Getting The Most

Getting The Most

Advanced VMS helps protect the city

The large geographical area and variety of locations and assets to protect make municipal video surveillance particularly challenging. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that municipalities are often working within tight budget restraints that reduce their ability to deploy the most effective, high-performance solutions that will deliver the greatest security. In many instances, funding for public services continues to decline, forcing cities and towns to do more with less. These budget cuts can be applied across several municipal functions, including police and fire departments, meaning these vital resources must be maximized to their fullest potential.

Municipal surveillance is even more challenging given the fact that these solutions are typically not a single video system. Rather, they consist of multiple video systems, including police, transportation and traffic, some of which have likely been in place longer than others, and offering varying levels of compatibility. However, to be effective, all these surveillance systems must work together as a whole to avoid the need to manage and monitor them separately. For budget- conscious municipalities, the labor required for this would be prohibitive but the alternative, ripping and replacing systems to ensure compatibility, is simply unthinkable.

This is one of the key areas where VMS excels. These powerful solutions serve as the unifying foundation of a powerful municipal surveillance system, bringing together not only various video systems but also other security and non-security systems into a single interface. Think of an advanced VMS as a one-stop shop that seamlessly oversees important surveillance and security functions to streamline operations, increase the effectiveness of security and significantly ease management for municipalities, as well as their individual departments.

Below are a few of the many key areas where VMS are well positioned to help municipalities meet their security and surveillance goals and address their needs.

Centralized Management and Control

VMS can be installed in a single location for central recording and management, allowing multiple viewers to simultaneously view video and have control over any number of cameras in the surveillance system. This makes video readily available from cameras that are geographically dispersed and provide differing image qualities depending on their application, while allowing various facilities and departments to monitor their own cameras as needed. One California city installed video in public parks, busy intersections and other key locations throughout the city, with images captured at these locations transmitted wirelessly to the control center in its public safety complex. This allows cameras to be viewed or managed easily, which is particularly important for traffic management. When operators need to see the various views of an intersection either individually or with multiple views on a monitor, they can quickly switch cameras, zoom in for a closer look or play back video. The city can also create different groups of users with different permission levels, allowing certain users’ views to be restricted while providing others with a higher level of security that allows them to create their own views by selecting the cameras they wish to monitor.

Integrated Systems

One of the most prevalent trends today is the movement toward broader and deeper systems integration between previously disparate security and non-security systems and new technologies. Nearly every security device either features or will soon incorporate network communication capabilities, which facilitates deeper levels of integration between video, access control, call boxes, motion detection and more. These integrations can transform what may have started out as a video surveillance implementation into a more comprehensive endto- end solution thanks to a larger menu of available options.

By facilitating this high-level integration, open-platform VMS solutions are leading the way in this movement, providing the most effective tools for collecting video and other data from a greater number and wider variety of integrated systems. Increasingly, these solutions function as the main platform for integrated security systems, connecting and collecting, processing and analyzing this wealth of information to detect abnormal behaviors or incidents based on established policies and can alert pre-determined staff, such as law enforcement, to take action, if necessary.

For example, when integrated with access control systems, video analytics could detect someone entering municipal offices after hours, allowing the VMS to flag that event and alert appropriate persons. When reviewing incidents, the intelligence gleaned by correlating video and other data using the emerging science of predictive analysis allows municipalities to implement new policies and procedures to help identify and track a variety of incidents. This seamless integration between diverse systems enables video surveillance and security systems to shift functionality from simple detection and documentation toward prevention.

Moreover, as surveillance systems age, they often become more complex than they may have been when initially installed, as the technology associated with them continues to move at a rapid pace, further complicating municipal surveillance. Open-architecture solutions help ensure the system will continue to be efficient and effective now and into the future, allowing municipalities to continue to use their existing systems rather than undertaking costly upgrades and/ or replacements.

Reliability

The critical nature of security makes continuous system operation crucial for any application, but especially public safety. Leading VMS solutions offer both recorder server failover and management redundancy to ensure maximum system uptime. The most advanced solutions also offer camera failover protection that allows cameras to be switched to designated backups instantaneously if the connection to the primary camera is compromised to ensure municipalities never lose sight of critical areas.

Redundancy is another critical function of VMS. For instance, video servers might be installed at each location for on-site recording with video also transmitted to the central server for monitoring and recording. Many cameras are equipped with on-board storage capability that allows video to be continuously recorded even when there is no network connectivity to further ensure recorded video is available even if the connection to a particular camera is lost.

