Reaching Each Milestone On Time
Open platform enables SaaS for multiple camera initiatives
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Feb 01, 2012
The IT division’s network team at WKU implemented Milestone’s
open platform video management software, XProtect Corporate.
Over time, the school has deployed cameras as needed and
now has roughly 300 IP video cameras around the campus. The
team uses various XProtect add-ons, such as XProtect Smart Wall,
for additional advanced features and leverages Active Directory for
managing permissions of users in various departments.
The network team wanted to deploy custom solutions for different
departments throughout the university. With an open platform,
it has been able to tweak a solution, install add-ons and
create specialized integrations to support different scenarios. The
central management application allows the team to perform most
management tasks from a central location, making it possible for
a small team with limited resources to maintain such a large deployment
Clients Within Clients
This makes WKU a very interesting case. Rather than being a
single client with a single scenario, the university is made up of
many different clients for the IT department to service, each with
a different scenario and a different set of requirements. Fortunately,
the flexibility and simplicity of XProtect Corporate’s open
platform makes it easy to deploy and maintain a system that is
tailored to each department’s needs.
With more than 21,000 students and 3,400 employees, WKU
covers a lot of ground. Its main campus has dozens of buildings
for academics, residence halls, recreation and entertainment. The
university also has several smaller satellite campuses. Like a city,
WKU has a vast infrastructure, including a heating plant, health
services, road system and police force.
In terms of academics, the university is divided into six undergraduate
colleges with myriad departments. It offers a wide range
of associate, bachelor and graduate degrees through its numerous
award-winning programs. There also is a special high school for
sciences with on-campus dormitories.
Finding a Scalable Solution
Several years back, the university’s IT division decided to deploy IT division—and administrators assigned the management of the
new system to the IT division’s network team.
Jeppie Sumpter, lead network engineer, said the university surveyed
the market and evaluated the candidates in-house. While
there were other video surveillance solutions available, the team
decided that XProtect Enterprise—XProtect Corporate did not yet
exist—offered the features and ease of use the IT team desired. At
the time, no one had an idea of the extent to which XProtect would
soon grow to cover so many departments throughout the university.
A few years after the initial deployment and subsequent upgrade
to XProtect Corporate (once it was available), the team realized
it could easily scale out the solution to support the needs of
other departments. The XProtect solution is currently being used
by nearly 20 different departments, each with different requirements.
WKU has several new projects in the works, and the IT
team fields regular requests from around campus.
IT Team Consultancy, Integration and Hosting
Today, the network team acts like a third-party integrator.
“We’re essentially providing a hosted and managed service for
the diverse groups within the university,” Sumpter said. “It is all
taking place under a unified system, a single federated solution,
where we can keep things separate where they should be separate.”
When a department expresses a need for video surveillance,
the network team arranges a meeting to discuss objectives and
consult on possible solutions. They discuss the prospective client’s
procedures and make recommendations for the best overall
solution, taking into account the full spectrum of the situation.
The team develops a design and performs field surveys using the
actual camera models in the proposed installation.
“We have developed a mobile field survey kit that allows us
to capture images, showing the client exactly what they would
see with the finished product, including the viewing angles and
matching resolution,” Sumpter said.
Once the client is ready to proceed with the project, the network
team implements the solution, placing Axis Communications
and Pelco cameras where they are needed, configuring the
server and storage backend, and setting up the user permissions.
“We want our client to be able to use the system and not worry
about all the things that go into maintaining it. We make sure the
solution works for them and continues to be reliable,” Sumpter said.
The WKU network team has been impressed with how easy
it has been to train new users. As part of each deployment project,
the team sets aside time for users working with the XProtect
Smart Client software. They have found that anyone who
has used a computer before is comfortable right away. In fact,
Sumpter said the software is so intuitive that many of the new
users could get started without any training.
Easy to Control and Cost-effective Storage
Demonstrating the flexibility of both XProtect and Sumpter’s
team, IT handles the video surveillance projects end-to-end inhouse,
leveraging existing IT division functions. The backend
pieces in use are common off-the-shelf hardware, using direct attached
storage for each recording server.
