Assessing The Challenges
Legacy systems are nearing the end of their lifecycle
- By Brian Levy
- Jan 04, 2016
Large hospital environments present unique challenges for a surveillance integrator specifically, these challenges can include implementing IP Surveillance Technology, Access Control or Networking.
Many hospitals are currently using legacy analog surveillance systems
and access control that may be at the end of their lifecycles. These
facilities may wish to upgrade to newer technologies in order to take
advantage of the benefits of new centralized IP technologies.
Beyond the technical issues, there are numerous physical issues that
arise in hospitals, which include high visitor and employee traffic in
work areas around emergency rooms and intensive care units, as well as
the need to integrate existing IT departments for networking access and
support. Furthermore, existing telecom and hospital infrastructure can
make wire runs and penetrations time consuming. In some cases, existing
security build-outs were never documented for legacy projects and
current staff may have limited knowledge of what was done years before
they were employed. Finally, regulating bodies such as OSHPOD and
HIPAA require strict adherence to privacy policies that limit where cameras
can be located and how access control can be implemented.
When it comes to replacing legacy surveillance and access control,
it is sometimes difficult for upper management to understand the large
benefit IP systems offer because many of the advantages are technical
in nature and the savings are not immediately apparent. However,
when legacy equipment starts breaking down and replacement parts
are either difficult to obtain or are no longer available, the limitations
of outdated technologies become more clear. Hospitals are mission
critical locations that cannot afford to have access control readers malfunctioning
or pharmacy cameras failing due to the high rate of narcotic
theft. Digital and network recorders must be operational so security
guards and management can keep a constant watch on the activity
of the patients, visitors and employees. Emergency room cameras are
especially important due to sporadic violence and because some
patients are under law enforcement custody.
Recently, when the management of a large four hundred bed California
hospital was considering ways to extend the life of their legacy system
for another year, they were given a demonstration of a new highdefinition
IP technology platform and were so impressed that they
decided to forgo their legacy system and chose to implement a brand
new IP system. Due to the high resolution of the IP system, security personnel can more readily identify faces, vehicles and equipment.
The benefits of the IP system do not stop there. Over the last 5 years,
IP surveillance technology has matured with a wide offering of 3MP,
5MP and 12MP cameras and the ability to record ultra-high resolutions.
This is especially beneficial for large areas like parking lots and
building lobbies. Some manufacturers are now including video analytics
into their network video recorders, which can extend a security
department’s overall awareness through smart detection and alarm
notification. Multi-lens and 360-degree cameras also expand the possible
options for integrators to capture surveillance imagery with the
best camera for the project.
One example of an NVR that supports a wide variety of ultra-high
definition megapixel cameras and includes built in video analytics is
the ICRealtime NVR-8256K-DR. The 8256K-DR was designed for
large enterprise implementations and features support for 256 high
definition channels. What’s especially unique is the NVR’s support for
true 4K video output via the system’s 2 HDMI ports (and 1 VGA). The
device comes with native video analytics, which allows for various
notifications and/or alarms for tripwire, intrusion, scene change and
more. The NVR has four gigabit Ethernet cards for network scalability
and for fail-over in case the main network goes down. The device
supports up to 256Mb/s of total camera bandwidth which allows for
a variety of different camera resolutions. The NVR has plenty of internal
storage with up to 144TB of HD space, and supports numerous
RAID levels. When considering a NVR for large or medium hospital
projects, integrators must make sure they have plenty of hardware
flexibility and software features to ensure capacity for future or
One major challenge that IP systems present is working with internal
IT departments and receive their support to complete projects. In
the days of analog CCTV, the system was a closed loop and integrators
were not dependent on outside assistance from IT groups unless the
project required Internet for remote access. With IP and its dependence
on network infrastructure, interaction and support from internal
IT departments becomes a necessity. Most internal IT and networking
departments maintain tight control over their routers and
switches for IT security reasons and do not want any non-approved
manufacturer’s switch added to their network. These policies can halt
project integration unless the integrator and the IT staff create a mutual
solution before the project begins.
