A Tale of Three Cities

Salvaging the existing investment in coax cabling is often the number-one reason surveillance users are reluctant to switch to network video. The perceived cost of storage is a close second.

Fortunately, Moore’s Law—the one coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that states the number of transistors on a certain size chip doubles every 18 months— also seems to hold true for storage capacity and is a “planned innovation” that will naturally bring down the total cost of an IP-based system. But there also is true innovation in camera and storage technologies that has tipped the scales in favor of network video for any size installation.

This is a tale of three separate cities that all went IP yet chose a different storage path for their specific needs.

Oswego County: PC-based Storage Sells Itself

Nestled in upstate New York near Lake Ontario, Oswego County sought an innovative surveillance solution to help protect its residents and employees as well as county properties and assets spread across 1,300 square miles. The county had no existing surveillance system in place, apart from a few disparate analog CCTV systems installed throughout different departments.

Oswego’s surveillance needs mirrored those of many cities: to fight vandalism, secure public works facilities, protect expensive maintenance equipment and fortify its local prison. It also required the ability to monitor video 24 hours a day while allowing access to the local and state police.

The county already had a combination wired and wireless infrastructure in place for its telecommunications systems, which fortunately had excess capacity. Planners had tested the cameras and selected those that met their needs. Storage was the final piece of the puzzle.

Integrator partner Cedar Path Solutions Group, the eventual RFP winner based in East Syracuse, N.Y., introduced the county to simple, off-the-shelf, PC-based storage and recommended a server-class HP machine at the head-end that communicates with PC archivers at remote sites throughout the county.

“We currently have more than 100 Axis network cameras—with about 50 more to be installed in phase two—that are controlled by Genetec VMS software and stored for 30 days,” said Michael Klapheke, a consulting engineer for Cedar Path Solutions. “Scalability was a major need for the county, and this proposed system proved far less expensive than the other storage options.”

With the PC archivers spread out in different facilities across the county, Oswego can record at the highest desired frame rates, while viewing live, at more moderate rates to save on bandwidth. They also appreciate the fact that the county is mostly standardized on one platform that’s easy to train and understand for new employees.

City of Garland: Powering Up an Appliance Model

You could say that the city of Garland, Texas, holds a unique power over its residents. Since 1923, the city has provided electric services through its locally owned, not-for-profit municipal utility, Garland Power & Light. With more than 68,000 customers, GP&L is one of the largest municipal utilities in the nation.

As a vital infrastructure and facilities grid, GP&L had a history with analog surveillance systems. However, with three gasfired generating plants, 23 substations, 133 miles of transmission lines, and more than 2,000 miles of additional third-party partner lines to protect, analog technology could no longer meet GP&L’s ever-expanding surveillance needs.

The challenge: expand coverage, improve image quality with megapixel and HDTV network cameras, and integrate multiple existing camera technologies while extending video retention capacity.

Preferred Technology Solutions, a systems integrator based in Richardson, Texas, proposed an Intransa storage platform to integrate new Axis network cameras into the existing surveillance system, which would be controlled by the Milestone XProtect Enterprise video management system.

The installed solution was highlighted by a fault-resistant platform that delivered advanced RAID protection. This feature eliminated the risk of lost video and enables GP&L to hotswap disk drives and power supplies as needed without forcing scheduled downtime. This 99.999 percent availability of video storage is essential for any critical infrastructure system.

Increased storage policy also was a bonus of selecting this modular recording-and-playback platform—all without affecting data capacity with a 300-plus camera system.

“Because of the design of the Intransa system, we have been able to meet the bandwidth requirements of large numbers of cameras recording continuously,” said GP&L’s David Grubbs. “Now we have a vast storage capability to meet our storage requirements for up to 90 days of recorded video.”

Like the Oswego PC-based system, GP&L’s surveillance solution can be extended to meet future requirements, albeit with the slightly higher capacity required by a critical surveillance application where video must be stored for longer time periods.

Iowa City: A Gracious Host

Downtown Iowa City, which sits on the outskirts of the University of Iowa, is a quaint, family-friendly metropolis known for specialty stores, upscale dining and thriving local businesses. But with 70,000 residents, including an influx of college students during the school year, the city needed to preserve the characteristics of the downtown district while increasing safety and deterring crime, particularly at night.

After identifying the most important needs of the city, the Downtown Association of Iowa City (DTA), led by Executive Director Nick Arnold, determined that high-image quality, remote accessibility and ability to share live and recorded video with local police was essential. IP video was the clear choice. But, like other cities and business associations, DTA had both limited network infrastructure and limited budget to spend on a new system. “We had to get creative,” Arnold said.

Iowa-based integrator PhySecure understood the city’s limitations but chose to concentrate on the assets that were already in place—namely, the local businesses’ personal Internet network.

This paved the way for a hosted video solution.

DTA approached local businesses and inquired if they would be open to a shared city-wide surveillance system. Since the business owners had been feeling some of the strain of vandalism and increasing petty crime, they saw the long-lasting benefits of allowing DTA to piggyback on their individual ISP networks to stream video to the cloud, hosted by Secure-i.

“With a limited budget and not having a city-wide infrastructure in place, we couldn’t have implemented a highquality IP system without a hosted model,” said Patrick Gordon, PhySecure president. “Using a hosted video solution has cost a fraction of the traditional client-server implementation, and we were able to almost immediately make available the monitoring of several blocks.”

By storing video in the cloud, the city eliminated the need for serverbased onsite storage. Some of the business sites do, however, leverage lowcost, high-capacity network attached storage (NAS) devices that are available off the shelf. This provides Iowa City with redundant storage and the ability to record HDTV-quality video onsite while a second, lower-frame rate, lowerresolution feed streams to the cloud.

Authorized users throughout the city can view real-time images via a password-protected Web portal that can be accessed through any Internetconnected device. Local police also use the cameras to monitor high-traffic times of the day and night.

The city currently deploys nine outdoor- ready and vandal-resistant fixed dome network cameras and has the ability to expand by one or many cameras at a time as needed.

Making IP Fit: All About Needs

IP-based video is expected to account for half of security installations by 2014 (IMS Research). With the storage options available across the spectrum, IP should be considered for nearly every installation today.

IP is everywhere, but because no two installations are alike, it’s all about choosing the right solution that fits the end user’s needs.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Security Today.

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