Hanwha Enhances Safety and Security for The Villages Retirement Community
The Morse family arrived in Florida from Michigan around 1982 and soon started a community called Orange Blossom Gardens. The Villages eventually grew to be one of the largest 55-and older active retirement communities in the U.S. Situated on 42+ square miles and is currently home to about 115,000 “Villagers” There are three uniquely themed downtown and commercial areas where residents can shop, dine and enjoy free live entertainment on The Villages squares each evening 365 days a year.
A unique feature of The Villages is the company also owns and operates a number of businesses, including banks, insurance companies, restaurants, retail shops, a TV station and a daily newspaper. By design, everything Villagers could possibly want or need is just a golf cart ride away.
Security has been a primary concern as The Villages grew. There are 93 gates controlling access within the community. All of these gates are monitored by video surveillance, with some gates also staffed for enhanced security.
Until recently, the video system at each gate consisted of six or seven analog cameras connected to a local DVR in either a guard shack or a lockbox at the gate. This localized storage resulted in 93 disparate surveillance systems. Someone had to go to a specific gate to either view or retrieve video, which may or may not be helpful in an investigation due to the poor quality of images captured by the analog cameras.
Another challenge The Villages faced with video surveillance was the need to enhance security at its three town squares, retail stores, restaurants and The Villages Charter School, which educates 3,200 children and is recognized as one of the most successful Charter Schools in Florida.
“There were so many disparate camera systems throughout the community and its businesses that it caused inconsistent results with no central video storage or viewing, so the main objective with our new installations was to have a cohesive, reliable and centralized video surveillance system,” says Chad Ritch, Director of Network Engineering for The Villages Technology Solutions Group. Ritch oversees the communication and network security operations for The Villages. . The group also contracts to provide services to many of the on-property businesses that are not owned by The Villages as well as other local area businesses.
The Villages investigated its options for a higher-quality system in an effort to rectify what was an unnecessarily complex situation and improve the quality and management of the video surveillance systems. After evaluating solutions from a number of manufacturers, Ritch and his team chose cameras from Hanwha Techwin America for deployment throughout the property. In all, 814 Hanwha cameras have been deployed in a phased roll-out to monitor gates, village squares, businesses and the school system. The most-deployed model is the SNV-6084R Vandal-Resistant Network IR Dome Camera for outdoor use, which feature the most advanced functions from Hanwha, including 100 dB Wide Dynamic Range and built-in IR LEDs that create clear images in the darkest conditions. The Villages widely deployed the SNF-7010V 3 Megapixel Fisheye Camera with ultra-wide 360° view for covering large areas while minimizing blind spots. For closing in on objects within a scene without losing detail, The Villages installed SNZ-6320 2 Megapixel 32x Network Zoom Cameras and SNZ-5200 1.3 Megapixel 20x Zoom Network Cameras.
In addition to being the customer on this particular project, The Villages was also the systems integrator through The Villages Technology Solutions Group, which is a Gold Hanwha systems integrator. Beyond the excellent image quality and remote viewing capabilities, Ritch says the ease of configuration and deployment using WiseNet Device Manager was a key factor that set the Hanwha cameras apart from others that were evaluated.
“With more than 800 cameras to manage, the ability to easily configure cameras with WiseNet Device Manager allowed us to maximize our programming capabilities to streamline the overall deployment,” Ritch says.
The overall project entailed extending an existing fiber infrastructure to connect each camera, including those positioned at gates, to a common network for centralized recording. Today, rather than having 93 self-contained different systems spread across 40 square miles, The Villages has a single, unified surveillance system that centralizes recording on servers located in one of the three data centers within the property.
The seven campuses of The Villages Charter School are now monitored by 297 Hanwha cameras using centralized storage and the OnSSI Ocularis video management system (VMS). This allows any administrator from any school and local police to view any of the cameras at any time through a desktop or remote application.
“In addition to centralizing storage, the new system allows our Villages Public Safety Organization to view video from a single room to monitor and manage all of the gates for issues 24 hours a day,” Ritch says.
With so many cameras continuously recording video back to data centers, bandwidth is an important factor for The Villages. Utilizing H.264 and H.265 compression technologies along with Hanwha’s WiseStream II, a complementary compression technology, has alleviated any potential concerns. WiseStream dynamically controls encoding to balance quality and compression according to motion within the video. When combined with H.265, WiseStream can improve bandwidth efficiency by up to 75 percent compared to current H.264 technology.
Whenever there may be an incident within The Villages, one of the first things law enforcement will do is review footage from a particular gate to gather license plate information to aid in an investigation. This functionality, which was essentially nonexistent with the previous video system, often requires specialized, purpose-built license plate recognition cameras. However, that was not the case with the new Hanwha cameras.
“One of the great things with the Hanwha cameras is that they have allowed us to pick up vehicle tags using onboard analytics without the use of expensive dedicated ALPR cameras, which saved us significant costs up front,” Ritch says.
In addition to the overall system deployed throughout The Villages, Ritch and his team have also served as systems integrators for several of the non-Villages-owned businesses on the property, where they have also installed Hanwha network video recorders (NVR) and cameras.
At present, The Villages uses camera side motion detection and defocus detection analytics embedded in the Hanwha cameras. Looking ahead, Ritch says they plan to take fuller advantage of the cameras’ built-in intelligence, as well as Hanwha’s new Wisenet extraLUX Low-Light cameras, which provide color night vision.