NetVu Connected surveillance technology from Dedicated Micros – part of AD Group – played a key role at the roughly US$184 million Millennium Point, situated in Birmingham in the West Midlands, an impressive flagship development and the largest Millennium Project outside of London. Created to encourage science, technology and education in the region, it is now home to the innovative Thinktank - Birmingham's Science Museum – which features a Planetarium. Millennium Point also has the region's IMAX cinema and a number of educational establishments catering to thousands of students who have a strong focus on technology and the performing arts.
Time for Change
Unfortunately, the existing tape-based, analogue surveillance solution for Millennium Point was simply not providing the performance required for such a large scale and varied site. As a result the decision was taken by Millennium Point to dramatically enhance its surveillance capabilities, with the outcome leading to a hybrid solution more in keeping with the innovative nature of other aspects of its operations. Following advice from consultants Cogent Solutions a comprehensive range of Dedicated Micros NetVu Connected surveillance solutions were installed by DM fusion member custom technology solutions. These included the pick-a-point digital matrix - in conjunction with integrator BBV - which is suited to large or multiple sites, bringing together surveillance system components into the control room environment; eight digital video recorders and the NetVu console - a remote viewing station.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Mike Tolley from security consultants Cogent, was brought into the project at an early stage, and ultimately was tasked with specifying the solution and its constituent elements.
"Our involvement in the project came initially through a recommendation from the contract security company at Millennium Point, Corps Security. As the site is a charitable trust it was stressed that the upgrade needed to be able to demonstrate value for money and they wanted guidance in terms of how this could be achieved," commented Mike.
According to Mike Tolley in addition to having a favorable ROI, the solution adopted was going to have to accommodate a number of specific end user requirements.
"Corps Security stressed that they wanted a user-friendly system that could deliver high quality digital recording for every channel of video from the existing analogue DM uniplexers, VCRs and analogue matrix, with a retention period of 31 days, and very a high record rate for their spot monitors,” said Mike.
"There was also a need for a new touch screen mapping capability to replace the existing Petards solution and to integrate with all cameras on site. This should allow complete control of the total system including full functionality over the variety of domes and PTZs, and retain full access to dome menus."
Other factors identified in Cogent's initial discussions with Corps Security included the ability to support remote monitoring at a nominated control centre of external PTZ cameras, with associated external alarms and audio, ensuring telemetry control over the legacy PTZ cameras. Additionally, there was a need to provide a remote security control location to view and operate a designated number of cameras, without allowing full control of the overall system.
Overcoming the Installation Challenges
According to Brett Evans from Custom Technology Solutions - the security installer for the project and a member of the DM fusion programme - a number of major challenges had to be overcome during the implementation stage of the surveillance upgrade.
"One of the key considerations was the fact that Millennium Point - and Thinktank – is an popular location hosting thousands of visitors every day. Consequently the swap over to a new, enhanced, surveillance solution was going to be a delicate process. For example, it was imperative that we were able to ensure that any downtime of the surveillance system was kept to an absolute minimum. Crucially, during installation there was never a time when the whole system was taken off-line so the Corps Security always had something in place to assist them in managing the site," said Brett.
Moving from an old analogue matrix, with multiplexers and VCRs for over 100 cameras with three different monitoring and control locations, necessitated careful planning by the custom technology solution's team, overseen by consultant Mike Tolley who was tasked with managing the project on behalf of Millennium Point.
Another element of the installation was the re-mapping of the whole surveillance system, with CAD plans, prepared by custom technology solutions, provided to integrators BBV for configuration of the new mapping system as part of the pick-a-point digital matrix.
A key advantage of adopting pick-a-point for Millennium Point, from an installation and cost point of view, is the fact that it is able to replicate the simplicity of operation associated with a traditional analogue matrix by allowing control of multiple video servers or DVRs without the need for thousands of meters of cabling.
Other new systems, specified for the project, which assisted the installation process include NetVu console from DM for the technology innovation centre - part of the Millennium Point site. This consists of a traditional, ruggedized, PTZ style keyboard that can be connected to the network and a local monitor to provide a remote viewing point on the surveillance system.
Viewing the project from an end-user perspective, Harry Rashid, the Security Manager for Millennium Point, is pleased with the changes in the surveillance infrastructure. "The reality was that the old system was struggling to cope. It was simply too slow and cumbersome for what was required. Investigating an incident usually meant trawling through hours of tape-based footage, a task for which time, and therefore money, had to be allocated. Alongside this, replacement analogue recorders were becoming difficult and expensive to source so, even if the performance had been there, they were not going to be a long-term option," commented Harry.
"From day one it has delivered real savings in terms of space, time, and money compared to the obsolescent and unwieldy system it replaces. The control room and security office is no longer filled with over 1200 VHS video tapes to be trawled through and there is no requirement to rewind and replace tapes as the digital recording is continuous. Our security officers have really welcomed the simplified, user-friendly, operating procedures. Alongside this, there is much greater functionality with the ability, for example, through pick-a-point to call-up and use a clear overview touch screen map covering all parts of the site, " said Harry.
Looking in more detail at the capabilities unlocked by pick-a-point, once up and running, operators such as those at Millennium Point can simply select cameras using pick a-point GUI. Multiple map screens and detailed map images allow operators to select a camera on-screen without having to know which DVR the camera is linked to. Unlike many virtual matrix solutions that are dependent on a PC to record, view or playback video, pick-a-point icon is a stand-alone hardware based workstation which eliminates reliability and training issues associated with PC-based systems.
When it comes to Millennium Point, pick-a-point has also been integrated with the galaxy intruder alarms systems on the site, so that the touch screen mapping system can identify where the alarm has come from, and automatically display relevant cameras on screen after sending them to preset to view the alarmed area, significantly improving the response to multiple security systems previously not integrated.
Looking ahead, Millennium Point has a hybrid surveillance infrastructure whose digital and analogue components operate together, is easy to control and can cope with the demands of a popular site and is scalable to meet future challenges.