The Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama, was designed to inspire passion for the natural world through emphasising conservation, education, scientific study and recreation in all aspects of the zoo’s exhibits, programmes, facilities and activities. The Birmingham Zoo is a leading zoological conservation, education and scientific study resource within the United States, and the family attraction of choice in the Southeast region.

The Birmingham Zoo is uniquely poised to blaze new trails in the evolution of elephant conservation with its new exhibit, Trails of Africa. This exhibit designates the Birmingham Zoo as a national leader in the care and conservation of African Bull elephants, and is intended to set new benchmarks for their care and breeding. Visitors can experience, explore, and become educated on the new and existing animals and their expanded exhibit areas. 

Trails of Africa is designed to be a mixed-species exhibit featuring a bachelor African Bull elephant herd, red river hogs, rhinos and more. Trails of Africa also includes ground and aerial observation opportunities providing education and entertainment to the zoo’s hundreds of thousands of annual visitors.

With its botanical and cultural emersion-themed motif, Trails of Africa is creating an immediate impact as a prestigious, world-class community asset. It is an economic engine for growth and tourism, and a science and ecology hub for primary schools. Trails of Africa is a place where visitors can observe African wildlife and be enlightened about the plight of endangered animals and inspired to support global wildlife conservation efforts. 


The Birmingham Zoo is dedicated to not only providing its animals with a comforting and secure environment, but to preserving data collected from its various exhibits and animals. “Animal behaviour happens 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and 365 days per year,” said Dan Trausch, Director of Zoo Operations, Birmingham Zoo. “But we do not have the staff resources available to devote to animal behaviour 24/7.” Therefore, Trausch was interested in leveraging video surveillance technology to monitor animals at specific exhibits. A new African Bull Elephant exhibit in Trails of Africa was deemed the ideal place to launch such a programme as zoo officials wanted to gather information on the elephant’s habits in their new environment. The new exhibit, which opened in March 2011, marks the first time that African Bull Elephants have lived in a controlled environment.

“We want to have a record of the elephants’ introductions to each other, their overall behaviour, and want to use video footage for scientific research,” Trausch said. “Using video as a way to preserve the activity of the animals allows our team to have the data needed to be most effective and have more situational awareness.”

Birmingham Zoo contacted Jason Maddox, Owner, Advanced Integration Systems, to discuss how traditional surveillance technologies could be used to enhance the zoo’s scientific research and data collection projects. Advanced Integration offers a comprehensive selection of high-tech security equipment, surveillance installations and alarm monitoring services to protect its widespread client base in Alabama, and had previously assisted Birmingham Zoo on other projects. Maddox assessed the zoo’s desire for camera coverage in the elephant exhibit as well as its need to maintain a secure facility. Trausch had already conducted research on the types of surveillance cameras available and knew he wanted to leverage IP-based technology to have access to higher quality images than traditional CCTV systems. With that in mind, Maddox recommended a MOBOTIX decentralised surveillance system for its cost efficiencies, high-resolution video and video management system with simplified user interface.


MOBOTIX is a pioneer in the development of high-resolution surveillance technologies and its decentralised concept makes high-resolution video systems cost efficient. One MOBOTIX camera with 3.1 megapixels records 30 times more detail than traditional CCTV cameras. As a result, larger image areas of up to 360-degree views are possible. This reduces the number of cameras needed in any environment and therefore, upfront and long-term costs. Unlike other systems, the decentralised MOBOTIX concept incorporates a high-speed computer into every camera to reduce network bandwidth because video is processed on the cameras itself and images do not have to be transferred continuously.

Advanced Integration installed 12 MOBOTIX high-resolution cameras to cover all areas within the five-acre exhibit, select point-of-sale stations and the safari café. The cameras, a mixture of MOBOTIX M12, M24 and Q24 cameras, are managed by MOBOTIX MxControlCenter. MxControlCenter is professional video management software included with the purchase of MOBOTIX cameras at no additional cost. It includes all the functions required from a robust security software solution including unlimited users, simple configuration and installation, layout editor for floor plans, and a user-friendly interface and camera view. When combined with the MOBOTIX decentralised concept, it delivers a complete security system at an extremely cost effective price.

