Utah universities look to security best practices to implement IP video
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Sep 01, 2016
Schools should be safe havens for education. New developments
in video surveillance based on IP technology are helping primary
and secondary schools, colleges and universities improve security,
enhance operations and minimize losses in commercial areas such
as bookstores, cafeterias and vending machine halls. Compared to
traditional analog video systems, IP-based solutions are more versatile and cost
effective. It is also a cost advantage to be able to leverage previous investments in
analog cameras by connecting them through inexpensive video encoders in an IP
video surveillance system.
UPGRADING EXISTING SOLUTIONS
For these reasons, two Utah universities wanted to significantly upgrade their existing
surveillance systems. Utah State University (USU) and Salt Lake Community
College (SLCC) both had stand-alone analog systems with just a few cameras
in different campus buildings with viewing capabilities limited to single locations.
Officials wanted more comprehensive campus-wide solutions that could be operated
from single command centers for each school. Campus staff had not always
kept cameras operable so efficient video playback also became a major issue, especially
as it pertained to police investigations.
Each school decided on an open platform, IP-based solution centered around
Milestone XProtect VMS, and network cameras from Axis Communications.
USU is located in Cache Valley, and is the land grant school for Utah. There
are campuses in every county in the state. At the end of 2015, USU had nine locations
managed with XProtect corporate software, with the Milestone Federated
Architecture feeding back the video data to the main campus in Logan.
USU has 435 cameras deployed at all of its locations and SLCC has 235 cameras.
SLCC has recently standardized on Axis cameras, while USU has purchased
Axis cameras almost exclusively for the past several years in addition to using Axis
encoders to integrate older analog cameras into the Milestone IP video platform.
SLCC currently has 180 cameras deployed through Axis encoders for incorporating
their older, analog cameras.
With the adoption of the software, each campus has been able to centralize
their video monitoring and greatly improved coordination with on-campus police,
reducing incidence response time and mitigating the theft of student valuables and
in the campus bookstores. The cameras give each campus high-resolution images
that provide comprehensive coverage through seamless integration with the VMS.
LARGE POPULATION, MULTI-SITE CAMPUSES
Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s largest college with the most diverse student
body. It serves more than 60,000 students on 10 campuses and hosts online
classes. SLCC offers flexible scheduling with an exceptional range of academic and
career-oriented options. SLCC offers more than 200 degree and certificate programs
in academic, technical and vocational fields. It is accredited by the Northwest
Association of Schools and Colleges.
Since its founding in 1888, USU has evolved from a small-town college tucked
away in the Bear River Mountains, part of the Wasatch Range, to a thriving research
university respected around the world. Students choose from an array of
academic and social opportunities at a university known for its intellectual and
OPEN PLATFORM BUILDS IN FUTURE
GROWTH AND SCALABILITY
When it comes to surveillance for higher education, the
universities were looking to invest in a “future-ready”
platform that could evolve and scale with the growth of
the schools. Both saw enormous benefits in the Milestone
open platform, which provides a unified management
approach with the flexibility to deploy a wide
variety of camera models and third-party integrations.
Eric Allen, systems administrator at USU, said the
university maintains servers and storage in a single,
centralized location, a primary reason USU migrated.
“We now have the ability to leverage our existing
infrastructure across campus,” Allen said. “We can
now plug in a new camera, have it immediately pop
up in the Milestone system and monitor it from our
desk, instead of running around to different locations
to check on and manage cameras.”
While Milestone supports numerous camera choices,
USU and SLCC now rely almost exclusively on
Nathan Howard is an IT project manager at SLCC
who highlights the Axis ease-of-use. “You can configure
all your camera settings at one time in the Milestone
software, from frame rates to your password,
which is an incredible time saver,” Howard said.
MILESTONE MAKES CAMPUSES MORE SECURE
Travis Dunn, a sergeant with the USU Police Department,
said that the solution has allowed him and his
deputies to initiate proactive safety protocols.
“When it snows in our higher elevations, we can
see it in the camera system and call out snow removal
staff to clean sidewalks faster,” Dunn said. “So we’re
not waiting for someone to slip and fall.”
Dunn also cites the reliability of the technology in
facilitating the police department investigations.
“We use it to get statements from people in our interview
rooms,” said Dunn. “It’s important that the
video works the first time, because we don’t often get a
second chance with criminals.”
