Retrofit Fits the Bill for Outdated Security Technology
Even under extremely difficult lighting conditions, day/night cameras achieve optimal image results, making them a popular choice for surveillance.
The iPhone, around since 2007, has a new model seemingly every year now-a-days. Microsoft is now on its #10 operating system.
But when it comes to access control systems, security video and intrusion detection – all based primarily on computer and communication, there are numerous systems out there that are older than dirt.
There are numerous reasons and ways that organizations handle a retrofit:
An expanding organization or locations
New, desired features
Changes in infrastructure
Cost is more attractive
New “found” money
Changes in threats and risks
Changes in regulations
As well as “it broke, I got to really fix it.”
For example, the University of Nevada Reno, which faced a migration challenge, was able to save money on wiring, panels and readers when upgrading from legacy to a more powerful, user more-friendly access system from Amag Technology. The university runs its security through two different departments (housing and main campus). With the retrofit, “we were able to operate independently, yet use one database,” says Chas Stricker, residential life, housing and food services at UN Reno.
There are approximately three dozen Reno buildings that have migrated. “As buildings come up for security review and obtain the funding, they migrate over,” he points out. It was an easy transition, Stricker says. It was just “pulling out [the old] panels and plug in” the retrofit ones.
As with many universities, security establishes rules and covers buildings almost like a hotel with food service and library services as well as door controls to individual rooms. When it comes to enrollment, Stricker observes there is self-enrollment but also extra help since there is a regular crush of students. With lock down capability, there is instant security and “a labor saver. The retrofit provides more bang for my buck.”
Overcoming Limitations and End-of-life
Retrofitting or upgrading a legacy system is perfect for those who are facing a security system limitation or end-of-life scenario.
When it comes to an intrusion system, another unique retrofit is at Travis Unified School District in Fairfield, California, with a hybrid intrusion system. It pairs with connected services to manage security at its schools, located within Travis Air Force Base and in neighboring cities and towns.
Now, school district staff members can independently add new employees to the system and remotely monitor activities and events at the schools. Instead of physically going to a site when an alarm sounds, district employees can instead monitor activity as it occurs using a single user interface. Furthermore, the new installation is already loaded with features such as lighting and energy control.
The upgrade “not only simplifies the district’s day-to-day activities, but it also allows us to meet budgetary and operational mandates at the same time,” says David Florez, director of food services, maintenance, transportation and operations for the district. “The customization of our system lets us share responsibilities among several employees, a feature that was at the top of our wish list.” In addition, the hybrid intrusion system’s notifications and icons make maintenance management easier and faster, while tasks such as adding new names to doors can be done in two to three minutes, a task which took an hour or more previously.
Achieving the right fit is one key to successfully retrofitting a legacy security systems. New unified systems may also feature added authentication and authorization protection, encryption and privacy features, a disaster recovery mode, video management enhancements and expanded access control features.
It Takes Time
It may also take time to pull off a big retrofit, says Guy Grace, director of security and emergency preparedness at Littleton Schools in Colorado. Littleton is in the midst of a major “retrofit” project with includes NVRs to replace analog cameras over a period of time. “We eventually will have all of their buildings on one system, controlled from a single, central location.”
The ambitious goal is to create a district-wide, comprehensive physical security information management (PSIM) system. “A full-fledged PSIM system is our end goal. We can bring a variety of systems that are non-proprietary – access control, VMS, fire detection, perimeter, mass notification, barrier protection/detection and diagnostic systems – all together into one unified system. Technology has my back,” observes Grace.
On the video side, he uses cameras from various sources including Sony and Axis Communications. The latest camera fit that appeals to Grace is 360-degree three-megapixel and six-megapixel gear. “We must have quality technology delivering quality results, because we cannot have a successful educational experience, without safety and security taken care of, and taken care of well. You want it to be a positive experience so that people will use it. If we’re using it, then we’re successfully improving security on our campuses,” Grace comments.
On the budget side, a hybrid system, no doubt, has a cost element. “But cameras are very reasonably priced,” Grace says.
