Multi-tasking security video – in a prototype – is a success thanks to the team of Tom Cameron, who oversees telecommunications for the Tollway; the tollway's IT Chief Ted Young; and Sentry 360's Thomas Carnevale.

The Federal Highway Admin-istration estimates that the time rush hour drivers are spending in traffic is up a whopping 300 percent or an increase of about 80 hours a year. Security is another concern with more than 6 million vehicle traffic accidents a year.

So it’s no surprise that security video has come to the rescue.

For example, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority recently deployed a multi-megapixel camera with a 360-degree view to monitor its highways and control traffic flow in highly congested areas. From Sentry 360 Security, Naperville, Ill., the equipment delivers a complete solution with a server prototype model CV360 Command Center that works with CommandView 360 by iPIX Security, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

When introduced to the new technology, tollway officials quickly realized the camera would address several challenges in monitoring critical heavy traffic areas. With the installation of a prototype communications tower camera system, the authority can now digitally monitor traffic flow into five toll plazas simultaneously.

Data demands

“A high bandwidth camera system with heavy data demands, such as the iPIX unit, will be an outstanding test of the Illinois Tollway’s next generation network,” said the tollway’s IT chief, Ted Young. “Based on current bandwidth demands on the prototype camera system, no significant network impact is envisioned.”

The effort was part of Open Roads for a Faster Future, a comprehensive congestion relief program launched last year and that requires monitoring traffic at toll plazas in various stages of reconstruction/restoration.

“(We) envision communications tower-based cameras acting as key monitors at all interstate junctions,” said Toll Authority Telecommunications Tech Tom Cameron. “Managing traffic at these junctions, such as the current location at I-294 and I-90, is one key to our 10-year, $5.3 billion congestion relief plan.”

This challenge was especially difficult in the 3.8 square mile area near O’Hare International Airport, where I-90 and I-294 intersect. Five toll plazas in that area serve, on average, nearly 300,000 cars each day. “The ability to have a single camera station to cover this wide area was, at the end of the day, more cost-effective and, in fact, gave us more coverage than straight fixed cameras,” said Young.

The technology creates a virtual map and can view five tollway plazas around the tower-mounted gear.

All-seeing security eye

Monitoring a traffic overview of these constructions zones has a bottom line security result. It ensures prompt response to the ever-changing traffic congestion patterns that lane closures and various plaza configurations present as well as identify any vandalism and theft incidents.

Taken into consideration were such factors and challenges as extended lightning protection, remote power solutions, extensive Category 5 and fiber optics wiring distances and transporting the final image 30 miles to the tollway’s central administration building in suburban Chicago. Data were integrated into the tollway’s network, but not without significant forethought.

“At present, our one iPIX camera is a moderate demand upon our network,” said Cameron. “But with our next-generation network, planned for deployment later this year, the impact will drop to such an insignificant level that the deployment of additional cameras will be practical.”

The CV360 Command Center solution archives the video stream from the CommandView 360 and provides the intuitive front-end user interface to control the PTZ camera interactions with the 360-degree “virtual map.” In addition to live monitoring, the camera system digitally records video from any of its three cameras, or even a hybrid video of all cameras.

“A high bandwidth camera system with heavy data demands will be an outstanding test of the Illinois Tollway’s next generation network,” said IT chief Ted Young as Sentry 360’s Thomas Carnevale is seated at the console.
Originally envisioned as stand-alone, the camera system demonstrated its features and proved its worth over a handful of network computers.

The key feature was the simultaneous video navigation by multiple users. An optional pan-tilt-zoom camera was also installed on the camera system body for long-range viewing. Immediately preceding the testing phase, the camera system was integrated into the tollway’s traffic information management system center.

The project objective, implementing an immersive 360-degree camera system capable of monitoring traffic flow at heavily trafficked highway intersections, was fully realized. As a result of this project, future junction cameras are already on the drawing board.

On top of a tower, the 360 degree camera can view numerous tollway plazas and construction sites for traffic management and security needs.

360 Degrees of View

The 360 degree camera used by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is the CommandView 360, which provides live and archived viewing in full 360 degrees, vertically and horizontally. Traditionally, cameras see only where they are pointed, missing potential threats outside the narrow field-of-view. With a 360 degree approach, there are no blind spots – the technology provides the ability to pan, tilt and zoom live or archived video. Megapixel resolution, optimized lens design and support of simultaneous navigation by multiple users provide greater monitoring performance and efficiency.