The Olympic Challenge

Securing major events more complete using distributed IP video surveillance

The major security risk at any large sporting event is people. Such gatherings not only attract fans, but also criminals, traffic chaos and potential terrorist attacks. Video surveillance is therefore a key component of the integrated security solution at these events.

Enabling multiple agencies and operators to view high-quality video from key locations and to quickly identify potential problems and incidents is fundamental to the smooth operation and security of any event. The only technology capable of reliably and cost-effectively supplying such a surveillance solution is distributed IP video.

IP Video Architecture
Choosing the correct IP video architecture is fundamental to a surveillance system that has to monitor huge areas with multiple remote sites and offer multi-agency access at any location. And just because a surveillance system is based on digital network technology, it doesn’t mean the architecture is suitable.

The scale of the problem can be seen from the system deployed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

There were 63 command centers with 1,250 operators monitoring 47 venues spread out over an area of 100 square miles. Operators worked for many different agencies, each with their own interest in the video feeds. Law enforcement, emergency services, military, traffic management, coast guard and local security all required, to some degree, access to all or part of the system, and every operator had to be given unique access rights to particular components. This provided a high degree of redundancy, ensuring control could be transferred to any of the other centers should any command center become inoperative.

It is clear from the Athens example that a truly distributed IP video system is required.

So what is meant by a distributed system? One way to explain a distributed system is to look at the alternative -- a system that is centralized.

Many IP network surveillance systems are based on centralized architectures, and they have some major drawbacks for large mission-critical applications. In these types of systems a central control room houses the overall site database on a central server and video recording servers. Every camera and workstation in each remote location must regularly, and in some cases continuously, communicate with the central office in order to check for changes and updates in the site database. This includes checking for valid licenses or storing and recording alarm data.

A centralized architecture has four major drawbacks:

Cost. All users continuously communicate with the central office. On a LAN that means buying expensive high-end switches, and on a wide-area network it means using up precious bandwidth.

Reliability and resilience. What happens when the WAN or LAN breaks? Remote users can be left stranded with no access to the live and recorded video from cameras that are actually located locally to them on a working LAN.

Single point of failure. What happens if the server hosting the site database fails? All users of the system rely on access to the site database -- for example, to get login credentials verified or license permissions checked.

If the site database server fails, the whole security management system goes down.

Scalability. As more cameras and users get added to each remote site and as more remote sites get added to the network, everything gets congested. The local LANs, WAN links and central server all get congested coping with increasing levels of traffic while checking for site database changes, valid licensing and storing recordings and alarms.

So for large sites, such as the Athens Olympics, the system needed to be distributed. In a distributed architecture each remote video management workstation keeps a copy of the overall site database. Configuration data does not change very frequently. This means the information can be synchronized between the central server and the remote workstations, either according to a managed schedule or on-demand when a change happens.

In the event that the central server, a LAN switch or the WAN fails, users at workstations can continue to work using their locally cached site database.

Similarly, rather than continuously streaming recording and alarm data back from the remote sites to the central site across the WAN, it is much better to keep the data locally on the LAN. One or more local NVRs at each remote site can reduce traffic across the WAN and allow users at the remote sites to access recordings and alarms even when the WAN is not available.

Dual streaming also can be deployed by the cameras, enabling a low-resolution stream to be transmitted for live viewing and a high-resolution stream for recording. This way, evidential forensic quality video is available for post-event analysis. Being able to distribute NVRs to the edge of each network improves redundancy and resilience.

Wide Area Surveillance
The ability to deliver high-quality video over very large distances is again a fundamental requirement for an Olympic-caliber surveillance system. The issues with long-distance transmission of video are network bandwidth and latency. If too much bandwidth is required to deliver the video, then a costly network infrastructure is required. This will also lead to high-latency, such as a delay in the video transmission. This makes it difficult for operators to smoothly control camera PTZ movement remotely over large distances.

The key to overcoming this is to deploy the best compression technology. There can be significant differences between vendors’ IP video solutions, which often comes down to how well the MPEG-4 or H.264 compression standards are implemented. The data rates from different manufacturers’ cameras can vary significantly -- as much as 5 or 6 times higher -- even when comparing cameras implementing H.264. This not only has an impact on network bandwidth, but also on NVR disk storage.

This issue becomes even more important when considering megapixel HD video. HD cameras can provide much greater detail, allowing faces and license plates to be easily identified. They also offer a larger field of view, enabling a single HD camera to replace a number of standard-definition cameras.

As part of a major upgrade program and in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Canada Border Services Agency installed 500 HD IP cameras, the largest HD IP video system to be deployed at the time, to monitor its customs operation on U.S.-Canadian border crossings and at Vancouver Airport.

Using wireless Ethernet bridges and low bandwidth transmission of video to extended networks in areas that would be costly or impossible to reach with network cabling is an established solution, particularly in widearea surveillance applications.

Multi-Vendor Integration
Video surveillance is often the system most used by operators working in an integrated environment, so it’s important that the IP video solution be able to offer excellent alarm-handling features and a seamless interface to integrate third-party security systems across IP networks.

In preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa installed an integrated security solution. The metro area is home to more than 1.3 million people, covers an area of 2000 km, and includes the towns of Uitenhage and Despatch, together with Port Elizabeth, which was a host city for the competition.

The integrated security system includes surveillance, access control, intruder detection, perimeter security and fire detection.

The systems are fully integrated across a 1 GB LAN running on a fiber backbone, with wireless network links for more remote sites.

The system also provides services such as IP telephony and intercoms.

