For the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, simply wanting a better camera system wasn't enough. They wanted a system they could build on, over an extended period of time, without replacing the existing infrastructure.
They found that system in the Vicon family of video products, and a relationship that began almost 10 years ago is still going strong.
Building a Better Airport
As part of an ongoing airport improvement project in the early 1990s, Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) embarked on a video expansion program that began with 16 cameras and has grown to more than 800 cameras today.
To do this, they called on a Minnesota security system integrator, Pro-Tec Design. "We were asked if we could provide services on their existing system of 16 cameras," recalls Tom Hagen, president of Pro-Tec Design. "The desired goal was to expand the camera security system throughout the airport facility into multiple buildings located at multiple locations throughout the 3300 acre site. They wanted to be able to expand camera security into those locations, yet have the ability to view any camera from multiple monitoring areas, regardless of where the camera was located."
"Another key requirement was to design and install a system that would permit quite a bit of expansion over time, with some assurance that each phase of expansion would build upon and preserve the investments made previously."
The airport had put together a team, consisting of representatives from the primary architectural firm, electrical engineering, airport police, airport facility development and an electrical contracting firm.
"We were offered the opportunity to bring in our recommendations," Hagen says. One of the performance tests was to set up live cameras to view outdoor activity at dusk. "We tested several different cameras. The selection team was viewing the camera pictures on a monitor inside one of the concourses. One particular camera produced an outstanding picture in the low-light conditions. The monitor view appeared to be from an earlier time of the day during normal daytime conditions. It was one of the Vicon cameras."
That was one reason they selected Vicon, Hagen recalls. Another was the design of the system using a concept of distributed architecture, which at the time was quite unique.
This design allowed airport personnel to accomplish one of their main goals, which was to be able to view a camera from any viewing location, even if the camera was on the opposite side of the airport.
Another benefit was the ability to assign priorities or "seize levels" to each camera.
"If we have one controller that is a higher priority, they would automatically take control of the camera over someone else who may be using it at the time," explains Tom Germundson, Security Consultant for the airport.
Expanding the System
Once the initial Vicon system was in place, the airport gradually added on, upgraded and incorporated new technologies as their needs changed.
One prime example of evolving technology was the migration from analog VCRs to digital video recorders (DVRs).
"Originally the recording was done on VCRs connected to 16-channel multiplexers," Hagen says. "Now that has all been migrated into a distributed, networked architecture of digital video recorders, using ViconNet software to view live and recorded video from cameras located throughout the facility. That has been a very important and useful improvement for people who use the system. It replaced a method of finding recorded video that was so cumbersome. The new system is much, much easier to use."
Beginning about two years ago, the airport migrated from the old VCRs to Vicon's newest DVR technology, the Kollector Elite. "The move to DVRs was the airport's most recent, significant upgrade," Germundson says. "We waited for the Elite so we could gain that technology," he says.