ELECTRONIC security installations are a confluence of
security policy and security technology, as well as a direct reflection of the
standards and skills of the integration teams that build them. They also make a
clear statement about the importance an organization places on its security
operations.

If you embrace these observations, it’s impossible not to
rate City of Sydney’s
new video surveillance system at the highest level. It’s an end-to-end solution
– starting at fibre patch panels behind recently upgraded cameras and running through
all the twists and turns of the classic hybrid solution.

The application includes an upgrade to Council’s
10-year-old Street Safe program as well as the physical construction and
fit-out of a Grade C1 CCTV control room, a dedicated data centre and the
installation of dozens of support systems – communications, fire control,
VESDA, hydraulics, access control, UPS – the lot.

And it’s a beautiful installation. Most security systems
find themselves shoe-horned into cramped spaces, squeezed by lack of will and
starved by scrawny budgets. Not this one. After it was discovered the proposed
solution was too big to fit the space allocated, City of Sydney had a long hard think about its
commitment to video surveillance then went in boots and all, dishing up enough
real estate to facilitate a signature installation in performance, appearance
and functionality.

If this sounds like a rave, that’s because it is a rave.
In simple terms, City of Sydney’s
hybrid CCTV system sets a new benchmark. From the product selection to the
intuitive layout of the big control room, from the construction ethics of the
dedicated data centre to the swooping looms of its sweetly built Pelco 9700
matrix switcher and everywhere in between, this is Australia’s premier CCTV installation. 

The system and its goals

Before we pitch into this big story it’s important to
outline the parameters of the system itself. At the frontline is a network of
Pelco Spectra III and IV speed dome cameras installed across Sydney’s
CBD as part of City of Sydney’s
Street Safe camera program. These are linked by coax tails to an extensive
fibre LAN with analogue video streams arriving at City of Sydney’s control room passing through fibre
patch panels.

There the signals are split, with one going over coax to
a bank of Pelco single-channel Endura encoders into Gigabit Ethernet for
storage onto a massive 106TB DVR Array and the second set of signals goes via
coax to a Pelco 9700 switcher where signals can be accessed from the control
room in real time by a direct analogue connection with inputs at the switcher
matched to outputs linked to monster monitors. The combination of the digital
and analogue interface coupled with the Pelco (matrix digital decoder) digital
to analogue decoders provide instant access to both live and playback footage
which can also be transferred in real time to the NSW Police monitoring teams
at various precincts in the Sydney CBD.

It’s not just Council’s Street Safe cameras that come
into the data centre, either. There are more than 100 cameras installed in and
around council properties that are also monitored by the control room. And
capability is vastly increased by an interface to more than 2000 RTA street cameras spread across
intersections and roadways, from Gosford to Wollongong.

City of Sydney’s
Street Safe camera program is at the core of this application – and its heart
is the protection of people and property. Hand in hand with these priorities is
a governing imperative that demands protection of public privacy while
delivering crowd control.

Council achieves this balancing act through rigorous
public standards and a commitment to transparency. When it unveiled the Street
Safe program nearly 10 years ago, Council voluntarily entered into a covenant
with the public to uphold privacy and to establish and adhere to a clear code
of ethics.

According to City of Sydney’s
Manager, Security and Emergency Management, David Cornett, when the program was
first set up in 1999, Council consulted widely with privacy groups, industry
reps, the privacy commissioner, the council of civil liberties, NSW police and
qualified people within City of Sydney
Council itself.

“Out of these discussions we developed a code of practice
and a set of standard operating procedures that provided guidance from how we
establish the program and where we locate the cameras, to how those cameras can
be used by our staff.

“All this included training the operators to use the
system in accordance with our guidelines – this drilled right through to what operators
can do with footage in terms of transfer, release to police, and release to the
public – all these guidelines were put in place to preserve public privacy,” he
says.

When governed by these strict guidelines Cornett says
City of Sydney’s
Street Safe CCTV system has a number of operational benefits.

“The key elements of the system from an operational point
of view are prevention, intervention and the investigation of crime,” Cornett
explains.

“If operators see an incident in its early stages they
look to prevent escalation through early intervention – meanwhile they can also
help police investigate crimes by looking at past events as well as what led up
to particular incidents.”

Cornett says that while the original system was capable,
the development of new technology over the past decade meant that a change to
digital recording and retrieval as well as authorized remote access, would
significantly increase the system’s operational power.

“Essentially this new system is designed to bring together
all the security and emergency functions that City of Sydney already had – one of those being
CCTV,” Cornett explains.

“On the surveillance side, there are 82 dedicated public
safety cameras out there in the CBD as part of the Street Safe program and the
new system also includes our internal CCTV cameras – the ones that look after
Council’s own properties.

“The new control room is our emergency management centre
– it’s designed to function as a central control and information centre in the
event of crisis. “We also use it for event management during big events like
NYE or Chinese New Year – during major events we can have police here as well
as sending images to a central police location,” says Cornett.

“In terms of product selection we chose Pelco Endura
because it met our digital recording requirements – that’s 4CIF, 25IPS on all
inputs. This system also had the capability to support full analog joystick
control,” Cornett says. “This is the sort of immediate control our operators
are familiar with. We wanted both digital and analog capabilities with this
system and with Pelco Endura we got what we wanted.”

System choice and design

The key to understanding Council’s CCTV solution is
getting a handle on the hybrid nature of Pelco’s Endura. The story is more
complex than it seems and in part it reflects the history of Pelco as a
manufacturer as well as highlighting the farsightedness of the company’s design
team.

