Call of Duty

The Field of Flags, a traveling war memorial dedicated by the Somers Congregational Church in Somers, Conn., began in October 2005 with 2,231 American flags, one for each American solider who died serving his or her country in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea for the memorial came about as members of the church considered what they could do to show support for the troops. Each casualty reminded them of the dangers the soldiers face every day. The flags honor those who have given their lives as well as their families, whose lives have been forever changed.

Included with the memorial are a name board that lists the names of all the fallen soldiers, a notebook that lists the name, rank, town, state and date of death of each casualty, and a guestbook in which visitors can share their thoughts.

Protective Order

Since 2005, the memorial has traveled up and down the East Coast, hosted by local churches. When the memorial reached the First Congregational Church in Clinton, Conn., on Sept. 10, 2008, the number of flags reached 4,741. The memorial was open to the public until Oct. 4, 2008.

To protect this moving and patriotic memorial, the Clinton, Conn., police department teamed with Boundless Security Systems of Newtown, Conn., a manufacturer of ultra-low-bandwidth digital video surveillance systems.

"We needed to protect this memorial on an urgent basis, and Boundless Security Systems answered our call for help," said Major John Santry of the Clinton Police Department. "We were not only concerned about the security aspects of keeping an eye on this outdoor memorial but also about the many IT aspects. We were especially concerned with putting video on our networks and making it available to those who need to see it."

"There were both obvious and hidden challenges to quickly setting up and operating a digital video surveillance system to help protect the Field of Flags," said Steve Morton, president and chief technical officer of Boundless Security Systems. "Boundless specializes in digital video surveillance where communication bandwidth is precious. This is the case in most outdoor, mobile and temporary applications, where remote viewing is important."

The town already had a number of security cameras installed at several locations, but none viewed the memorial. Since video is bandwidth intensive, the town's IT department expressed concerns about overloading and possibly crashing the networks and the Internet connection. In addition, the town did not want to compromise its cyber security system by opening more network access ports to the Internet for remote viewing of the video by the police department.

The Right Stuff

Boundless Security Systems not only had the proper equipment to protect the memorial, they also were able to provide live online video streams for the town's Web site.

To achieve remote video monitoring in accordance with the town's specifications, Boundless Security Systems installed two cameras aimed at the memorial and their ultra-low-bandwidth Multi-Stream Video Server Compact. One camera provided a wide-angle situation assessment view of the flags, while the other provided a close-up view of the fallen soldiers name board.

The video server is an IP-based device that employs bandwidth-saving video ondemand with near-camera recording resolution instead of bandwidth-intensive video streaming. The device delivers multistream video, featuring MPEG-4 compression and motion-activated recording. It can be configured to deliver live and prerecorded video. Video is only sent when requested and is transmitted with the lowest data rate needed for display, minimizing communication burdens on a local area network and the Internet. The optimized MPEG-4 video encoding maximizes frame rates and image quality.

The server provided Clinton police with eight different IP video streams simultaneously, all with different resolutions, frame and data rates. The streams ranged from their standard resolution of 640x480 at 5 frames per second with a bitrate of 512 KB down to 160x120 at 1 frames per second with a bitrate of 8 KB. The server also includes an optional tunneling capability that automatically tunnels through firewalls to connect to Boundless' Tunneling Broadcast Server located at the company's headquarters. This ensures a secure connection on a public network. A separate transcode server, also located at the headquarters, was able to convert two of the live video streams to a format suitable for viewing using Windows Media Player accessible on the town's Web sites.

Never Forget

The memorial drew visitors from all across the state and beyond. Families of the soldiers have expressed comfort in knowing their loved ones are honored and remembered in this way. During its three-week stay in Clinton, there were no incidents. The memorial continues to travel around the country, offering a reminder of the great cost of war and the hope for peace.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Security Today.

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