Onboard bus surveillance systems embrace growing requirements

Onboard bus surveillance systems embrace growing requirements
Public buses are one of the most popular form of public transport being used around the world. Installing an onboard video surveillance system is considered to be an effective way to secure passengers and drivers and prevent property damage. Thanks to technological advancements, surveillance cameras can now be used to deter criminal activities and also help improve operational efficiency for bus operators.

Government Guidance

Local mandatory requirements are helping to boost the number of installations. Thomas Lausten, CEO at Mobotix, said, “As of yet, there is no U.S.- or EU-wide mandated requirement that video surveillance (CCTV) be installed on buses, although a number of large cities insist on that for bus services to receive a license to operate.” In some regions, bus operators need to follow the regulations or guidelines before receiving a license to operate.

Lausten said that Transport for London, a local government body, stipulates a minimum monitoring requirement for the most transited or vulnerable areas on buses, such as the back-row seating area. He added, “The rules insist that all cameras are permanently on when the bus is in service. The retention and management of the data is left as the responsibility of the operator in accordance with local data protection and privacy laws.”
 
Patrik Anderson,
Director,
Business Development Transportation,
Axis Communications

Requirements regarding video footage retention periods may also vary, with some local governments mandating a few weeks. Daniel Yu, Mobile Solution Manager at Hikvision Digital Technology, said that the Government of Florida requires all transport vehicles to follow a 30-day minimum video retention period.

Reliability is Key

Reliable systems and high-quality videos are major requirements in this sector. First of all, the systems need to be vandal-proof and can withstand vibrations in shaky and bumpy environments. Images need to remain sharp in changeable light conditions like bright sunlight and dark nights. Recommended solutions include cameras that support color and B/W auto switch to ensure high image quality during 24/7 monitoring.

Lausten indicated, “To capture video and increasingly audio in noisy, bumpy and high strain environments, fully digital cameras with no moving parts have become the standard for bus mounted systems. This extends to removing disk-based onboard DVRs and instead switching to internal storage via flash memory allowing several days’ worth of video and audio to be recorded on a media that is unaffected by the rigors of a moving vehicle.”

To achieve reliable performance, Mobotix ensures its cameras are EN50155 certified, a benchmark used to ensure smooth operations in conditions such as voltage variations, power interruptions and supply changeover. Certified cameras can also use accumulator batteries or low voltage power supply sources.
Richie Howard,
President and CEO,
 AngelTrax

Cost and Time Savings

Cost is one of the key considerations for bus operators. When it comes to new installations or system upgrades, easy upgrades without purchasing new systems is favorable. Hybrid models can provide a more cost-effective solution.

Some companies like AngelTrax have been providing hybrid solutions to address this need. “Long-term cost of ownership is a major concern as these fully digital systems are very expensive,” said Richie Howard, President and CEO at AngelTrax. He indicated that its new Hybrid Component technology, which will be available in early 2018, will allow the customer to not only diagnose and repair his own system within one minute without uninstalling the MDVR, but also have the opportunity to update to new technology without purchasing a totally new system.

Yu of Hikvision also pointed out that the evolution of video compression technology from H.264 to H.265 can save on bandwidth and storage space. “Hikvision offers H.265+ smart codec, which reduces bandwidth and storage by up to 67 percent over H.265, and up to 83 percent over H.264,” said Yu.
Thomas Lausten,
CEO, Mobotix

Central Management

There is an increasing need for video surveillance systems that can be managed from a central location. This will eliminate the need for engineers to manually retrieve data from each individual unit. Also, real-time monitoring can help bus operators manage incidents in a timely manner.

Yu sees a trend that worldwide government or transportation authorities want an end-to-end solution in recent years. Required solutions typically consists of iVMS systems and onboard video surveillance systems that support wireless connectivity and additional features such as GPS. “We had a bus project in Turkey, providing more than 800 mobile surveillance devices for video recording on buses and iVMS systems for central management.” To improve the customer experience, Hikvision provides customization services like business intelligence (BI) reports and UI design.

Patrik Anderson, Director of Business Development Transportation at Axis Communications, said, “Fleet owners need a monitored system approach that encompasses all onboard components in all vehicles for the whole lifecycle of the fleet, not the single-vehicle approach commonly used today.”

Anderson believes that the network video revolution is so much more than just digitizing old analog system architectures and keeping 30- or 40-year-old principles. New approaches to mobile surveillance emerging for fleet vehicles are expected to render today’s systems obsolete. “We will see operators moving towards a holistic approach that encompasses the whole fleet in order to improve efficiencies. Hypothetically, this could include a bus operator using cameras for traffic monitoring on the road, which then informs other drivers of any incidents that may cause delays and offers them an alternative route.”
Daniel Yu,
Mobile Solution Manager, 
Hikvision Digital Technology

Emerging Features for the Future

There is great potential in this sector for adding new technologies and services to further secure passengers, manage drivers and improve operational efficiencies.

High-resolution digital surveillance

For onboard vehicle surveillance systems, demand for high-resolution cameras continue to increase, moving from analog to digital systems to enable more functions. “Current trends include NVRs with fully digital IP cameras as compared to the old analog systems. This allows the system to incorporate high resolution 1080p and 4 MP cameras along with high tech video analytics which include people counting, driver behavior, lane change detection, etc.,” said Howard.

Nobina, a leading Sweden bus company, uses an IP video surveillance system from Observit BOT together with Axis network cameras to replace an existing onboard analog system on the buses. The cameras are of HDTV quality, being able to produce sharp images and withstand the harsh environment on the bus. The system can perform self-checks of systems, cameras and functions continuously, and authorize users to access image materials in real time even when the buses are in service.

Efficient Video Management

Wireless connectivity makes it easier and faster to manage video data. Instead of pulling out the hard drives from the bus, operators can access video or download videos via Wi-Fi or cellular networks even before the buses approach the depot. Current technology is based primarily on a 2.4 GHz wireless frequency. Yu sees a trend toward the adoption of 5.8G Wi-Fi wireless networking technology for faster backup speed than 2.4 GHz.

The use of integrated GPS and cellular connectivity is a major trend. Mobotix takes Montebello Bus Lines (MBL) in California as a use case to illustrate this. MBL’s fleet of 66 buses has recently been updated to a new digital system that allows operation managers to instantly view videos from any camera on any vehicle remotely via a mobile network on demand or in the event of a driver raising an alarm. Each bus is tracked via GPS and connected to the MBL central operations desk via the 4G LTE mobile network.

Intelligent Features

As technology continues to evolve, more intelligent functions are being featured in onboard surveillance systems. According to Yu, this includes driver fatigue or smoking detection in some regions. He added that video intelligent recognition algorithms will be integrated in the mobile IP camera or in the mobile DVR/NVR. “But now more and more vendors would like to integrate the intelligent algorithms in the front-end IP camera directly,” he added.

Conclusion

Reliability, scalability and ease of use are essential. Proper consideration and observation of local government guidelines are important steps in system installation to ensure the safety and security of all the people aboard public buses.
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