Saturday, May 31, 2008

Campus Security - A New Plan

Campus Security - A New Plan

I had the recent pleasure to take part in an information exchange with a large university in the Southeast US. The folks from the University were IT-centric in experience as opposed to the typical security-focused end user. Mainly, they were driven to the discussion by their vehement dis-satisfaction with the currently installed product. Of course they had needs as they were passed on by their customers, the actual users of the system. These would include the typical security based needs, like recover stolen property, video as evidence in an assault or other violent crime, and parking garage security.

In addition, these folks were also thinking about the typical means by which funding for a project like this might be had. Namely, a mediocre budget approved by committees mostly removed from the actual project.

With the help of a pretty knowledgeable team of experts, the discussions quickly took on a new life. Consider first, E-Learning. All the rage in some higher education circles, and especially those who have been doing distance, and online courses for some number of years. But the typical “brick and mortar” university would have a hard time justifying purchasing a camera system solely for the purpose of E-Learning, when it’s not their primary focus. However, what if, while the university was entertaining the idea of a new IP video security system, they also pooled budgetary dollars from general education to add a camera (and audio equipment) for many of the lower level lecture halls. These cameras, and audio could simply be added into the IP Video System. As a regular process after the class the Professor’s Assistant could export the video as a standard AVI clip (able to be played on any AVI player, like MS Media Player, or Quicktime). This video could be then uploaded to a central repository, like products offered by EMC, and made available for students of they miss a lecture.

Also thinking outside the box, many educational institutions have book stores and Student union buildings, which have Point of Sales (POS) registers, or ATM machines. Why not marry the transactional data (from POS and ATMs) to the video? Indeed, many retail facilities like Target, Home Dept and Walmart have been doing this for years. Why? To combat internal theft (AKA shrinkage) and give a more likely chance to give video evidence in the case of a robbery or other altercation at the register. What about training for new employees? Again, budgetary dollars for a system that was initially just a perimeter protection becomes pooled by other interested departments.

Of course, the typical campus wouldn't be alone in needing wireless cameras transmitted across campus lakes, parking lots (to save the campus from costly trench-digging), and building wireless bridges from building to building. For events, mobile video units could be set up for large festival and sporting events. Video Systems can be set up on towable trailers to drive to a site, turn it on and leave it to transmit video back to the central head end. These pieces can be realized with the Verint line of products.

Finally, when a university considers how it might obtain more budgetary dollars for immediate solutions to their Security and Surveillance needs, they should consider working with larger organizations to help lobby state and local legislators. Some of these larger organizations, like CDW and EMC, are already vendors of the university and already have the connections to the lawmakers.

By the end of the discussions, the university folks had some great usage ideas to take to the committees to build credibility for the new projects. These are the exciting parts of what I do, because by educating the university as to what CAN be done, it increases the likelihood a proven product will be chosen and the students, faculty and families around the university will be protected…

Just food for thought…

- Security Caffeine

Saturday, May 17, 2008

CCTV for Vandalism and Pooping a bad thing? I Think NOT!

I recently wrote on my blog asking the question about CCTV Security and whether it can be useless. And in truth, it CAN be if improper expectations are set. In that post, I was trying to get to what causes a CCTV Video system to fail to achieve its original purpose - typically changing expectations, and lack of education.

Now a new threat to the CCTV Security Industry is growing. More and more articles have been popping up about the misuse or uselessness of CCTV Video, once its been installed. The troubling part of this trend is they are using things like vandalism and littering as reasons why the security system has failed. Granted, in many cases, it is federal money which funds the larger CCTV projects. But this shouldn't mean the CCTV system can ONLY be used to fight terrorism.

Let's be real here, Security Directors of corporations and municipalities are required to provide security for an area or group of people, and are many times given a limited budget with which to do so. These folks are often forced to make very difficult and often frustrating choices because of that limited budget. But then, they are offered up a substantial bank of additional funds with federal dollars "to aid in Homeland Security". This can be a great way to, cost-efectively, augment the system originally intended to protect the local community or organization.

In a recent article, "U.K. turns CCTV, terrorism laws on pooping dogs", the author has some discouraging words about the misuse of the CCTV System. He mentions several media points in which the CCTV System is used to investigate smaller issues like pooping dogs, people littering and vandalising, misuse of parking spots and false claims for damages.

