Success Story: IT Takes on Campus Surveillance

Spread across 200 acres with dozens of buildings and thousands of students, Western Kentucky University, located in Bowling Green, Ky., is like a small city. The university has numerous departments, each with a unique set of requirements for video surveillance. Meanwhile, a single, small team in the IT division must plan, deploy and manage them all.

This is one of the reasons that the university IT division’s network team has implemented Milestone Systems’ open platform video management software, XProtect Corporate. The flexibility of the open platform makes it easy for a small team with limited resources to deploy and maintain a system that is tailored to each department’s needs.

With more than 21,000 students and 3,400 employees, WKU’s main campus covers approximately 200 acres with dozens of buildings. The university also has several smaller satellite campuses. Like a city, WKU has a vast infrastructure, which includes a heating plant, health services, road system and police force.

Several years ago, the IT division decided to deploy and manage its own video surveillance system. The project started out as a single-target solution — IP video surveillance for the IT division — and they assigned the management of the new system to the IT division’s Network Team. A few years after the initial deployment, they decided to scale the solution to support other departments. With roughly 300 IP video cameras around the campus, the solution has grown to be used by nearly 20 different departments, with several new projects in the works.


IT Takes on the Integrator’s Role

Today, the network team acts like a third-party integrator. “We’re essentially providing a hosted, managed service for the groups within the university,” says Jeppie Sumpter, Lead Network Engineer. “It is all taking place under a unified system where we can keep things separate where they should be.”

When a department expresses a need for video surveillance, the network team meets with them to discuss their objectives and possible solutions. They recommend the best overall solution, taking into account the full spectrum of the situation.

“We have developed a mobile field survey kit that allows us to capture images, showing the client exactly what they would see with the finished product, including the viewing angles, matching resolution, etc.” Sumpter explains.

Once the department is ready to proceed, the network team implements the solution, placing cameras, configuring the server and storage back-end, and setting up the user permissions. “We want our client to be able to use the system and not worry about all the things that go into maintaining it,” Sumpter says. “We make sure the solution works for them and continues to be reliable.” Sumpter adds that the software is so intuitive that many new users could get started without any training.

Sumpter’s IT team handles the video surveillance projects end-to-end in-house, leveraging existing IT division functions. “The software allows us to focus on the design work and fieldwork, which is especially important given our limited resources,” Sumpter says. “We can focus on our services and support our clients without worrying about having to babysit the software.”

The back-end pieces in use are common off-the-shelf hardware, using direct attached storage for each recording server. For now, they have one recording server configured for failover purposes. If one of the main recording servers fails, the backup server automatically takes over.

Sumpter cites the central management application as a key feature for allowing such a small team to manage a large video surveillance deployment.

The software also allows the team to easily organize users and departments into different groups and profiles, each with potentially unique permissions. A user can be assigned access to a very specific set of cameras, and they do not have to be aware of the other users and cameras.

The software leverages Active Directory, allowing the roles to rely on user credentials that have already been created. “It’s extremely easy to organize these roles,” Sumpter says. “We don’t have to create and maintain users because they are already in our Active Directory implementation and it all ties together very efficiently.”


More Users Means Expanded Uses

As the network team rolls out more IP surveillance solutions, they continue to see departments finding different ways to leverage the system. The campus police department, for example, has added a range of automated features to the recording that helps to provide better campus safety.

The system has been integrated with campus emergency phones, so that when one is activated, the live camera feeds for that location are automatically displayed on the supplier’s “Smart Wall” monitoring area. In testing facilities, on the other hand, the system is used for proctoring tests. A proctor can leave the room and use the cameras to monitor in real time. Or, if there is any indication that a student may have cheated, the proctor can analyze the video to assist in resolving it.

Most importantly, as WKU continues to find new uses to expand and grow its surveillance system, Sumpter and his team have been able to meet all these needs without slowing down, he says.