Friday, 28 August 2009 08:04

Digital video surveillance cuts campus crime


The deployment of a digital video security system at Melbourne's Swinburne University has led to a decrease in major crime on campus, although students seem to be taking slightly less care of their property.

After an extensive evaluation, Swinburne chose Axis cameras and Milestone Systems' XProtect software to help protect people and property on the institution's six campuses.

So far, around 300 cameras have been deployed, covering building entry and exit points, general areas, and high-value assets such as computer rooms.

The plan is to extend the system to 500 cameras with 10 recording servers and some 70T of storage (which will allow recordings to be kept for four weeks).

The installation of cameras is a mandatory part of any new building development or refurbishment.

According to Chris Goetze, IT security officer at Swinburne, the university's universal deployment of Gigabit Ethernet with Power over Ethernet makes installing new cameras quick and easy. And the campus wireless network can be used when a camera is temporarily or urgently needed at a location without a convenient network point.

It only takes five minutes to configure XProtect to use a new camera, he explained.

The video system currently consumes around 10% of the 10Gbps backbone network. If it becomes necessary to conserve bandwidth, the cameras can be configured to use different codecs or framerates. Swinburn currently uses Motion JPEG at the native frame rate and image size of each camera, which typically means 14Kbps - more for the high-definition cameras.

Motion detection is used to reduce the storage requirement - there's no need to store consecutive frames showing exactly the same image.

But who has access to the images? See page 2.

The system is arranged so that security guards can only see live feeds from their own campus, but the central security office at Hawthorn has access to every camera. "Part of the system we really like [is that] we can bring up any campus from here," Goetze said.

The video streams are stored on individual campuses, and transferred across the WAN on demand.

"It works just as well from home," Goetze told iTWire, explaining that the XProtect system automatically adjusts the video playback stream to suit the available bandwidth.

Security supervisors are able to review recordings, and only managers can extract clips from the system.

"The guards love it. It's that easy for them to use," added Goetze.

The system has been welcomed by university staff, who have suggested additional camera locations.

The only negatives Goetze mentioned were the "CSI effect" (people have unrealistic expectations of the extent to which security video can be enhanced) and the way students have become slightly less protective of their property, for example by leaving notebooks unattended for around five minutes at a time in the knowledge that they are on camera.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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