Public safety and the protection of property initiatives led the city of Mankato, Minnesota to deploy a city-wide IP-based video surveillance system. Founded in 1852, the city is the seat of Blue Earth County. It encompasses 18.26 square miles of land and water, and supports a population of about 41,000 (2015 US census estimate). Home to a variety of natural landmarks and higher educational institutes, Mankato provides a dynamic lifestyle for its citizens all year round.

Surveillance for key community areas

The new city surveillance system uses a range of AV Costar megapixel cameras to cover key areas of the community, with the largest concentration of cameras deployed in the popular downtown entertainment district. Surveillance is also in place throughout Mankato’s city hall, civic event centre, shopping areas, parking ramps, public safety centre, municipal water plant, public works centre, regional airport, and for multiple public parks and community streets.

The limitations of the previous surveillance system inspired extensive enhancements and capabilities for the new project. The original system NVR supported primarily analogue technology cameras, with a small percentage of early generation IP cameras supporting only JPEG video.

The image quality of megapixel cameras could not be matched by this system, nor could it be cost effectively grown to address city requirements. In order to enjoy enhanced security, increased public safety, and the protection of property, a more modern and capable surveillance system was required. The city thus engaged security and communications integrator WW Communications to design and deploy such a project.The limitations of the previous surveillance system inspired extensive enhancements and capabilities for the new project

WW Communications

WW Communications’ COO Mike Bales led the effort and selected AV Costar’s IP megapixel cameras as the core of the new project. With regards as to why AV Costar was selected for the project, Bales explained: “A variety of factors led to the use of AV Costar, not least of which was the commitment and quality they provide as an American-based manufacturer. They are one of the few vendors who design and build their cameras in the U.S., and their cameras’ features and reliability reflect that.”

Delving further into what features specifically appealed to them, Bales concluded, “Simplified installation features such as remote focus, along with advanced features such as true WDR (wide dynamic range) were key factors in the decision. Additionally, the SurroundVideo camera series’ cost effectiveness and coverage capabilities placed AV Costar ahead of its competitors for the job.”

SurroundVideo cameras were first designed and pioneered in the surveillance industry by AV Costar in 2006. Now in their fifth generation, they provide non-stop coverage with four individual megapixel sensors for superior situational awareness and image quality while reducing the total number of cameras required for surveillance projects.

After deciding on a manufacturer, Milestone Systems was then brought on as the video management software for Mankato’s new surveillance system. AV Costar and Milestone are proven integration partners, having completed thousands of seamlessly-integrated city surveillance projects around the world.

AV Costar and Milestone Systems

Additionally, Milestone is a top-tier participant in the AV Costar Technology Partner Program and its VMS software is among those used in AV Costar’s MegaLab. “The close technology and support integration between AV Costar and Milestone helped ensure that a best-in-class surveillance system was delivered to the Mankato,” commented Bales. “The result is a single system for the city that is second to none in capabilities and can grow with the community’s needs.”

Arecont Vision remote monitoring Mankato study
The surveillance system has exceeded the expectations of the city to protect both people and property

City surveillance project phases

Phase one of the project included deploying thirteen cameras to the newly-built public safety centre. Phase two resulted in the deployment of thirty-seven cameras to the city’s entertainment district. The effectiveness of these cameras led to additional installations at city sites which greatly assisted in reducing common vandalisms and other public safety crimes.

Phase three of the project involved the installation of twenty-three MegaDome 2 single sensor cameras onto the fourth floor of a brand-new, four-storey parking facility in the downtown area. Surveillance of the structure was further enhanced through use of a SurroundVideo Omni — a unique omni-directional camera introduced to the industry by AV Costar in 2014.

Unmatched surveillance capabilities

The Omni camera series offers four megapixel sensors that are mounted on three-axis gimbals inside a low-profile dome enclosure. The sensors can be individualised to cover virtually any direction, providing unmatched surveillance capabilities with a single high-resolution camera that is fully integrated with the VMS.

