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IP video cameras enhance security and safety at petroleum processing facility

In an age of heightened security concerns, potentially vulnerable manufacturing and processing plants are re-evaluating their security systems and looking for new ways to protect assets. This is particularly true of expansive facilities handling vast amounts of volatile materials, as monitoring large, dimly lit areas has long been a security challenge.

When a petroleum processing facility came to Pacific Beach Tower looking for a video surveillance solution to cover sensitive and hard-to-monitor areas, officials did a walk-through security assessment and designed a system to tighten the facility’s security net.

Security officials solved the challenge of monitoring many acres of pipelines, storage tanks, equipment sheds, railways and gantries by strategically placing PTZ network cameras to watch over the facility’s sensitive, hardto- see areas 24/7. The Canon cameras were selected because of low-light capabilities and 40x optical zoom. By capturing images in low-light situations, security staff can be alerted and zoom in on suspicious activity from inside the security command center.

Put to the Test
Shortly after their installation, the cameras proved their value.

One night, a suspicious car drove into a remote corner of the facility and parked in a newly constructed parking lot with no lighting. Fortunately, the recently installed cameras revealed the presence of the vehicle and alerted security. In virtually no light -- no street lamps or other nearby lighting sources -- security was able to watch the suspects enter, observe their silhouettes moving around and provide critical information to help police make positive identifications.

The cameras were set up to record on motion detection, as this saves drive space and makes finding important video segments easier. The built-in, prerecord set-up, and the cameras’ robust software, provides the ability to capture video of the area three, five or even 10 seconds prior to the motion event.

In addition, motion detection and auto-tracking features enable users to designate up to four motion-detection areas, each with varying levels of sensitivity.

The cameras have the ability to track a subject’s movement following a motion event (indicated by a change in pixels) by automatically panning and tilting to keep the subject in the frame.

Although not used in this particular application, pre-recorded audio also can be set to play back on cue.

During the day, the cameras are monitored from a remote location to watch over all activity around the facility and ensure that workers and contractors comply with all regulations.

To keep images consistently looking sharp, the cameras use a Smart Shade Control that automatically adjusts contrast to compensate for backlit subjects.

This proved valuable in identifying and preventing a potential safety issue at the facility. Recently, one of the cameras captured someone breaking one of the rules, and the client was overheard calling the manager responsible for that person to notify them of the error.

The cameras also offer a number of other useful features in addition to its 40x optical zoom lens, such as image stabilization. The lens is equipped to automatically focus on the subject while quickly conforming to resolution.

The image stabilization feature helps keep images steady in locations prone to vibration, such as on towers or poles or next to rail tracks and hightraffic areas.

Sending Images Back to Base
The facility’s video security system is configured to transmit images captured by the on-site cameras wirelessly over a HauteSpot Networks router to an NVR. Images can be transmitted in both high-quality VGA-size -- 640x480 -- MPEG-4 and M-JPEG formats at a full 30 fps simultaneously without loss of frame rate. The cameras’ powerful hardware-based compression engine performs all encoding, encryption and transmission, while also enabling them to simultaneously distribute M-JPEG video in three sizes.

The router provides high data rates and superior throughput for data-intensive and latency-sensitive applications.

It can be configured to use either the “TDMA-like” protocol, which delivers unparalleled video streaming performance for the most demanding IP surveillance applications, layer-2 or layer-3 mesh, or standard 802.11.

Powering Up
The cameras can be powered with PoE -- via Cat-5 cable -- or DC. In this case, independent A-plus and A-minus lines were used so the cameras are on an uninterruptible power system and tied to the grid. This same power system also can be tied directly to solar panels.

The biggest consideration when marrying solar power with a camera and a wireless system is the efficiency of the products. Even when these cameras are actively running all PTZ and auto-focus servos at once they only draw about 6,000 milliwatts, which makes them very adaptable to alternative power options.

Safe, Secure and Happy
The petroleum facility is pleased with the high-quality results of their new networkbased video-surveillance system and the “live-looking” images it provides.

Clients are increasingly looking for real live-looking video in their surveillance solutions. The images on these cameras look really outstanding -- even when the NVR requires that settings be adjusted down.

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

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