In the article above, the gentleman refers to a number of articles coming out of the UK that seem to hold a similar view that the growing use of CCTV Camera Systems is in misuse. Frankly, why should we consider littering (illegal in many areas), false claims for damages (aka protection from liability), and vandalism (yep, also illegal) as MISUSE of a camera system? This is not misuse, this is opportunistic law enforcement - and a GOOD THING!

OK, OK, I realize checking to see if a dog poops on a lawn, or looking down a woman's blouse is certainly improper use, but there can easily be protection against this from within the system. With a properly installed IP Video System, a secondary "Supervisory" work area can be established. In this "Supervisory" location, the "watchers" are watched. Any improper use can be constantly monitored, and can be immediately reprimanded. This is just common use of checks and balances.

I find it interesting how people from outside the CCTV Security Industry, with no knowledge of the actual workings of deterring or halting criminal activity using video, find it easy to lay false claims themselves about how a system SHOULD be used...

Just food for thought...

Matt Marshall
Security Caffeine

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

City-wide Wireless CCTV for Police

I've had a number of recent discussions with end users (particularly Police Deptartments and Municipalities), regarding City-wide Wireless CCTV Systems. The desire here is to protect an area in the city with a group of WIRELESS CCTV Cameras. The secondary purpose, but often becomes the biggest purpose, is to allow an officer in the police cruiser to view the video (wirelessly) as he nears the area. This is a great concept, but it's important to set expectations of what CAN be done with reliability and stability.

Consider first the amount of bandwidth a typical CCTV Camera would require to send video to a central or semi-central location. At 15 FPS and 2CIF resolution, the bitrate might be 1024 Kbps. Multiply that times 10 cameras to cover an area in the city and you might have 10Mbps pretty quickly. Now, put that on a wireless link at a maximum of 54Mbps, it seems there is no problem. Right?

Correct. No problem, that is, if that's all that will ever go across the wireless link. But what about VIEWING the video (how many connections to the cameras)? Will the cameras ever be opened to John Q. Public? If the cameras are IP, what about sending a second encoder stream to an analytics server for server based analytics, or a secondary recorder for that matter? There are many factors that can change the bandwidth requirements across the wireless network, and they should all be considered before the solution is provided.

One great way to manage the bandwidth is to separate out wireless network infrastructure for different purposes. Consider a Wireless network with directional antennae bringing the video back to a central point. Then a second Wireless MESH network with Omni-directional antennae making the video available to vehicles and other folks as permission allows. This way the stability of the wireless network is much greater, AND a network failure on the MESH side does not interfere with the recording of cameras, or vice versa. Of course this is a costly endeavor, and wireless network saturation might become an issue in some cities.

In addition, to control the wireless stream, consider products that can be implemented in a multicast function. This way, one stream is send to the network switch. The Switch then makes available many client streams to be tapped into, rather than Unicast mode in which the encoder itself must deal with the multiple clients.

In it's new line of Wireless Products (5.0), Verint offers up some new technologies and configurations, which are specifically designed for the transmission of video to a central point. Radios are preconfigured to ive preference to upstream transmission, knowing that the grand majority of data flow is upstream (the streaming video). Using SPCF, allows the Access Points to avoid any automatic reduction in bitrates due to the common "Hidden Node" issue experienced in many of today's wireless networks.

Finally, when there is a need for multiple levels of client access to the cameras (eg, police cruiser connects at 512Kbps, wireless handheld connects at 128Kbps, and a desktop computer connects at 100Mbps), the end user might consider using an application like AirVisual's Intelliviewer and Orsus' Situator to provide a centrally located video streaming server, which can receive video from encoders, IP Cameras and DVRs, and push the video back out via a separate video stream. Some of these can also provide custom mapping features, which will show zoomed in maps, sized to fit PDA or Laptop screen resolutions. This enables the officer, on foot or in a cruiser, to quickly view the video by clicking on the camera icon on a Map.

It's easy to see how technology IS capable of doing what the end user is asking, but to do it reliably, can cost a bit more than what they are expecting.

Just food for thought...

- Matt Marshall
Security Caffeine

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Can you have Useless IP Video Security?

"Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe."

An interesting thought considering how much money was spent, and how much money IS spent every year on CCTV in the US. The truth of the matter is that, YES, CCTV Security can be useless. We have seen many times in The Industry a customer make extravagant requirements in the RFQ/ RFI, and throw MUCH money at the project with no clue as to WHY they need it.

The truth is, an educated end user is a happy customer. If an end user has made decisions based upon knowing the reality of the technology and its capabilities, then when the system is installed, they are happy with those decisions. Success, and specifically success for a particular technology, breeds success. This means the end user population will talk (or perhaps, boast) about there great new IP Video System (that WORKS!), and the Security Insdustry will grow.