With the recent Public Works Centre campus construction project, another three MicroDome G2 and five SurroundVideo Omni cameras were added to the city’s overall surveillance system. Five SurroundVideo Omni cameras and MicroDome G2 cameras were also installed along a pedestrian walkway that stretches from local hotels to the city’s civic centre and entertainment district. The system is expected to continue growing in order to address public safety and property protection concerns as they arise.

Security and city-wide situational awareness

After a Mankato bar closed for the night, a major altercation took place, where the AV Costar Cameras were crucial in solving the crime

Depending upon the location and local requirement, the Mankato’s city surveillance system uses a range of AV Costar cameras. These include single sensor 2 – 5MP MegaDome 2 and MicroDome G2 cameras. 20MP SurroundVideo multi-sensor cameras provide 180° situational awareness coverage, while omni-directional SurroundVideo Omni G1 and G2 cameras cover an even wider range of deployments.

The city surveillance system is managed and monitored from a command centre with a multitude of large screens displayed across a wall. “The surveillance system and the screens are critically important during high-traffic events in the city,” said Mr. Bales. “With three colleges here in town, homecoming is a very busy time of the year. There are also numerous festivals that take place in the city combined with a very dynamic downtown. Our staff is able to view the activities as they happen, enhancing security and city-wide situational awareness.”

Video streaming to mobile devices

It is not just the security centre that can monitor this system either — video can also be streamed to mobile devices and can be monitored for official use all over the city. The system provides public monitoring as well. There are about half a dozen locations downtown with indoor walkways and skyways that are covered by AV Costar cameras with live video, providing the public with supplementary awareness and security.

The surveillance system has exceeded the expectations of the city to protect both people and property. An example of the system’s usefulness was evident in a recent incident that made national news. After a Mankato bar closed for the night, a major altercation took place, where the AV Costar cameras were crucial in solving the crime.

The city surveillance system caught the incident on camera, providing detailed video evidence which assisted law enforcement in proceeding accordingly. The cameras prompted the ideal outcome in an unfortunate situation, helping make the legal process more efficient and serving to greater deter the occurrence of future incidents.

When probed on how the system has performed to date, Bales responded that AV Costar “exceeded the expectations.” AV Costar looks forward to continuing this legacy throughout its work with the City of Mankato.

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

In case you missed it

Which technologies will disrupt the security industry in the second half of 2020?
Which technologies will disrupt the security industry in the second half of 2020?

The first half of 2020 has been full of surprises, to say the least, and many of them directly impacted the physical security market. The COVID-19 pandemic created endless new challenges, and the physical security market has done our part to meet those challenges by adapting technology solutions such as thermal cameras and access control systems. In the second half of 2020, we can all hope for a return to normalcy, even if it is a “new normal.” In any case, technology will continue to play a big role. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Which technologies have the greatest potential to disrupt the security industry in the second half of 2020?

What do you need to know about thermal imaging cameras?
What do you need to know about thermal imaging cameras?

