The Ottawa Elementary School District is in Ottawa, Illinois, a river town 80 miles southwest of Chicago. The district consists of five schools, the campuses of which include Jefferson Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School, Shepherd Middle Schools, and the Jefferson Elementary “Art House” building.


In the spring of 2015 a variety of issues caused the schools’ administration to determine that they needed a surveillance system upgrade. The district’s IT director Kyle Olesen met with Nick Melnyk of systems integrator Ficek Electric & Communication Systems and the Arecont Vision regional sales team, ultimately sparking a major collaboration to redesign the surveillance systems used by all their schools.

No formal coverage strategy

The district had been using mostly analogue cameras for its school surveillance. The original cameras had been placed throughout the five campuses without a formal coverage strategy, greatly hindering the usefulness of the surveillance system. This prevented key areas from being effectively monitored and the images that were provided by the analogue cameras were of low quality.

New challenges presented themselves as the project continued. With five completely different locations to work with, it was clear that the project would be a long-term one. It was imperative that the installation efforts be planned accordingly. Part of planning was to treat each school as a separate project with its own surveillance coverage layout and system requirements.

Education session on IP technology

Such a long undertaking also meant staffing challenges. The project manager changed five months into the project, resulting in the bidding process to be undertaken a second time. A The school then hired Chicago-based Architecture and Engineer company to help facilitate the project. Arecont Vision delivered educational sessions to bring the new firm up to date on IP megapixel camera technology.

The Ottawa School District approved the installation of Arecont Vision cameras in all five locations in July 2016

During the first meeting with the district in 2015, the IT director was introduced to Arecont Vision megapixel single- and multi-sensor cameras. The end user was impressed, and a more in-depth meeting was scheduled. This led to walkthroughs at each of the five campuses to outline recommendations for camera locations and models.

Detailed layout of coverage area

The individual schools were pleased with Arecont Vision’s camera performance during this series of events, and the project continued into the design phase. During this period, the district received a detailed layout for each school. The layouts outlined the coverage area that each camera would provide.

After completing the design phase, the systems integrator and the school district participated in the Arecont Vision Try-and-Buy Program. This program provided the end user community with the opportunity to experience Arecont Vision megapixel cameras before committing to a full installation. Impressed with what they saw, the Ottawa School District approved the installation of Arecont Vision cameras in all five locations in July 2016.

Solutions installed

Exacq Technologies, part of the Security Products business unit of Tyco, was selected as the video management system (VMS) provider. Exacq and Arecont Vision have thousands of joint installations for schools and other surveillance projects around the world. Exacq is a member of the Arecont Vision Technology Partner Program, and their VMS software is available in the Arecont Vision MegaLab certification and support facility for the best possible continued integration.

The five schools utilise an array of Arecont Vision products throughout the district. The multisensor, panoramic 180o SurroundVideo and adjustable-view SurroundVideo Omni series provide coverage of large areas such as cafeterias, gyms, and parking lots. Arecont Vision pioneered the multi-sensor surveillance megapixel camera market in 2006, and has continued to lead the industry with new features, performance, and reliability. Now in their fifth generation, SurroundVideo cameras provide coverage with four individual megapixel sensors for superior situational awareness and outstanding image quality.

The Arecont Vision cameras
are monitored both locally
and remotely by the schools,
using the Exacq software

Arecont Vision MicroDome G2 series cameras were used for interior areas such as for coverage of hallways and doorways. MegaView 2 series cameras equipped with STELLAR (Spatio Temporal Low Light Architecture) technology were implemented for day and night outdoor coverage.

The Made in USA Arecont Vision cameras used by the project are hardened against potential cybersecurity attacks, and cannot be repurposed for malicious purposes, giving the schools an added level of security protection.

The Arecont Vision cameras are monitored both locally and remotely by the schools, using the Exacq software. Each school’s administration has access to the cameras monitoring their individual campus, allowing for real-time monitoring throughout the day. Video can be accessed remotely, with playback from any camera using district laptops and tablets.

Superior image quality and user-friendly interface

“The customer and our company are very satisfied and happy with the quality of the equipment,” said Nick Melnyk, of Ficek Electric and Communication Systems, Inc. “The accessories, the mounts, everything fit very well and works very well. That all comes into play because a lot of times you can be sent cameras with wrong accessories and other things that don’t fit, extending the installation process longer than it needs to be. For this project, installation went very smoothly.”

“Arecont Vision provided superior image quality and a user-friendly interface,” continued Mr. Melnyk. “The school district was so pleased with Arecont Vision products that they are now looking to put additional cameras onto to the surveillance systems on most of the campuses.” Upon being asked if Arecont Vision could do anything better in the future, Mr. Melnyk stated, “We are very satisfied with everything we have received from Arecont Vision.”

