A Rapid Response
Creating the command center of the future
- By Leslie Thomas
- Aug 03, 2006
Whether it's an earthquake in Los Angeles, a tidal wave in New York or a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C., the only way first responders can truly be effective is by leveraging a command center solution that ties together disparate public and private security systems into an east-to-use, yet powerful solution -- giving law enforcement and other public agencies unprecedented access to information for fast assessment and response.
The security industry has already provided imaginative efforts to bring ever-increasing levels of security to aviation, as well as in public transit. But, they are only the beginning to a greater national commitment to and leadership in homeland security.
Think about it. Cameras are already watching key areas of nearly every municipality, and such surveillance programs continue to expand at a rapid pace. By tapping into these cameras and tying them into one intelligent, integrated surveillance system, first responders can harness the power of information provided at record speed, potentially saving many lives. The ability to send critical personnel and resources to the areas that need it most can make or break a first response operation.
The technology exists today to create such a command center. In fact, such ground-breaking hardware and software solutions are being used at critical applications around the globe, such as monitoring subways in Paris, keeping an eye on 1,000 kilometers of motorways in Portugal, protecting the city center of Annecy, France, from crime and vandalism, and providing a cohesive security and surveillance solution at airports throughout the world.
Limited First Response
The security industry has already provided imaginative efforts to bring ever-increasing levels of security to aviation, as well as in public transit. But, they are only the beginning to a greater national commitment to and leadership in homeland security. While some products and systems have performed well in niche markets, what's been truly needed is a dedication of integrating the depth and variety of homeland security products and technologies that already are available. New approaches to homeland security must be based on the belief that individual equipment, integrated as an afterthought, is costlier and less effective than a single, integrated solution.
Where Should First Responders Go?
The need for an integrated, intelligent command center comes from the current limited ability of first-response agencies, such as law enforcement, fire departments and medical agencies, to quickly assess major events as they happen and determine the level and type of response necessary in real time. Whether such events are environmental (including earthquakes and hurricanes) or man made (such as terrorist attacks, riots or protests), the need to quickly gather information, assess the severity of the situation and plan a coordinated response remains the same.
The need for such a centralized viewing capability for first responders is universal in all metropolitan areas. The London bombings and Hurricane Katrina clearly highlight the types of situations first responders are up against in trying to assess what is happening or has happened, and taking the appropriate action to protect the citizens of a city or county.
The ability to centralize and use disparate camera systems located throughout a city and owned by different agencies such as the Department of Transportation, the Port Authority and even the private sector, can mean the difference between an informed and coordinated first response, and a delayed and confused fiasco.
Such integration and centralization is now possible with systems presently used that integrate hardware and software solutions, which can help law enforcement officials and other first responders assess and respond to critical events in a real time.
Using such technology, first responders will be able to leverage current infrastructure, such as disparate camera systems, to deploy a solution over a wide area via a fiber network while still keeping costs under control. Police agencies, city and county governments, and medical and fire agencies need to be aware that such a technology is available today. The solution is simple to use via a software suite and also is scaleable, meeting current and future needs of any municipality and its responding agencies.
Providing Command and Control
What has been needed is a large-scale, intelligent video platform that provides optimal networking performance and also leverages presently installed infrastructure equipment and systems. Such a system, the GE VisioWave Intelligent Video Platform was acquired by GE in June 2005, has been deployed throughout Europe for several years and is now widely available in the Americas.
Among its many implementations, the platform presently provides video surveillance for Paris' subway system, video surveillance and traffic control for Brisa motorways in Portugal, urban surveillance for multiple cities in France, including Nice and Lyon, and surveillance for the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed train, as well as Toronto's Pearson Airport and London's Heathrow Airport.
Requirements also call for an intelligent architecture that leverages existing infrastructure systems and equipment, such as CCTV keyboards and dome cameras from a variety of manufacturers. With a unique open architecture and with optional embedded advanced video content analysis, such a system can monitor system health and analyze live or recorded video streams to automatically report camera performance across the network -- alerting command center staff to displaced cameras, obstructed views, cameras out of focus, blocked cameras or video loss.
The platform also consists of a series of hardware and software components, including high capacity, high frames per second, digital video encoders, decoders and recorders, long-term central and distributed storage devices and video operating software.
Digital Systems Enable Advanced Integration
Digital video systems have a great advantage compared to analog systems -- they are much more flexible and easily allow the addition of new functionalities such as video content analysis for intelligent security applications. With such integrated digital systems, it becomes possible to detect incidents in real time and sometimes even before an event gets serious. Imagine, for example, how vital it can be to detect smoke before a fire becomes out of control, catch breaks in a dam before it bursts or observe a person in a place people shouldn't be, and a identify a host of similar scenarios.
