Improving transit system safety with integrated security solutions

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Improving transit system safety with integrated security solutions

Improving transit system safety with integrated security solutionsToday’s public transportation systems are experiencing growing pains they haven’t seen in decades. Many transit agencies have experienced security challenges as ridership has grown, while aging mobile surveillance systems have struggled to keep up with the migration from analog to IP-based systems. Legacy technology with inefficient offload processes and poor video quality compounds the issue and makes the role of the public safety official harder each day.

However, migration paths to new integrated security solutions are available for transit agencies to enhance safety and security for passengers and employees, as well as protect property and revenue streams.

State of the Industry

According to data from the American Public Transportation Association, riders took a staggering 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2013, marking the eighth year in row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. In fact, 2013 annual public transit ridership numbers were the highest recorded in 57 years and represent an increase of more than 37 percent since 1995, outpacing the national population growth of 20.3 percent.

Skyrocketing gas prices, the public’s increasing demand for environmentally conscious transit solutions and a generation nearing retirement are just a few of the many factors that have led to this spike in demand, and we see no signs of this trend slowing.

Within this same eight year period that ridership has soared, crimes against passengers and employees have continued to increase significantly, as well. Issues such as fare evasion, revenue theft by employees and crimes against transit property, like vandalism and graffiti, further complicate the role of the transit security official and transit system administrators. To make things worse, the threat of a terrorist attack remains an ever-present reality for many metropolitan transit systems, evidenced by the increasing care and redundancy built into the security plans of recent high-profile public events such as the Super Bowl.

Legacy analog video formats of yesteryear have compounded these problems even further. Failure rates, poor video quality, data security and maintenance issues have all significantly affected the ability of transit administrators to streamline operations, creating countless hurdles for law enforcement seeking to investigate crimes. Inefficient offload processes not uncommon on public transit systems are costly, requiring countless man hours to manually retrieve video from hard disks or DVRs as part of a process that jeopardizes the integrity of video data required for evidence, leaving transit administrators and security officials spread too thin.

Analog to IP Convergence Serves as a Turning Point

In recent years, the shift from analog video formats to IP systems has paved the way for integrated, IP-based, mobile, video surveillance solutions. Driven by increasing demand for advanced technologies such as high-definition video, thermal imaging and video analytics, the security industry has been pushed to develop cutting-edge systems that breathe fresh life into America’s dated security infrastructure. The public transportation industry has finally reached a turning point that will allow transit safety officials to deploy solutions that deliver the increased mobility, situational awareness and security they need to keep pace with the future of transit system security.

A glimpse of this future can be observed in the case of the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) Transit Police Division. After years of struggling with a cumbersome, costly video surveillance system, RTD is in the process of deploying an integrated transit security solution built on IP-based network cameras. This new solution is replacing RTD’s aging analog-based system to enable staff to efficiently access high-quality video evidence to better protect riders, drivers and physical property, as well as to improve the investigation of criminal activity, safety violations, accidents and liability claims.

A Truly Mobile Video Surveillance Solution

Mobility is perhaps the most obvious advantage of using IP-based solutions over analog devices, and RTD is a perfect example of how it can be achieved for transit security. Leveraging LTE cellular broadband, officials are able to access live video streams anywhere, anytime from their IP-enabled devices of trains and buses at their command and control centers or in the field.

For example, in the event of an emergency, law enforcement can tap into video feeds from a public transit vehicle remotely from their patrol cars, using their laptops and tablets to evaluate the situation to better apprehend suspects or secure the property. As a result, transit safety officials benefit from the ability to mobilize their workforce and streamline communications with first responders in real-time.

By leveraging existing IP network infrastructure, integrated security solutions also offer transit security officials the ability to automatically offload video recordings. A key benefit of the RTD solution is the ability for staff to quickly and wirelessly offload flagged video files of specific incidents from buses’ in-vehicle recorders. Instead of relying upon bus drivers and maintenance crews to manually remove hard drives from their buses and spend countless hours manually reviewing videos to investigate an incident, administrators can now take advantage of wireless connectivity to retrieve video data recordings without putting the equipment at risk. In turn, administrators are able to reduce the time and costs associated with system maintenance, and streamline video transfer processes altogether.

