Paving the road towards city-wide surveillance projects
By Steve Bocking
There is lots of talk about city-wide surveillance for large cities such as New York, Chicago and Toronto, but there is also a demand from much smaller cities across Canada for systems designed to protect public property and citizens.
By Steve Bocking
These types of systems are not just for urban centres. I have seen projects across North America for suburban municipalities that have grown to hundreds of cameras. As these projects are a little different from the average security project, I wanted to highlight some of the important political and technical challenges an integrator may face if they decide to go after this market segment.
The first step is to identify the primary stakeholder. Typically it will either be the police force or the municipal government. These two groups are both mandated to ensure public safety. However, where these two groups differ is in their specific tasks; a police force may be slightly more interested in crime and prosecution whereas a municipality may be interested in deterring petty crime such as acts of vandalism and loitering in parks and public buildings. So knowing which group will be lead stakeholder will help an integrator tailor the initial message of product benefits to their needs.
Another very interesting aspect of a city-wide surveillance application is that there will often be external stakeholders such as the department of transit, the port authority and potential private stakeholders such as large commercial buildings and sporting/concert venues that have daily public access. So not only do you have to meet the needs of the lead stakeholder, it is also important that the proposed video management system is one that can meet the requirements of multiple types of applications.
For this reason, I believe choosing an open-architecture video management system (VMS) is best. This way the software becomes the only common link from an equipment standpoint. One stakeholder can go with server vendor A, camera vendor B and integrator C, and another stakeholder may use server vendor X, camera vendor Y and integrator Z. As long as the video management software is the same and supports all selected hardware, camera feeds can be shared.
However, this is not the only criteria to look for in a VMS. With so many new entrants into the VMS space, it is important to consider the functionalities of the VMS. Does it have the ability to manage camera feeds of different independent systems within one command and control centre (sometimes referred to as a federation)? Does the software have the ability to scale to potentially thousands of cameras? Does the software have the ability to efficiently manage video streams over complex networks that may be a mix of LANs, WANs, Internet and wireless? Does the software have features to ensure privacy of citizens such as camera blocking as well as reporting to justify PTZ use? If the answer is yes to all of these, then you probably have a suitable VMS for beginning to develop a city-wide system.
This is really just the beginning; actually getting different departments/stakeholders of a city to work together is easier said than done, as everyone has their own mandate and rules. But at least by working on understanding a city’s different needs and picking a VMS that is flexible enough to meet them, an integrator is laying the ground work for a potential city-wide deployment.
Steve Bocking can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org