Public Sector Protection

Mark Denari, director of aviation security and public safety at San Diego International Airport, quickly rattles off a list of advantages when asked about using IP with security systems.

“Moving to IP means more simplified systems with fewer controls and fewer boxes to contend with,” Denari says. It’s easier to attach devices to IP networks and get applications to share data, he adds, but with their fine-grain addressing schemes, it’s also easier to limit access to those devices and applications on a selective basis.“We see IP systems as the way to go,” he says. “Clearly, digital technology gives a greater degree of flexibility, alacrity and effectiveness.” Denari’s enthusiasm is evident across the government sector. From San Diego to Houston to Chicago, airports, school districts, educational campuses and entire cities are embracing IP as a networking and operational platform.

IP-Powered Shield

Easily one of the world’s most ambitious municipal video surveillance systems is the city of Chicago’s Operation Virtual Shield.

And it’s putting IP to the test across a wide spectrum of technologies and applications -- serving as a showcase for both suppliers and the Department of Homeland Security.

The project’s first phase saw the installation of several hundred PTZ cameras around what Jim Argiropoulus, acting executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, calls “especially hot areas” of the city’s downtown business district. Now, several hundred more cameras are being added, along with sophisticated analytics from IBM, and the city is moving to exploit IP’s superior flexibility in tying together many disparate technologies located across the city’s 237 square miles.

One example: In addition to viewing scenes and incidents via the city’s own street-mounted cameras, Chicago safety and law-enforcement officials also can selectively harness private video surveillance networks. The set-up mirrors the networked video surveillance system in London that proved successful last year in preventing a car bomb detonation in the West End and identifying the suspects.

Argiropoulus declines to state how many video networks are available to his command centers, but he cites the Sears Tower, the Board of Trade and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois buildings as typical examples. At the city’s request, each location’s private video net can securely connect via a virtual private network concentrator to the city’s own surveillance system.

Software supplied by Genetec, St. Laurent, Quebec, melds the city and private video streams to create the illusion of a seamless whole. Staffers at the city’s emergency command and control center can readily switch between views as needed and bring up related information on the city’s 911 emergency map.

“IP enables us to create a single solid video solution” from potentially many different video sources, Argiropoulus explains. “It enables us to gel video packets with some highly sophisticated applications, too.” He offers the example of plume modeling -- a computer-based method for predicting how, say, poisonous fumes released by an overturned tank truck will disperse over time. By combining the output of such a program with imagery from a PTZ camera on or near the scene, safety officials can determine how best to get emergency crews to the accident site and how to evacuate. “We can sweep the appropriate areas and get a more granular idea of exits,” he says.

IP enables more than just melding different data sources. In addition to operating its own extensive fiber-optic network and telephone company, the city of Chicago has arranged to distribute safety-related data feeds via satellite links. Using leased, 24/7 satellite capacity, the city can deliver virtually any amount of real-time traffic to a fleet of custom-designed mobile command centers.These $2 million vehicles can be driven to wherever the police and fire department may need them.

“We can put PTZ cameras right there on the scene,” Argiropoulus says.

Achieving that mobile broadband connectivity, however, took some doing. The challenge: how to overcome the 1-second latency incurred as signals travel the 44,500- mile roundtrip to outer space and back.That delay’s enough to cause data packets to be dropped and thereby interfere with voice, video and other real-time traffic.

“We can’t afford to have our applications hanging” because of latency, Argiropoulus says.

The solution proved to be a satellite-link emulator supplied by the Office of Naval Research, with which Argiropoulus and his team had previously developed close relations.

They used this test gear to “tweak the IP stack,” he says. Now, the satellite links look like local wireless connections or Cat- 6 cabling in terms of providing near-zero latency. “We had to do what the military would do, and we take a lot of pride” in streamlining the satellite links, Argiropoulus says.

In addition to the fiber-optic network, Chicago is employing a wireless mesh network to backhaul video streams from its street-mounted cameras. More than 500 transceivers, supplied by Firetide, Los Gatos, Calif., use licensed spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band to provide 85 megabits-persecond of IP bandwidth. Meanwhile, the city is experimenting with WiFi as a way to send streaming video and other security-related data to laptop computers and other devices out in the field.

IP Goes To School

IP technology’s helping smaller cities to achieve high-grade security, and it’s helping specific agencies within those cities. Schools in particular are adopting the technology to beef up surveillance while coping with limited capital budgets.

Take the Deer Park Independent School District, serving 12,200 students in the Houston metropolitan area. It has wired its four junior high and three high schools with IP-based video surveillance networks from locally-based LenSec that replace aging and somewhat awkward VHS tapebased setups. By opting for an IP system, says Don Dean, deputy superintendent, the district is able to gain substantial operational efficiencies and prepare for possible addition of new devices and technologies.

