Tampa Int'l Installs New IP-based Video Surveillance System

by Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Project: Internet Protocol (IP)-based Video
Surveillance System
Location: Tampa (FL) Int'l Airport
Cost: $10 million
Funding: $8 million American Reinvestment
& Recovery Act; $2 million Authority Funds
Video Surveillance System Design: URS Corp.
Construction Administration & Mgmt: URS Corp.
Field CCTV Camera Design: TLC Engineering
System Integration & Installation: G4S Technology LLC
Video Surveillance System:
Video Display: Activu Corp.
Access Control: Software House
Data Storage: Pivot3
Emergency/Information Phones: Talk-A-Phone Co.
License Plate Recognition: INEX/Zamir
Cameras: Arecont Vision; Axis; MOBOTIX Corp.;
Pelco; Panasonic

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is seeing things more clearly these days, thanks to the recent installation of a new video surveillance system that virtually covers the airport from landside to airside. The $10 million project converted the airport's previous analog system to an enterprise-class Internet Protocol (IP)-based system, explains Safraz Samad, TPA's manager of access control and CCTV (closed-circuit television).

"In the terminal and on the airside, we cover every inch of public space," Samad reports. "We have very tight camera angles at the security checkpoints. We cover the entrance and departure drives, elevators, long-term and short-term garages, even our economy parking facility, which is on campus but a little bit offsite."

Crews completed the two-phase, 18-month project in April. The $8 million first phase included installation of surveillance equipment and infrastructure upgrades throughout the main terminal and airside. During the second phase, which cost approximately $2 million, crews installed cameras throughout the parking garages and upgraded the emergency telephones.

"Hanging a camera is the easy part," Samad informs. "The difficult part is getting the infrastructure in - laying conduit, pulling cable - designing a network to handle the increased load, programming software, installing hardware."

With the work complete, TPA is now reaping the rewards: "We've gone from a technology that gave us low resolution images to a high-resolution megapixel IP system with nearly complete CCTV coverage of the airport and surrounding areas," says Samad.

From 20 Gigs to More than 1 Million

URS Corp. provided detailed design for the CCTV enhancement project, including the video surveillance system headend and Ethernet network designs. It also provided overall construction administration and management. Subconsultant TLC Engineering was responsible for the field CCTV camera design, and G4S Technology installed the system.

Key design elements included an enterprise-class video surveillance system, upgrade of the airport's existing access control system to Software House's more advanced C-Cure 9000 and a regionalized storage area network (SAN) system. The 455 new Internet Protocol (IP) network cameras added resolutions ranging from 1 to 10 megapixels; 289 existing analog cameras were cutover to digital via high-density encoders. In addition, the Operations Center was upgraded with a new video display system, workstations and servers.

The airport's existing Ethernet local area network (LAN) was expanded to support the exponential increase in video data of the new surveillance system. To reduce the overall impact on the network, the SAN was regionalized.

"One of our biggest concerns initially was the impact of all of this video data on the network," explains Kevin Richmond, senior security system designer for URS Corp. "The airport doesn't have a separate network for its security system, so we had to work under the constraints of its corporate LAN. To resolve this issue, we regionalized data storage within five regions throughout the airport. The only time video has to be moved through the core of the LAN is when an individual outside a region where data is stored requests access to archived video."

Each region stores data in a main distribution frame room, with Pivot3 vSTAC Watch(tm) appliances. Each room holds 10 stacked appliances that store and share data. Should one appliance fail, a redundancy feature triggers another appliance to pick up the load without interruption. The system was also designed to be expandable, to accommodate future camera/storage needs.

"In effect, we have an intelligent cloud storage system," Samad explains. "If I need to pull video, I merely access data stored within that region. Under the old system, if I wanted to pull a couple of hours of video, I'd just walk away from the computer and come back the next day. That's how long it took. Now I can bring up several days of video in an hour's time. We've gone from 20 gigabytes to over 1 petabyte of storage. That's equivalent to a million gigabytes. The new cameras require huge amounts of bandwidth and storage. Our smaller cameras use up to 300 gigabytes a month."

Designers' efforts to minimize the impact of the new CCTV video surveillance system on the airport's LAN with regionalized storage and the system's overall architecture appear to be working. "We saw less than a 10% increase in overall bandwidth across the network core," Richmond reports.

Say "Cheese"

Megapixel cameras were strategically placed throughout the air operations, parking, restricted and public areas of the airport to enhance TPA's CCTV coverage. Four-imager 180- and 360-degree cameras were installed at specific heights to provide optimum fields of view, resulting in nearly 100% coverage of sterile areas. The new fixed-placement cameras allow security staff to forensically search archived video if needed.

