Special Report: Cities & Municipalities--Clicking on the Civic Level

May 10, 2013
Advising and consulting brings business to integrators

Cities and towns, no matter their size or location, can play host to criminal activity. Today, no city or municipality is free from random acts of crime, terrorism, vandalism, theft or even killings. The good news is that increasingly, these entities are looking at technology to become more proactive in preventing these crimes, rather than just reacting after the fact.

No area of the country is safe, although there are some cities that top the list in crime. But the recent Boston Marathon bombing is proof positive that terrorism or other heinous acts and shootings can take place anytime, anywhere. No one is safe.

For systems integrators across the country, monies have been tight but far from non-existent. And while the effects of the recent automatic Federal budget cuts, known as the sequester or sequestration, have yet to have been felt, cities, towns and municipalities are caution about their spending and more often opting for minor upgrades to existing security or beefing up video surveillance where necessary.

The state of the market

In fiscal year 2012, 42 states had budget shortfalls totaling $103 billion and a shortfall totaling $54 billion across the states was forecast for fiscal year 2013, according to the National Council for Public Private Partnerships. In addition, the NCPPP reported that in an effort to close these gaps, some 46 states have cut services and some 30 have raised taxes. In addition, according to the National League of Cities, in 2011, 60 percent of cities said they had delayed or canceled capital projects that year due to fiscal conditions.

While these statistics may raise doom and gloom, for the most part the contracting environment has been fairly active and consistent. For alarm dealers and systems integrators the approach more often has been a consultative process where they lend expertise today to become a trusted advisor, with the hopes that when the monies do become available they will be the go-to contractor. In addition, when integrators can show added value to systems, such as accountability, human resources functions, liability prevention and more, and the more they can work with IT departments, the greater their chances of getting work even among these ongoing budget crunches.

Working with the SafeSmallTowns.com initiative of AllThingsIT, located in Indianapolis, the concept of an integrated wireless civic surveillance system based on the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system was approved by Pittsboro's town council. Pittsboro is located in Indiana. "After a demonstration of the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system, the Pittsboro Police Department quickly realized that no other vendor could offer the quality and manageability that Avigilon does," said Andrew Thomas, president at AllThingsIT. AllThingsIT goes the extra mile, providing a consulting solution and educating clients as a critical philosophy of the company. "We provide video surveillance for small towns, municipalities and police departments in and around Indiana, he said.  The system also uses a Proxim wireless backhaul radio system and antennas to extend its reach and police have access to video streams in cruisers and on mobile devices.

Thomas said he believes the bid process for security video surveillance cameras is broken and that performance-based work statements are the future of client/vendor relationships (see related story on these pages). "We have a process for ensuring the security solution you seek is solvable before any security equipment is installed and we believe that the use of this process eliminates the need for bids by creating an open, transparent comparison between vendors."

AllThingsIT, which has been in business for some 20 years and has ranked as a top Indianapolis business, has experience that runs deep in managing digital surveillance cameras and IT network infrastructures. It also believes in transparent public video surveillance—and that this approach helps in preventing crime as well.

"The real value of any technological and infrastructure upgrade includes the functionality it adds, the functions it improves and the cohesiveness with which it integrates into existing systems and expectations," he said.

Pittsboro, Ind., is a community located in Middle Township, Hendricks County, approximately 20 miles northwest of Indianapolis. With a 2010 population of 3,743, the city has grown 68 percent plus over the past 10 years. To support this growth, they needed surveillance of critical intersections and infrastructures to protect the city from incidents of vandalism, evidence of unauthorized access and other threats to valuable assets.

With the help of AllThingsIT, the Pittsboro spent over six months learning about their video surveillance options. Pittsboro was able to produce a requirements document, not based on technical specifications, but based on our expected use, needs, and most importantly the quality of video needed to provide the highest levels of protection and investigational evidence for the town, said Scott King, Assistant Police Chief, Pittsboro.

Adding value to video is a compelling value proposition for cities and municipalities who have money to spend. For example, in Pittsboro, the video surveillance solution helps the police department leverage more fully its staff, accomplish more with less and also provides connectivity to wireless dashboard cameras in police cruisers. It is also used in the parks areas to monitor pools, lakes and chemical storage facilities and catch vandals. For the streets departments, it is used to watch supply storage, monitor fleet vehicles and review tool and equipment status and usage.

"We always go all in with our customers and do the best or won't do it at all," said Thomas. Part of the work the company provides is providing a technology plan that allows them to migrate to new technologies at their speed. But lending a helping hand is also part of the criteria of the company's philosophy. For example, with Pittsboro, we have the system in place (Avigilon) that allows them to accurately predict bandwidth and storage. We are not guessing. We have mathematical equations in place and yes, that's been the hard part. But it's nice to see some predictability in the IP video world. We're trying to educate our customers—and give them attainable options with their surveillance. We ask them what image quality is acceptable to them based on pixels per foot or on target. We help our customers define the results. And we show them the value. For example, with video surveillance, they won't have a $5,000 cleanup bill for vandalism or grafitti. Or if they do have graffiti prosecutions, they can be successful with video quality," Thomas added.

New value to solutions

Some companies are showing additional value in systems with out of the box, unique specifications. For example, Heath Gaffney, a MOBOTIX/Pivot3 integrator in Nashua, N.H., and president at IMSYS Corp., ordinary doesn't apply to his contracting capabilities—and that's what his customers like. For example, Gaffney recently contracted for ongoing work at the Bergen County Sheriff's office in Bergen County, N.J. At the municipality, his team designed the software that tracks officers and judges with active RFID technologies. Called IPAS Secure, the software solution allows the RFID equipment to not only monitors persons in the courthouse area, but also is incorporated into access control and allows for a live video feed once the panic or duress button is activated. "In the control center, it provides opening and closing of mantraps or ‘Sally' ports and provides instant notification of any activities," said Gaffney.