“The comprehensive surveillance system from MOBOTIX enables Birmingham Zoo to record footage of the elephants’ behaviour for scientific purposes, which is critical to understanding the breed’s inherent personality,” Maddox said.

The MOBOTIX surveillance system is also used to enhance security in critical park areas. The zoo called upon Advanced Integration to add cameras at additional point-of-sale areas, its membership office, its parking lot, and at high-risk areas such as entrances and exits. In total, more than 30 cameras are included in the zoo’s security infrastructure. Trausch said the zoo makes the safety and security of its guests a priority and uses the camera system to investigate incidents such as lost children or incidents of theft. The system has already proved useful in reducing crime. A camera facing the entrance caught the image of a suspected thief leaving the zoo and zoo officials were able to pass the image over to police as evidence.


“At the moment, we have 70 percent of the exhibit area covered by the MOBOTIX system and we’ll look to expand the coverage as the exhibit grows,” Trausch said. “We have three elephants now and will soon have four. As the new elephant is introduced to the existing herd, we will be able to record the interactions and that footage will be immensely valuable to the scientific community at large. We are happy with the results we’ve experienced with the MOBOTIX system as it provides detailed images of situations, including close ups of live and recorded images through its built-in PTZ capability.”

Birmingham Zoo is one of the top five largest elephant exhibits in the nation. Trausch said the zoo’s commitment to animal research and development, and its new exhibits, drove visitor numbers up in 2011. It continues to innovate with the addition of new animals and exhibits, and technology deployments. The zoo recently installed a portable MOBOTIX camera to monitor a pregnant female orangutan that recently gave birth. The event and the baby orangutan’s first days were available for zoo officials to view through remote access to the MOBOTIX video system, providing the zoo with access to more detailed scientific data than previously thought possible.

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

In case you missed it

HID shares tips for returning to the workplace post-COVID-19
HID shares tips for returning to the workplace post-COVID-19

Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), the novel coronavirus global pandemic will allow workplaces to reopen. But as we move into this recovery phase, there are many questions surrounding the transition. How can companies ensure facilities are in acceptable working order to reopen? How do they decide who is coming back and when? How will social distancing impact the operation of a company’s physical access control system? How can companies ensure that both visitors and employees are aware of the policy changes and extra controls? For answers to these and other salient questions, we called on Ian Lowe, Product Marketing Director of HID SAFE Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions. “There’s no doubt about it: the global pandemic will change the way we live, work, and conduct business for some time,” says Lowe. “Over the past several weeks, we have been working with customers to enable a safe return to the workplace. We have observed that the number of challenges in the mid-to-long-term level and the associated complexity vary by location.” Lowe shares some of the proactive measures and best practices that can assist in a safe return to the workplace as we settle into a “new normal”. Challenge 1: Ensuring building readiness After being unoccupied for weeks or months, building readiness must be addressed completely before welcoming anyone inside. Even though employees may be eager to return, the workplace itself may not be ready. Companies may want to consider continuing remote work while facility operations are prepped. Challenge 2: workforce management There’s no doubt about it: the global pandemic will change the way we live, work, and conduct business for some time While it is dependent on location and industry, taking a phased approach is the best course of action when allowing employees, contractors and visitors back into facilities. First, facilities management will want to survey the property for readiness and then provide an estimate as to when employees may begin reporting back into the office. Next, it’s important to consider that office density needs are interrelated to the facility architecture. It is possible to accommodate a higher capacity of workforce in an airy, open office space than in a constrained one. A good rule of thumb is to start by introducing no more than 30% of employees back into the workplace at first. This could be a rolling group model in which the population total remains controlled and constant, but specific individuals vary from day to day. This option is good for a workforce that needs to be together in person but not necessarily all at the same time due to office density concerns. Welcoming visitors or customers into the office should be delayed as long as possible. If that’s not feasible, visitor numbers should be factored into the total density count. A cloud-based visitor management system can help with implementation. Challenge 3: Controlling access The ability to vet staff, employees, contractors and visitors before and during the return will vary greatly depending on the location. Policies should be implemented that require employees to be screened regularly — and for an extended amount of time. Look to answer the following questions: Where have you visited in the days since last entering the workplace? Have you come into contact with anyone else who has recently visited high-risk areas? Have you shown any symptoms of infection in the past xx number of days? Policies should be implemented that require employees to be screened regularly — and for an extended amount of time If there is cause for concern, refuse the visitor and/or supplement the screening process with additional steps. Temperature checking is mandatory in many organisations⁠— often multiple times a day. This applies to interactions at delivery bays, too. A policy-based physical identity and access management solution integrated with existing physical access controls makes it possible to enforce, monitor and report this type of activity. Challenge 4: Social distancing and contact tracing plan Social distancing may continue within the office, which will impact restrictions and guidelines related to access control. The office layout may be reworked for proper distance between cubicles, workplace positions and employees. Specific entrances, exits and pathways may be designated as one-way-only. Assigning Bluetooth LE beacons to employees once they are inside the workplace will allow companies to monitor proximity to others and measure localised density in real-time⁠ by using location services, contact tracing, and surge response technologies. Challenge 5: Reduced physical touchpoints Contactless technologies can help enforce social distancing and reduce touchpoints on common surfaces Reducing the number of physical touchpoints is desirable throughout a workplace. Contactless technologies can help enforce social distancing and reduce touchpoints on common surfaces such as faucets, doorknobs, coffee pot handles, etc. While introducing additional security checks and screenings, it’s important to not increase touchpoints and further infection risks. There have been more requests for a contactless experience to secure workplace access, including automatic doors and turnstiles, contactless cards and mobile access. Challenge 6: Communicating for confidence Proactive communication is key to provide reassurance that appropriate safety measures have been taken and that both visitors and employees are aware of the policy changes and extra controls. Equally important is to communicate a policy change – and the reasoning behind it – before it happens. While there may not be an exact expiration date on these new policies, ensuring that impacted individuals will have a safer experience is universally appreciated.

Elevated temperature screening is paving the way to Britain’s reopening
Elevated temperature screening is paving the way to Britain’s reopening

