Cross-Campus CCTV

Maturing technologies are making CCTV security more practical for college and university campuses.

Facility directors may wince at the thought of cross-campus closed circuit television (CCTV) coverage. How much will it cost, they wonder, to run thousands of feet of cable to dozens of buildings strewn across hundreds of acres?

Well, nothing.

Maturing security technologies now make it possible to plug cameras directly into existing campus networks. In areas of the campus not served by networks, wireless cameras can send video through the air to receivers connected to the network. Emerging intelligent software can even be set to alarm on unusual images, while new computer programming languages can make CCTV work with access control systems and other building systems. All without additional cabling.

Plug in to the Network

Andy Bowman, a security integrator with SiteSecure, Inc. in Sanford, Fla., says that his CCTV proposals to colleges no longer bother with cabling.“The idea today is to go to distributed capture for IP video instead of backhauling to the head end using twisted pair, fiber optics or coax.”

In other words, plug the cameras into the campus data communications network. The network will move the video signals from the camera to the monitoring station, wherever that might be.“You can transmit video from all the buildings on one campus this way,” says Bowman.

A school with several campuses spread across a metropolitan area or around a state can send video across the wide area network that connects the local area networks at each campus. A single central security station can manage, monitor and respond to video coming in from cameras located in any area touched by the institution’s data network.

Are the cameras different? “Web cams aren’t appropriate for security purposes,” Bowman says. “It is important to select cameras that meet the security application and then adapt them for IP.”

IP means Internet protocol, the data protocol or format used to communicate through the Internet or a facility data network. Adapting the signals from a camera for IP communications requires a device called an Ethernet encoder. A camera provides two outputs, one for the video signals and one for data. The data connection receives and transmits information that tells the camera to pan, tilt, and zoom. The Ethernet encoder converts both signals to IP and funnels the results to the network.

Connect at a Distance

What if the network connection is far away? No problem. Wireless Ethernet encoders can send signals to receivers located at network connection sites.

According to Bowman, who recently integrated a networked and wireless CCTV system at the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, college and university security directors are wary of networked systems. They worry about the expertise they will need to maintain the system and about coordinating network issues with the campus IT director. Indeed, managing a mix of technological devices is unfamiliar territory for campus facility and security directors.

“But for campus environments, this is truly the wave of the future,” says Bowman. “It lets security officers be more mobile. Once you’ve built a network platform for CCTV, you can use handheld wireless devices to monitor video. For example, a Windows XP Tablet is a wireless touch-screen device. You can carry it with you and call up video while patrolling the campus.”

Once video begins to move along the campus network, recording and storage become easier. It is possible to manage entire video networks from standard desktop computers and to store video on standard, if large, disk drives.

Intelligent Video Systems

Add to all this the recent emergence of commercially priced intelligent video systems. Verint Systems Inc. of Melville, N.Y., for example, offers a networked video software application that can identify significant movements and unusual behaviors captured by video cameras. The system then directs alerts along with the relevant video to an officer in a monitoring station or on patrol.

Another emerging technology, called XML or eXtensible Markup Language, makes it possible for different devices connected to a network to talk to each other. Using XML, programmers can tell the software system that manages cameras connected to a network to listen to and respond to data from virtually any other device connected to the network.

Suppose XML connections are made among a networked CCTV system, access control system and lighting system. Each system would listen to the data generated by each. If someone entered the biology lab building at 3:00 a.m. through an access-controlled door, the CCTV system and the lighting system would hear about it from the access control system. XML triggers could be set to turn on the lights around the door and swing nearby cameras into position. If the CCTV system is equipped with intelligent programming, it could alert a patrolling security officer in the vicinity. He or she could check the video and respond appropriately.

All without buying new cables