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

In case you missed it

What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?
What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analysed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: what are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

Access control systems: Ethernet vs proprietary bus network cabling
Access control systems: Ethernet vs proprietary bus network cabling

When designing a security system for a site, the question of how it should be interconnected is often one of the first you need to answer. Should you choose a system that has its own proprietary bus network, which might require twisted pair cabling, or perhaps one based on an ethernet backbone? Both types of network have their advantages and disadvantages as discussed below. Ethernet connectivity Some security systems are based on a number of modules, and each module is connected to its own ethernet connection. One big advantage of a system like this is that, in many cases, it can be much more convenient, allowing the installer to utilise existing network cabling and other infrastructure, rather than needing to install new cabling. On the other hand, if a security system relies entirely on networking infrastructure controlled by others, typically the IT department, then the stability and reliability of the security system is dependent on that network being available when your system needs it. The stability and reliability of the security system is dependent on that network being available Another potential disadvantage is that certain areas of the premises may not be equipped with a nearby network outlet, and if the network in question is not managed by you, it might be necessary to request the IT department add an outlet for you to use. Proprietary bus connectivity A system with its own proprietary bus network can also have advantages. Perhaps the first and most important difference is that, because the network cabling is installed specifically for the security system, the designer has the luxury of being able to decide exactly where the wiring should be placed and terminated. Another advantage is that the cabling would only be used by the security system, so the installation company can be sure the network will always be available, and there would be very little chance part of it could be accidentally unplugged. Another potential advantage is that some systems are able to run bus cabling of distances well over 1,000 metres, whereas individual ethernet connections are typically limited to 100 metres or less. Another consideration, which applies particularly to intruder and holdup alarm systems, is that communications between elements of the security system should not be prevented by other factors, such as a power failure. Obviously, if a part of such a network is formed by ethernet infrastructure, such as network switches and/or media converters, then that infrastructure needs to be battery backed, and the power supply must be monitored. In some cases, the equipment must be able to withstand a power failure of 24 or even 60 hours. Such long standby times are unusual in IT infrastructure, but are quite common in the case of security systems. The equipment must be able to withstand a power failure of 24 or even 60 hours How this all fits together When selecting a system, it is usually most helpful to have a flexible system that can support a number of different deployment options. This is especially true if the system in question can support a combination of different interconnection types. For example, a single system that can contain a variety of interconnections can then be deployed in a very wide variety of systems where existing infrastructure may be used to aid in the design and deployment: Fibre connections – Many modern sites are pre-cabled with existing fibre connections which can be used to form a dedicated interconnection between system components which can be of the order of kilometres apart. Ethernet connectivity – With the increasing ubiquity of networking within premises, some elements of a security system can be deployed using the existing infrastructure. Repeater - For very large or densely packed systems, a device that can be used as a form of “repeater” can be extremely useful to permit very long interconnect cabling distances. Systems can be formed by utilising a fusion of all of the above connectivity methods Some security systems can be set up to enable multiple discrete access control modules to be deployed, connected to an existing ethernet network, and treated as a single ‘system’ by the management software, while retaining full offline functionality in the event the network becomes unavailable. Further, some systems can be formed by utilising a fusion of all of the above connectivity methods. In practice, of course some applications would suit a deployment that relied solely on ethernet connectivity. Some other applications, especially systems or parts of systems that are part of an intruder and/or holdup alarm system, would better suit a deployment using a dedicated proprietary bus network, and other systems would suit a combination of these communications options. Selecting a system that can be deployed in a variety of ways can be enormously helpful in providing the flexibility projects might demand.

Functionality beyond security: The advent of open platform cameras
Functionality beyond security: The advent of open platform cameras