Taking advantage of IP video’s ability to display on standard PC screens, for instance, the district provides comprehensive coverage of its campuses without incurring the costs of a full-time monitoring staff. Instead of sending video to a central location, the streams from as many as 100 cameras in a single school are divvied up between a number of full-time administrative personnel already working in that facility. Dean explains that most problems in public schools occur just before school begins, during the time between class periods, at lunch and immediately after school. So, at each of those limit- ed periods of time, paraprofessionals such as secretaries and assistant principals stop their regular work and, using a dedicated PC monitor on their desks, watch activities at school entrances and in hallways and common areas.

“There’s no empirical data, but we believe a lot of issues of student-on-student disturbances have been reduced because students are educated to the fact that we have these cameras in place,” Dean says. The IP surveillance -- running on the same Ethernet cabling that conveys the district’s traditional IT traffic -- also makes it possible to send live video directly to police and fire safety officials, Dean adds.

IP Takes Flight

Feeling more pressure than schools to improve their security are airports, which are reaching for IP-based solutions, too. The core strategy of airport security is summed up as detecting threats, delaying those threats (with fences and screening procedures, for instance) and responding with law enforcement personnel. It’s mainly in the detection of threats where technology will play a growing role, replacing human operators with various forms of automation that can share information and act in a coordinated way.

San Diego International Airport provides a good example of how airports are counting on IP to help in this regard. In mid-June, the airport chose a consortium of three companies, led by Munich, Germany-based

Siemens, to implement a $4 million upgrade of its physical security systems, with IP providing connectivity and fostering integration of numerous types of sensors and devices.

Possibly $9 million more may be spent in the future.

“We can’t rely on humans,” security chief Denari says, to improve the detection of threats and achieve what he calls “airport domain awareness.” Instead, “we need to maintain situational awareness by leveraging technology and integrating data from multiple sources.”

Consider how the airport plans to use radar -- not to watch aircraft but to detect people and ground vehicles approaching the airport’s sprawling perimeter. Thanks to IP networking, Denari says, it will be relatively easy to pass radar-generated alerts with those from other types of sensors, such as thermal-imaging cameras, to a central point for analysis. The key will be a socalled fusion engine, a computer specially programmed to rapidly collect and, using preset rules, analyze and even act on many streams of live data at once. San Diego has chosen such a product from Proximex Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.

“If data from two different kinds of sensors indicate evidence of a suspicious vehicle penetrating our perimeter, the fusion engine would send a single ‘target inbound’ alert to the operations center,”

Denari explains. Among the other technologies that might feed into this mix are shock sensors, buried fiber optics (able to detect movements on the ground above) and infrared video cameras. All, Denali says, will be provided in products that are IP-ready out of the box. “We’re really working from the outside in, with every piece of the network being IP-centric.”

Video surveillance will surely play a key role in the airport’s future. Today, some 350 cameras are in use, but that number could eventually top 1,000, Denali says. Perhaps more important than numbers, though, will be increased video “intelligence.” Until now, he says, video has been largely a backward- looking tool, able to record events for later forensic analysis. But emerging analytic methods that autonomously detect anomalies aim to make video much more useful for providing real-time information about an immediate potential threat.

In certain cases, analytics will run within cameras, in others that will be left to servers located upstream on the IP network. For instance, a camera able to detect no activity in a baggage-screening room might stop sending its images to a server for storage. Where it’s necessary to automatically recognize and look up license plates on cars at a gate, the analysis might be left to a server.

Proprietary Is Out

Smaller airports are adopting IP, too, if only to reap the benefit of hardware savings. At Orlando Sanford International in Sanford, Fla., security and police chief Bryan Garrett says he’s fed up with proprietary security gear. Certain legacy manufacturers, he says, have become notorious for bidding low to win government contracts, only to charge relatively high prices for add-on gear once the customer is locked in. Or, by discontinuing certain product, they might force customers to pay for unwanted upgrades.

With IP, Garrett says, “I can choose from 50 [network] switch makers. IP saves us a lot of money by taking the proprietary nature out of vendors. There’s no reason things have to be proprietary.” In one case, he recalls, video camera supplier Verint didn’t respond to some of the airport’s technical needs, so Garrett turned to Genetec. There was no need to change anything at the network’s head-end, he says.

“All we had to do was reflash some firmware.We were all done in two days.” Orlando Sanford, expecting to serve some 2 million domestic and international passengers this year, has about 300 surveillance cameras installed, many of them analog. But from now on, all new cameras, Garrett says, will be IP-ready, as will every other physical security device that needs to be networked. “We’re always looking for better, cheaper ways of doing things, and right now, that means IP.”

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