University Of Illinois Standardizes IP Video With Milestone Systems

Milestone Systems is the solution of choice for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for central control and local access with flexible integration options over time as the security system is rolled out across campus.

By sheer numbers, the urban campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is impressive: The campus is frequented by roughly 53,000 students, staff and visitors on a daily basis; is home to 11 million books, the largest public university library collection in the country; boasts 14 major sporting facilities, 17 colleges and instructional units; and employs 11 Nobel laureates and 18 Pulitzer Prize winners as part of its faculty.

Nestled within the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, a joint community of about 180,000, the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system is the size of a small city. As such, it has dealt with everyday community issues like thefts on and around campus, including a string of stolen laptops inside the university’s libraries, as well as other stolen items elsewhere. With more than 400 main facilities on campus, the 55-member police department has a lot of ground to cover.

It’s no surprise that progressive public safety officials were looking for a way to provide real time, reliable security information to police while saving money, which meant consolidating smaller, autonomous analog systems that dotted the campus. 

“One detective had so many software programs running on his computer to manage all the different video systems that his computer wouldn’t work,” said Detective Tim Hetrick of the University of Illinois Police Department Technical Services division.

“If security is decentralized on a major university then police cannot use that system to its maximum capacity,” Police Chief Barbara O’Connor said.  “We have developed a policy where anyone on campus purchasing a camera system must have it approved by the chief of police.” 

The solution was a gradual, three- to five-year deployment of roughly 4,500 cameras that would be managed in a central location using a single video management platform: Milestone XProtect Corporate. 

Like many universities, determining the need and making the decision to install a surveillance system is left to the individual department, whether it’s the Housing Administration, College of Engineering or a campus research laboratory.

While the department heads have the final word over the purchase, technical specialists led by Detective Hetrick from the university police, along with system integrator Current Technologies Corporation of Downers Grove, Ill., now provide assessments and equipment recommendations.

All new installations will be managed by Milestone XProtect Corporate, an IP-based video software system that centralizes the surveillance system management into a single, easy-to-use solution. Because the software is capable of integrating with more than 80 different video surveillance vendors, individual departments can select head end equipment that fits their needs and budget, without worrying about integration issues with the Milestone software.

Because of the Milestone Systems open platform, police are moving forward with testing the integration of the system with door access control. As of August 2010, using Andover Controls software and integration services through Schneider Electric, the interoperable solution is up and running at a test site at the police department.

In all, about 10 departments have already completed their surveillance camera installations, including organizations like the Campus Rec Center, which manages the two-year old, $54 million Activities and Recreation Center, one of the country’s largest on-campus indoor recreation centers. Three other indoor recreational facilities and a host of outdoor sports fields have been completed with the assistance of Hetrick and Current Technologies. Another 30 or so additional departments are in the process of deploying IP cameras and other equipment. 

The vast majority of network cameras are provided by Axis Communications. The projects underway now range anywhere from six cameras to about 70 cameras in size and feature a mixture of fixed, megapixel and PTZ cameras.

“As one of our trusted Gold Application Development Partners, Milestone demonstrates once again that an intelligent, open, IP-based surveillance installation is the best solution for centralizing thousands of video streams into one advanced, yet digestible security solution,” said Fredrik Nilsson, general manager, Axis Communications Inc. “By combining superior network cameras with an intuitive and pro-active VMS, customers like the University of Illinois can react to threats and keep students and faculty safe, while cost-effectively operating and growing their system as needed.”  

Axis’ ADP program assists software developers in providing fully integrated support for Axis network video products in end-user solutions through application components such as VAPIX, technological documentation, SDKs and dedicated development support.

The Gold ADP status is reserved for development partners who enable tight integration with Axis network video products and also drive education throughout the market about the benefits of an open IP-based system. 

For example, each department at the University of Illinois at Urbana also retains the ability to monitor its own video, although Chief Barbara O’Connor’s policy is that video is also fed directly back to the police dispatch center over the campus’ fiber backbone, where on-duty dispatchers can view live video or access archived events.

Administration rights are also centralized at the dispatch center, handled by a dedicated police department staffer tasked with Milestone system management, including software updates, access rights and other associated tasks. All police officers as well as the university’s telecommunications/IT staff will also be trained on the software.

“Making the argument for surveillance cameras can be particularly tough in the higher education environment, but the efficacy of the Milestone system helped to make the case to campus administrators,” O’ Connor said.

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