Howard pointed out that a huge advantage in the
switch to IP video was the clarity of the images and
the ability to share them with the police for investigatory
“With the old analog system, we had a lot of blurry
images,” Howard said. “It made it difficult on our
police to conduct investigations. When there is an incident
now, we have crystal-clear image quality as well
as the ability to zoom in on the views as we need to
with the software. The image quality has made our
investigations more efficient and more effective.”
MILESTONE MAPPING FEATURES
OFFER BIG BENEFITS
The mapping features have proven particularly useful
for the universities. Howard works in concert with the
Utah Highway Patrol (UHP), the Utah state police.
He created default camera views for UHP, to ensure
officers are only looking at the necessary cameras.
“I can go into the UHP group on the platform and
easily modify their views if they need eyes on a new
area,” Howard said. “In addition to all the buildings
they have access to view, I have set something up for
them called a ‘blank view.’ It’s a 2x2 or a 2x6 blank
grid. If they have evidence they need to submit to
court, they can scroll down to a camera and pull in
only the pertinent feeds. It’s a fantastic feature.”
ESTABLISHING SYSTEM UNIFORMITY, OPEN
COMMUNICATION AND BEST PRACTICES
In 2008, USU partnered with Utah-based Stone Security
to help choose a system that best met its specifications.
Stone Security has won numerous awards as an
installation partner and is a diamond-rated reseller.
Based in Utah, Stone Security had the advantage
of being familiar with the various universities structure
and requirements. This allowed Stone to sell the significant
benefits of the non-proprietary, open platform
architecture that offers clients who need to protect their
investment over the long term. As USU moved forward
with standardization, other educational institutions
saw their success and followed suit.
David Tidwell, IT manager at USU, commended
Stone Security for its extensive knowledge of Milestone
and Axis products, as well as exemplary customer
“Stone Security has been a great partner in this
process,” said Tidwell. “They’re available at a moment’s
notice, they take the time to troubleshoot
problems and they are always calling us with the latest
and greatest product rollouts. It’s been a great and
fruitful relationship from the outset.”
Five of the seven major universities in Utah are
now using a security solution similar to to the one at
USU. Since 2011, Stone Security has organized the
annual Campus Security Conference, which provides
a forum for the universities to hear about new offerings,
and to discuss challenges, solutions and best
practices with each other.
Mike Hussey, who was recently
named the chief information officer
(CIO) of the state of Utah, was the keynote
speaker in 2015. He was responsible
for the recent installation of similar
solution at the state capitol, and said
that the conference is a great way for
him to continue the learning process.
“We are in the middle of our security
installation,” Hussey said. “Many of my
colleagues and I at the Capitol are new
to the software and the cameras. Attending
this conference is a great way for
me to learn more about the companies
whose products the state has invested in,
and hear from Utah’s higher learning institutions
about exactly how they are using
these products to not only keep their
campuses safe, but create smarter, more
“To have this network of individuals
with years under their belt is invaluable,”
Howard said. “When I didn’t
know what frame rate to set up my live
views versus my recording views, all it
took was one phone call.”
AN EASY-TO-USE VIDEO SYSTEM
USU’s software user base is diverse, including
the IT departments monitoring
data centers and network equipment,
USU police responding to on-campus
incidents, researchers supervising labs
and department managers handling the
flow of building traffic and watching
out for thefts.
“Training sessions were really easy,”
Allen said. “We only have to sit down
with the users for five to 10 minutes,
show them the system and they run
Howard used the numerous online
tutorials to generate a reference guide
for himself. When it came to the point
of installation, he already had a good
working knowledge of the system.
“The user interface is so intuitive,”
Howard said. “And it couldn’t be easier
to add a camera or click over one on a
map and pull it up on my screen.”
Allen said there are only two administrators
running the entire system at
USU, and that’s never been a problem.
“The ease of use means we can get in,
do what we need to do and never worry
about system glitches,” said Allen.
USU has leveraged Axis and Milestone
beyond traditional campus security.
The college has a farm on campus
where animal science professors and
their students conduct research with
cows and goats. David Tidwell said that
in the past when a cow was far along in
her pregnancy, researchers were forced
to sleep at the farm to ensure they
didn’t miss the birth.
“We have a couple of cameras monitoring
the pens,” said Tidwell, who is
a team coordinator at the university.
“Now, the researchers can watch the
cows on from the comfort of their
homes. If they see an animal start to go
into labor, they can make sure someone
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Security Today.