To See Or Not To See
Council on Aging incorporates innovative 'eyelids' for cameras
- By Del V. Salvi
- Oct 01, 2012
Privacy was an immediate concern when
the Council on Aging in Marshfield, Mass.,
sought to install a video surveillance system.
Seniors who use the community center
balked at the idea of being watched as they
participate in activities throughout the day.
However, at night when the center is closed,
video is needed to provide evidence or clues in case of a theft
Additionally, the Council on Aging is used as an emergency
center when nearby residents need a temporary haven during bad
weather or other emergencies, and video surveillance at those
times can help ensure safety and efficiency. An innovative solution
was delivered with the integration of Panasonic cameras
with privacy-protecting “eyelids” from SituCon to block camera
views at times when surveillance is not critical.
Privacy and Protection Coexist
Marshfield’s Council on Aging provides a central mechanism
to deliver services and activities to the town’s elder population.
Recreation activities range from exercise and weight and strength
training to bridge, crafts, knitting, coffee hours and educational
seminars. Beyond recreation, the council also provides services
such as diabetes support groups and income tax preparation.
In the coastal community about 12 miles north of Plymouth,
Mass., homes are often threatened by extremely high tides and
flooding, which require residents to seek refuge for several hours
until the situation improves. When these residents need a place
to go, the inland and geographically protected Council on Aging
can be made available at a moment’s notice.
If 100 or more people gather to seek refuge in the Council
on Aging building in case of an emergency, video surveillance
can enable law enforcement and administrators to monitor the
environment and keep tabs on any safety concerns. Availability
of live video footage allows the town to staff the center in emergency
situations with only two or three people rather than seven
or eight, saving on costs.
In the Blink of an Eye
At the Council on Aging, four Panasonic cameras are located
in the interior of the building—in a dining room, in a function
room, in a hallway outside the computer lab and near the main
entrance and front office.
The four indoor cameras are integrated with SituCam privacy-
protecting housings that feature mechanical eyelids that
open and close to limit camera views to the times when surveillance
is needed. When the eyelids are closed, privacy is ensured. The integrated SituCon system can automatically open
the eyelids, activate the cameras and start recording during an
emergency, according to a predetermined schedule or based on
an operator’s command.
Panasonic i-PRO SmartHD WV-SC384 HD network cameras
provide PTZ control, auto-tracking of 720p high-definition images
and full-frame 1280x960 pixel video at up to 30 images per
second. The cameras are connected to Marshfield’s Milestone
Systems centralized recording solution, which is accessed using
a town-wide fiber-optic network. Easily controlled PTZ also enables
monitoring of specific areas without placing everyone present
The eyelids open to provide surveillance at night according to a
programmed schedule, or dispatchers can override the system and
activate the cameras. Managers can activate the cameras during
the day if they are needed, for example, to view an aerobics class to
ensure the elderly clients remain healthy despite the exertion.
Part of the Whole
The cameras at the Council on Aging are part of a larger system
that operates throughout the town of Marshfield—a system that
incorporates an emergency response capability in a variety of public
buildings and facilities. This SituCon Emergency Awareness
Solution enables any public employee—from administrators to librarians—
to signal an emergency by pushing a button worn on a
lanyard around his or her neck. Within three or four seconds, these
emergency buttons provide the person’s name, his or her location
on a floor plan of the facility, additional critical information and
real-time video of any cameras viewing the location.
At the Council on Aging, when a staff member activates an
emergency button it, in turn, activates cameras and opens privacy
eyelids, enabling viewing and capture of real-time video. All information
is relayed automatically to police, who then have firsthand
situational awareness of an event as it unfolds. The video is
available on wireless networks, so it may be viewed anywhere. In
addition to improving officer safety, the additional information is
a force multiplier.
Several other town facilities also use the SituCon privacy eyelids,
including the town hall, library, recreation center and airport.
The privacy-controlled cameras are used in locations that
otherwise might not be deemed appropriate places for surveillance
because of privacy concerns. For example, a camera watching
a meeting room might discourage open conversation. However,
if a town hall meeting were to get out of control, immediate
camera surveillance is available by opening the cameras’ eyelids.
Quiet operation ensures the eyelids can open without drawing
attention in case of an emergency situation. Cameras also cannot
be used in classrooms, nursing homes or other places where constant
surveillance is not tolerated.
“We don’t need to record 24/7,” said Paul Taber, Marshfield’s
police lieutenant and emergency management director. “Now
we have a capability to put cameras in areas, such as office locations
and day care centers, where we would not need or want
surveillance during operation but might need cameras if someone
breaks in at night or in an emergency situation.”
SituCon enables Marshfield to expand the locations where
they use surveillance cameras without triggering privacy concerns,
union issues or contractual problems.
Taber remembers when an out-of-control meeting caused a
town official to push his panic button, which opened the eyelids
to allow video to catch an image of those creating the disturbance
as they left the building.
“Should there be a situation where police need to look inside
a building before going in, such as a hostage situation, we can see
what’s going on,” Taber said. “This capability is taken into account
in every drill and exercise and in every emergency situation.
It’s all about using your resources wisely. With the economy the
way it is, we have to work smarter. Our cameras protect officers
when they are walking into a potentially deadly situation.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Security Today.