Twin Cities Count on Cameras, VMS and a Great Integrator

Aug. 19, 2011
intelligent highway surveillance system

If you’ve ever traversed the Twin Cities, you know Interstate Highway 35, the notoriously congested thoroughfare you usually have to travel to get anywhere in or around Minneapolis and St. Paul. In addition to the traffic, couple that with often blizzard-like conditions, tornados or other Midwest weather wraths and travel can be treacherous at best.

Offering a big assist, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (DOT) spearheaded a system-wide camera deployment that has morphed into one of the country’s leading intelligent roadway traffic management solutions. And it all started with a security surveillance implementation deployed by systems integrator Pro-Tec Design of Minneapolis, who has responded consistently to the state’s Request for Proposals and won those bids through being the lowest qualified bidder—with extremely competitive and thorough specifications.  

Pro-Tec Design has been working alongside the Minnesota DOT for many years, deploying cameras and a backbone Milestone video management system to help the state agency bring everything together in one super-state-of-the-art Regional Traffic Management Center (RTMC) located in Roseville, Minn.

Tom Hagen is the president and chief executive officer of Pro-Tec Design, established in 1969. In 2010 Pro-Tec Design received special accolades from Milestone Systems for the Most Explosive Growth. Hagen consistently works in front of technology in an effort to offer the best solutions and services to his customers.

Relationship of designing the best solutions

Hagen and team have worked closely with Terry Haukom, who is the Traffic Management System Design & Integration Supervisor for the Minnesota DOT. Haukom is also an innovator, and has worked for Minnesota DOT for some 23 years—22 of which he spent designing, installing and operating the video systems that now encompass the cityscape and surrounding areas with more than 600 cameras deployed and more to come. Today, he consults other cities on traffic management system design.

Pro-Tec Design has been there since the beginning, even before the Minnesota DOT began to lay an infrastructure backbone of some 400 miles of single-mode, multi-directional fiber starting in 1990. “We installed the first traffic camera management system in 1982,” said Hagen. “It was a RFP,” Hagen recalled, “and we won the state contract for our areas of expertise,” he said. The heart of the current system is an analog-based CCTV infrastructure integrated into the multi-licensed video management software.  

The cameras terminate into the RTMC, an impressive, 10,000-square-foot command and control center that receives live data and blends traditional traffic management with ramp metering, electronic signs and other critical system data to keep the roadways and its travelers safe and up to date with immediate and live status updates. Analog cameras are all PTZ and signals are converted to digital with Axis encoders. Video is stored only five days by design. Currently some IP cameras are being deployed in trials, but analog was chosen because of latency (lag) issues inherent with PTZ and IP cameras.

Pro-Tec Design was the successful bidder and installer for the RTMC building security and other parts of the facility, including updated video and installation of a high-end LCD screen, some 24, 65-inch monitors and three 70-inch monitors. The facility includes nine areas dedicated to dispatch and traffic management; a public traffic awareness command center; and an area for the Minnesota State Patrol.

“One of the important parts of this relationship is being the lowest qualified bidder,” said Jeff Feldstein, Pro-Tec Design’s business relationship manager. “In dealing with the state you must follow their guidelines and they have their project managers you have to work with. Crossing your t’s and dotting the i’s is extremely important in dealing with the state,” Feldstein said.

Working state government contracts effectively

“Pro-Tec Design knows that with state governments you have to be competent and competitive,” said Terry Haukom. “You have to get pre-qualified and their ability and actions opened up the doors for me to use them. In traffic management, the information provided by cameras is power; video surveillance is one of the most productive ways of getting detailed information in a hurry,” he said.

Haukom has astute engineering expertise and is a visionary who saw that he would be able to do much more with surveillance than simply blanket the city and its surrounding areas with cameras—he wanted an intelligent system that would also be used to aid in other parts of the transportation mix, such as highway helper and patrols, responders and other parts and parcels to make the roadways safer and bring information in quickly so responsible parties can act quickly and make smart decisions—because lives may sometimes lie in the balance. He also the spearheaded the construction of the RTMC and its unified communications platform.

Other specifics of the Minnesota DOT intelligent roadway system includes:

  • Milestone Corporate level software and some 630 licenses,
  • 25 Dell 2950 servers each with 4-250GB hard drives,
  • Four days of storage at 15fps,
  • Sharing of video by Rochester, Duluth and St. Cloud with a common software platform,
  • Distribution of video to local television stations through a dedicated fiber channel connection,
  • 30 Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs) that are receiving 911 calls and dispatching police, fire and ambulance services; while each does not have a fiber video feed Milestone is beginning to be deployed to assist in funneling video effectively. By streaming the video to a Milestone client they can receive live real-time video(s) that allows them to dispatch the correct amount of resources and understand the urgency of some of these when needed, and
  • Deployment of an Intelligent Roadway Information System (IRIS) software program Haukom created to provide graphical real-time data and.

“Communications used to be a phone call,” said Haukom. “Now, responders and others can act quickest when they can pull up a camera view and determine with their eyes what the appropriate actions should be. We saw a great deal of positive changes system wide based on what operators saw. Saving minutes can sometimes mean saving lives.”

Hagen said Pro-Tec has made a concerted effort over the last several years to develop a variety of services. “We find ourselves involved in the design of security solutions. In order to do that we have developed a team of engineers, technicians, and other personnel and having those resources gives us the ability to think of a better way to approach a project; a better way to structure a solution for an RFP. We do quite a bit of negotiated work with the state agencies and that’s mostly an RFP. We have had success with projects that require a bid because we have the team that focuses on services and design solutions. Some companies focus on coming in with the lowest bid; we come in with the lowest qualified bid,” he said.