As businesses, schools, hospitals and sporting venues look to safely reopen in a COVID-19 world, thermal imaging systems will play a critical role in helping to detect and distinguish skin temperature variations in people. Thermal surveillance, a mainstay of traditional physical security and outdoor perimeter detection, is now being deployed to quickly scan employees, contractors and visitors as part of a first line of defense to detect COVID-19 symptoms. In the coming weeks and months, the security industry will look to implement thermal camera solutions for customers, yet many questions remain as to the differences between different system types and how to properly install thermal imaging cameras. In this Q&A, Jason Ouellette, Head of Technology Business Development for Johnson Controls, answers several of these questions. Q: What are some of the different thermal imaging solutions available in the market to detect an elevated temperature in a person? For the general market, there are three types of these thermographic screenings. There is the handheld device, which is typically lower cost, very portable, and very easy to use. Typically, this is a point and shoot type of device, but it requires you to be three feet or less from the person that you're screening, which, in today's world, means the user needs to wear protective personal equipment. For the general market, there are three types of these thermographic screenings The second type of solution would best be described as a thermal camera and kiosk. The advantage of this system over a handheld device is this can be self-service. An individual would go up to and engage with the kiosk on their own. But many of these kiosk type solutions have some integration capability, so they can provide some type of output, for either turnstiles, or physical access control, but not video management systems (VMS). Some of the downside of this type of system is that it’s less accurate than a thermographic solution because it does not have a blackbody temperature calibration device and the readings are influenced by the surrounding ambient temperature, called thermal drift. So instead of being able to achieve a ±0.3ºC accuracy rating, this system probably provides closer to ±0.5ºC at best. Some of these devices may be classed as a clinical thermometer with a higher degree of one time accuracy, but do not offer the speed and endurance of the thermographic solution for adjunctive use. And then there are thermal imaging camera systems with a blackbody temperature calibration device. These types of systems include a dual sensor camera, that has a visual sensor and a thermal sensor built right into the camera, along with a separate blackbody device. This provides the highest degree of ongoing accuracy, because of the blackbody and its ability to provide continuous calibration. These systems can provide much more flexibility and can offer integrations with multiple VMS platforms and access control devices. Q: When installing a thermal imaging camera system what is the most important element to consider? Camera placement is critical to ensure the system works as expected, however the placement of the blackbody device which verifies the correct calibration is in place is equally as important. If the customer wants to follow FDA medical device recommendations for camera placement, both the height of the camera and the blackbody as well as the distance between these devices should comply with the product installation instructions. This takes into account the device focal range and calibration parameters in addressing the distance from the person undergoing the scan. Also, integrators should minimise camera detection angles to ensure optimal accuracy and install cameras parallel with the face as much as possible, and again in compliance with installation instructions. Integrators should minimise camera detection angles to ensure optimal accuracy The blackbody should be placed outside of the area where people could block the device and located more towards the edges of the field-of-view of the camera. You need to keep in mind the minimum resolution for effective thermographic readings which is 320 by 240 pixels as defined by the standards. To achieve this, you would need to follow medical electrical equipment performance standards driven by IEC 80601-2-59:2017 for human temperature scanning and FDA guidelines. Within that measurement, the face needs to fill 240 x 180 pixels of the thermal sensor resolution, which is close to or just over 50 percent of the sensor’s viewing area typically, meaning a single person scanned at a time in compliance with the standards for accuracy.  Along with height and distance placement considerations, the actual placement in terms of the location of the system is key. For example, an expansive glass entryway may impact accuracy due to sunlight exposure. Installations should be focused on ensuring that they are away from airflow, heating and cooling sources, located approximately 16 feet from entry ways and in as consistent of an ambient temperature as possible between 50°F and 95°F. Q: Once a thermal imaging camera system is installed, how do you monitor the device? There are several choices for system monitoring, depending on whether the solution is used as standalone or integrated with other technologies, such as intrusion detection, access control or video systems. For standalone systems, the ability to receive system alerts is typically configured through the camera’s webpage interface, and the cameras include abilities such as the live web page, LED display for alerting, audio alerts and physical relay outputs. When done right, these features will all follow cybersecurity best practices which is important for any network solution today, including changing default passwords and establishing authentication methods. The ability to receive system alerts is typically configured through the camera’s webpage interface These types of thermal cameras can also integrate with turnstile systems, VMS platforms and access control systems. This is typically done through the integration of a relay output, activated by a triggered temperature anomaly event on a thermal imaging camera which can then be used for activities such as locking a turnstile, or through access control and video systems to send an email or provide an automated contagion report for contact tracing. These capabilities and integrations extend the monitoring capability above that of the standalone solution. The camera can be configured to monitor a specific range of low and high alerts. Users can determine the actions that should be taken when that alert exceeds the preset low or high threshold. These actions include things like a bright and easy-to-see LED can provide visual notification through pulsing and flashing lights as an example. Q: What about system maintenance? Does a thermal imaging camera require regular service in order to operate accurately? First it’s important to make sure the system is calibrated. This can be done after the unit stabilises for at least 30 minutes to establish the initial reference temperature source known as the blackbody. Calibrations conducted before this warm up and stability time period can throw off accuracy. Also, as part of your system maintenance schedule you will want to perform a calibration check of the blackbody device every 12 months, along with following recommendations of the FDA and IEC. If you install the solution and don’t perform maintenance and the blackbody calibration certificate expires, over time there’s a risk that the device will experience drift and a less accurate reading will result. There’s a risk that the device will experience drift and a less accurate reading will result Q: What final pieces of advice do you have for either an integrator who plans to install a thermal imaging camera system or an end user who plans to invest in this solution? Before you buy a thermal imaging camera check to see if the manufacturer ships the camera with a calibration certificate. Also, become familiar with FDA’s guidance released in April 2020, Enforcement Policy for Telethermographic Systems During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency. This document places thermal/fever products for adjunctive use under the category of a Class I medical devices and subject to its regulatory control. Driven by these regulations and categorisation, users need to understand specifically what is required to meet the required level of accuracy for successful detection. While thermal imaging camera systems are more complex than traditional surveillance cameras, they can prove to be a valuable resource when set up, configured and maintained properly.

