Getting The Most
Advanced VMS helps protect the city
- By Ken LaMarca
- Apr 01, 2017
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.
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
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.