Digital video solutions are finding their way into all types of new applications to better protect people and assets. Security Magazine recently had the opportunity to talk with Ted Bushnik, transportation systems product manager with March Networks. He shares an interesting perspective on the role surveillance is playing in mass transit.
Security Magazine: Why are transportation providers turning more and more to digital video solutions to help secure their facilities and cargo?
Bushnik: The transportation industry is one of the fastest growing markets for digital video technology. Transit agencies around the world are discovering the value of using video surveillance to effectively manage their risks on buses, subways, light rail, commercial carriers and in transit stations. A fully monitored transit system increases public and employee safety, assists in identifying terrorist threats, supports liability defense, and increases operational efficiency. Also, the lower cost of ownership made possible by wireless communications and video analytics is encouraging more and more transit companies to incorporate live and recorded video into their security operations.
Security Magazine: How are these digital video applications proving their value in the real world?
Bushnik: Recent public transportation terrorist incidents have proven the value of digital video surveillance in identifying and catching suspected criminals. Surveillance video aided police in quickly tracking down and capturing many of the people responsible for the terrorist acts.
Aside from increasing the safety of customers and employees, public transit authorities are also turning to digital video to protect assets, combat vandalism, and improve overall operations by optimizing their processes and procedures. That all translates into an improvement in customer satisfaction.
Security Magazine: What are some of the product application challenges unique to the mass transportation industry?
Bushnik: The fact that this is a “mobile” industry presents all types of special application challenges. Harsh operating conditions, along with vibration and temperature extremes on buses, trucks, subways and rail cars, require vendors to pay special attention to the design and engineering of mobile DVRs. Video system hard-drives, in particular, are very vulnerable to vibration, temperature extremes, shock, water, power interruptions and electro-magnetic interference.
In the past, when maintaining an analog or first generation DVR system, owners had to actually visit each vehicle and visually check all the cameras to make sure they were in focus, pointed in the right direction and working properly. With new visual intelligence mobile products, the system automatically schedules a periodic camera check by taking a 10 second clip off each camera and wirelessly transmitting it to a designated system administrator. Now, instead of chasing vehicles, transit staff can go to work in the morning and quickly flip through the emailed clips right at their desks and make any needed adjustments.
Security Magazine: How are wireless and GPS technologies playing into the success of mobile digital video?
Bushnik: By using wireless hot spots located at fueling depots, distribution centers or service facilities, transit authorities are able to easily download video, check camera positioning, confirm the health status of system components and execute software upgrades. Wireless automatic programming changes, software updates and health monitoring of video hard-drives and cameras reduce the cost of ownership and maximize system performance. In addition, advanced diagnostic capabilities can monitor hard-drive performance and alert transit security staff to schedule maintenance before a hard-drive fails.
Wireless connectivity via cellular networks allows security staff at transit headquarters to be instantly alerted to an incident in progress and view video in real-time from the vehicle in question. The wireless connection operates on a lower bandwidth, but is good enough to view live video with accompanying GPS information. In the future, transit authorities will be able to take advantage of citywide Wi-Fi networks and hot spots for 24/7 online access to transit vehicles.
Security Magazine: Are we going to see a safer, more efficient mass transportation industry as a result of this new mobile video technology?
Bushnik: The potential for catastrophic events such as accidents, shootings and terrorist attacks on the scale of recent incidents in London and Spain accounts for the continued requirement for innovative video technology in the transit market. In a catastrophic event, law enforcement agencies will need high-quality video evidence, so designing the system for wireless extraction of video in a pre-programmed way just makes sense.
Other features transit authorities like to see in their video systems are audio recording, and synchronized GPS and speed tracking. Audio and video together tell a more complete story and are crucial to any criminal investigation or complaint. Audio strengthens the case by allowing investigators to hear exactly what was said at a crime scene. GPS integration places the vehicle in an exact location so you know what, when, and where something happened.