to view video across incompatible
video systems,” said Herb Nitz, CTA director of technology engineering.
“For years, we had searched for open and scalable IP video solutions suitable for
our mobile fleet that were compatible with our current fixed video management
system. Our initial goal to find an IP camera that could operate in a challenging
mobile environment led us to Sentry360.”
The CTA began work with Sentry360 in 2010 as part of a pilot program funded
by a Department of Homeland Security grant. The CTA had Sentry360 retrofit
the existing rail car fleet with an onboard video surveillance system. Because the
cameras would be exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme
heat/cold, humidity, and vibration, as well as unregulated electrical power sourced
from the 600VDC third rail, the pilot program focused on the effects of these dynamics
relative to the video technology.
With more than 800 potential rail cars to retrofit on a full-scale, the CTA needed
a technology solution that was not only environmentally robust, but one that
also maximized the field-of-view with minimal cameras per car, supported by an
open-standards IP architecture that allowed for integration with other systems.
This is where Sentry360’s FullSight 360 cameras with exclusive dewarp SDK
capability impressed CTA.
“Traditional video surveillance cameras have an inherent flaw: blind spots,” said
Thomas Carnevale, Sentry360 CEO. “If a fixed field-of-view camera is pointed left
and an incident occurs on the right, then the camera is useless.”
With 360-degree surveillance camera dewarping technology, however, users
achieve full 360-degree images. The cameras integrate with an existing video management
software (VMS) product via a software development kit (SDK) to record
and display the full 360-degree view or “fisheye” image. The image is then corrected
in live or playback with full retrospective PTZ in all directions, providing
hindsight in full 360 degrees.
“The Sentry360 SDK is what separates us from those who try and compete but
fail because they are unable to achieve the level of integration we have with the top
VMS developers in the security marketplace,” Carnevale said.
To achieve full coverage within a CTA rail car, up to six legacy fixed field-of-view
cameras would be required, which also means six recorded video streams. During
the extensive multi-year pilot program evaluation, however, Sentry360’s solution
matched that coverage, with no blind-spots, using only two FullSight 360-degree fisheye ultra HD cameras per rail car.
The ceiling mounted, low-profile, Full-
Sight cameras have an omni-directional
vantage point, giving security investigators
a complete story of a potential
incident even in the heavy traffic of the
The Sentry360 cameras integrated
into the CTA’s existing VMS platform,
made by Teleste Corp., providing an
all-seeing eye and delivering full coverage
in every rail car, while substantially
reducing the bandwidth for recording
and streaming to two video streams and
retaining all virtual PTZ functionality
for both live and post-recorded video.
“The benefits we realized from the
immersive 360-degree technology of
the cameras and the ease of integration
far exceeded our expectations for any
IP mobile camera solution,” Nitz said.
Due to the success of the pilot, the
CTA retrofitted the solution to the remainder
of the fleet. The unintended
efficiency of the design allowed the
CTA to add two additional 360-degree
cameras per car, one within the railcar
to provide redundancy for the initial
two-camera solution and one outward
facing camera to view the rightof-
way as the train travels down the
tracks. Elimination of fixed field-ofview
cameras created extra recording
capacity within the Teleste VMS. This
allowed for the purchase of additional
360-degree cameras while keeping the
project under budget. The final project
included 3,600 cameras on nearly
900 rail cars, representing the largest
360-degree surveillance camera system
deployment in mass transit history.
The partnership has been an incredible
success: the most recent figures reveal
that the CTA has reduced crime in
all categories for the first half of 2014
(see sidebar and chart on the left).
“This CTA project sets a new standard
in public transportation video
surveillance,” Carnevale said. “Our solution
will be examined and modeled
in mass transit systems all around the
world. This deployment has proven to
be the most sophisticated rail car surveillance
camera system in operation
today, with a revolutionary Americanmade
product solving real-world problems
for one of the nation’s largest mass
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Security Today.