Knight nabs big state job with new technology

Texas integrator says megapixel cams, H.264 create efficiencies for customer
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DALLAS—Knight Security Systems this month is wrapping up a large-scale video surveillance project with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), which involved the installation of more than 3,200 megapixel cameras in 336 buildings on 12 campuses spread throughout the state.

“The project included cameras, servers, operating software, an end-to-end network infrastructure [and a three-year service contract.] We installed 35 miles of fiber optic cable on the campuses to connect the buildings together,” said Chris Hugman VP/executive project manager for Knight Security Systems.

Part of the reason Knight Security won the $12 million contract, Hugman said, is because it proposed a scalable solution using newer technology, which saved money for the state agency.

“The timing of the project allowed us to do a couple of interesting things that benefited the state,” he said. “We used megapixel resolution cameras throughout. Secondly, we were able to incorporate the latest H.264 video encoding which gives better bandwidth efficiency and storage efficiency.”

Knight won the project in the fall of 2009. “Even six months earlier this [H.264] was not a generally available technology for us. The result has been very good quality images on video with manageable network and storage requirements. The customer has been very pleased with the clarity and performance.”

Image quality was important to this customer, Hugman said. Early in 2009, the state Legislature mandated that DADS install a video surveillance system to ensure that residents of these 12 campuses, who include individuals with physical, mental and emotional handicaps, were being well treated.

Knight used IQInvision cameras, OnSSI video management software, Zyxel network switches and Dell Servers to provide the interactive video-monitoring interface. “In all, our entire design was comprised of only twelve separate components,” Hugman noted.

How do the cameras and H.264 compression standard save money?

“Using megapixel cameras we were able to use fewer cameras to cover more space,” Hugman said.

“H.264 really comes into play on the network and system infrastructure. You can put more cameras on a single gigabit link to head end as an example.” In addition, the state wants to maintain an extended video archive and “H.264 allows them to do that without exorbitant storage capacity.”

Each campus has its own independent system architecture with a monitoring room, and the number of buildings on each campus ranges from six to 62, and the number of cameras in each building ranges from one to more than 70 in one building. “So we had to have an architecture that was very scalable to meet the requirements of each campus and having it come back to the head end,” Hugman said.

The head end or the campus server rooms house from one to nine servers that record the video and serve it to the security monitoring rooms on each campus.

The OnSSI Ocularis VMS is interactive and includes maps. The security personnel “can change the view, look at and review recorded video and export video to a disk if they need to make a permanent record.”

Knight is monitoring the health of the security system 24/7 through its SecurePlan Support Center, a service Knight has provided in the past, but one that was upgraded for this project.

“We’ve done some remote notification in the past, but now we’ve taken it to a different level,” he said. “We’re using SNMP network management tools with our own broadband connection into the system, separate from the state network, and that’s how we’re able to monitor the health and performance of the system,” Hugman explained.

“Network-based video surveillance is clearly growing in popularity, and we’re seeing clients move toward that very rapidly.” With this project under its belt, Hugman said Knight is well positioned to leverage the lessons learned from this installation, the volume discounts it gained with vendors, and the use of the technology itself in future jobs. All this and upgrading its Secure Plan Support Center “has made us better and our customers are the beneficiaries of that,” Hugman said.