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VMS best practices for IP video surveillance in education

Cameras in schools

Security is a top priority in schools throughout the United States. The capabilities of IP video surveillance systems, in conjunction with Video Management Software (VMS) systems, make them one of the most popular and effective security tools available. In this article, Gadi Piran, President, OnSSI defines scope and structure of IP video and its advantages in improving school security in a number of ways including: superior image quality, ease of manipulation, integration capabilities, simple accessibility and a wide scalability range. He adds that IP video systems also allow surveillance cameras to be deployed anywhere within reach of a network connection, while a standards-based design and open architecture ensure the ability to incorporate signals from various types and brands of cameras into a unified video platform.

Video management software (VMS) systems are a central component of IP surveillance that maximise the ability of surveillance cameras located throughout a school campus to keep students, staff, visitors and facilities safe. VMS systems are designed with efficiency tools such as touch-screen technology, map-based interfaces, context-sensitive pop-up controls and time slice forensics. Combined with an event-management platform, VMS systems easily integrate with an array of physical security solutions such as intruder alarms, access control, intrusion detection, video content analytics, licence plate recognition and other operation systems to provide security professionals the information needed to safeguard their campus and make better and more informed decisions.

Video management software (VMS) systems are a central component of IP surveillance that maximise the ability of surveillance cameras located throughout a school campus to keep students, staff, visitors and facilities safe

Because IP video surveillance systems are evolving into a more comprehensive security solution in the school environment, a VMS system must be proactive and results-oriented. To help schools establish VMS best practices that, together with IP surveillance systems, can provide the foundation for a safe and secure environment, the following should be considered.

Collaborative workflow

IP-based security solutions open the door for linking systems and areas, allowing the entire campus to be tied to the VMS platform for improved situational awareness. An open platform conforming to industry standards enables schools to choose best-of-breed components, combined in any configuration for any size application. Ideally, VMS technology should be intuitive and relatively simple to configure as well as readily able to integrate with network-based systems. From an operations standpoint, authorised users should be able to view and control the system from anywhere on the network through a highly intuitive, unified user interface. Optimised by touch-screen operation, the interface would provide instantaneous control of all aspects of video detection, analysis, delivery and response.

students in classrooms
IP-based security solutions open the door for linking systems and areas, allowing the entire campus to be tied to the VMS platform

Interoperability and connectivity with local municipal authorities running identical VMS systems makes vital information immediately available to those officials for collaborative handling in the event of a fire, lockdown or other serious threats at the school. Programming the management server on a granular level for information access and control helps to ensure the integrity of the system.

Fingertip control with time saving tools and analytics

Whether it’s a primary school with 10 cameras or a multi-complex university with hundreds of security cameras, managing the video and data is better accomplished with easy to use, intelligent tools available on a VMS system. Traditional record/review systems typically have too few operators with too little time, trying to handle too many cameras and too much information. The VMS system tools provide operators with full control over all camera parameters, including PTZ presets, joystick control, digital zoom in/out and more. These intuitive and time-saving features, available on the user interface, give the advantage needed to make the right decision quickly when an alert is sent. For example, if an alarmed door exit at a facility is breached, the VMS system can be pre-programmed to automatically “push” the video to pre-selected devices, enabling authorities in the area to immediately view the incident and then take the necessary action. This capability enables schools to react to events and potential problems quickly and effectively which in turn can prevent them from escalating.

VMS system capabilities can also be used for after-the-fact investigation. Tools such as digital PTZ into recorded images, time slicing and bi-directional playback with variable speed and instant access to recorded events via an events list offer faster access to data about an incident. For example, using digital PTZ to manipulate images gives operators the ability to sharpen the video, get a wider view or analyse multiple camera angles. Using these tools to mine evidence – for example, how a criminal proceeded from floor to floor looking for a target – security personnel can present a more complete case, even potentially showing intent of a criminal activity.

Streaming and mobile applications

Situational awareness is a key foundation of security. A full complement of well-placed high definition (HD) and megapixel video surveillance cameras can provide that awareness. The only problem is, not every school will have dedicated networks for transmission nor will incidents conveniently take place between the hours of 9 and 5 when the control room might be fully staffed and able to monitor events. By incorporating VMS into the mix, this challenge can be addressed.

Tablet and smartphone
Smartphones and iPads are as much a part of security technology solutions as are cameras and video recorders

New VMS technology enables standard definition and HD/megapixel cameras to stream high resolution video over a low-speed connection or limited bandwidth network. Video streams through the cloud can be monitored at full frame rates (with less than one-second lag) including the ability to digitally control pan/tilt/zoom functions. Streams can then be encrypted to enable a secure connection both inside and outside a school network, with all the resulting collaborative and safety advantages.

Today, smartphones, iPads and other portable devices are as much a part of security technology solutions as are cameras and video recorders. Mobile security as an element of VMS ensures operational efficiencies that would be almost impossible for a non-managed (mobile) system to achieve. With the advent of High Definition Interactive Streaming (HDIS) Technology, streaming of multiple SD and HD cameras simultaneously to mobile devices all at full frame rate (30 FPS) and over limited bandwidths is enabled. More specifically, HDIS technology enables full motion playback of up to 16 HD video streams of live or recorded video at their original frame rate with full digital PTZ control of each camera over limited bandwidth network connections via 3G and 4G Wi-Fi, broadband and Internet. This technology allows remote users to access multiple HD images in real-time from an iPad tablet, (and soon an iPhone) PC or laptop with a standard web interface.

Benefits to schools beyond security

In addition to keeping students and staff safe, surveillance cameras can help administrators manage discipline problems or monitor facility levels and capabilities. Video can help to manage the flow of students, analyse bottlenecks that form between classes or view vehicle traffic flow. Video can also track facility occupancy, especially during the weekend or off-hours. Video capability is an excellent resource for facility management by enabling operators to view and evaluate a physical plant system malfunction before deciding whether to send a technician. Integrated with the HVAC system, surveillance video could help save energy costs by automatically turning up the air conditioner only when a room is occupied. And when mobile security is implemented, individuals in the field can use their smart phones to send video images of a dangerous situation such as a sewer without a grate to authorities.

In today’s education environment, developing VMS best practices not only optimises state of the art imaging technology; they also enable the central management of complex systems and allow users to have an entire facility at their fingertips.

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