Protecting the Corridor

Deployed cameras keep watch over a campus in the bustling area surrounding the nation’s capital

George Mason University is one of Virginia’s fastest-growing higher education institutions, with four campuses and 35,000 students. Located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., GMU offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and healthcare. The GMU School of Law has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the country’s top 40 law schools.

The previous video surveillance system at the university suffered from poor video quality and a lack of standardization. This legacy system could not provide sufficient image quality to identify individuals, nor could it cover the necessary areas.

A new construction project included the required funds for an initial investment in an IP-based surveillance system. The university needed a system that could provide better video quality to capture facial recognition and to offer a wider range of options.

Needed: A Megapixel Solution

This need for better image quality led GMU directly to IP-based megapixel camera technology. The university evaluated several wellknown camera suppliers before deciding on Arecont Vision.

“We have installed almost every variety of megapixel camera made by Arecont Vision, from the 1.3-megapixel MegaDome to the 8-megapixel, 360-degree SurroundVideo panoramic camera,” said James L. McCarthy Jr., the university’s director of physical security. “The capabilities of various cameras are matched to the areas they need to cover.”

Cameras have been installed in athletic facilities, including in a facility with an Olympic-size pool, in academic buildings and in parking garages, according to Brian Piccolo, senior account executive at S3 Integration, the Baltimore company that helped the university design its new system. Future installations will include GMU’s residence halls.

Two panoramic cameras with a 360-degree view are positioned over a broad plaza area to record activity there and at doors leading into an adjacent building. Each camera’s 8-megapixel images—from four 2-megapixel sensors—provides 360-degree coverage from a 6-inch dome.

The camera can view large areas while capturing megapixel detail. Each camera provides up to 6,400x1,200-pixel images at 5.5 fps, or it can be set for lower resolutions at higher speeds, such as 1,600x1,200- pixel images at 22 fps.

Several 180-degree-view cameras cover the pools and gym floors in GMU’s athletic facilities. The 8-megapixel, 180-degree panoramic camera also incorporates four 2-megapixel CMOS image sensors to provide 6,400x1,200-pixel panoramic images at 5.5 fps.

Covering long and narrow spaces such as hallways and driveways are 3- and 5-megapixel cameras that use a half-inch CMOS sensor to provide 2,592x1,944-pixel images at 9 fps. Light sensitivity is 0.3 lux at F1.4. The camera can put out multiple image formats, allowing users to view simultaneously the full-resolution field-of-view in addition to regions of interest for high-definition forensic zooming. The 3-megapixel camera provides 2,048x1536-pixel images at 15 fps.

The images from the megapixel cameras are fed to a local ExacqVision NVR, which is monitored by a central security operations center. Signals from some of the cameras also feed to a central server that downloads them with Exacq software. All video data is transmitted over a secured, firewalled, standalone security network within the GMU intranet.

The majority of the cameras are installed in areas with sufficient light. Parking garages are monitored with day/night cameras that use a motorized infrared cut filter. These cameras can also monitor license plate numbers and increase the garage personnel’s productivity by monitoring daily tasks such as credit card transactions remotely.

Any university department that wants to add video surveillance can call on S3 Integration to upgrade and expand the system using funds provided through departmental budgets.

Mega Benefits

“Advantages of the cameras over competitive products include performance, versatility, price and ease-of-use,” Piccolo said.

The ability to pan, tilt and zoom virtually within an image already captured by a fixed camera means that the new system has fewer moving parts than traditional PTZ systems. This reduces overall maintenance cost and the potential for system failure.

The picture quality and digital zoom capabilities of the Arecont Vision cameras far exceed analog technology, and they allow GMU to retrieve usable video. Using fewer cameras, in addition to recent cost reductions in NVR storage and network switches, means that the university’s transition to higher-quality video came at a minimal cost increase.

“We now have better forensic capabilities and more flexibility in the recovery of data,” McCarthy said.

Megapixel imaging represents a significant upgrade in system functionality from standard-resolution cameras. In addition to lower bandwidth and storage requirements, using fewer megapixel cameras to cover larger areas can dramatically decrease costs related to other elements of a system, such as fewer software licenses, fewer lenses and a decrease in man-hours needed to install the system.

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

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