CCTV at the 2012 Olympics: the great zoom boom
The 2012 Olympics are set to be the most CCTV-covered sporting event to date. Not everyone is happy about that.
Transport for London is relying on a mix-and-match of analogue and IP digital cameras to cover public transport
AirRobot is a gyroscopic vertical take-off and landing UAV which is able to “hover and stare” at targets from 1000m
Megapixel Panasonic i-Pro Network cameras are likely to spearhead the Olympics surveillance deployments
The London Olympics authorities have rerouted existing CCTV services in a bid to boost security at the Games, but not everyone is happy about it.
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will ultimately prove a catalyst for the roll-out of more IP-CCTV systems in London and other UK cities. Public authorities, transport hubs, retail premises and other companies have invested heavily in upgrading their existing analogue systems to boost security and improve their crowd-monitoring capabilities during an event predicted to bring millions of extra visitors into the country.
Market research firm Key Note predicts that, although the generic CCTV market was affected by recession-hit companies scaling down refurbishment spending in their commercial premises, it will rise in value by 30.1 per cent from £425m in 2011 to £553m in 2016, with the number of surveillance systems having increased markedly prior to 2012, specifically in preparation for this year's games.
Figures compiled by the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) in November 2011 estimated that the UK market for CCTV, access control and intruder alarms combined was worth over $3.2bn, with IP premises network connectivity and digital cameras taking an increasingly large share of that revenue. IP-connected CCTV camera capture and transmit pictures digitally, usually via an existing or new IP data communications network, sometimes sharing the networking with other IP applications. Some cameras can even take their power from power-over-Ethernet technology.
"This has led to a concerted move towards digital, networked systems using high-quality megapixel IP cameras, and the extension of surveillance from simple scene monitoring to facial-recognition technology, remote video monitoring, video smoke detection, mobile systems and automatic numberplate recognition," BSRIA reported. It also noted the growing trend for video analytic software, which can be programmed to analyse intelligently and respond to a changing scene, with applications including queue monitoring, people counting, and traffic-pattern measurement in retail premises for example. These are all features that the bodies and agencies charged with managing visitor flow to the Games are interested in.
Given that they offer higher picture resolution than analogue systems, digital surveillance cameras provide sharper images, which make it much easier for operators to clearly identify incidents that they capture. The best video resolution that analogue can practicably provide today is 768x576 or 720x480 pixels, whereas digital IP cameras tend to offer VGA (640x480), SVGA (800x600), and increasingly quad VGA (or megapixel) resolutions of 1280x960 pixels - equivalent to high definition. In some cases, fewer digital cameras can be deployed to watch the same area, with high-speed optical and digital zoom lens and functions meaning little or no loss of image quality when focusing on specific points. Whilst digital cameras themselves are generally more expensive, the cost of IP CCTV upgrades can be reduced by connecting existing analogue cameras to IP networks. Using IP rather than proprietary, dedicated analogue video networks to transmit footage means pictures can be stored in different places more easily and made available for remote viewing by staff or other agencies outside the premises simply by sharing the IP address of the camera itself or the server or appliance where it is stored. It also allows other systems, such as public-address text-to-speech and back-end management applications to share the same network infrastructure, while power over Ethernet (PoE) technology gives engineers the option of routing both electricity and data to IP cameras using a single cable.
Anticipated bandwidth constraints forced the Games organisers to rely on increasing numbers of wireless connections to handle all the data requirements, with network and telecommunications suppliers BT and Cisco making ample public and private Wi-Fi hotspots available for use by athletes, organisers, and spectators across the Olympic venues.
Nobody is explicitly stating whether Wi-Fi will be trusted to carry CCTV surveillance footage captured by the 2,500 IP cameras Panasonic will install during the Games, with the vendor itself offering no comment. However, given the remote nature of some of the specific sporting arenas in use and given the inevitable difficulty of laying data as well as power cables in those locations, it does seem possible that wireless might be an option in some cases. Wireless-capable cameras have the added advantage that they can be quickly deployed, removed and set up somewhere else according to demand or requirement, allowing security operators to identify trouble spots and move the cameras to areas where they are most needed.
Some of the Panasonic IP CCTV cameras expected to be used are indeed wireless capable, using 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connectivity to transfer data over the 2.4GHz frequency range. Both indoor and outdoor wireless transmission devices such as the Panasonic WV-SW175 offer 720p HD H.264 video definitions over 802.11n wireless LANs that transmit signals in the 5GHz frequency band as well as the 2.4GHz spectrum.
The extent of the Olympic security activity in London particularly has attracted attention from UK civil liberties organisations, including Liberty, as well as local groups and protesters concerned about privacy issues. The Command Perimeter Security System (CPSS) at the Olympic Park in Stratford is set to include a 17.5km, 5,000V electric fence topped with 900 daylight and night vision surveillance CCTV cameras placed at 50m intervals.