Already on the Front Lines
Large-scale deployments of complex video solutions demonstrate that such systems work, even with thousands of cameras, at geographically dispersed locations throughout a massive transportation system such as the Paris subways. A few of the successful implementations around the globe give a preview of how such a video surveillance solution performs and can be the keystone for the command center of the future.
Portugal. Brisa is a private motorway operator responsible for the operation of more than 1,000 kilometers of motorways, linking Portugal from north to south and west to east. Brisa's system has the capacity to monitor 96 live video streams, 500 PTZ cameras and integrated video traffic surveillance, including automatic incident detection with alarm management.
Video images are captured from the legacy analog PTZ cameras and are directly digitized, encoded and compressed. The video streams are then transported across the IP network and can be monitored in local operations centers or in the central operations coordination center.
The Brisa digital video surveillance, traffic control and automatic incident detection system relies on an industrial Ethernet IP network infrastructure composed of a gigabit Ethernet over fiber-optics transport backbone with one access point in each of the 90 operations centers along the motorway network, and an Ethernet access network for the connection of the equipment in each operations center.
France (Annecy). As an economically-active city, Annecy offers a very attractive environment to companies. Considered as a business center, the capital of the Haute-Savoie is nestled on the lake of Annecy, where tourism is highly developed.
To reduce insecurity, delinquency, infractions and degradations, the council of Annecy decided to implement a video surveillance system in the city center. Driven by cost savings and scalability factors, the authorities chose a fully distributed digital solution to be dispatched through the city's new gigabit metropolitan area network.
The solution provides a fully distributed, high-quality digital video surveillance system. The open architecture, allowing for the integration of video processing applications or added value content distribution services, networking capabilities and video switching were mandatory factors. Annecy joins the French cities of Lyon, Bordeaux and Nice in selecting such a solution.
France (Paris). RATP is a public establishment with industrial and commercial purposes. They are responsible for the lIe-de-France Transport Authority for the management of the Parisian public transport infrastructures. RATP manages more than 2.6 billion trips every year. RATP made the decision to deploy a more-powerful and more-effective video surveillance system to decrease insecurity.
This system also was implemented to play a key role in passengers' flow control and management. The digital video surveillance program connects 8,000 cameras distributed across 400 stations via a unique ATM network infrastructure for data services, telephony and video surveillance using distributed video system architecture.
Digital video surveillance was part of a global reflection at RATP, including the design of their new multi-service ATM backbone network. The system provides a fully distributed, high-quality digital video surveillance system, matching RATP's requirements in terms of video switching and recording, integration of audio features, alarms management, video processing, ability to integrate and protect existing equipments and intelligently leverage the RATP ATM backbone network QoS capabilities.
Spain. The solution provides digital video surveillance of the high-speed railway between Madrid and Barcelona, likewise through an ATM network. The system includes 859 cameras for rail tracks and stations and 48 monitors dispatched in five control rooms.
Cameras are located in the stations or technical buildings dispatched along the tracks. This system digitizes, compresses and transmits video streams through the ATM network, based on Alcatel ATM 1660 SM switches used as access points. Every video stream is then hardware decoded in the local control rooms, located in the stations or in the main control room. Motion detection and camera status software are implemented on all the rail tracks' cameras.
In order to ensure a maximum efficiency and prevention, administrators deployed a very high number of video surveillance cameras, integrated in an intelligent digital video surveillance over a networked system. Every operator is able to view any camera, in any point of the network and at any time.
Proven Security Technologies
Imagine the possibility of linking disparate digital and even analog systems throughout a geographic region into a single command center. It doesn't take much to visualize how powerful such solutions can be when isolated systems, such as subway, airport, rail or downtown surveillance programs, are linked together and monitored from a central location.
Add to that the cameras that are constantly recording at private locations such as shopping malls, sports arenas, large industrial parks, banks and convention centers.
For the first time, first responders will finally be able to gather critical information from these disparate surveillance systems about what is happening on the ground during a major disaster -- or prior to it.
What's more, the technology helps analyze and process that information so that the response can be targeted and appropriate. Not a moment is wasted, and resources, such as personnel and equipment, are sent exactly where they are needed. Employees will not sit idly by while one area has a desperate need for assistance. Conversely, the appropriate number of employees and resources needed can be assessed and deployed accurately, without sending too many resources to one particular hotspot.
Most importantly, many crises could be thwarted -- before they even get the chance to create chaos and/or inflect harm.