The airport's image quality is also considerably better, notes Frank Soltero, senior security systems consulting engineer for G4S Technology. "These new megapixel cameras produce far more detailed images than what would have been possible with older analog camera technologies," Soltero explains. "By switching out an analog camera with a megapixel camera, you're able to cover a much larger area with a single camera and capture exponentially more detail. You can go from recognizing there's a person in an area to being able to identify ... facial details."

Using fixed cameras in lieu of pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras allows the airport to reduce maintenance costs while maximizing area coverage without losing data. When using PTZ cameras to monitor a very wide field of view, activity may be missed when the camera focuses on another area within the camera's range. Fixed digital cameras capture crisp, high-resolution images, explain the system designers.

Some of the cameras support 180- to 360-degree views and consequently provide greater coverage and situational awareness. Both the 180- and 360-degree cameras require a single Ethernet connection to transmit video back to the Pivot3 video storage appliances, which substantially reduces the amount of supporting IT infrastructure required to deploy cameras.

Genetec Omnicast(tm) was installed to provide enhanced situational awareness and to record and manage streamed video across the airport's IP network.

"The Genetec system provides the airport with a state-of-the-art ability to capture significant events and build actionable cases if necessary," explains Soltero. "Security personnel can use Genetec's embedded video search and analysis tools to identify an event in a fraction of the time than would have been possible under the previous architecture."

In addition, the Pivot3 storage allows TPA to retain video far longer than before, he adds.

By integrating the Genetec VMS (video management system) with its new C-Cure 9000 access control system, the airport provides its operators with automated single-seat alarm notification, identification and verification. If, for instance, someone attempts to access a restricted area by using an emergency exit push bar, the access control system will transmit that alarm data as well as images from the associated camera to an operator's desktop.

Instead of having to dispatch security personnel to investigate every alarm, Samad elaborates, someone in the dispatch center can now view the event and make an educated decision as to the severity of the event: Was it an accident? Does the person have a badge? Did he or she swipe the card and hit the door too quickly?

"It helps eliminate those nuisance alarms that everybody in this industry is faced with," he summarizes.

Beyond Security

A cutting-edge video display system is at the heart of TPA's new surveillance equipment. The system uses off-the-shelf commercial servers and video cards to drive three large-format LCD display walls in the Operations Center and several discrete displays and a projection system in the Command Center.

Fully integrated with the VMS, the system encodes discrete video feeds from television tuners, media players and the airport's legacy train and monorail systems. The display allows for the creation of scenarios for different types of events. The scenarios can be preconfigured and triggered when needed to re-map the display system with images relevant to the event at hand. The system also displays bitmap images such as aerial photos, site maps, terminal maps and procedural checklists.

"It's kind of like a NASA command center," Samad describes. "In the Airport Operations Center, we have three huge video walls that we can partition as we wish."

Beyond security surveillance video, the displays also provide operational intelligence. "We can simultaneously look at what's happening in the airside areas, the ticket counters, the airport entrance and exit drives," Samad relates. "It facilitates our day-to-day operations by letting us know where we're getting backups, for example, so we can put people and resources where they are needed. By being able to visualize areas throughout the airport, we can understand it without having to explain it. As they say, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' "

It's a Hit

From operations staff to security personnel, everyone at TPA seems to have good things to say about the new video surveillance system.

"Our airport police absolutely love the new system," Samad exclaims. "They are getting real-time and archived information when they need it. They are able to close cases faster because they are able to get the information more quickly.

"Our operations staff love it because they are able to access camera views on their desktop. They can zoom in on recorded or live video. Several people can look at images from the same camera but zoom into different areas of that image simultaneously. They can view it, manipulate it, even run basic analytics on the video. They can ask the system: 'Was something here five minutes ago?' and it will search for the video to let them know."

Richmond, who has been designing video surveillance systems for over 20 years, considers TPA's the nicest system he has ever designed. He further predicts that systems like it will become his new standard.

"The big thing is the camera coverage, storage and not being afraid of all of this video data," he elaborates. "If the system is designed right and implemented correctly, it will ride on the network and offer great coverage with high-quality video."

Richmond considers network infrastructure the key to supporting technology advances as they become available. He says that once the infrastructure is in place, owners can add cameras, update software and increase storage as needed, while feeling assured that they have a system that will serve their needs well into the future.


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