Head of the Class
School district moves security in the right direction
- By Dr. Bob Banerjee
- Oct 30, 2008
Students in the Dallastown, Pa.,
area school district are learning
actions speak louder than words.
The district’s IT department recently
installed an end-to-end IP video system
from Bosch Security Systems that provides
surveillance of the area’s high
school and middle school.
Now, more than 120 IP cameras monitor
the hallways, cafeterias, building and
restroom entrances, and other locations
where large groups of students gather.
Using video management software,
administrative staff and the high school’s
resource officer easily can search and
play back recorded video to review any
event that occurs in the buildings. Users
can select cameras by clicking on the
desired location on a map of the schools
or by a camera’s IP address, making it
easy to use and simple to train new users.
Caught in the Act
The system has helped the school
resource officer and administrators with
incidents involving minor scuffles, vandalism,
truancy and bullying. For example,
the SRO can more easily prove that
bullying took place, and discipline
offenders, when images of taunting and
shoving are captured. Overall, the system
helps staff more quickly identify which
students were involved in events, and the
students are more likely to be truthful
about the role they played when they see
themselves on recorded video.
Decoders transform digital camera signals
to analog, and school secretaries can
view video of the entrances from their
monitors. Building entrances are locked
following the arrival of students and staff.
This feature allows the secretaries to see a
person requesting access to the school
before unlocking the door. The district also
is testing video content analysis software
to detect loitering, prevent ambushes and
alert staff to visitors approaching the doors
before the buzzer is pushed.
For recording, video is sent across the
district’s security IP network for storage
on five RAID arrays, holding 14 TB of
data. The cameras can stream directly to
the storage area network through the use
of an IP-based storage networking standard
called Internet small computer system
interface, or iSCSI.
The IT department chose to use an
iSCSI SAN for video recording because
they were already familiar with this technology,
as it is used for network storage
of other district data. The iSCSI SAN
also can use existing network infrastructure,
whereas a fiber SAN would have
required additional fiber cable running to
each device, a more expensive alternative.
iSCSI SANs are cost-effective and
scalable, allowing the IT department to
add more cameras and more RAID arrays
in the future. With cameras that stream
directly to a SAN, the district also avoids
using PC-based NVRs—equipment that
would have required extra time and funds
to support over the life of the system.
Normally, the iSCSI protocol used to
communicate with SANs requires logical
unit numbers, or storage buckets, set
up on the RAID array for each camera.
However, Dallastown schools are using
a new technology—video recording
manager—which automatically allocates
space on each RAID array. VRM
divides the total capacity of the SAN
into 1 GB blocks and allots storage for
video recording to each of the IP cameras
A Flexible Solution
The district’s streamlined system design,
along with the use of VRM software,
made installation easier. For example,
recording settings were programmed in
less than a day compared to the five days
that would have been required for a similar-
sized NVR-based system.
The district also benefits from PoE
technology, using switches installed within
100 meters of each camera that enable
both power and data to be run over
Ethernet cables. By eliminating power
supplies for the cameras, the wiring closets
are less cluttered and troubleshooting
potential cabling issues will be easier.
After the initial installation, the IT
department added day/night PTZ cameras
around the exterior of the school buildings
and in the parking lots. These cameras
allow staff to review events that have
occurred in higher-risk areas, such as
thefts from vehicles.
Adding cameras required additional
storage. The district already had five
rack-mounted disk array chassis in which
staff can add hard drives as more storage
is required. Since the VRM software
makes the video surveillance system
extremely flexible, the IT staff can simply
click a button, and the software recognizes
the added storage and makes it
available to all of the system’s cameras.
Further demonstrating the flexibility
of the system, the IT department was able
to easily adjust the resolution of certain
cameras in areas of the school with high
activity after the initial installation and
set up. These changes were made without
In the near future, the district is
intending to install cameras on the
perimeter of the school’s campus, which
encompasses the high school, middle
school and some district offices. With
wireless access points on a rooftop or
light pole, Dallastown can extend campus
video surveillance to more remote areas,
such as the far end of parking lots.
Wireless access points at the campus’
edge also would allow police to review
video inside the school and assess the situation
before entering, if a serious security
incident were to occur.