As the Commonwealth of Virginia’s largest public university, George Mason University has a population of more than 30,000 students with nearly 5,000 facility members and 2,000 contractors on campus. Showing no signs of slowing its student enrollment, George Mason is a rapidly expanding campus with new facilities and residential halls under construction, and new services being deployed each year. However, an outdated and vulnerable Mason ID card system needed to be replaced with a more secure and comprehensive “One Card” solution that could provide better security, efficient end-to-end issuance capabilities and connect card holders to new services and departments on campus.
Make a Cost-Effective Migration Plan
Most importantly, the university needed a migration plan to completely replace its legacy student ID card system. These cards not only wore out quickly but they relied on a security technology that lacked the cryptographic capabilities of smart cards, and were susceptible to cloning and counterfeiting. It was also difficult to update and manage old campus door locks and cards.
So George Mason designed a cost-effective and comprehensive end-to-end ID solution that enabled administrators to migrate the existing card system over an expected five years. Simultaneously compatible with the legacy student ID cards and the existing hardware on campus, this new solution would be deployed slowly. “One of our goals is to get the students out of the card office as quickly as possible. We wanted something that was seamless, so staff could search for the person, verify the identity, print the card and hand it to the person, knowing that it would work right away,” says Jerry Baugh, director of the Mason card office at the university. “With new printers and ID software, we were able to streamline the entire card process and set up a true one-stop shop on campus that not only reduced the waiting time for the student, but produced a more durable and better looking card that eliminated the hassle and costs of replacing cards that used to wear out too quickly.”
Multi-technology readers and locks ensure the total system also works with the older magstripe ID cards still in use. The move provided the university with more freedom of choice and the ability to add more applications as it scales into the future. “We know mobile credentials are coming, and we want to be positioned. We know our readers are already there, so the ability for us to leverage mobile credentials and send those to the phone will be our next step,” says Danny Anthes, senior manager of information technology.
Also preparing for the future, the Onslow County School System in Jacksonville, North Carolina, has long been an advocate for innovative video surveillance technology. The move to high-resolution IP video started to navigate a hybrid environment with analog encoders and IP video mix. Currently the school district uses surveillance primarily at entrances, exits, hallways, cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, parking lots and other public areas.
Covering All Facilities
Recently installed: one of the first all-digital, integrated crisis lockdown systems, and the first in the state as well as a move from older cameras on the school campuses to high definition video surveillance. According Dusty Rhodes, director of safety and security for the county schools, the upgrade from legacy analog video technology to the latest high definition IP cameras continues across all elementary, middle, high schools as well as the alternative learning facility in the district.
Even on some of the current analog cameras outfitted with encoders and new network video recorders, the immediate difference was night and day, Rhodes says. He adds that no recurring licensing fees was a key selling point for the Panasonic solution.
The system created maps from CAD drawings of the schools provided by the county and implemented functionality in the software by dropping and dragging cameras to their location. They know exactly where the surveillance is at in an instant – you can pull up a floor plan for a school that indicates the precise location of the cameras and click on the camera icon for a live shot.
In another updating example, Lagoon Park in Farmington, Utah, had to wait until it closed its gates for the start of a major retrofit of the park’s security and surveillance infrastructure to support its goal of migrating to an all IP-based solution, according to Jon Wright, IT manager/park director.
Landscape played a role in the improvements. Over the past 12 years, the park has grown from 150 to 225 acres and now hosts 1.7 million visitors every year. It has also added hospitality operations and its own water treatment facility and power plant. As the park has expanded to include bigger and better attractions, its physical security needs have also changed. While the initial solution was to provide overall park surveillance, “It’s now leveraged for management and real-time operations assessment,” according to Wright.
So expanded business benefits also play into the upgrade. “Originally, the focus of the camera system was strictly from a security standpoint – watching the gates and other areas of the park,” Wright says. “The more we used the cameras, the more we realized that we had a lot of other areas of the business that could benefit from the cameras beyond security applications. We use the cameras more and more for management of employees and their interactions with guests; to watch the mechanics of the roller coasters; and overall operations to make sure everything is operating smoothly and safely.”
The existing analog video system has been in place since the park’s first surveillance solution rollout.
