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East Manchester under the security coverage of Synectics IP solutions

Surveillance software from Synectics secure East Manchester
Synectics' new e100 video encoders feature industry-leading H.264 compression technology
Utilising Synectics' SynergyPro software control, digital recording and IP encoder equipment, Manchester's vast city centre CCTV Command and Control room has recently extended its surveillance system coverage, to include 49 existing cameras from a system previously covering the ‘East Manchester' area of the city.

Originally conceived and installed in 2002, with assistance and funding provided under a crime reduction initiative by The Home Office, the cameras in East Manchester were monitored from a control room in the Beswick area, close to the heart of the camera network. Reviewing the surveillance coverage of the city in 2006, Manchester City Council concluded that the communities covered by the East Manchester system could be better served if the monitoring and management of their camera network was amalgamated within the high-tech city centre Command and Control room, into a scheme recognised as leading the way in control room technology.

Dave Walsh, Technical Implementation Manager for the Manchester Command and Control room explains: "In addition to their recommendations, Manchester City Council also provided the funding to make the move possible. The existing East Manchester control room at Beswick had been doing a good job, however moving the monitoring to the city centre facility would provide greater overall systems control and operational response benefits, along with significant cost savings for the council. That said, the decision to move the monitoring of the cameras was the easy part, we were still left with the significant technological challenge of adding the legacy cameras into our existing camera network. At this point, we turned to our long-term control room technology partners Synectics, for a solution."

After a technical consultation period in which Dave and the team described exactly what was required from the system, Synectics supplied an extra SynergyPro workstation for the control room that already housed seven positions. Dave explains: "This additional position is included in the overall control room, and absorbs the additional camera capacity now routed there. The East Manchester cameras can however, be viewed by any of the workstations, facilitating additional monitoring capability should an incident occur."

Recording and archiving of images is done via the deployment of a Synectics Modular Digital Recording System

Signals from the cameras in the East Manchester system are still relayed back to the control centre in Beswick that contained the system's original control room. Here, the analogue camera signals are encoded via Synectics' new e100 video encoders, featuring industry-leading H.264 compression technology. The high-quality, low bandwidth camera images are then transmitted to the Manchester Command and Control room via an existing BT supplied analogue fibre link, converted to a digital link for the purpose of the new IP transmission.

Recording and archiving of images from the East Manchester system is performed locally, via the deployment of a Synectics Modular Digital Recording System (MDRS). Similar in design to the main Manchester system, whose storage nodes are housed at the Command and Control room, storage nodes for the East Manchester extension system are housed at the Beswick control room, with incidents uploaded as necessary.

Dave Walsh explains: "Recording images locally via Synectics MDRS storage nodes allows us to freely access ‘live' images and control cameras from the Command and Control room, with only the images selected for viewing being transmitted over the IP link. We wouldn't want to view all 49 cameras at the same time, so this methodology keeps the signal traffic on the line down to a minimum. If we want to review any archived footage from one or several cameras, it is instantly available to operators, via any of the SynergyPro workstations, where fast downloading of the appropriate data can be instigated via interrogation of the units in the remote communications room. This process ensures that we are only ever transmitting the information we need over the IP link, ensuring that we always achieve maximum performance from the system."

"Although selecting a complete Synectics solution fits perfectly with the technology we already have in place, we only settled on the manufacturer's technology after testing a host of competitor products. For example, we looked at alternative offerings to the Synectics e100 encoder, used to encode the East Manchester camera signals for transmission via the IP link. However, after evaluation, it became clear that using the e100 would supply the best image quality, in addition to a great deal of image output flexibility; allowing us to adjust individual frame rates and resolution to our own performance requirements."

"Another benefit of the Synectics solution is its ease of installation and set-up. For instance, it was vital that we were ready to go here in the central Command and Control room as soon as the Beswick control room was closed. To assist this, firstly the new communications room was constructed and the Synectics technology installed. Synectics' unrivalled third party integration meant that we were able to connect our cameras with a minimum of fuss, readying the system and then literally unplugging them from the old system, into the new one, until the whole network was transferred. This approach of in-depth planning, supported by effective, flexible technology, meant that we had the minimum downtime possible during the changeover."

East Manchester implements SynergyPro surveillance software from Synectics
WIth Synectics IP solutions, operators can easily identify any individuals contravening an order
Since moving the surveillance of the East Manchester camera network to the city centre-based Command and Control room, the population within the community the cameras cover have benefited from a number of advantages, says Dave Walsh: "As good a job as the old control room did, it provided a limited camera monitoring solution, where as the town centre control room offers a great deal more, simply by fact of the facilities and depth of personnel we have at our disposal. For example, we have a dedicated police liaison officer and a serving police presence in the control room at all times, this means the communities we cover can benefit from a ‘virtual' police presence even before a patrol is in attendance at an incident. It also affords our control room police presence with direct contact with officers on the ground, ensuring the correct response to any incident captured on the system."

"Instant access to recorded footage also assists in the rapid resolution of incidents when a police patrol arrives. Using the Synectics MDRS technology, we can quickly review footage and identify the individuals involved. For example, we have had instances where police have arrived at an altercation that originally involved just a few people, but has escalated to involve a wider group of youths. Directly accessing the Synectics MDRS recorded footage, whilst the police were in attendance, we have been able to identify the individuals originally involved, allowing police to arrest them and disperse the rest. If we had not had this high-quality, instant access facility, these situations would take much longer to resolve and absorb much greater police manpower."

The system has also proved its effectiveness when used to assist the police in the enforcement of ASBO's. With high-resolution images transmitted back to the control room, operators can patrol the area ‘virtually', easily identifying any individuals contravening an order. "In many cases, we don't even need to request police attendance," explains Dave. "Such is the high resolution and evidential quality of our recording, that quite simply, presentation of supporting video footage at the offenders next court experience is enough to prove a contravention of the order."

"It's not just police patrols that benefit from the improved monitoring of the system either, our cameras have also proved a great help to the council's environmental control officers, who have used the high-quality footage to provide irrefutable evidence of fly-tipping to secure convictions."

"Whatever the nature of the offence we have captured on our system, we usually find that even if the offender originally denies involvement, when faced with the evidential footage generated from our Synectics system, which clearly shows their actions, they often change their mind and admit the offence. This saves many hours of court time, and related costs each year."

Dave concludes: "Transferring control from the local Beswick area to the central Manchester Command and Control facility has been a complete success. Using the intuitive control of the Synectics SynergyPro system, and powerful digital technology, we have not only been able to maximise our operators' efficiency, but now provide a much expanded and enhanced CCTV monitoring service to the communities we cover."

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