The cameras will store "high-resolution" images recorded at "one quarter in real time" according to the Olympic Delivery Authority's CCTV system Code of Practice, at just over eight frames per second (fps) if you accept real time as the 25fps metric specified for PAL TV signal delivery – for the mandatory 31 days on a distributed system (i.e. on a separate PC or server hard-disk somewhere) after which they will be deleted. But what has irked those not planning to go within a stone's throw of the Olympic Park site itself is the fact that untold thousands of CCTV cameras already installed in London, many owned by either the 33 local authorities or Transport for London (TfL), are to be integrated into a single system via a specialised software set-up that uses high-speed broadband links and automatic number plate recognition software, giving the Metropolitan Police and other security bodies the ability to track any individual's progress through the city.
Add to that unconfirmed reports that the Met may be planning to use remotely-controlled mini aeroplanes equipped with digital cameras, and one can see why so many citizens who live or work in London might get concerned about potential privacy incursions. Although neither the manufacturer nor the ODA has confirmed if such 'eyes in the skies' will be deployed during the 2012 Games themselves, this was the scenario at the 2008 Games Handover ceremony at Buckingham Palace, when AirRobot supplied surveillance through an unmanned aerial vehicle with a high-resolution digital camera (see box-out below).
There are also likely to be concerns about the unified system being decommissioned once the 2012 Games are over. Transport for London has not yet confirmed whether the CCTV network put together to monitor the Olympics Route Network (ORN) and Paralympics Route Network (PRN) will be decommissioned along with the routes themselves after both events are over, or whether the estimated 160 cameras migrated to the Communications Network will be reallocated back to their original purposes.
Given TfL's stated CCTV plans for 2011-15, it seems unlikely that the systems installed for 2012 will be simply torn down again rather than assimilated into wider TfL or other local authority surveillance networks; it has been estimated that most of the 1,200 cameras deployed in Athens during the 2004 Olympics games are still in use by the authorities. A spokesperson for Englefield Green East council was reported to have said that it had no plans or budget to take down the five CCTV cameras installed on the Olympic Route Network (ORN) between the Olympic satellite village at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the M25 end of the Egham bypass, for example.
Heathrow Terminal 5
Perhaps because of sensitivity to privacy concerns, and also due to plain common-sense in respect to not broadcasting equipment specifications to criminals in case it makes it easier for them to circumvent the security it provides, very few of the organisations, companies and much less the ODA or the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have been inclined to divulge precise details of their IP CCTV rollouts prior to the Olympics taking place.
Heathrow Airport, which as the 'host' airport for the 2012 Games is confidently predicting that 80 per cent of Games-bound travellers will pass through its terminals this summer, seems intent on maintaining a discreet line. Security installation specialist EA Group, one of many contractors that supplied the infrastructure to support the CCTV systems to the newly-built Terminal 5 in 2007, referred to an "air of secrecy" as the official line which prevents contractors revealing the details of the projects they are involved in.
"We have been and are still involved in projects with the links and AV equipment that are specific to the Olympics, not so much the cameras but the command posts, as well as sites covering the cycling and marathon and the water venues on the south coast," says EA Group spokesperson Matt Carroll. "Would they have done it this way if the Olympics had not been on? No, they would not be spending that amount of money. There are small projects across the country, like the Surrey Police, we are involved in which are mostly upgrades in readiness."
Around 1,500-1,600 CCTV cameras were installed as part of the T5 project, including some Pelco digital units, with an estimated 3,000 cameras contributing feeds to a video wall of live CCTV images. As with other IP CCTV projects, the integration of new T5 systems with analogue devices already in use in other Heathrow terminals was particularly important for CCTV and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications, because staff needed a view on all sections of the airport to monitor and control operations effectively.
Transport for London
A hybrid analogue-digital CCTV system which sees a mix of cameras connected to the same IP network is also the approach adopted by Transport for London (TfL), which began a program of modernisation for its CCTV system in 2010. Network service provider Easynet is delivering the IP communications infrastructure, with NSL Ltd handling the back-end processing for traffic enforcement penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued on monitored sites such as bus lanes and yellow box junctions. Responsibility for upgrading and migrating on-street analogue CCTV rests with Serco, and Tyco (previously Philips Projects) are providing the cameras.
Depending on the amount of coverage required and the specific application in use, either analogue or digital cameras will be used at London Underground stations and car parks, and on some trains, as well as piers used by the London River and Woolwich Ferry Services and the ferries themselves, in and around Victoria Coach Station, on the Docklands light railway stations, platforms and trains, local bus stations, overground stations, platforms and trains, Croydon's Tramlink, along with parts of London's road network.