Maximize Situational Awareness

In addition to much improved offload processes, IP-enabled, mobile, video surveillance solutions offer the highdefinition video quality needed to maximize situational awareness within public transportation systems. Using full HD 1080p and HD 720p network cameras inside and outside of each bus, RTD administrators have integrated their new IP-based system with other hardware and software components to create an end-to-end mobile security solution.

Whereas legacy systems can be limited by the storage capacities of analog recording equipment, IP-enabled solutions record video data digitally, which requires a smaller physical footprint and delivers the storage officials need to capture the data-rich video files generated by HD devices.

As many transit administrators know, the most critical area of any transit vehicle—whether a train, bus or railway car—is the driver’s seat. By installing audio-recording security devices within the driver’s booth, public transportation officials are able to better protect staff and ensure that activity within the vehicle complies with all laws and codes of conduct. These nextgeneration devices can even be used to help train new employees or resolve fraudulent injury claims.

Enabling Video Analytics for Improved Business Operations

Video analytics is yet another benefit offered by integrated transit security solutions. For transit systems seeking to not only protect people, property and assets but also optimize business operations, video analytics capabilities can deliver such benefits as face detection and face matching, auto image stabilization, as well as automatic alerts in the event of tampering.

Examples of the current benefits of this emerging technology include the ability to determine past offenders and analyze ridership patterns. New applications are constantly being realized. While not every public transportation system will require such functionality today, integrated transit security solutions provide officials with the flexibility to deploy such technologies as need grows and technology matures.

With demand for HD video and the adoption of video analytics systems on the rise, data security has become a chief concern for public transportation systems. To overcome these concerns, the Denver RTD system is leveraging video management software for viewing and managing video files, enabling administrators to integrate them with various other video and audio sources and case files to create a unified event timeline, dramatically reducing the time spent on incident investigations.

Comprehensive Data Security for Enhanced Transit Safety

For security professionals investing in new security infrastructure, the integrity of video data is often only as secure as the devices themselves, which is why equipment reliability and ruggedness is among the top concerns of transit administrators. Between challenging climate conditions, vandalism and the wear-and-tear observed over years of constant use, mobile video surveillance systems can take a beating.

Recognizing the challenges of mobile video surveillance, RTD has installed ruggedized, vandal-resistant cameras that are specially engineered to withstand vibration, shocks and impacts. IP66-rated for weather, shock, impact and vandal resistance, each of the new cameras are equipped with anti-vibration mounts to ensure longterm performance, while cameras on the buses’ exteriors are even secured in purpose-built, shroud housings for added protection against impact and extreme temperatures.

Lastly, integrated transit security solutions are developed around existing IP network infrastructure, allowing officials to expand their mobile video surveillance efforts beyond anything previously possible with legacy systems. With the help of IP connectivity, these new systems are engineered around an open architecture, eliminating much of the cabling and maintenance required by analog systems. Ultimately, these benefits make the systems not only easy to deploy, but also provide a way for administrators to expand or downgrade their investments as ridership trends change.

The Future of Public Transportation Security

Integrated transit security solutions with IP-based video surveillance systems are the future of transit system safety. Whereas public transportation systems were in years past limited by closed architectures, the future of transit safety embraces the growth of public transportation and a need for increased public safety.

Leveraging IP connectivity to deliver live video streams to transit safety officers at headquarters and in the field, integrated solutions enable administrators to improve safety for passengers and transit workers, protect physical assets and aid in the investigation of liability claims. Offering an open architecture that is designed to accommodate growth, these solutions are allowing public transportation systems, such as Denver RTD, to advance with the industry and enjoy the enhanced mobility, situational awareness and security they require.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.

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