To the Clouds: Video Surveillance Gets City Nod

hosted video surveillance for Iowa City


The Downtown Association of Iowa City (DTA) partnered with Nate Van Der Weide, director and Patrick Gordon, president of PhySecure, a local systems integrator they tapped to help them protect their downtown area of six linear blocks and roughly 30 businesses. The area houses restaurants, boutiques, has a plaza with park benches, a children’s play structure and a stage for weekend entertainment. The area’s mixed-use district by day brings out business folks for lunch and families to shop and play and by evening offers fine dining for urban dwellers and suburban visitors who are looking to unwind and enjoy the evening.

At the corner of the downtown plaza sits the University of Iowa. So the area also is used by students, young people from the inner city and those from outlying areas who come to town to meet up and have fun. As so often happens in these areas nowadays there is some inebriation, petty crimes, wall tagging and minor drug use and occasionally a fight breaks out. But when a young woman was assaulted, the Downtown Association felt they needed to develop a plan to safeguard their citizens and to minimize nuisance behavior.

The DTA partnered with the university as both were stakeholders in the game. They agreed that video was the right tool to deter the behavior and to document offenses. They also wanted to be able to share these videos with the campus and city police for prosecution when needed. The group reached out to different service providers for ideas and bids on how to implement a system. They received various bids from different integrators for laying fiber to setting up wireless mesh networks, networking the cameras together on a single video management software solution along with the storage tools needed to save and share the videos.

The solutions varied in price with some coming in at a few hundred thousand dollars. But the group simply didn’t have the money for these sorts of systems as they’re all small businesses. What they really wanted was an affordable solution that they could test to see if it would even work and how it would work.

 

Businesses use existing ISPs/clouds

PhySecure offered them something totally different; a pilot project using each business’ own Internet Service Providers (ISPs) so there was no network expense. They used Axis self-addressable high-definition cameras to provide excellent image quality. PhySecure ran these cameras on Secure-i’s hosted video software platform which allows the stakeholders to access the videos through PhySecure’s Web site. Nine separate cameras (facing risk areas) were placed outside business buildings around the plaza. Each camera is configured to tunnel through the businesses firewalls and stream to a remote data center. Because the video is hosted (stored in the cloud) it seamlessly brings all the video images together—tying the nine independent networks into one easy-to-use browser interface. Every user authorized to access the system is given a secure login by PhySecure and only those with access can see the images in real time or stored on PhySecure’s Web site portal. The cameras have H.264 compression technology so that the large video files they produce can be reduced to a manageable and transferable size. The files can be accessed by a time, date, so they’re easy to find. For some of the cameras, video footage is also stored at the edge (on a Network Attached Storage box) as well as in the cloud. NAS devices allow images to continue to stream even if there is an ISP failure. Images can be uploaded to the cloud network as soon as the power is restored. For additional security, Secure-i’s platform enables PhySecure to stream video camera data at a high level of encryption, so customers can be confident that their video streams remain secure.

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