Once a niche area of the physical security market, surveillance cameras capable of utilising IP networks have begun showing up on IT managers' radars as a means to both secure their organisations and help achieve shared business goals.
Emerging a few years back as logical successors to closed circuit television (CCTV) and tape-based cameras, IP cameras have since become more cost effective, capable of producing ever higher resolution images and in some instances, can serve as platforms for applications.
One organisation to cotton on to the power of IP cameras as an application platform is Swinburne University of Technology.
Encouraged by the strength of its own network – a 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) backbone runs between the university’s six Victorian campuses – and the successful roll out of some 310 cameras to date from Axis Communications, the university has since begun to deploy IP-based smart applications to make better use of its visual network.
According to the university’s IT security officer, Chris Goetze, Swinburne has adopted a people counting application supplied by local analytics vendor, SenSen Networks, running over the IP cameras deployed in its main library at the Hawthorn campus as a means of providing business analytics information to IT staff.
“One of the things the library really needs to know is the utilisation of the resources they provide,” Goetze says. “Are students looking at books or using the computers provided inside the library? What are the peak times of use? Where we had positioned the cameras gave us a unique opportunity to track people through the library.”
As a result, the university has been able to improve the way the Hawthorn Campus Library operates.
“The library now knows it had 12,000 people through on Open Day, and is really looking forward to using this data to say, ‘we needed to change the format of the library as we have too many people traversing up three floors’,” Goetze says. “We hope that’s the sort of data that will come out and it seems it already is.”
Like Swinburne, the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) — the organisation responsible for managing the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) — also began its move to IP cameras a few years back when it became increasingly clear that IP, with the backing of its IT department, was the way of the future.
“If I had a rack of 30 or 40 DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) I have no-one on-site looking after those and if something goes wrong I have to call in an integrator to come in and look at them,” Andy Frances, manager of security and visit management support at the cricket club, says.
“Now, if my back-end storage solution is an 80 terabyte (TB) IBM server I have an IT department who is on-site all the time and who understands it and can look after it. As well as that, the flexibility of the IP systems, the cameras, things like analytics and the quality of the vision you can now get with high definition cameras, it really wasn’t a hard decision in the end.”
Brett Liddle, information systems manager at the MCC says the existing IP camera setup is used for basic security and access control purposes, but the organisation is now assessing whether it will deploy people counting and mass crowd counting solutions at the MCG.
“We are also looking at licence plate recognition just to try and capture the cars and transport vehicles coming in and out of the grounds so we have a very solid record of who has come in and out in case we do have an issue,” he says.
In addition, Liddle says the MCC is assessing deploying a mapping application so that the organisation can look at a schematic of the MCG grounds, click on a certain part of the ground and get an instant view via its IP cameras of what’s happening in that part of the grounds. In this way MCG staff can rapidly respond to incidents affecting the safety of the crowd as quickly as possible.
“We are also exploring things like remote connectivity to the system so we can shoot images to the guards via portable devices,” he says. “If we have a lost child then we can send them that image or project it onto the screens in the grounds.”