Many managed POE switches preferred by IT departments can
cost approximately four to six thousand dollars, while many surveillance
style POE switches cost only two thousand or less. While an
integrator may be used to working alone and implementing a surveillance
or access control project without outside support from the
customer, this is no longer the case, especially in large hospitals
where pre-existing switch standards and manufacturer selections are
set by IT policy.
The need for support from internal IT groups is relevant for external
VPN access to the hospital’s network so that integrators can support
their solutions remotely or react to problems via the Internet. Integrators
may need to sign confidentiality agreements for remote access, but
the benefits are significant for both the integrator and the hospital.
Having the ability to login and manage video and access solutions
remotely can increase reaction time when problems arise and allows
for instant support via the telephone. Some hospitals do not allow
remote access as a matter of policy, but this is rare.
Another important factor to consider is the amount of bandwidth
high-resolution IP video uses on a network and how the surveillance
cameras will affect overall network utilization. A two megapixel camera
will utilize between four and six megabytes per second per channel,
which means a twenty five channel systems can reach an overall
bandwidth 150Mb/sec, which can easily overwhelm some network
infrastructures. Camera bandwidth can be fine-tuned based on networking
needs by altering data bit rates, choosing low activity areas
that use less storage, or lowering frame rates.
Many integrators will choose to build separate networks just to support
surveillance and access control, and at minimum hospitals’ IT
departments will choose to create a virtual local area network (VLAN)
exclusively for security applications. VLAN networks create virtual
segmentation from other non-security traffic. This means the integrators
can only communicate with their cameras and devices and cannot
connect or change external network traffic like standard hospital email
Another option for managing large bandwidth requirements is to
lower camera bit rates. This can be especially helpful on larger installations
where cameras can scale into the hundreds. However, each
installation is unique and will require some fine-tuning by the integrator
to ensure network stability and component performance.
Returning to the numerous physical challenges facing the security
integrator, these issues must be considered ahead of time as they can
increase the time and budget of a project. Hospital can be extremely
busy, particularly areas such as intensive care units and emergency
rooms. It can be almost impossible to work in these areas if they are
filled to capacity or the work is noisy and intrusive.
Further, the level of difficulty increases when working in sterile
environments, such as surgery wings because special body suits are
required with head covers and booties. In addition, work areas require plastic tenting and floor mats in order to limit dust caused by drilling
and penetrations. Much of the work in these environments must be
done at night due to the high level of activity during daytime hours.
The extra time it takes to put on the protective clothing, the difficulty
of working in tented environments, and the level of care necessary can
cost the integrator if proper risk factors are not included in the budget.
It is also important to note that a facility’s era of construction may not
be readily apparent as hospitals are frequently expanded or remodeled
and may have a modern façade. Furthermore, hospitals are often built
in phases and there may be decades of difference between individual
wings or sections.
Sometimes, depending on the size and age of the facility, ceilings
tiles will reveal large bundles of wires, ducts and pipes, with no room
for additional cable runs. This situation can be frustrating and time
consuming because the installer must find viable paths for new cable.
Some pre-war buildings have thick concrete walls and ceilings, which
means there is no place to hide cable and coax and all runs must be
installed with conduit along ceilings. In one case, a surveillance installation
team discovered that a California hospital had a maze of ducting
and conduit running across the building’s entire roof. It also had concrete
walls, which made the installation much more difficult and costly
due to the time it took to find a viable route and then snake the cable
to the corresponding camera area from the server room NVR.
Extra effort should be made before quoting hospital work. Spend
adequate time investigating every cable run and camera position, coordinating
the project with IT, and adding sufficient time and costs to a
project. A good rule of thumb is that work in these environments can
take two times longer than what would be quoted for the same project
in a non-medical building. If work is done in a sterile environment the
time and cost requirements could be 2.5 to 3 times as much. Be sure to
consider adding additional material costs if excessive conduit and construction
materials are required.
Hospitals present a variety of specialized challenges, but many of
these can be overcome with good planning, investigation and communication
with internal departments. Despite a myriad of technical and
physical factors covered, hospital surveillance and access control can be
a rewarding place to work for surveillance installers. Plan out projects
carefully and take the time to prepare realistic estimates, understanding
that all surveillance installations have their challenges.
Break up large projects into phases and
manage one section at a time. All the pre-planning
will pay off in saved aggravation and profit.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.