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic marks the biggest global disruption since World War II. While the ‘new normal’ after the crisis is still taking shape, consumers are apprehensive about the future. According to a recent survey, 60% of shoppers are afraid of going grocery shopping, with 73% making fewer trips to physical stores. Returning to the workplace is also causing unease, as 66% of employees report feeling uncomfortable about returning to work after COVID-19.  Businesses and employers are doing their best to alleviate these fears and create safe environments in and around their buildings. This also comes at tremendous costs for new safety measures and technologies – including updates to sanitation protocols and interior architecture – that protect against COVID-19. Costs in the billions that most businesses will face alone, without support from insurance and amidst larger macroeconomic challenges. Saving costs and increasing security But what if building operators, retail shop owners, and other stakeholders could save costs by leveraging new functionality from their existing security infrastructure? More specifically, expanding the use of current-generation security cameras – equipped with AI-driven image analysis capabilities – beyond the realm of security and into meeting new health regulations. This is exactly where video analytics algorithms come into play. And in the next step, a new evolutionary approach towards open security camera platforms promises new opportunities. Security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors Over the past decade, security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors. They provide valuable data that can be analysed and used in beneficial ways that are becoming the norm. Since 2016, Bosch has offered built-in Video Analytics as standard on all its IP cameras. On one hand, this enables automated detection of security threats more reliably than human operators. And on the other hand, video analytics collect rich metadata to help businesses improve safety, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and create new value beyond security. Expanding camera functionality beyond security Today, we have ‘smart’ security cameras with built-in video analytics to automatically warn operators of intruders, suspicious objects and dangerous behaviors. The rich metadata from several cameras on the same network can also be consolidated by making use of an intelligent software solution. It offers so-called pre-defined widgets to provide business intelligence by measuring area fill levels, counting building occupancy and detecting the formation of crowds. In combination with live video stream data, these insights enable heightened situational awareness to security operators. What’s more, operators are free to set their own parameters – like maximum number of occupants in a space and ‘off limit’ areas – to suit their needs. These user-centric widgets also come in handy in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Specific widgets can trigger an alarm, public announcement or trigger a 'traffic light' when the maximum number of people in a space is exceeded. Building operators can also use available intelligence such as foot traffic ‘heat maps’ to identify problem areas that tend to become congested and place hand sanitiser stations at heavily frequented hotspots. At the same time, the option to perform remote maintenance on these systems limits the exposure of technicians in the field during the pandemic. Again, the underlying camera hardware and software already exist. Cameras will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus Looking ahead, cameras with video analytic and neural network-based analytic capabilities will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus. For instance, cameras could monitor distances between individuals and trigger voice announcements when social distancing guidelines are violated. Facial recognition software can be trained to monitor personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance and sound alerts for persons entering buildings without masks. The technical requirements are already in place. The task at hand is to deliver these new functionalities to cameras at scale, which is where open camera platforms hold the key. Why open camera operating systems? When it comes to innovating future camera applications that extend beyond security, no hardware manufacturer should go at it alone. Instead, an open platform approach provides the environment for third-party developers to innovate and market new functions. In essence, an open platform principle allows customers and users to change the behavior of devices by adding software afterwards. This software can either be found in an app store or can be self-developed. For a precedent, we can look at the mobile phone industry. This is where software ecosystems like Android and Apple’s iOS have become the norm. They have also become major marketplaces, with the Apple App Store generating $519 billion in billings on 2019, as users use their phones for far more than just making phone calls. In the same way, intelligent cameras will be used far beyond classic video applications in the future. To get there, adopting an open platform principle is essential for a genuine transformation on an industry level. But establishing an open platform principle in the fragmented video security industry demands a cooperative approach. In 2018 Bosch started a fully owned start-up company, Security & Safety Things, and became one of five founding members of OSSA (Open Security & Safety Alliance). With more than 40 members, the Alliance has collectively created the first Technology Stack for “open” video security devices. This includes the OSSA Application Interface Specification and Compliant Device Definition Specification. An open camera platform for innovating future functionality  Based on OSSA’s common APIs, collective approach on data security and core system requirements for video security cameras, the first camera manufacturers were able to build video security cameras that adopt an open platform principle. Further fueling innovation, OSSA focused on driving the creation of one centralised marketplace to unite demand and supply in the market. Camera devices that are built in accordance with OSSA’s Technology Stack, so-called “Driven by OSSA” devices, can benefit from this marketplace which consists of three pillars: a development environment, an application store, and a device management portal. Security & Safety Things has advanced OSSA’s open camera platform concept, built this marketplace for the security and safety industry and has developed the open OS that powers the first “Driven by OSSA” devices. Making it quick and simple to customise security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps This year, Bosch, as one of the first camera manufacturers, introduces the new INTEOX generation of open platform cameras. To innovate a future beyond security functionality, INTEOX combines built-in Intelligent Video Analytics from Bosch, an open Operating System (OS), and the ability to securely add software apps as needed. Thanks to the fully open principle, system integrators are free to add apps available in the application store, making it quick and simple to customise security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps on the INTEOX platform. In turn, app developers can now focus on leveraging the intelligence and valuable data collected by analytics-equipped cameras for their own software developments to introduce new exciting possibilities of applying cameras. These possibilities are needed as smart buildings and IoT-connected technology platforms continue to evolve. And they will provide new answers to dealing with COVID-19. The aforementioned detection of face masks and PPE via facial detection algorithms is just one of manifold scenarios in which new apps could provide valuable functionality. Contact tracing is another field where a combination of access control and video analytics with rich metadata can make all the difference. Overall, open camera platforms open a future where new, complex functionality that can save lives, ensure business continuity and open new business opportunities will arrive via something as simple as a software update. And this is just the beginning.