Looking into the Wild
Researchers study animal behavior with IP CCTV system
- By Megan Weadock
- Apr 17, 2009
In a world haunted by crime, violence and the unexpected,
it's comforting to know that CCTV surveillance
keeps an eye on us in many of the places we
go—from a stadium, a shopping mall or an airport,
to the office parking lot at night.
But one IP video solution manufacturer recently
installed a surveillance system at a less common location—
the Vienna, Austria, Zoo—that is less focused on
people than it is on pandas, rhinos and penguins.
An Inside View
Officials at the Vienna Zoo needed an updated CCTV
and audio system for a new research program aimed at
helping people better understand animal behavior—in
particular, how they move. The zoo's previous system
was based on analog cameras and wouldn't have been
able to support the demands of the study.
Researchers sought a system that would provide very
high frame rate, high-quality video so they would be able
to accurately analyze the creatures' complex movements.
But with the large video archive that would inevitably
develop, they also sought a solution with remarkable
storage capacity and compression technology.
The answer came from local integrator C&C
Salzgeber GmbH, which designed and installed an
IndigoVision solution that works well with the research
program. The zoo's existing surveillance system was
almost entirely overhauled.
"The original system was a Bosch analog solution
that was technically not up to the specification required
for the research," said David Salzgeber, managing
director of C&C Salzgeber. "This was replaced with
the IndigoVision system, with a number of the original
cameras being reused and a number of new cameras
Fifteen fixed and PTZ cameras are used to record the
pandas', rhinos' and penguins' behavior within their
enclosures. Control Center, IndigoVision's IP video
management software, manages the cameras and allows
research technicians and students to control them in real
time, and view live or recorded video.
Because the Control Center software is licensed on
a per-seat basis, free of charge, the researchers have
much more flexibility in their work. They deployed 10
workstations throughout the zoo and are able to copy
recorded video onto external hard drives to view on
their own laptops.
New microphones were installed alongside the cameras
in each enclosure. Salzgeber said audio recordings aren't
being utilized in this particular research project but will
be used for future studies. Both the analog CCTV cameras
and the ultra-sensitive microphones are connected
to IndigoVision's 8000 transmitter/receiver modules,
which digitally compress the video and audio for transmission
over the network.
IndigoVision's advanced compression technology
ensures minimal impact on the IP network. The ability
to transmit and record high-quality audio was an
important criteria for the zoo when choosing
"Really, the main issue was the size of the potential
video archive that would build up over a period of time,
recording high-quality video at full frame rate 24/7,"
Salzgeber said. "IndigoVision is acknowledged as having
the best compression technology, which reduces the
amount of NVR storage."
The project's cameras are continuously recording on
an IndigoVision stand-alone NVR with 1 TB of storage.
But the amount of stored video is considerably reduced
by the Activity Controlled Framerate function, which is
built into the 8000 modules. Salzgeber explained that
ACF is especially useful when a scene is inactive—for
example, when the animals are asleep. At those times,
video is streamed at a much lower frame rate, which
enables the zoo to store up to one year of recording on a
single NVR. Once the system's motion analysis software
detects movement again, the video automatically begins
streaming at the full frame rate. And the researchers
don't have to worry about the NVR failing; a secondary
recorder provides redundancy in case of NVR failure or
A Natural Fit
Zoo officials have been pleased with the flexibility of
"A key factor for us when selecting the video system
was to find a future-proof solution that was easy to operate
and could be incorporated into our existing infrastructure,"
said Dr. Dagmar Schratter, the zoo's director,
in a press release. "Excellent compression means that all
the video can be transferred via our existing network
The surveillance solution has even been a hit with the
locals, because video of the animal research subjects can
be exported to local TV stations. Recently, viewers were
treated to footage of a baby panda being born, thanks to
the IP video system.
The expandable nature of the IndigoVision solution
will come in handy as the research project evolves. In
the next stage of the study, the surveillance system will
grow to encompass a new monkey house for both
research and security.
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Security Today.