Over the past decade, the security system has grown in sophistication and serves the park well, but now the park has decided it’s time to continue on an IP path through a hybrid approach. At one time, the park had a majority of analog cameras, with the analog side to shift increasingly to networked technology. When the park reopened this 2016, there was a majority of network-capable surveillance either with 4K cameras or with encoders to convert analog signals to digital.
“We don’t have the luxury of tearing everything out at once, so we appreciate the flexibility to upgrade the solution on our timeframe and budget,” says Wright. “I have cameras that have been here more than 25 years, and they are still working well.”
Uniquely to this type of business, as the size of the rollercoasters has grown, so have the number of cameras watching those attractions.
The newest coaster, Cannibal, is a $26 million mega-coaster with more than 70 cameras installed in and around the structure. Another new rollercoaster, Wicked, cost $12 million and has about a dozen cameras providing a video record for safety, security and operations management. For the upgrading, “It’s critical we have a record that everything is functioning properly. New coasters are complicated and have lots of sensors. There’s more technology to watch, and we want to make sure everything is perfect,” Wright says. “With coasters moving at 70 mph, we need every frame we can get and (the upgraded) cameras provide the high frame rate we need to ensure the ride is operating without issue.”
Mitigating vulnerabilities is yet another push to retrofit and upgrade a legacy system. At Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, there was outdated and unsupported access software, poorly supported controllers and readers, the ID card system was built on outdated dining software, maintenance was challenging and there was on universal lockdown, according to Matt Zimmerman, a security integration project manager at LaForce, Inc.
The new look had to use existing gear where appropriate, points out Tony Warren, also a security integration field project manager at LaForce, but had to be managed centrally with integration with security video. Potentially cover all buildings as well as have bottom line cost savings. Then there was the need to schedule doors based on business rules with emphasis on unlocking and locking doors at events. The retrofit included new technology – a security management system as well as access hardware.
And sometimes, a combination of system sources can focus on and deliver an upgrade. The Hamilton Family Center (HFC), a San Francisco shelter for victims of domestic violence and homelessness, needed an updated security system. The center’s previous system included analog DVR recorders that had poor image quality and made it difficult for HFC to efficiently monitor hallways and common areas. It wanted high quality cameras with superior coverage and a network video recorder that could help security staff quickly and efficiently handle incidents.
One enhancement is a recording solution based on video management software preloaded and configured for fast installation, performance and reliability. The system’s ease of use allows security staff to set up and manage views with minimal training.
Dave Curto, director of operations for the Human Services Agency, which is responsible for all self-sufficiency programs in San Francisco, including the Hamilton Family Center, says that he and his staff were able to learn how to use the video management software on a first demonstration. He also appreciates the ability to view incidents in real-time and the ease of video export. In addition, the “image quality is such that video evidence is consistently admissible in court,” he adds.
Another source creates a unique security solution for Hamilton Family Center in San Francisco, California. “We don’t have users at this location who are very familiar with computer software,” says principal and owner of The Consulting Group’s Jeanine Lovejoy. “That’s what makes video management products so great.
Training sessions are so easy, and the intuitive interface and simplicity of creating and managing views means we never have to teach someone twice.”
New Systems that Anticipate New Needs
The Sacramento Kings plan to integrate the building automation systems, as well as fire and life safety systems, to create an all-encompassing impact on under construction Golden 1 Center, future home of the Kings professional basketball team. Through these systems, Sacramento’s new, world-class entertainment and sports venue will be operationally smarter, safer and more sustainable, all designed to enhance the fan experience.
“The fan experience at Golden 1 Center will be second-to-none thanks to innovative technology and advanced arena operation solutions,” says Kings President Chris Granger. “Our safety, fan experience and sustainability goals are all being achieved with the help of intelligent buildings.” A building automation system, smoke control system, security access controls, security video, burglar alarm system, intercom and emergency phones are there.
The tech approach will connect HVAC equipment as well as security and fire protection on a single platform to provide essential instrumentation and control, which saves energy, increases productivity and enhances occupant comfort and security. It anticipates future upgrades and its scalability can handle changes in arena needs.