Recognising the importance of security officers to promote safety
Recognising the importance of security officers to promote safety

The general public doesn’t give much thought to the important role of security officers in creating and promoting safer environments. The low-profile work of security officers is vital to protecting people, places and property. During the pandemic, newer aspects to that role have emerged. Security personnel have been called on to perform diverse tasks such as managing queues at the supermarket, safeguarding testing centres and hospitals, ensuring food deliveries, and supporting police patrols. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and two other organisations in the United Kingdom are joining forces to raise awareness of the work of security officers and to recognise the vital importance of the duties they perform. BSIA, a trade association, includes members who are responsible for 70% of privately provided UK security products and services, including security guarding, consultancy services, and distribution and installation of electronic and physical security equipment. BSIA, the Security Institute and the Security Commonwealth Joining BSIA in the awareness campaign are the Security Institute, a professional security membership body; and the Security Commonwealth, which is comprised of 40 organisations from across the security landscape with common objectives to build professionalism, raise standards and share best practices. “The recognition of security officers as key workers is the start of a re-appraisal of what service they provide to the community in keeping the public safe and secure,” says Mike Reddington, BSIA Chief Executive. “As we exit lockdown and have to navigate public spaces again, [security officers] will have a crucial role in supporting public confidence. We are working closely with the Police and all other public bodies to find the best way to achieve this.” Security officers acknowledged as key workers The campaign will showcase security professionals as a respected, valued, professional service provider and a key worker that is acknowledged and embedded in daily lives. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and two other organisations in the United Kingdom are joining forces to raise awareness of the work of security officers “Great effort has been invested in the professional standards and capabilities of frontline [security] officers, and they have proven their worth during the coronavirus crisis in the UK,” says Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive, the Security Institute. “They, along with the wider security sector, deserve to be recognized, respected and appreciated for the safety and security they provide across the United Kingdom.” “[We are working to] build professionalism, raise standards and share best practices, and I hope this campaign can make more people recognise the changes we have all made and continue to make,” says Guy Matthias, Chairman of the Security Commonwealth (SyCom). The industry will be reaching out to companies, professionals, and organisations in the sector to participate in the campaign. The hope is that, over the coming weeks as lockdown is eased, the industry can play its part to ensure that the country emerges with confidence to start to recover and build for the future. Private security more important than ever The campaign will showcase security professionals as a respected, valued, professional service provider Across the pond in the United States, law enforcement professionals are facing a crisis of confidence during a time of civil unrest as protestors call to “defund the police” and to otherwise undermine and/or recast law enforcement’s role in preserving the peace and ensuring public safety. If an upshot is that public policing is starved of resources, the role of private security to supplement their mission is likely to increase. In short, the role of private security is more important than ever on both sides of the Atlantic. Public recognition of that role is welcome, obviously. In any case, the importance of their role protecting people, places and property has never been greater.