Collaboration Gets the MBTA into Security's Fast Lane

The history of mass transportation around the Boston and eastern Massachusetts area goes back more than four centuries. They lay claim to the first working subway system in the North America and one of the earliest motorized bus transit authorities in the...


Baker says that cameras like those from Samsung and others were chosen based on picture quality, price point and their tight integration with the Geutebruck VMS platform. These cameras with the selected Geutebruck VMS allow them to tightly manage and throttle camera output during low interest scenes, aiding in efficient network utilization and storage, along with motion detection alarms.

“Our biggest problem when we got here was when we found out we were tied to a single technology provider for our video system – and there was no access control. If we simply wanted to add a string of DVRs, it took a lot of development money, plus we had to get on their roadmap to fit their development schedule. We had absolutely no leverage,” says Clarke, realizing he and his team never wanted to be held hostage by technology vendors again. “Obviously our plan was to move to an IP platform using Samsung and Axis cameras from the start. We also wanted to make sure it was us and not the technology providers or integrators that had leverage when it came to project management. But the most important step for us was to get a PSIM in place.”

The team realized that if they were to follow the migration plan of transitioning from existing video technology to IP, an integrated PSIM and VMS solution that helped users ramp up their technology knowledge was mandatory.

“Putting a PSIM overlay platform onto the system was really the only way to make this happen. Having been a manager and a user of systems, you know that you just don’t put up a solution as complicated as a PSIM and expect it to keep running all the time. We needed to determine how to get resources behind it and keep the system realtime. Once we become more reliant on this system, the more critical it will be.” Baker says. “This has come to a head now as we go virtual with all our servers. We built out an independent security network from scratch with our own private fiber optic infrastructure to run all these signals back to the command center.”

Baker adds this had to be done since they knew as they expanded to thousands of new IP-based cameras; the current network wouldn’t have been able to handle the capacity. He also maintains that the system needed to be sustainable and couldn’t rely on old technology.

Now as the MBTA security and emergency management team begin to future-proof their system, there are some key elements being addressed. They plan to move heavily into analytics, which is currently in a pilot program with BRS Labs. It will handle everything from fare evasion to tunnel security.

“Resiliency and redundancy are the keys for ensuring our success. We have to maintain up time and availability of all systems. These systems must continue to function through power outages and network events,” continues Baker, who adds that as they moved forward with the initial systems, the manufacturer-recommended redundancy platforms lacked mature enough solutions to meet his standards. ”It was actually a bit of a failure point, so we worked towards virtualizing our servers using standard virtualization platforms. This offered us the greatest redundancy and resiliency possible for all of our systems and also provided centralized systems diagnostics to give us the ability to better monitor the health of our systems. It might be the biggest step we will take in the next five years.”

Clarke says his goal is to receive more granular and real-time information from all their edge devices and provide a more holistic way to monitor the overall system.

Clarke and Baker demonstrate that a true collaborative effort among users, technology vendors and systems integrators can allow for a fast-tracked solution that produces successful results and unlimited potential.