Samsung IP video earns high grade at Utah school district

Samsung IP video earns high grade at Utah school district
IP video earns high grade at Utah school district. With nearly 70,000 students on 87 different campuses, Davis School District is the second largest in Utah and ranks 52nd in the U.S. The district’s administration, based in Farmington, Utah, is responsible for meeting the educational needs of a growing population of students, which has increased more than 20 percent in the last decade.

Given its large student population spread across 299 square miles, the school district has placed a high value on maintaining the safety and security of its schools, each of which is equipped with a video surveillance system. Until recently, those systems were analog across the district – but given the performance and quality of video those systems generate, Davis School District is changing that. Beginning more than two years ago, individual schools’ video systems have been upgraded to IP systems incrementally to take advantage of the superior performance and quality benefits of IP. At present, upgrades have been completed at roughly a quarter of the district’s schools, with an additional three systems currently in the process of being upgraded.

The transition process has been overseen by Justin Mott, Buildings Coordinator for the Davis School District, who has designed each system. For installations, Mott has collaborated with Jerry Smith of the district’s Security Camera Shop. After testing a handful of manufacturers’ cameras early in the upgrade process, Mott chose Samsung IP cameras for deployment district-wide.

“We researched and tested several IP-based systems and also installed cameras, recording hardware and software from different manufacturers in an effort to select the right long-term solution for our district,” Mott says.

After testing, the choice to go with Samsung was based primarily on the quality of the cameras. Samsung's recorders and Samsung Security Manager (SSM) video management system solidified Mott’s decision. Along with other models, the system employs the SND-6084R, a fixed dome with built-in-motion detection, as well as the SNP-6200RH, PTZ camera.

“Cost was a big issue because we have so many installations with anywhere from a dozen up to 50 cameras. The fact that we could deploy the Samsung software without incurring long-term, ongoing licensing or camera fees was huge,” Mott says. “The district is looking for technology we can invest in for the long-term, and because Samsung builds the recorders and the cameras, I knew they would be in a good position as far as stability and long-term commitment.”

In designing each system, Mott starts with a basic list of locations within the building where cameras will be installed, including common areas and inside entrances. Then he meets with school administrators to find out if there are any areas where they feel added coverage is needed. Finally, Mott does a walkthrough to determine where and what type of cameras will be placed. The final step in the process is to develop a material schedule and installation details and to order the necessary materials.

“Mostly we design our installations based on a walkthrough where we ask ourselves, 'What do we need this camera to do?' That's how we determine what camera we're going to install and identify the best location," Mott says.

As an example, Samsung Techwin offers more than one camera with infrared illumination to support day/night use in outdoor areas, but they have different capabilities. The SND-6084R is a fixed-dome type with a wide field-of-view. With built-in motion detection, it's ideal for covering areas where nobody should be at night. In contrast, the SNP-6200RH is a PTZ-type camera, which might be better for an active parking lot, for example, where a security officer can use the PTZ function to have a closer look at something if necessary. By looking at each installation area, Mott develops a plan that will work best for the schools, with the right functionality in each location.

The SND-6084R is a fixed-dome type with a wide field-of-view. With built-in motion detection, it's ideal for covering areas where nobody should be at night.

After the walkthrough and determining which camera types are the best choices for each location, Mott draws up an AutoCAD layout using the school's floor plan and provides it to the installation crew. The district's security camera shop then builds a network specifically for the video surveillance system, which is separate from the school's existing network.

"We pull all the wires and put everything in to build a standalone network within the building. That way if they have any issues, ours will be completely separate from theirs," Smith says.

While the specifics of each system may vary from one to the other, one thing they have in common is that cameras are used to cover a wide variety of locations, which differ from school to school.

“A lot of people like to use cameras for general coverage to know that people are in a particular area, so besides the ‘big three’ locations – all the entrances, bathroom entryways and drinking fountains – we’re also looking at hallways and common areas, especially places where people tend to congregate,” Smith says. “Administrators can't be everywhere at all times, so the video system helps them be more aware of who’s in their buildings and where.”

The SNP-6200RH is a PTZ-type camera, which might be better for an active parking lot, for example, where a security officer can use the PTZ function to have a closer look at something if necessary.

Among the schools that have already received upgrades are Heritage Elementary School in Layton and Cook Elementary School in Syracuse. Heritage Elementary, which opened in 2002 and has an enrollment of around 1,100 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, deployed Samsung cameras in 2014 to cover the important interior locations, as well as some outdoor coverage of its parking lot areas. In addition to the peace of mind the Samsung cameras provide, they have also had usefulness outside of the school district.

“The cameras just have the ability to help us make sure kids are safe and so that's really the reason we kind of pushed for getting them in here,” says Heritage Principal Chris Whitaker. “Some of our cameras also look out onto a fairly busy throughway, and we’ve often had the city police come in and ask if our camera captured video of a particular accident or incident.”

Built to accommodate 550 students, Cook Elementary has an enrollment of 800, making portable classrooms a necessity. The school’s cameras are located outside to provide coverage from all sides of the building, as well as cameras being located within the school to monitor activity. The school's need for portables in combination with rapid growth in Syracuse have made the Samsung cameras valuable for the school.

“The cameras have been very helpful for monitoring our portable classrooms and our parking lots and the bike racks are always a hot spot,” says Principal Loren Clark of Cook Elementary.

Each school’s video systems may be monitored locally or from the district’s Building Controls Monitoring Center for the purpose of alarm verification, or from the Emergency Operations Center in emergency situations. Following each installation, the Samsung cameras have demonstrated their value several times over. A prime example took place at Heritage Elementary at the beginning of the last school year when a student who had been injured on the playground reported that another student caused the injury. The student angrily demanded that Whitaker call the police, but before doing so, the principal reviewed the video – which turned out to be a good thing.

“I was able to pull up the video and show that he had actually run into a pole without anyone making contact with him. Of course, that changed the tone of what was going on,” Whitaker says.

Shortly after school let out for the summer, Mott found that one of the cameras at another elementary school was suddenly focused on the ground. He called Smith, who found this to be suspicious and went to investigate. After looking at the video, it became clear exactly what had happened.

“Come to find out there were two kids on the playground, and one of them proceeded to throw softball-sized rocks at the camera for about 35 minutes,” Smith says. “Watching the video, we could see that little by little, the view moved downward from the vibration caused each time a rock hit it. There was very little physical damage to the camera beyond small dents in the housing. That camera definitely held its own.”

What the camera also captured was the boys’ faces, allowing Smith to not only produce still photos but also to track their movements from camera to camera using those that were mounted on the exterior of the building. All of this was turned over to the principal, who recognized the boys easily and turned the information over to the police department. In the end, based on the conclusive video and still shots, the boys’ parents agreed to pay for the camera.

For all the benefits the Samsung cameras have delivered, in many cases the software the SSM software has been the real hero.

“The software is a very good selling point. Being able to search and have the system show you when there was movement on a particular camera is wonderful. It only records when there is movement, so it’s great to be able to say, ‘Let’s look at the cameras from over the weekend,’” Clark says. “If one of the cameras detected movement, we know that someone did come into the school and we know where to search within the video to investigate.”

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