Flexibility

Municipalities often implement video surveillance to address immediate public safety concerns and other needs, but as the systems are used, they are often applied for other applications. Communities continually grow and expand; crime hot spots shift, surveillance needs and goals change. The security landscape is also constantly changing with new products and technologies coming to market. Additionally, in many cases, businesses within a city may elect to share video from their cameras with police departments to improve safety and speed up the investigation process, which means integrating those cameras into the municipal system.

Therefore, when deploying video solutions, municipalities must be forward-thinking. Scalable VMS offer an easy way to share and add cameras, alter coverage areas and expand systems as population, demographics and other factors change.

In light of these realities, municipalities need to select a VMS provider that offers open platform solutions so they have the flexibility and agility to quickly and easily expand and accommodate varying applications. This helps ensure that they get greater value out of their surveillance systems with the most up-to-date solutions possible. Wireless networks, for example, allow municipalities to quickly and easily deploy cameras in certain areas as needed. For example, if an event is taking place in town, video coverage can be temporarily increased around a specific location or venue to increase safety and security before, during and after the event.

Mobile

In addition to allowing cameras to transmit video from virtually any location, wireless capability can also serve as a force multiplier by enabling remote video access. This allows police officers, for instance, to perform regular patrols throughout the entire city rather than focusing on particular areas, such as those with high traffic or high crime rates, which can be “patrolled” by surveillance cameras. Should something occur in those areas, the VMS video surveillance system will alert them to a potential problem and can transmit video associated with the incident to their in-car computers or smartphones for improved situational awareness. At the same time, the video is also transmitted to the command center for recording and viewing images from that location.

Successful municipal surveillance system implementation requires a VMS solution to allow law enforcement officials to easily access video remotely. At the same time, high-resolution cameras can generate extremely large video files, which must be transmitted wirelessly. Video management systems are capable of compressing video files to manageable sizes to deliver real-time, full-motion video from multiple megapixel cameras to web and mobile users without compromising video quality. This allows live or recorded HD camera streams to be monitored, managed and controlled from virtually anywhere, even over 3G and 4G networks.

Network Security

More than ever, network security is a major concern for everyone. Video surveillance networks are no exception, as hackers can use virtually any networked device as a gateway to entire networks where sensitive data, video and other information may be stored. This is precisely why providers of advanced VMS solutions take network and video security very seriously, supporting full encryption between clients and servers and HTTPS between cameras and servers to ensure end-to-end encryption of all data. Additionally, some solutions are also capable of randomizing the recording database to prevent recorded information from being manipulated and reinserted by anyone, including the IT staff.

Beyond that, leading VMS providers also continuously develop and deliver updates, upgrades and patches to ensure the ongoing stability, performance and security of their solutions. In some cases, these are delivered and installed automatically, eliminating the time and expense of performing manual updates while ensuring municipalities are running the most recent, most secure version of their VMS.

Situational Awareness

As a result of tying video from surveillance systems installed in its public schools into the police department’s integration center, a major city in the Southeast United States has significantly increased safety and security at those schools. Made possible by VMS, these integrated systems provide the school system and police department with the benefit of an effective, efficient and cost-effective IP video system that provides police with real-time access to video feeds from more than 150 of the city’s public schools. These feeds can provide valuable situational awareness that allows police, fire and other emergency staff to better assess, prepare, respond and communicate prior to arriving at the scene of an incident.

Much of this process is automated thanks to the VMS solution, which generates an alert when a predetermined event triggers an alarm at one of the schools where video has been integrated. Officers in the central command center can access video from the school to view live and recorded video from cameras in the zone where the alarm was triggered. This allows them to assess the situation and determine what, if any, response may be needed. In an emergency, dispatchers can use video to continually deliver up-to-the-moment updates to first responders. This not only improves the effectiveness of the response but also ensures the safety of both first responders and those who are inside the school. The added ability to push live video to the department’s mobile command vehicle allows those in the field to control cameras to provide an even more powerful tool for mitigating situations as quickly as possible.

The challenges municipalities face in deploying widespread video surveillance solutions can be daunting, but they are hardly insurmountable thanks to the advanced capabilities of today’s leading-edge VMS solutions. By harnessing the power and functionality of these leading-edge solutions, municipalities can ensure the highest level of safety and security for the people, locations and assets located within their geographical area. The ability of these VMS solutions to expand the functionality of surveillance beyond security delivers even greater value, which is an especially attractive proposition that can allow video surveillance systems to be more easily justified within municipalities’ traditionally tight budgets.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.

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