IP Case in Point: Scaling Surveillance with Network Video

When a Texas school district needed surveillance, networked video fit the bill

Cameras were placed in hallways, at every perimeter door, in the cafeteria and gymnasium, and on the exterior walls of the campus buildings to provide coverage of the campus grounds and outside walls, as well as views of the parking lots. Privacy was considered, and no cameras were placed in bathrooms, changing areas, or within classrooms. The intent was not to monitor students all day, but rather to troubleshoot and provide support to campus and district administration, as well as district police in the case of an incident.

Staff access controls became more effective when used in conjunction with the network-based video surveillance system. Cameras were programmed to record whenever staff used a proximity badge to access the building outside of normal school hours. Some cameras were activated by motion detectors enabling police at the central monitoring station to view and respond to situations at a moment's notice. In addition, the monitoring functions were laid out on a view of the floor plan so security staff had the ability to see exactly where a camera was recording video from and thus providing a more effective response to an incident.

The pilot system was installed at John Jay High School in August 2005. A 60-day operational test was implemented immediately after the installation, allowing officials to make necessary tweaks to the system while updating school policies and procedures before the start of the school year.

Scale to Success

The pilot system at John Jay High School was easily duplicated because the staff took the time to develop a design guide for the deployment, and the technology itself used to support the system infrastructure. The cameras were connected to campus servers by Ethernet cabling, allowing all camera feeds to be monitored from virtually any location on the network. The Northside Independent School District took full advantage of the network, and created nearly identical network video systems in 10 of its high schools within the course of one year. Using the existing infrastructure was an added advantage for the technical services team as they were already familiar with the inner workings of the system.

Cabling the facilities to provide power and an Ethernet connection for each camera took the longest amount of time. The installation team took advantage of spring breaks and after-hours to complete the work. Once one school had been cabled, it would take one to two weeks to install all the network cameras on the campus. Because each school followed the same design criteria and camera locations were planned well in advance, the process was quick and consistent throughout the school district. While Power-over-Ethernet (POE) cameras are available, they were not used in this installation. Future school installations and system updates will utilize POE camera solutions, reducing the amount of cabling and time per installation.

With more than 1,000 Axis network cameras and 20 servers for video management being installed, a network-based system was clearly the most convenient option for an expansion of this size. The total solution, including equipment, video management software, Open Options central monitoring software, and installation were all provided by LenSec.

The Right Choice

An installation of this size is not possible within the same timeframe and budget if the District installed an analog system. Network video systems are far more flexible than analog systems in terms of camera capacity, server capability, expansion and growth.

For example, with analog CCTV systems, digital video recorder systems (DVRs) used to digitize video dictate, to some extent, how many cameras can be used. DVRs are typically equipped with four, nine or 16 camera inputs, meaning an additional camera beyond the specified inputs requires an additional DVR. On the otherhand, network video systems work independently of DVRs through PC servers, so there are not the same constraints.

Servers can easily accommodate any number of cameras depending on the image quality required for the system. For example, 300 cameras can be managed by one server if two frames-per-second (fps) is considered adequate. In the case of the Northside School District, each server accommodated 60-65 cameras with one frame-per-second archived on the server. Because the district installed a network video system, they were not bound by the available number of camera inputs and could purchase and install network cameras regardless of the number of available ports.