When the City of Beverly Hills began searching for a way to enhance and expand its video surveillance program, officials turned to the latest networked Internet protocol (IP) camera and video management software system.
Former Mayor and Technology CEO Jimmy Delshad wanted an IP video surveillance system that would reflect Beverly Hills’ progressive ‘Smart City’ initiative. He saw IP video as a means to help the City achieve its goal of being the smartest, safest and most sustainable city in the country. Beverly Hills has a centralized IT Department headed up by Chief Information Officer David Schirmer and Assistant CIO Mark Hobson. The City has integrated its system with several municipal functions, including Fire, Police, Parks & Recreation and Public Works.
“The software has been great because we can manage it centrally and view it remotely,” Hobson says. “This has helped all City operations become more efficient.”
According to Schirmer, the City’s challenge was to incorporate a system that was reliable, flexible and scalable.
“We wanted an all-IP-based surveillance system that would support the best cameras on the market with the best image quality,” Schirmer says. The system is currently supporting high-end megapixel cameras and a series of legacy analog units as well.
Beverly Hills has a population of about 35,000 residents, but on any given day, “we host around 300,000 visitors and workers,” Hobson notes. This comes as no surprise for the most famous zip code in the country, where reliable surveillance is a must at such famous landmarks as Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. It is also no secret that Beverly Hills is home to several high-profile residents, from celebrities and foreign diplomats to very successful business executives. Along with such notable residents come nationally anticipated events, such as the Golden Globes™ award ceremony, which draws even more visitors to Beverly Hills.
As of June, the City had 45 cameras installed, aiming for 100 before the end of 2008. The California Retention Law requires that archived footage be stored for a minimum of 12 months. To aid in archiving and storage, the City is working with Mainline Information Systems.
Mainline is a Milestone Systems-certified integration partner that has been able to interact directly with the Beverly Hills technical staff. Timothy Conwell, video systems design engineer of Mainline Information Systems, Tallahassee, Fla., says the Milestone software was selected for the Beverly Hills project following a thorough review by the City and by the Mainline consulting team. The research that went into the project included industry trade shows and recommendations from camera product partners that Mainline works with directly.
“The video management software platform was chosen for its integration, flexibility, pricing structure and ease of use,” Conwell says.
Conwell’s expertise was invaluable as he mixed and matched connectivity on the network and throughout various points in the city. “We’re working with very advanced technology integration strategies, which include enterprise-level archive storage management by IBM, high-speed fixed broadband wireless and MAN deployment techniques,” he says.
The expertise of the integrator cannot be overstated. Conwell worked with a host of different types of connectivity — including fiber optics, broadband, point-to-point bridge connections, 6G wireless and 4.9MHz protected band — even working high above the city in a tower where he established mini-connections. He mixed in wireless links and Ethernet over powerline where necessary throughout the city’s hardscape.
He scaled areas high above the city to install cameras where pigeons usually roost and not installers, establishing a robust network connection on even atypical communication scenarios.
Video is transmitted to the city’s central data center, where all cameras can be monitored. Each of the system’s users have tailored access to the video via the software interface, but only at the data center are all camera views available to the police watch commander and staff.
Among the chief qualities of the system as it is being used in Beverly Hills, Conwell cites these features:
• Flexibility of scaling: The system has grown from a “proof of concept” design with a single server and a few cameras, to what will eventually include hundreds of cameras placed over the entire six square-mile area of Beverly Hills. The ability to scale to a multi-server distributed design and bring additional feature functions on-line over time is extremely helpful. A good example is the implementation of the Matrix service for the Police and Public Works departments. The system also has the ability to mix and match camera technology for the location and environment each camera covers.
• Lower total cost of ownership: With the unlimited server and unlimited user access per site license business model, the overall cost of the system is actually lower as it grows.
• Ease of use: Officials in Beverly Hills have been pleased with the feature-rich user interface and the ability to quickly learn the system. Mainline implemented a successful “train the trainer” approach with the help of its MIS division throughout the project process.
After working with the integrator, the City realized that it could use the system to monitor the progress of building projects and to ensure safety. The Fire Department also saw the benefits of the system and requested a camera to be placed on top of one of the Beverly Hills towers, to better see and manage a situation by remotely accessing the footage.
The City of Beverly Hills will soon embark on the next phase of the installation plan. Currently, officials are working on the back-end archiving features, but they plan to add up to 80 more cameras in a third phase. Hobson hopes to see more than 250 cameras installed when the project is complete. The city is also planning to integrate the software into the Beverly Hills school system and businesses throughout the community.
The Department of Homeland Security has recognized the City’s critical infrastructure as a part of the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and officials there are interested in using Beverly Hills as a prototype for larger cities. Leave it to 90210 to show the world what IP can do for them.
Fredrik Wallberg is the marketing program manager for Milestone Systems in Beaverton, Ore.