Pennine Housing 2000 (PH2K) which manages just over 11,000 social housing properties in Calderdale, West Yorkshire is now operating what is thought to be the most advanced IP-enabled CCTV monitoring solution of any housing association in the UK. This is the culmination of an ambitious project, which saw close cooperation between Pennine, consultants Faber Maunsell - who came up with the initial concept - integrators BBV and CCTV solutions providers Dedicated Micros.
This development for Pennine was 18 months in the making and stemmed from a desire by the housing association to be able to have a central control room at one location - Mixenden - which would have the capability of controlling and monitoring the security of seven remote sites. Previously, all of Pennine's locations, scattered across a wide geographical area, were served by standalone CCTV solutions with monitoring of CCTV cameras provided via control rooms within each block of flats so there was no ability to manage incidents or share information across sites.
To achieve the desired result the consultants proposed that an IP solution based around a wireless network was the only logical approach in terms of effectiveness and economics.
Featuring point-to point-wireless connection between Pennine's new dedicated control centre and over 780 dwellings in various high, medium and low rise units spread across Calderdale this state-of-the-art project required the integration of a large number of elements.
These included 130 plus existing CCTV cameras, new door entry concierge system, large scale 82" front projection system - replacing 21" monitors - with the ability to control the layout of monitor walls and Dedicated Micros DV-IP Servers in each of the tower blocks and Decoders in the central control room at Mixenden, all brought together through the Pick-a-Point GUI from integrators BBV as a powerful digital matrix.
When applied at Mixenden, Pick-a-Point has been able to effectively replicate the simplicity of operation associated with a traditional analogue matrix by allowing control of multiple video servers without the need for thousands of metres of expensive cabling.
The Pick-a-Point solution provides an intuitive environment allowing the display of cameras from a number of monitored sites and delivering control over any camera in the system, while retaining all important keyboard and joystick functionality.
Pennine's operators can simply pick and click cameras using Pick-a-Point's bespoke site maps, drilling down from aerial view of the Calderdale area to select and zoom in on a specific block of flats. Crucially, unlike many virtual matrix solutions, Pick-a-Point is a dedicated hardware based workstation with embedded software, removing reliability and training issues associated with PC software-only based systems.
Said Andy Thorpe, Operations Manager at Pennine Housing 2000: "We are delighted with how the project has turned out. Our 24-hour response Concierge team based at Mixenden now have the best possible working environment to do their job effectively. We really have seen a dramatic change in the capability of our CCTV monitoring, driven by the use of state-of-the-art technology such as the Pick-a-Point GUI and DV-IP servers and decoders from Dedicated Micros, and going wireless offers plenty of scope for expansion.
"No longer are our Concierge team relying on a number of standalone solutions dispersed across a large area with no potential to rapidly exchange information or co-ordinate effective action. With everything brought under a re-designed central control room at Mixenden - with a large front projection system - we believe that the members of our Concierge team, who already do a superb job, have the tools at their disposal to respond to incidents such as anti-social behaviour at the earliest possible stage.
"The Concierge team play a pivotal role working with our tenants - who incidentally are delighted with the new scheme - and are tasked with ensuring that they have the safest possible environment in which to live. The team provides a 24-hour response based on a four-person shift with two in the actual suite monitoring the CCTV and two out conducting patrols.
"Now we can make sure that this presence on the ground is used to best effect. If an incident is picked-up as a result of video motion detection or access control measures, for example, then the operators at the control centre are able to confirm visually what is happening and can direct members of the team to the area, or if necessary alert the police. They can also using Pick-a-Point readily access an aerial plan of the area and click on specific cameras for a better view of an incident. This investment in CCTV makes sense at a number of levels. It shows Pennine as a forward thinking organisation - this is we believe the most advanced system of its kind in operation by any housing association in the UK - underlying a commitment to our tenants' well being, allowing the concierge team to do their work more effectively, and ultimately we hope this should lead to a reduction in anti-social behaviour and other criminal activity."
Using an IP wireless network solution was the only realistic way of linking the sites together and has saved the scheme in the region of £55,000 in fibre cable installation costs with an estimated further saving of £24,000 per year - £1,000 per video channel per year - for the 24 monitors displayed on each projection screen.
The tenants have been extremely positive about the changes with Pennine ensuring that they were kept up-to-date as the project progressed and now feeling safer as a result.
The installation has also been designed with the future in mind. There is tremendous scope with the virtual matrix and wireless transmission to bring in more remote blocks, add cameras or even drop in another control room.
Pennine is even considering expanding monitoring beyond its own sites, as a potential revenue generator, offering its service to local businesses and schools in the area, which may have CCTV solutions but, significantly, no 24-hour remote monitoring.