Integration of various systems across an IP network provides the user with powerful tools for managing the security environment.

Alarms from one system can trigger an action in another. For example, an access control alarm from an illegal door entry can cause the nearest camera to be panned to a preset position and the video feed automatically displayed to the operator.

Often, traditional analog surveillance systems in satellite venues or existing transport infrastructures already exist and budgets aren’t available to upgrade these systems to IP video. However, the flexibility of IP video allows these systems to be easily interfaced to the wider surveillance system, creating a hybrid solution.

Analytics and Alarms
The 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, deployed a 500-camera distributed IP video system for its surveillance. As with any large monitoring project, it was important to provide tools that allowed operators to prioritize and manage the many hundreds of video feeds they were responsible for.

In Turin, video analytics were used to automate the low-level scene monitoring functions, freeing the operators to monitor higher risk areas. This could simply have been motion detection or more advanced functions, such as virtual tripwires, abandoned object detection, congestion detection or counterflow monitoring.

The analytics were processed in real time at the edge of the network in the IP transmitter modules that were connected to the analog cameras. When the analytics function triggered an alarm, the security management software automatically alerted the operator and displayed the appropriate camera feed on a spot monitor.

Alarms from other third-party systems also can act in the same way as analytics, automatically triggering actions in the security management software. This cause-and- effect allows the system to operate in what is known as a “black” or “dark” screen monitoring mode, where video is displayed only on alarm. The result is quicker incident response and a more overall efficient surveillance operation.

Regeneration is an important issue for any modern games. Re-using the investment in new sporting venues, athletes’ accommodations and transport, and regenerating the local area, is a key outcome for the organizers.

The IP video system has its part to play in this, due to its flexibility. A distributed network surveillance system allows any component -- video management workstation, camera or NVR -- to be located on any part of the network. This also means that it is easy to change the configuration of the system after the games as use of the facilities changes.

Local authorities also can expand on the systems left behind after the event to further enhance security in their area, as was the case in Stuttgart, Germany, following the 2006 Soccer World Cup.

Using an IP video solution, Stuttgart extended its existing analog surveillance infrastructure to provide central monitoring for the city’s transport network in a 20-mile radius around the existing football stadium.

The surveillance inside the stadium also was updated to IP video to provide a totally integrated solution that delivered continuous high-quality, full-frame-rate video to several control centers around the city. After the World Cup, Stuttgart expanded the system further by adding additional cameras to the network for the monitoring of tunnels, roads and pedestrian areas.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .


  • 12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    Understanding crime statistics in your industry and area is crucial for making important decisions about your security budget. With so much information out there, how can you know which statistics to trust? Read Now

  • Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    In alignment with the state of Mississippi’s mission of “Empowering Mississippi citizens to stay connected and engaged with their government,” Salient's CompleteView VMS is being installed throughout more than 150 state boards, commissions and agencies in order to ensure safety for thousands of constituents who access state services daily. Read Now

  • Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    This year’s Live From GSX program was a rousing success! Again, we’d like to thank our partners, and IPVideo, for working with us and letting us broadcast their solutions to the industry. You can follow our Live From GSX 2023 page to keep up with post-show developments and announcements. And if you’re interested in working with us in 2024, please don’t hesitate to ask about our Live From programs for ISC West in March or next year’s GSX. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX
  • People Say the Funniest Things

    People Say the Funniest Things

    By all accounts, GSX version 2023 was completely successful. Apparently, there were plenty of mix-ups with the airlines and getting aircraft from the East Coast into Big D. I am all ears when I am in a gathering of people. You never know when a nugget of information might flip out. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX

Featured Cybersecurity


New Products

  • FEP GameChanger

    FEP GameChanger

    Paige Datacom Solutions Introduces Important and Innovative Cabling Products GameChanger Cable, a proven and patented solution that significantly exceeds the reach of traditional category cable will now have a FEP/FEP construction. 3

  • Mobile Safe Shield

    Mobile Safe Shield

    SafeWood Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of patented bullet resistant products, is excited to announce the launch of the Mobile Safe Shield. The Mobile Safe Shield is a moveable bullet resistant shield that provides protection in the event of an assailant and supplies cover in the event of an active shooter. With a heavy-duty steel frame, quality castor wheels, and bullet resistant core, the Mobile Safe Shield is a perfect addition to any guard station, security desks, courthouses, police stations, schools, office spaces and more. The Mobile Safe Shield is incredibly customizable. Bullet resistant materials are available in UL 752 Levels 1 through 8 and include glass, white board, tack board, veneer, and plastic laminate. Flexibility in bullet resistant materials allows for the Mobile Safe Shield to blend more with current interior décor for a seamless design aesthetic. Optional custom paint colors are also available for the steel frame. 3

  • Luma x20

    Luma x20

    Snap One has announced its popular Luma x20 family of surveillance products now offers even greater security and privacy for home and business owners across the globe by giving them full control over integrators’ system access to view live and recorded video. According to Snap One Product Manager Derek Webb, the new “customer handoff” feature provides enhanced user control after initial installation, allowing the owners to have total privacy while also making it easy to reinstate integrator access when maintenance or assistance is required. This new feature is now available to all Luma x20 users globally. “The Luma x20 family of surveillance solutions provides excellent image and audio capture, and with the new customer handoff feature, it now offers absolute privacy for camera feeds and recordings,” Webb said. “With notifications and integrator access controlled through the powerful OvrC remote system management platform, it’s easy for integrators to give their clients full control of their footage and then to get temporary access from the client for any troubleshooting needs.” 3