Jan 15 2009

Spotlight on Surveillance

Surveillance cameras have proved so effective in solving crimes such as burglaries and sexual assaults committed on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) buses and trains that the agency is adding more.


Roll the Camera

Surveillance cameras have proved so effective in solving crimes such as burglaries and sexual assaults committed on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) buses and trains that the agency is adding more.

“We have 300 buses that are now equipped with cameras. … and we have them in our stations,’’ says Paul MacMillan, chief of the MBTA Transit Police Department in Boston. “We’ve had tremendous success using the cameras to identify suspects.”

John Lewis, deputy chief operating officer for the MBTA, says the agency has been replacing its older, closed-circuit TV cameras with new IP cameras over the past three years. The MBTA will put a contract for 32 more cameras out to bid this quarter.

“The direction we are moving to is network video recording versus DVR, and all of our cameras are going to be IP-based,’’ Lewis says.

Both MacMillan and Lewis recommend IP video surveillance cameras to other transit agencies. “People say that the cameras are only useful if they are seeing things happening in real time,’’ MacMillan says. “My theory is that if we catch one person who robbed somebody, we have prevented every other crime that person was planning to do.’’

Moorhead Public Service in Moorhead, Minn., relies on IP cameras from Axis to deter vandalism at an abandoned power plant.

“The original building was built 100 years ago, and it’s a fun place for kids to play,” says Douglas Rogness, communications director for the utility company. “We set up the cameras in a couple areas where we had a lot of problems.”

The vandalism stopped when the two cameras were installed, so the utility is adding six more Axis cameras, including five at electrical substations and one at its water plant.

The Power of the Sun

Deployments of IP surveillance cameras typically go hand-in-hand with the installation of municipal Wi-Fi networks. That’s true in Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis and Oklahoma City, to name a few major cities.

Now state and local agencies can deploy wireless in remote locations, thanks to a new solar-powered broadband mobile router. Utility Associates’ Solar Powered Rocket Stand has a solar panel that generates power to recharge the battery of the mobile wireless router.

The manufacturer has pitched the device for use in state parks at remote camping spots, traffic management in the case of evacuation, natural disaster response and temporary Internet connections for construction sites.

“The solar-power stand powers a Rocket and cellular booster,” says Robert McKeeman, Utility Associates’ chairman and co-founder. “Roll it into place facing the sun, fold down and lock the outrigger arms, and in five minutes you have an Internet Wi-Fi hot spot anywhere you set it down.’’

Priced between $4,200 and $5,300 depending on the model, the solar device is stable even in high winds. It requires four hours of sun per day to generate enough power to operate for 24 hours. The battery keeps the hot spot running for four days with no sunshine.


“The trend we’re seeing in midsized and larger cities is that they’re setting up corridors of video surveillance.”

—Stan Schatt, vice president and research director at ABI Research

“The benefits of any kind of security — whether it’s access control or video surveillance — are not tangible. If nothing happens, that means it’s working.”

—Bryan Ward, administrative sergeant, Cumberland County [Pa.] Sheriff’s Office

“We monitor the environment of the room or cage where the communication and server equipment is located.”

—Roger Kirouac, assistant CIO, King County, Wash.

By the Numbers


The area in square miles covered by Oklahoma City’s municipal wireless network, which supports 300 video surveillance cameras used in public safety applications

$45.9 billion

The estimated value of the global video surveillance market in 2013, according to ABI Research


The year when IP video surveillance camera sales are expected to surpass the sales of analog models


The number of Chicago Transit Authority buses with surveillance cameras deployed in what is believed to be the largest network of bus surveillance cameras in the country


The average price difference between an IP video surveillance camera and a closed-circuit TV camera