When nature calls
Editor / Provider: Christine Chien, a&s International | Updated: 4/23/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner
Not all surveillance deployments are meant solely for security and safety purposes. In this feature, a&s explores security equipment and management software in a “wilder” perspective — nature watching.
The main purpose of VMS is to provide users efficient management of all video files streaming from all cameras, from past to present. It is the basis of video surveillance, recording, analysis, and sharing, with multiple functions such as remote access and control via a Web browser or smartphone, playback, audio support, content search, and much more depending on the user's needs and specifications. As more and more VMS packages are becoming open-architecture, integrators and users are able to freely customize their VMS, adding additional programs to further enhance their operational efficiency. Truly successful VMS lies in its ease-of-use, so users can quickly learn to operate the system even with minimal training.
Nowadays, the common requirements of retaining video recordings for a prolonged period of time makes it easy to get lost amid the large quantities of stored data, but great VMS will help users navigate through the database to find what they need or provide them with important updates and information, even for nonsecurity matters. With a click of the mouse, users are able to quickly retrieve the files that they need, while simultaneously keeping an eye on live conditions in real time. In emergency situations, users are able to immediately make informed decisions if all the necessary data can be quickly gathered in front of their eyes for a quick assessment.
The following series of applications showcases how users utilize their VMS for different forms of applications more akin to nature.
The Greenhouse Effect
The state of Colorado in the U.S. approved a new legislation governing the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sales of medical marijuana in 2010. Due to the high sensitivity of this matter, a customized, full blown security measure including lighting, physical security, video surveillance, face recognition, access control, and alarm was provided and implemented by AxxonSoft at all the medical marijuana-related facilities. After all, if the herbal remedy originally intended for medical use is stolen or falls into the wrong hands, it will immediately and most likely be sold or used illegally.
Despite the various strains of weed available, approved medical grade marijuana comes from only two strains, the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, as these are the only strains with enough potency to provide medical benefits. In order to properly cultivate these plants, the light, air, water, nutrients, temperature, and growing medium must all be carefully controlled for optimum growing conditions. With the help of the integrated VMS, the operators can easily target areas or plants that need more attention or determine the plants that are ready for harvest and optimize plant yields."ViewOptix has developed a video surveillance solution that enables us to record and monitor plant growth, health and nutrient levels, and automatically adjust environmental controls," said Ryan Geller, President of Operations at Pain Management of Colorado. "The system is also integrated with our dispensaries for security at POS kiosks.” With these implementations in place, the operators will also be able to monitor the transaction and transportation of the medical marijuana to the separate dispensaries and the transactions that will take place thereafter.
The BAM chase team, led by Bryan Kilgore, Amanda Kilgore, and Michael Clark, follows and tracks down different storms and tornadoes to capture these powerful natural occurrences live on camera. The data they gather and share are extremely useful to scientific research.
When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the U.S. on Oct. 28, 2012, the violent storm wreaked havoc in its path and left behind a trail of destruction. Having successfully tracked and recorded more than 20 significant storms in the past, the BAM chase team began to forecast the storm's future course of action, destruction, impact, and monitored Sandy through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and online video feeds. “We forecasted Sandy using the latest in a package of computer models available online. We used our knowledge to predict the path that we felt best that the storm would take. We felt that most of the other forecasters were too far east so we stuck to our guns and kept it west. We were getting comments that we were out of our minds but kept posting about it that east coast needed to keep an eye on it,” said Bryan Kilgore. The team also verified their forecast from what was being reported on the news and online. Despite their efforts, Mother Nature is not easily tracked, nor is it easily predictable. Hurricane Sandy affected a total of 24 states, left 17 states without power, affected millions of people, caused 72 direct deaths, and cost the government an estimated US$75 billion worth of property damage.
Using OnSSI's VMS, which the team installed themselves, they were able to simplify the management of six network megapixel cameras used to document the storms and tornadoes that they chase. The software is loaded onto the server and is able to capture all the videos recorded from the cameras at once. This was the first and only VMS the team has used for their system, while additional software were used to make their live stream happen. Based on the storm's movements, the VMS helped the team topinpoint video from multiple network cameras for a quadrant view. The videos were also able to be exported and distributed through wireless connectivity to any centralized video storage station so it can be instantly distributed to the National Weather Service, National Severe Storm Laboratory, and various media sources as well. This way, their local offices can see the progression of the storms and how it was progressing. “The footage allows us to see things we didn't catch in the field first hand. With the cameras we have installed, we can see 360 degrees around the outside of the vehicle. We can't see everything so this allows us to go back and review that,” said Kilgore.
As for OnSSI, seeing its products being implemented in a non-security application also struck as interesting. “Even with the advancement in technologies supporting physical security today; the operating procedures are still mainly reactive where collection of evidence to a situation is done after the fact. This trend is changing, however in the case of BAM they installed the system strategically to actively capture live data of storms that have immediate impact to lives and properties as it is occurring and feeding this back to meteorologists so they may make the public aware of their efforts toward public safety,” said Julio Montalvo, Director of Technical Services at OnSSI.
This year, the BAM chase team hopes to help more offices and the NSSL with the amount of footage they gain.
The 50-acre Akron Zoological Park is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and preservation located in Ohio, U.S. The zoo had chosen to use Milestone's VMS as a way to supervise and observe the behaviors and health conditions of its wide range of animal inhabitants, especially the dangerous species, and ensure the safety of their handlers. Outside each animal holding area, a monitor displays the live video feed of various cameras placed inside. This allows the animal caretakers to check if animals are properly contained. Not only does the solution raise the safety level of its staff, it also minimizes human interference of the animals, allowing the animals to be observed from afar, so as not to disturb their natural habitat and cause them distress. "Animal safety was our main concern. Cameras were mounted inside the enclosure where it was in a secure location and did not harm the animal, or the animal was unable to reach it," said Tzviah Dank, Information Systems Administrator/IT Projects Manager, at the Akron Zoological Park.
After integration with mobiDEOS' remote viewing application, the video feeds were able to be accessed through the smartphones of relevant staff. This way, animal handlers will be able keep an eye on the zoo animals 24 hours a day, even when they are away from the facility. With the help of the VMS, the caretakers can monitor the animals' breathing patterns and even the contractions of a cat giving birth in real time. All video footage can be stored for a week or longer, if necessary. Prior to these installations, a camcorder was connected to a VCR when recording was needed, according to Dank.
Similar to the Akron Zoological Park, Brookfield Zoo has also installed video surveillance systems throughout its entire premise controlled by Milestone's VMS, in order to ensure crowd control and other security-related incidents. However, the last couple of projects have been geared towards animal health and care. Cameras were placed in rooms where animals were quarantined or giving birth. New habitats have also been built, integrating the cameras into their surroundings for general monitoring but with access also only limited to animal care employees.
Having the constant access to the zoo's animals also allow the caretakers to study the interactions between the animals, as sometimes, the interactions may not be so friendly. If an animal becomes sick, the zoo veterinarians are able to check past videos in order to determine possible causes. They can also check on the animals while on the way to the zoo. Only a select number of zoo employees have access to this private application, as video feeds are not opened to the public.
“For security or general park locations there have been no special circumstances. When the locations involve animal locations, then we have to coordinate work schedules with the animal care professionals and be mindful of their schedules,” said Chris Moomey, Director of Product Development at Current Technologies, sharing his experiences from when he installed the system for the zoo and comparing them to his previous installations. “When the new habitats were built over the last couple of years, the cameras were installed during the construction so it was like any construction site, just with a cool walk to work.”