According to Sumpter, using their existing server/storage
vendor relationships has been cost-effective while still retaining
critical qualities of performance and scalability. Additional high
availability is something the team would like to expand upon in
the future. For now, however, it has one recording server configured
for failover purposes. If one of the main recording servers
fails, the backup server automatically takes over, which is a native
function of the software.
Overall, the system is very easy to manage. In fact, the network
team currently has only one dedicated person assigned to
handle its daily operations and support. For various aspects of
the team’s projects, such as implementation, it may place another
team member or two on the project to assist.
“The software is stable and reliable. The system allows us to
focus on the design work and fieldwork, which is especially important
given our limited resources. We can focus on our services
and support our clients without worrying about having to babysit
the software,” Sumpter said.
Sumpter cites the central management application as a key
feature for allowing such a small team to manage a large video
surveillance deployment, in addition to all their other roles on
campus. He notes team members can do just about everything
they need to do in terms of management from one spot. The
Milestone Federated Architecture is helpful for managing remote
“We don’t need to move around to different boxes, bounce between
different apps and RDP into servers,” he said.
Active Directory for User Management
The software allows WKU to easily organize users and departments
into different groups and profiles, each with potentially unique permissions.
This is an environment where many separate clients with
diverse needs run off the same backend. Users can be assigned access
to a very specific set of cameras, and they do not have to be
aware of the other users and cameras on the XProtect deployment.
The software leverages Active Directory, allowing the roles
to rely on user credentials that have already been created in Active Directory.
“It’s extremely easy to organize these roles,” Sumpter said.
“We don’t have to create and maintain users because they are
already in our Active Directory implementation, and it all ties
together very efficiently.”
Each internal university client typically has between one and
three people assigned to operate XProtect for their group. In
this environment, many of those clients have limited need or resources
for live monitoring; video data is stored in case there is
an incident that requires the department to go back and review
Integrations Provide More than Security
As the network team rolls out more IP surveillance solutions
around WKU, it continues to see people find different ways to
leverage the system. One of the major clients is the campus police
department, which has gone beyond basic surveillance to add a
range of automated features that vastly improve usability to aid
in their mission to provide campus safety.
For instance, XProtect has been integrated with the campus
emergency phones. PTZ cameras are placed in strategic locations,
with presets defined for the areas surrounding the “e-phones.”
When someone activates an emergency phone, XProtect automatically
displays the live camera feeds for that location on the
monitor wall, leveraging the XProtect Smart Wall add-on. As the
police operator takes the call, he or she can monitor the situation
while officers are being dispatched. For one of the remote campuses
that uses the local city’s police force, activating the emergency
phones also triggers instant notifications to key contacts
within the facility, alerting via emails with image snapshots and
In testing facilities, on the other hand, the software is used for
proctoring tests. A proctor can leave the room and use the cameras
to monitor the room in real time. Or, if there is any indication
that a student may have cheated, the proctor can analyze the
video to assist in resolving it. In this environment, the software
can be configured with system rules to record all the time during
business hours and record only on motion detection after hours.
Here is another interesting scenario: the university and local
city planners recently expressed a need to gather data for traffic
planning purposes. They wanted one week of video covering
specific locations around campus so they could evaluate the use
of certain crosswalks and intersections. The network team used
temporary mounts and spare cameras to quickly set up the solution,
essentially at no cost. After a week of recording, they simply
exported those video feeds so the planners could analyze the
video and decide whether certain areas should or should not have
crosswalks, stoplights, etc. The team has also set up similar solutions
to monitor construction projects.
This is just a sampling of the many ways WKU is using the
product today, and it is not stopping there. For example, explorations
have taken place concerning mobile video surveillance on
campus buses and in police cars. And the addition of interactive
maps to afford operators an intuitive way to monitor activity
across the campus is currently in the works.
This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Security Today.