University Security

An IP-centric approach has helped guide the University of Miami’s move to advanced, centralized video surveillance

Founded in 1925, The University of Miami is well-known for its academic excellence and its highly successful sports teams. Led by President Donna E. Shalala, the university is comprised of 12 schools and colleges serving more than 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs.

Like all institutions of higher learning, there exists a tension between maintaining an open learning environment while at the same time taking concerted action to ensure the safety of students, staff and visitors to the university’s main campus of more than 225 acres.
At the core of the university’s security strategy is video surveillance, and the university has maintained such surveillance for a number of years. But as Jose Ruano, Executive Director of IT Security, explains, “Our challenge is that a university, by its nature, is very de-centralized — with many different independent departments. In 2006, we found ourselves with so many different legacy analog systems of various sizes, all separate from another, managed by different departments. We were looking to bring it all together into one system that we could manage in a unified way.”

University of Miami Campus Police are responsible for monitoring video and investigating incidents, but as Ruano points out, this was made difficult by the disparate and non-integrated systems with DVRs spread out all over the campus.

“You might have an incident happen in one part of campus — a bike stolen for example,” Ruano says. “To then investigate where that person came from and where the bike went could have involved trying to get video footage from five separate systems that recorded video as the incident unfolded across campus. This was very inefficient and often did not result in a successful investigation.”

Moving to Centralized IP Video

In order to integrate all the different video surveillance systems into a single unified solution, Ruano and colleague Steve Weatherly, Senior Security Engineer, knew the university needed to upgrade to IP. “It was much more economical to upgrade our cameras and run them over the existing IP network than it was to lay a lot of coax,” Weatherly says.

Weatherly and Ruano conducted extensive research into potential technologies, and they identified a number of companies they wanted to visit at the ISC West security tradeshow in 2006. “When I first saw a demo of megapixel camera technology, I was blown away at the quality compared to analog,” Weatherly recalls.

After completing their research and comparing live demonstrations, UM’s security team settled on IQinVision HD megapixel IP cameras. In addition to selecting IQeye cameras, the university chose the NetDVMS video management software from OnSSI.

Installing and Fine-Tuning

To date, there are 424 surveillance cameras on the centralized network, managed by the OnSSI system. 90 percent of the cameras are from IQinVision and range from standard resolution VGA up to 5 MP cameras, installed where forensic-quality images are essential.

Unlike many installations of this size and complexity, the university’s IT Security department does its own installation and maintenance work. They do not have an integrator, all the work is done by university staff. “Most of our staff are engineers,” Weatherly says, “so we had the initial skill sets and now we are further developing this expertise in-house.”

In fact, four IT Security technical staff have attended “IQU,” IQinVision’s training and certification program. IT Security staff work closely on a regular basis with Campus Police to select each camera for a location and specific camera placement to achieve the field of view goals for that camera or set of cameras.

Prior to upgrading video surveillance and increasing the number of cameras installed, Campus Police conducted an analysis to identify the campus’s high-crime areas. Cameras were then installed to address pressing needs at the locations identified in the study. The police update the crime study annually so IT Security staff can continually tweak the system to meet changing needs and address where video surveillance is most needed over time.

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