Capitol Building

Always More to be Done

Government building are extremely sensitive sites that demand the best security.

The rule of thumb in protecting government facilities is simple—any application with a large coverage area is a candidate for a video surveillance system, and that includes the perimeter. Since most government facilities have limited manpower for security-related tasks, with video surveillance systems, only a few people are needed to watch over areas that would be virtually impossible to patrol with 100-percent effectiveness.

As a result, governments are massive purchasers of video surveillance systems and equipment. A single order from a state or municipal government can include hundreds of cameras.

One of the advantages of working with government customers is that most of them are already familiar with video. According to the organizers of the Government Video Expo Show and Conference, government video—not just surveillance—is a $9.4 billion market. Homeland Security Research, a market research company, predicts that homeland security industry spending will grow to $170 billion per year by 2015.

Selling to the Application

So, what constitutes a government building, and what kind of surveillance equipment is the government buying? When selling to commissaries and PXs, integrators have a classic retail sale. A state prison, for example, needs high-end perimeter protection. Surveillance is extremely important for preventing inmate misconduct and ensuring the safe transport of prisoners while keeping guards safe. Government hospitals need a healthcare solution, just like any private medical institution. Courthouse surveillance is needed to help discourage incidents from happening in the first place.

In other words, integrators don't sell to the government; they sell to the application, which happens to be in the government sector.

Depending on the application, government building customers can use every surveillance technology an integrator has—from simple plastic-housed indoor dome cameras to those that provide IP-66 weather resistance, zoom to 320x, day/ night capabilities and wide dynamic range to yield clear images in all conditions.

Government sales can be a long and time-consuming process because of the bidding stage. Not only do integrators have to thoroughly know the products, but they also need to be diligent. They need to ensure that benefits, such as a 10-minute installation time, are mentioned in the correct category. They must know how to offer superior efficiency by mixing and matching the proper cameras with the right storage options within the proposed line.

Are government sales worth it to integrators? Take, for example, a 20-square-mile city with 250,000 people that needs a city-wide surveillance network. The city will require hundreds of cameras and DVRs for the project. Governments are good business, and working with them can be profitable. By offering the right manufacturer's products, integrators can provide systems that are user friendly for their government client while saving installation time and money.

The Government Building Customer

A system that watches over the perimeter of a military base is becoming common in many government installations. Mounted on 30- to 50-foot poles surrounding a base, the cameras transmit video via microwave to a master control, which is monitored 24 hours a day. The cameras switch automatically between a color mode for daytime and a more sensitive monochrome mode for nighttime viewing, providing 24-hour coverage in all lighting conditions. This setup eliminates the need for separate daytime and nighttime cameras, their enclosures and lighting sources, greatly reducing equipment, installation and maintenance costs.

Several cities in Colombia are already using a similar system with more than 450 Samsung dome cameras deployed through a full wireless network IP solution, plus 50 domes for maintenance and upgrade purposes. Specifications for the camera were stringent. The cameras needed to provide super high resolution, an IP-66 outdoor housing, full continuous autofocus, wide dynamic range and wireless networking capabilities.

The Samsung cameras feature a 432x zoom and support various focus modes, including auto, manual and semi-automatic. With full auto focus, the system produces crisp glare- and shadow-free images over a wide range of illumination levels at all times with a wide dynamic range of 128x (NTSC) and 160x (PAL).

The transmission is wireless and the transmitter is the encoder, converting the analog signals into digital. The monitoring room is completely digital, and images are stored in servers.

The cameras, a wireless encoder and an antenna are mounted on poles 45 feet high. Below them reside metal cabinets for the UPS and power supplies and metal security prongs that prohibit people from climbing the pole to tamper with the equipment.

Installing the system and providing power to the components can be a difficult job. Many projects are loto potential issues. Thermal cameras rely on heat signatures to ensure effective detection in any lighting or weather condition and are suitable for a host of perimeter protection applications.

Moving from Analog to IP—or Not

Although the majority of government facility video surveillance systems are analog, these systems are giving way to IP solutions. The migration gives government security officers higher quality images, more coverage and video analytics.

In some cases, government organizations are continuing to use analog but with a twist. In Colombia, analog cameras are being replaced by the new 43x optical zoom SmartDome™ cameras. These cameras are an extension of the recently introduced Samsung A1 series of analog cameras, which incorporate features such as video analytics. In addition to the high zoom ration, the 43x SmartDome cameras also provide the industry's fastest speed for both zoom and pan/tilt. A 43x zoom can be accomplished in only three seconds, ensuring that the Colombian municipal surveillance system operators will not miss the opportunity to capture closeups of critical events.

The preset pan/tilt speed is an extremely fast 600 degrees per second. The operators can preset 512 points and move among them quickly to capture highlights of a critical event. Also, the speed of the pan/tilt can be slowed to 0.01 degree per second to eliminate any blurs during movement. Varying speeds can be deployed within a panning range of 360 degrees and a tilting range of 192 degrees.

The 43x SmartDome cameras display picture quality by providing many present-day IP camera features. For example, motion adaptive DNR takes the typical dark gray images and makes them clear. Digital image stabilization removes the blurs of motion, providing a crisp still image. The cameras also incorporate a low-light noise reduction and color suppression function. In addition, the extended dynamic range feature corrects the problems of darkness and brightness that render images unreadable. Wide dynamic range provides clear images even under backlight circumstances, removing problems of glare. Plus, the camera has a power requirement of only 47 watts.

The use of video security by local, state and federal governments is growing as the need for public security continually increases with threats from home and abroad. Increasing the protection of staff, visitors and assets is no longer an argument of necessity. The difference with government building protection versus the private sector is that government facilities have a wide variety of applications, which makes protecting them more complex and challenging.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Security Today.

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