In contrast, if the manufacturer or installer (software or hardware) has made false claims or tried to hide certain limitations for which they know the customer is looking, then when the system is installed, it fails to meet expectations. The customer is dis-satisfied and, basic rule of retail here, they tell 10 others. Next things we know, the Security market is trying to re-educate the customer in what really can be done with new technologies.

One simple case of this is with some of the new wireless technologies, many assume that since wireless is becoming all the new craze in the internet market, that it's natural to use that same bandwidth to carry IP Video systems for traffic, and city surveillance. True, it COULD be done, but the sacrifice Joe Q. Public would make on his Internet connection would likely not be worth it. Perhaps a better suggestion for the Cities and Counties looking to add Surveillance and Traffic Cams, is to add a designated Wireless infrastructure for that purpose, and leave the Public Wireless Infrastructure alone.

Another case where the industry saw some tremendous buzz, but in addition, large amounts of false data, was with Analytics. Based upon initial speculations, many companies tried to jump ahead of the curve and tell people what could be done with Analytics. Unfortunately, by letting the mind imagine what could be done, the industry started trying to press wrong technologies into impossible scenarios. Analytics failed terribly, and the IP Video market took a beating due to this issue. Some things in Analytics are easy to deal with; Tripwires, Objects left behind, Loitering, and People Counting. On the other hand, Analytics cannot distinguish between a person being attacked in a park, and two people playing Football or Rugby in that same park.

Back to the original question "Can you have Useless IP Video Security?" Absolutely! But what usually causes this is an end user who does not know what they are really trying to get out of the system, so they install one system cheaply and expect it to do everything.

Recommendation: Always make a camera have a purpose. Get the end user to focus on that purpose of the camera(s) being installed. It's even OK to make a camera have multiple purposes, just as long as those purposes align properly. For instance, in a bank, a teller camera, should be focused on a teller. Don't try to use the teller cameras to also capture activities going on in the lobby of the bank. By focusing the camera on the areas around the teller and that teller's customer, the bank has a much higher likelihood of capturing the necessary images to catch a theif, or prove a fraud case.

Another example is a group of PTZ Cameras to cover a City Park area. Consider each camera's placement, yes, but also be sure the camera has the ability to "return to HOME" after a certain period of inactivity. Many Analytics (like loitering, people counting or tripwires) can be run, even on PTZ Cameras, as long as they have a preset or home position to which they return in a tour, or time-based event.

Just food for thought...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

CCTV Video for Hospitals

I happened to see a News Article this morning in the TV regarding a woman who gained access to the Newborn Ward at a hospital in Sanford FL. She walked in, grabbed a baby and left. Just like that! Many hospitals take great care in protecting the baby with wrist bracelets, alarm systems and locked doors. But even with those securities, there are still things that can be done to protect against this type of things from happening.

One of the great things about security these days is how it can be implemented with relative low impact on the a person's freedom and on the environment. If video systems are implemented or augmented using newer features (like integration to access control and alarm systems, as well as, some analytics), then responses to these types of cases become much more immediate and effective.

In Sanford, FL, the door alarms were triggered immediately, and the woman who stole the baby was tracked down quickly by the police. CCTV Video was used to get a definite and immediate picture for the police force to know for whom they were looking. The baby was returned to the parents unharmed.

Consider some other reasons for security in hospitals - the mother who is sick after giving birth who gets taken advantage of by a person on the ward, the people who claim the nursing staff is abusive or neglectful, or how about giving the hospital a clear way to see activity within the different areas to adjust staffing, heating or lighting. These are all ways video can be used, with minimal human effort to protect people and reduce costs in our hospitals.

Just food for thought...

Matt Marshall

Friday, May 2, 2008

Post 20080502

I wanted to say today is a brilliant day.  I had a great evening last night with a small group of friends playing guitar and discussing amazing things.  Then I returned home and had a fantastic evening with my family.  Evenings like this don’t happen very often, but when they do, they are so important to hold onto.


Matt Marshall, Verint Information Systems



New Roles, New Goals

I have a new adventure ahead. I recently accepted a new position within my organization which will test my detrmination to succeed. I am making the leap from backing up the sales team with my technical expertise to a purely sales role.

This is exciting and a bit nerve racking. This is a very uncertain time in the US. Folks are talking about recession, and frankly I wonder how much that will effect an organization's drive to purchase enterprise security systems.

Any thoughts?


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