Technology has played a vital role in how businesses have enabled their employees to work productively from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of us who can do our jobs from home you only have to look at the ‘Zoom Boom’ to see how much our working lives have changed compared to the beginning of the year. Despite the fact that those companies that can are now productively and efficiently operating remotely, the country is now facing the next challenge in this crisis: how to safely reopen workplaces for those who can’t. There is no argument that the economy hasn’t taken a hit during this unpredictable time. Shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities have been forced to close, and 23% of the country’s workforce (6.3 million people) has been furloughed. It’s no surprise that the Bank of England has warned that the UK is heading towards its sharpest recession on record. To counter this economic risk, the government is taking steps to slowly and cautiously reopen the economy by easing lockdown measures, sending people back to work and allowing businesses to reopen. With non-essential retail outlets now able to open from the 15th June, the question business owners face is how to operate safely and maintain social distancing practices, which are set to remain in place until such time as a vaccine is widely available. With lockdown easing and a ‘new normal’ on the horizon, the health of the country’s workforce mustn’t be forgotten in a bid to save the economy. This is why technology that can allow for a controlled return to work, while mitigating any risks to the health of consumers and employees, must play a part in the easing of lockdown. Temperature screening in the new normal Elevated temperature screening is one technology that should play a key part in return to work strategies and the safe reopening of businesses. This valuable solution uses a thermal and optical camera to analyse body temperature, which is a key indicator of the presence of a potential illness, and discreetly alerts the operator when the set temperature threshold is exceeded by someone screened by the tool. With temperature screening technology in place, the exposure of potentially infected individuals to others can be dramatically decreased and the risk of a localised outbreak minimised. Furthermore, for businesses such as retailers whose success is dependent on customers feeling safe to visit the premises, it has the added benefit of giving them additional assurances that visible measures for their protection are in place. In combination with other solutions, such as vigorous testing and screens to protect employees and customers, returning to work can be safe and controlled. With temperature screening technology in place, the exposure of potentially infected individuals to others can be dramatically decreased The reality of a ‘new normal’ may already be visible in some industries, such as grocery retail where one-way systems, plastic screens and constant cleaning are already in place. However, elevated temperature screening has countless applications for both essential and non-essential industries, ranging from offices and train stations, to hospitals and pharmacies. This screening technology allows businesses to take preventative steps to minimise the chances of the wider workforce and customers coming into contact with someone exhibiting symptoms of a potential illness. A number of businesses are already deploying this technology, such as Vodafone, which has deployed heat detection cameras at key UK sites to protect its employees. The camera used by the telco can screen up to eight people at once and 100 people per minute, while judging body temperature in less than half a second – all of which makes it ideal for congested and high traffic areas. Not all solutions are created equal Over the past few months, we have been inundated with images and videos of temperature screening taking place within key industries, which have continued to operate through the pandemic. However, the hand-held thermometers commonly being used require the device to be within an extremely short range of the subject and are only able to screen one person at a time. This is why remote elevated temperature screening solutions are so valuable – especially given that social distancing guidelines are unlikely to be relaxed in the near future. Stand-off solutions can enable temperature screening to take place without the need for close human interaction, further safeguarding employees and reducing the risk of contact with potentially infected individuals. Elevated temperature screening has countless applications for both essential and non-essential industries, ranging from offices and train stations, to hospitals and pharmacies Along with remote capabilities, there are a number of other crucial factors to take into account. The solution must be quick and easy to implement, as well as being highly accurate. When paired with a blackbody, the accuracy of temperature screening solutions can be within 0.3°C. Connectivity is also key and adopting an end-to-end solution linked to a centralised command and control location is invaluable. With holistic connectivity, these solutions can encompass cameras installed in multiple locations, and alarms can be viewed locally, remotely or on a smartphone app. This means that staff don’t need to provide direct supervision to the device on-site. With the guidelines regarding which industries and sectors can reopen changing on an almost daily basis, it’s important that these protective solutions can be installed without overhauling the surveillance infrastructure already in place. Looking ahead, adopting a solution with an upgrade path to other enhancements, such a facial recognition, is favourable as they can be used in conjunction with future and existing security measures.  Shop local Stand-off solutions can enable temperature screening to take place without the need for close human interaction Businesses have plenty on their minds as they prepare for the uncertainty that is sure to continue throughout the rest of the year and beyond. However, due diligence can’t be left to the wayside when looking to adopt an elevated temperature screening solution. There are high-risk vendors present in the market, many of which have been blacklisted in the US, and they must be given a wide berth. Buying British-made technology can alleviate these security concerns, as well as avoiding any logistical issues caused by the breakdown of global supply chains.  As the economy cautiously reopens, the country will have to adapt to a ‘new normal’ over the coming months. Elevated temperature screening solutions should be implemented by businesses to protect the health of the workforce and customers alike – ultimately paving the way to a safe and controlled return to work.

Which security technology is most misunderstood, and why?
Which security technology is most misunderstood, and why?

The general public gets much of its understanding of security industry technology from watching movies and TV. However, there is a gap between reality and the fantasy world. Understanding of security technologies may also be shaped by news coverage, including expression of extreme or even exaggerated concerns about privacy. The first step in addressing any challenge is greater awareness, so we asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Which security industry technology is most misunderstood by the general public and why?