Networking video at Super Bowl XLII

Phoenix's PD throws a Hail Mary surveillance pass for a security touchdown


Last month, on Feb. 3, 2008, football fans from around the world descended upon Phoenix, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLII. It was a massive draw in terms of football events, pitting the then-undefeated New England Patriots against the New York Giants. When it came down to the wire, the Giants edged out the "Pats" 17-14 in a tough victory.

The Super Bowl has become much more than a few-hour game. Football fever grips much of the nation, as fans pack stadiums around the country for months to watch their favorite teams go head to head and helmet to helmet. Nowhere is it more apparent that football is more than a game than at the Super Bowl, which is part party, part vacation, part sports industry "who's who" event. Even two weeks before the main event, thousands of people pack into the town (in this case, the Phoenix metro area), and with the high volume of people, the Super Bowl becomes a security concern. Of concern could be anything from rowdy party-goers to even an unthinkable terrorist act.

At the center of that for the 2008 game was the Phoenix Police Department, which had to ensure that the town enjoyed all of the festivities and little of the trouble.

As part of its preparation for this unique event, the city undertook a significant project of adding video surveillance, especially around the downtown areas where the NFL had set up shop to host the numerous accompanying events.

According to Chris Jensen, a detective in the Phoenix Police Department's surveillance unit, the police set up a 40-plus camera surveillance system themselves. The members of the surveillance unit even operated as specifying engineers, integrators, and even product designers to some extent. Looking back on it, says Jensen, he can see that it was pretty unique.

"At the time, we didn't think what we were doing was particularly unique," admitted Jensen. "But talking to other police departments, it's apparently really rare to have tech staff and bucket trucks and be able to do complex integrations yourself."

What was unique about the Phoenix P.D. surveillance unit's approach is that they have adopted a mobile mindset. After all, said Jensen, crime doesn't come to the police, so the police have to go to the crimes. They created unique camera enclosure units that included Sony's SNC-RZ50N cameras - network PTZ cameras in Sony's IPELA line that Sony's Marketing Manager Miguel Lazatin says work well in low-lux environments and also have the zoom capabilities to read a license plate up to 300 yards away. Phoenix outsourced the units' construction to IPVision, an interesting Arizona firm that is part manufacturer/part systems integrator. The company started as an information systems VAR before getting into network video back in 2003 with a single shopping center surveillance project.

IPVision's Ben Green, V.P. of business development, worked with Jensen's team to get the specs right and create a workable solution. What they came up with were units that integrated the Sony PTZ network cameras and Firetide's wireless MESH nodes to connect the cameras back to command centers. In some cases, an NVR for local storage was used. At the same time, the design had to withstand the scorching heat of Arizona's summers, since the units would be used long after the hoopla of the Super Bowl had left town in February. That, said Green, led to the recommendation of the Sony units, which the company had already found were able to deal surprisingly well with the heat. Fans, and lots of them, were also part of the enclosure design to beat the Arizona heat.

Complementing the camera systems was the ability to push the video over mesh links some 3 to 4 miles. It made the video accessible to two command centers and even a mobile SWAT command truck, had the need arisen.

That mesh design gave Jensen's team the ability to position the units almost anywhere they wanted, and to move them at a moment's notice via the department's bucket trucks. That "mobile" mindset was not a new theory, explained Jensen. The department had previously done temporary municipal surveillance installations to focus on problematic crime and drug-ridden areas.

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