Government Technology

Video Surveillance Turning Smarter with IP-Based Video Cameras

Surveillance in State of Michigan

October 9, 2007 By

For several years the residents of Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) in Illinois faced a peculiar security challenge. They often witnessed strangers loitering in the vicinity indulging in drug sales, public drinking and other offensive behaviors, but despite various security measures, those activities could hardly be contained. That was because, they discovered, the vast majority of those who engaged in such activities were not residents at all. So, while many were spotted, not all could be nabbed because as many as two-thirds of the belonged outside the housing community.

Officials of RHA realized that besides all the measures already taken, another security layer in the form of a ubiquitous video surveillance was required. But how? With 15 properties that include 2100 housing units, RHA is the third-largest public housing authority in Illinois, and wiring the whole area was neither cheap, nor easy. "There were a few regular wired cameras (called the CCTV cameras) installed already but those were not flexible and couldn't provide very effective surveillance because RHA had a lot of trees," says Paul Hackerson, security director, Rockford Housing Authority.

The solution came from Montel Technologies, a provider of wired and wireless networking systems, that installed a new security monitoring system is based on IP-based video cameras and a wireless mesh network from Silicon Valley-based Firetide, Inc.

"Crimes plummeted by 20 percent soon after we installed the wireless cameras," says Paul Hackerson, and "now we monitor the property not only from the monitoring office but also from our homes if need be. And we use the cameras for a lot more than security surveillance. The cameras also tell me if the property in being maintained properly, if the grass is getting mowed, or if there are any hazards I need to deal with."

While the RHA is using wireless video cameras for checking crime rate and also to keep an eye out on the maintenance of the vast property, other uses are emerging elsewhere. The Phoenix Police Department that was the first police department in the country to use wireless video surveillance for time-critical investigative deployments and it is now moving on to its next step. The department, according to Chris Jensen, a detective with the city's Drug Enforcement Bureau, is trying to develop new uses of wireless video surveillance so that the cameras do more intelligent things like reading the number plates of cars, crime suppression through interpretation of movements, and as an officers' safety tool.

Indeed, following the 9/11 terror attacks, as homeland security initiatives gains growing importance in America, wireless video surveillance has emerged as the most preferred video surveillance tool for police departments and municipalities.

"Video surveillance over Internet Protocol is accelerating very fast with numerous law enforcement and public safety agencies across the U.S. adopting wireless video surveillance in order to make their jobs more efficient and cost effective," says Bo Larsson, CEO of Firetide Inc, the California-based developer of wireless mesh networks that claims to be the largest player in wireless video surveillance market in US.

According to Larsson there have been over 40 installations of IP-based video surveillance in the past 18 months systems in the US, "and soon, you will see some very big announcements too."

Firetide estimates that out of the global $1.5 billion IP-based video camera market in 2006-2007, the US alone will account for well over $650 million.

There are many reasons for this trend. But foremost among them is the fact that wireless digital video cameras are easy to install. "We were pleasantly surprised at the speed of implementation [of a wireless video surveillance system]," says Tom Lawrence, deputy police chief of the Dallas Police department.

Dallas has a population of 1.2 million and spans 385 square miles. Downtown is an especially busy area that sees hundreds of thousands of people visiting the area during the day. Thousands

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