3 ‘Must-Knows’ about City Video Projects

In my role as conference director for Secured Cities, I’ve seen some municipal video projects become real struggles, and I wanted to share some insights to help make these projects easier on you. Here are three points to understand before jumping in.

This is a long sales process: If you think you’re going to simply put in a bid and start hanging cameras next month, think again. Working with municipalities means a lengthy specifications process, a nuanced bid process, relationship building and then a phased installation. Funding is the lynch pin for these major municipal video undertakings and has changed in recent years, especially as UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) dollars have been restricted. A project that looks like a green light may require extensive revisions to stay in line with changing funding since it often takes years for projects to go from idea to reality. Don’t be surprised if an RFP is rewritten mid-way through the process to accommodate technology advancements, funding restrictions, or even a changed spec because a new IT manager or city representative has come aboard. It takes real commitment from both your integration firm and the city itself to make these major projects happen, and it means going through a lot of hoops, so plan accordingly.

It’s all about the 3 P’s: Remember the first seven or eight years after 9/11 when the urban security market was flush with homeland security cash and every police and fire department was getting new vehicles and apparatuses? Those days are over. Smart cities didn’t solely rely on major DHS grants to fund their projects. Instead, they made some of the investment themselves, but they also partnered with private organizations and businesses. The 3 P’s stands for “public private partnerships,” and the models for partnerships vary city to city. Some of the 3P models include:

Urban business organization funds cameras and signaling cost, city handles monitoring and response

Downtown improvement districts levy a special fee which is then provided to law enforcement to fund all equipment, maintenance and monitoring

Urban improvement organization creates a private security force and funds and monitors its own cameras, and then feeds dispatch information right to police

City establishes a monitoring center and offers video monitoring to businesses in its district for a fee, thus allowing the city to subsidize the costs for its own video network

Private businesses sign memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and provide signal transmission to allow for their external facing video cameras to be accessed by police

There are more models than these, but typically they are variations on these themes. Why does this matter? The reality is that if you’re a well-connected integrator, part of your sales process may involve proposing creative funding.

Bring the stakeholders together: When you work with these cities, you’ll initially hear that every entity (schools, police department, housing authority, port, transit, etc.) wants their own system. What they realize is that means they have to fund it themselves, so they call their friends in other city departments and after forming a working group, create multi-stakeholder partnerships to share costs and avoid installing redundant equipment. If you’re proposing a new project (and not just answering an existing RFP), you need to be part of that relationship building. The downside is more work for your business development team, but the upside is that you become indispensable to the success of the project.

Good luck with your urban security projects, and join us at the Secured Cities conferences (April 19-20 in Chicago and Oct. 10-11 in Philadelphia)—www.SecuredCities.com.