As the installations began, functioning legacy analog cameras were kept and integrated into the new system. Cameras in new positions or damaged or dying cameras were replaced with IP digital cameras by Axis Communications AB of Lund, Sweden.
“Some legacy equipment was preserved, but I don’t know if that was a good thing,” Johnson states. “I feel it was a mistake.”
At one high school, the new system was put in place with the legacy cameras incorporated, some of which were more than five years old. Shortly thereafter, IT began receiving calls from the school. “They said: ‘This new system is awful.’ But it was the old cameras failing,” he explains. “My philosophy now is that if cameras are three years old or newer, we will keep them. If they are older than that, we’re not keeping them.”
IT is working toward having all IP cameras. “The picture quality of IP cameras is light years beyond analog,” he says. A typical high school in the district has about 50 to 60 cameras; middle and elementary schools have slightly less, for a total of approximately 1,200 cameras across the school system. Almost all the cameras are fixed, with pan-tilt-zooms only in some special locations. The cameras record from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. After that hour, the cameras are triggered by motion detection.
Of the cameras at each school, Johnson says about 20 percent are exterior and 80 percent interior. “One of our standards is to cover every single exterior door in the facility so that we get coverage of every point of entry,” he states. “Then we bring the administrators into the loop and let them give us some insights. They know the campus better than we do. We let them help us place the remaining cameras because they know the trouble spots and where the kids hide.”
All camera feeds are recorded by the NVR and are retained for 30 days. Johnson praises the Command Enterprise video management software. “It’s a Web interface, so there is no client to install on a user platform. The data is very easy to retrieve.”
When the project began, there was no cloud component, but after March Networks began to offer a cloud service, the school system took advantage of it. March Networks’ Cloud is an enterprise-class service that provides an unlimited number of users with secure access to live and recorded surveillance video via their mobile devices.
Video retrieval “can be done from any location on our network,” explains Johnson, who manages user rights, and those authorized can also view what is happening live. “If our superintendent needs to see a situation at school, he can pull it up on his computer or laptop…. If he is off campus, he can pull it up on his iPhone.” Other authorized users are school principals and vice principals, deans in secondary schools who oversee discipline, and SROs.