The IMSYS Presence Awareness System is a real time tracking and access control solution also available from the firm. IPAS Secure is designed to provide real time visibility of people and assets and to enable automated data collection of asset information, including location. The configurable software application uses active RFID tags and readers to track the location of people and assets throughout secure facilities. Combined with industry standard access control, e.g. HID Global, IPAS Secure gives customers the ability to monitor and manage facilities and key business processes. IPAS Secure will locate and record the movements of people, assets and shipments anywhere with a reader network and record the movement of ‘tags' in predefined areas and govern those movements with a system of rules.

Another solution from the company is IPAS VMS, which offers a comprehensive suite of products in its enterprise class IP Video Surveillance Solution and uses map and floor plan based navigation to view live and recorded video from anywhere on the Internet, network or smartphone.

"IMSYS software solutions provide real ongoing cost savings by applying proven technology products and methodology to real world operations. Doing more with less and improving the bottom line by eliminating errors and the duplication of effort is the goal that can be achieved," Gaffney said.

"Initially, we only did the active RFID for the Sheriff's department and then migrated to the IPass video management system. We provide a high level of integration and we are the smarts and parts for these solutions," Gaffney said. Gaffney said the company focuses on its core strengths, integration and software solution, and brings in other integrators as strategic partners. "This is the smart way to do business," he said. "Our goal is to provide our customers with more awareness of their environment and give them the tools to make it safer and more effective," he said.

For Stanley Security Solutions Inc., city and municipal customers seem to be spending but are cautious of upcoming potential ongoing budget cuts from sequestering, because it hasn't fully taken effect, said Ross Gaisor, senior security advisor—local/city/state government, Fremont, Calif., and Paul Retzbach PMP, PSP and vice president-Government, Washington, D.C.

PSIM brings it all together

"Cities and municipalities are definitely looking at doing more with less and looking for lower total cost of ownership," said Ross Gaisor. "They are also looking for scalable solutions that they can move into in the future," he said. He added that the state of California is anticipating a loss of $600 million with anticipated budget cuts.

"It's a real concern locally—because we haven't seen the full effects yet," he said.

Paul Retzbach said that for city and municipality customers, solutions that integrate systems such as PSIM are ever-more in focus, as it allows these entities to do more with less. "PSIM brings information together in one area and one system for these users. Instead of having to be trained in four different systems, they have one solution. We are seeing a lot of security departments moving to a single network for video surveillance as well," he said.

Gaisor added that for cities and municipalities, the allure and benefits of PSIM are real and attainable. "They currently have many different platforms and various solutions and they have found that they can take advantage of it with PSIM and it's an economical way to protect their existing investment." Stanley Security Solutions has deployed the Stanley Commander PSIM Solution at the Riverside, Calif., Public Utilities Facility and Operations Center with positive results, allowing personnel to quickly and effectively respond to system alerts and automatically call up cameras and pull up lights and also help them make decisions on the best work flow process.

"Riverside Public Utilities' new security system is extremely valuable to our organization," said Deputy General Manager Steve Badgett.  "The highest level of security for our employees and our facilities have become a necessity for our industry; and Riverside wants to be sure it is protecting its assets with the best resources available today." Baker Electric Inc., a full service electrical contracting firm based in San Diego,was the prime contractor on the project.

"Being a trusted advisor to municipalities and cities and helping them reduce their total cost of ownership is what's needed," said Retzbach. "They need to be able to work their solutions to meet increasing demand and I don't believe the sequester effects have been fully realized yet." Gaisor added: "cities are shifting from a physical security mindset to IT and IP increasingly."

Budget cuts or not, Wilt Corban, regional vice president, Security for GC&E Systems Group, based in Norcross, Ga., said the company is seeing additional activity for city and municipal projects. "It used to be sporadic, but even with the budget cuts we are seeing a constant flow of activity regarding specifications for local city government. "Every news channel leads with crime reports and the more we see these more security is pushed to the forefront," said Corban. Corban said that some cities and municipalities seem to be pulling money from other areas, especially to add surveillance cameras to critical areas. "Most of the solutions they are seeking seem to be primarily video," he said. GC&E Systems Group is headquartered in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area with affiliated companies strategically located throughout the U.S. The company offers three areas of expertise, Security, Communications and Electrical services for all types of commercial, industrial and military projects.

The majority of the installations the companies are doing, especially in the municipal area, are IP video—in fact, GC&E will only install IP. "Very few are going to use analog, but with some we have to educate them on the benefits of IP video. Because there are so many brands of IP cameras we have to go over the whole process with them—and let them know what's the best course of action for them to get the results they need."

Being a trusted consultant and advisor is just where GC&E wants to be and they always do what they say they will. "Once you do a good job, they want you and they don't want anyone else. So every system is helping you build those credentials," he said.

Most often GC&E works with the facilities supervisor, IT manager or maintenance technician when they are devising their specification, and more and more with these people as solutions continue to move to all IP.

The final, important piece to the puzzle is the fact that surveillance is so much more than security. "It's not a security camera, it's a camera. You can use it for human resources, time and attendance and more. It's exciting times for systems integrators," Corban said.