UK university future-proofs security system with IP surveillance

UK university future-proofs security system with IP surveillance

Managing a growing university
Founded in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is the UK's fifth oldest university. Today it boasts some 13,900 students, and is currently going through rapid expansion with three new buildings due to be opened in the next few years, after successfully raising over $129 million and with a new campaign to raise a further $242 million by 2010. It is also partway through the largest WiFi deployment in Scotland and the second largest in the UK, with some 1,000 Trapeze WiFi access points installed.

Security and surveillance is the responsibility of the Estates Section's Support Services department, employing a total of 150 people out of the 240 total Estates Section staff. Support Services provides all cleaning, portering and security services to the university. A total of 30 personnel today provide surveillance monitoring and physical patrolling throughout the campus around the clock.

Surveillance challenges
William Stevenson, Assistant Estates Director for Support Services at the University of Aberdeen was in charge of the strategic review carried out in 2005 looking at the surveillance requirements for the university. Some immediate issues needed to be addressed; the control room had been outgrown as over time more equipment and staff had come on board. Four separate stand-alone CCTV systems were in operation, with proprietary cameras and components requiring spares and maintenance from different manufacturers. A new system would have to be easily scalable to accommodate the future expansion plans for the university and be implemented with minimal disruption.

Stevenson had seen the success of IP-surveillance deployments elsewhere in the education sector. The solution would need to capitalize on some 35 existing analog CCTV cameras as well as introducing new cameras. Stevenson reduced the list of possible integrator companies down to two, and chose respected Scottish building services and facilities management company Arthur McKay (AM). His chosen integrator already had extensive experience in working with IP-Surveillance and had worked previously with both Axis and video management specialists Milestone Systems.

Simple and effective
AM installed 20 new Axis 233D network cameras and integrated 35 existing analog cameras into the IP-surveillance system through the use of AXIS 241Q (Quad) video encoders. All data is carried on a VLAN, with the university's extensive network supplying 100 megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth to all cameras via one gigabit link at the server end.

The university moved to a new, larger security office in January 2007 as the focal point for an upgrade of its surveillance system; all images are now viewed on two Samsung 42-inch LCD screens capable of displaying 16 cameras on each screen comfortably. Images are collected in MPEG-4 format, reducing bandwidth and storage requirements by at least 50 percent compared with JPEG. Images are then stored on a RAID 5 SCSI device which is capable of holding up to 12 TB of data, with the 55 cameras currently using nine TB of storage space to collect two weeks worth of images.

AM was able to make the new cameras live alongside the original CCTV cameras that were operating via Axis video encoders in a matter of days. The system can now be expanded as the campus grows, with plans for 16 new network cameras to be deployed campus-wide in the next three years. It can also exploit its extensive investment in network and cabling infrastructure going forward.

Result
Image quality has improved dramatically, ensuring that images submitted to the local police can be used as evidence. Thirty-five of the existing analog cameras that were still serviceable have been integrated into the new surveillance system to keep costs down. Morale amongst the security team has improved as the new technology helps make their job easier. The system can be scaled further to accommodate growth across the university's campus.

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