"[Transport for London] has 900-plus analogue cameras... We are working with it to transfer to IP CCTV cameras, the reason being IP cameras are more reliable, and provide higher density and higher quality," says Easynet UK sales and marketing director, Gary Butters. "It is this that has incensed the civil liberties groups because... the cameras can tell what newspaper you are reading, and what number you are dialling on your cellphone."
In the first instance TfL is migrating its existing analogue video camera estate using hardware video coder/decoders to convert the video signals before transmitting them to back-end software systems by connecting up to a wired Ethernet network, with supplementary cameras to be added at a later date. Easynet estimates that the roll out will not be complete until 2015, with 750-800 sites yet to be upgraded.
Pictures from the analogue cameras are converted into digital streams using a decoder and a system known as TV Network Protocol (TVNP) developed specifically for TfL which enables different CCTV systems to communicate, share pictures and camera control, with footage recorded onto both digital tape and hard-disk. They also feed footage into a digital traffic enforcement system (DTES) developed by systems engineering and design specialist SEA and put into operation in London's major trunk roads in 2009.
DTES servers are hosted in a dedicated data centre, with the hardware including high-capacity 'write once read many' (WORM) storage appliance, with a web service allowing the penalty charge notice (PCN) processing authority to remotely view DTES evidence.
The DTES workstations receive streaming MPEG4 video from cameras over the IP network, with cameras controlled by a USB connected joystick. Butters says"The main thing is modernise the CCTV infrastructure – it is more about traffic monitoring and flow, keeping things going, that is going to be key as we move into Olympics lunacy, so it is not just about the cameras."
New for 2012
One further example comes at London Kings Cross underground station, the recent revamp of which saw an encrypted MPEG4 streaming video, analytical and network CCTV system deployed by specialist security solutions installers IPS. Supporting up to 700 cameras, it features 30 terabytes of RAID storage, along with a storage area network (SAN), and can use motion-detection sensors to detect a bag, for instance, that has been left by a passenger in the station precinct.
The playback suite operates on the same platform as the viewing workstations with interactive touch screens, and/or keyboard and mouse and includes advanced analytical tools for both live and archive viewing.
Nearby London St Pancras International station, meanwhile, was also fitted with a hybrid analogue-digital IP CCTV system using analogue cameras and Bosch Videojet 8008 and VIP-X transmission codecs, Networked Video Recording (NVR), RAID storage and VIDOS management software in 2007.
State-of-the art surveillance technology forms crucial part of Olympics security
As the official supplier of AV equipment to all of the 2012 Olympics venues, Panasonic's security arm Panasonic System Communications Europe (PSCEU) has highlighted the extent of the high definition (HD) equipment it will be supplying for the London games - hundreds of large LED screen and plasma displays delivering high-definition (HD) footage to spectators, 200 professional sound systems, and video conferencing systems for the hubs and technology headquarters of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). But the company has been less revealing about the details about another aspect of its London 2012 efforts – the IP CCTV deployment which will see up to 2,500 static and pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) IP cameras installed across sporting venues involved in the games.
Although Panasonic has not so far revealed precisely what camera models will be keeping a close watch on the event, they will probably feed pictures back to the manufacturer's WJ-ND400 and WJ-NV200 network video recorders (NVRs), and that in itself provides some clues. The WJ-ND400, for example, is designed for use with megapixel Panasonic i-Pro Network cameras capable of capturing 1280x960 pixel images, though 30fps video is limited to 640x480 pixels.
Higher-resolution footage is handled by the WJ-NV200, which can display the full HD output of up to 16 Panasonic i-Pro network cameras – some of which, like the WV-NW502S, are vandal resistant day/night dome cameras capable of three-megapixel JPEG streams with full frame 1280x960 image sizes. The WJ-NV200 is also capable of running gender- and age-profiling intelligence software that makes the best use of the HD resolution using face-matching capabilities, for example, though it requires cameras supporting face detection – such as the WV-NP502, WVSP305 or WV-SP306, or other models supporting HD images at up to 15fps and 30fps and video motion detection. The company also launched its SP500 series 1080p surveillance cameras at the IFSEC 2012 show in May 2012, while its best-selling i-Pro SmartHD WV-SP509 camera also offers HD surveillance capabilities.
Face-detection technology within these cameras can monitor video frame or still images of up to eight human faces against a database, and report information on them back to controllers. The cameras deployed during the Games will assist with crowd control, asset protection, monitoring of pedestrian and vehicle screening areas, and as support to each venue's security control centre (which are directly linked to the emergency services).
Whatever camera models it deploys during the games, Panasonic is confident they will be properly tested, having established a pre-configuration team at its System Networks UK Engineering Centre in Newport last year. The 2012 Olympics could well prove to be the first truly 'high-definition' sporting event ever held, with the Panasonic kit playing a crucial role in informing security provisions.
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