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Remote monitoring functions meet the grade: intuitive design smoothes out learning curve

It’s one of the first lessons learned in school: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After unsuccessfully trying a handful of video surveillance software providers and even more video camera manufacturers, Hobbs, N.M., Municipal School Di strict solved the equation for its video management system needs.

Located just a few miles west of the Texas border in eastern New Mexico, Hobbs is a community of 32,000 that enjoys mild winters and warm summers. With more than 8,000 students, the Hobbs Municipal School District continues to grow, which, as any educator knows, calls for an increasing need for effective and reliable technology throughout the schools. And today, video surveillance is considered high on that list

Unhappy with previous video surveillance software providers and cameras, Hobbs systems engineer Andrew Toglia called on New Mexico systems integrator Klein Security & Safety to find a permanent solution that met its high standards in addition to resolving a long, unmet desire to have recorded audio in addition to video.

“Hobbs had serious problems with their previous video surveillance program. It became such an issue for them that they abandoned what they had in place in search for a better product,” said Mark Kleinsteuber, vice president of Klein Security & Safety Systems.

“Among the many problems they had with their previous software providers was unreliability,” Kleinsteuber said. “They didn’t perform as promised. They persistently had problems with upgrades, which would put more bugs in their system. Their biggest concern, however, came to be dealing with the horrendous and absent tech support regarding fixing these constant issues.”

The school district also had problems with image quality and camera performance in its previous system.

“Their picture quality was terrible and was even worse in low-light conditions at night or when building lights were off,” Toglia said. “These were very recognizable names in camera manufacturers, and we had problems like PTZ cameras coming off of their tracks constantly.”

Klein Security & Safety recommended Hobbs download a free Video Insight software trial because the integrator felt it would be the right product to provide what the school district needed.

“We recommend Video Insight software for all of our projects, among them schools, businesses and petrochemical plants,” Kleinsteuber said. “It’s a reliable, feature-rich product that’s intuitive and easy to use. We rarely experience problems, but if there’s an issue, Video Insight’s U.S.-based customer service is responsive and top-notch.”

Kleinsteuber recommended Axis network cameras for use with Video Insight because the duo “works together seamlessly.”

In fact, after becoming acquainted with Axis IP cameras, Toglia says Hobbs has chosen to move forward exclusively with Axis products.

“Axis has the best picture quality, especially in those important lowlight conditions. Axis also has better interfaces on the cameras themselves for saving and restoring settings, changing iris or focus settings and other options,” he said.

Perhaps most importantly, Toglia said, “Of the more than 400 Axis cameras we’ve had in place for three-plus years, we have not had one fail yet.”

One of the key features Hobbs officials sought in a video software provider was the ability to monitor and record sound, a feature its previous software provider did not have.

“As a school district, oftentimes pairing sound with video provides a complete picture of an incident, enabling administrators to better pinpoint parties involved and the evolution of an incident more precisely,” Toglia said.

Another issue Video Insight solved for Hobbs was storage. The previous software Hobbs used was based on time and not on size.

“With our previous providers, you’d always just have two weeks of storage no matter what,” Toglia said. “But with Video Insight, we base it on size so we can configure it to store the data for as long as we want, which is particularly helpful being a school district, where we often have long periods of time without regular activity in buildings due to summer or holiday breaks.”

In addition to recorded sound and storage, another advantage was that the software allowed camera access from outside the network.

The Hobbs video surveillance system operates with one centralized server located at technology headquarters and an archival server at each building.

“You can view all of your cameras from anywhere,” Toglia said. “We were able to give school district police officers login credentials so when they respond to a school they can view crystal-clear images from the Axis cameras from a laptop or smartphone before going into the building. They couldn’t do that with our previous software.”

Toglia says he also likes being able to control PTZ within the software and the ability to play recorded video back and forward at eight times the speed with a very “smooth image.”

Ease-of-use was the final benefit that tipped the district’s decision on the solution.

“We haven’t even had a formal training, nor have we had requests for one. We loaded the software on their desktops and gave them a fiveminute tutorial and they have been up and running ever since.”

Toglia and Kleinsteuber also agree that technical support is critical, especially in a school environment in which many different non-security personnel might be accessing the video. On the rare occasion the district needed support, officials said Video Insight’s one-hour-callback- guarantee tech support department has “been very impressive to Hobbs and to my company,” Kleinsteuber said.

Hobbs has made an aggressive effort to ensure comprehensive video surveillance coverage of its 16 schools and four buildings, providing more than 400 Axis cameras throughout the district. The next phase of construction will include an additional 70 Axis cameras.

“Overall, we couldn’t be more pleased with how well Video Insight software and Axis cameras work together and the top-notch security solution they have provided Hobbs Municipal Schools,” Toglia said.

 

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Security Today.

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