It’s tempting to describe Pelco Endura as being a concept
as much as it is a product suite. Sure, there’s a swag of gear – encoders,
decoders, workstations, console displays, network video recorders, storage
expansion boxes, keyboards, power supplies, as well as the software management
tools that drive them. But just how big Endura grows as part of a given
solution and in which directions it grows – all this is up to the user. Endura
can be the tight network gateway, storage solution and remote management
package it is for City of Sydney,
or it can be a globally networked monster.

Pelco seems to have an intimate comprehension the needs
of end users and the fingerprints of that understanding are all over Endura.
Pelco made a concerted effort to retain the functionality and feel of the
traditional analog solutions so loved by serious monitoring teams, while
simultaneously offering the massive open-endedness that typifies the best
networked digital solutions.

The analog element is central to this installation. At
City of Sydney
it’s supported by a shiny new Pelco 9700 matrix switcher delivering
latency-free analogue video to banks of monitors in the control room from
camera inputs.  

“During the evaluation we went through an expression of
interest looking for a hybrid system so we could retain the analog front end
with an integral digital recording platform,” Council’s System and Business
Development Manager, Greg Martin, explains.

“As it turned out we only had 2 major systems proposed to
us and in the end Pelco Endura was the only system that was tendered because it
was the only system that could actually meet our analog/digital requirements
without the necessity of writing independent coding.

“Code was an issue we considered all the way through the
decision making process – we wanted a system with accessible code – a code that
was not written by one person and which could remain the property of an
individual in the future,” he says.

“From day one of the Street Safety camera Program we have
used Pelco cameras and have been very satisfied so the decision was made, once
we decided on Pelco Endura as our overall solution, that every component was
going to be Pelco from start to finish – the big video wall monitors are the
only things that aren’t Pelco.”

Martin says that despite the widespread push to digital
solutions, not every application suits a fully networked environment and this
fundamental underpins the decision to go hybrid.

“From the point of view of this system and the way we use
it here, hybrid is best. We’re doing active real time monitoring and with
hybrid we get all the benefits of digital recording along with the benefits of
old style real time and latent free monitoring,” he explains.

“In an application like this where we operate in direct
support of NSW Police we need to be able to quickly spot events and react without
delay and analogue gives us the immediacy and signal quality we need to achieve
that.”

Martin says that image streams reach the control room in
real time across Energy Australia’s
fibre network, with coax drop cables connecting Spectra Domes to fibre modems
inside each camera’s mounting pole. Once on the Energy Australia fibre WAN, the
signals travel to fibre patch panels in the new purpose built CCTV data centre.

“Providing vision originally were a combination of
Spectra 1s and IIs and we started upgrading the highest use cameras with new
Spectra 3s a couple of years ago,” says Martin. “At the time these had only
just been released and they gave us better low-light and zoom capability, as
well as offering the benefit of storing presets in the black box so cameras
could be swapped out without the need for reprogramming.

“With the last expansion we’ve gone to the new Spectra IV
– we’ve replaced 40 of our Spectra IIs with Spectra IIIs and the remaining 42
PTZ domes have been replaced with Spectra IVs,” explains Martin. 

Martin says the Spectras have always provided excellent
performance – the original cameras managed 7 or 8 years of heavy duty use before
being replaced and he says the low light performance of the new cameras even
with the standard ambient street lighting, allows vision on all streets in the
CBD and even the most challenging low light environment – Hyde Park – can now be
more effectively monitored at night using the new Pelco Spectra IV cameras.

“Something that was really important to us was system
operation,” says Martin. “During the construction and installation process we
were continually reviewing the way in which we wanted to be operating the
system and we were talking with our integrators as to how we were going to be
able to achieve that.

“By the time we opened we had 90 per cent of the
additional operational wish list up and running and that includes the fact that
where originally at police operations centre we had 2 feeds with 2 big quad
screens police could review – if the police wanted to have those feeds changed,
they’d ring down here and asked us to change them,” Martin explains.

“Now we have full operation up there including playback
and the ability to look at and manage 10 screens at Police Ops centre – the operations
centre here also sees what the police are looking at in the police operations
centre,” he says. “It’s greatly increased the functionality. These are the
sorts of things we talked about having before the upgrade and now we have them
up and running – best of all it took operators only about 4 hours to learn the
system thanks to the additional training we had with Pelco.”

Martin says there were a number of challenges that needed
to be overcome during the installation and commissioning stages.

“The system infrastructure had to be completely relocated
within a 10 day period because the camera terminations had to be relocated from
the old room to the new,” he says. “That was a big deal – for 10 days we had to
systematically relocate the cameras feeds  across, during this time it also allowed the
operators to take the training that was required.

“We also had to ensure that law enforcement and emergency
services were aware that for that 10-day period the City of Sydney operations centre would be operating
on reduced scale.

Martin says some other significant challenges included
the way City of Sydney
needed to transfer images offsite.

“Being able to manually transfer what the operator is
viewing live in our operations centre to a remote location simultaneously, took
some doing,” Martin says. “There was a lot of manipulating macros to make sure
the system was delivering the right images to the right place and at the right
time.

“Another challenge was relocating hundreds of fibre cores
inside the City of Sydney
building and patching them through to the matrix switcher – those in my opinion
were the biggest technical challenges from Council’s point of view.”  

Installing the solution

Raj Masson’s Sydney-based integration outfit ECS Services
was the integrator and contractor for all works related to the City of Sydney CCTV installation.
It was a big job with a fierce deadline that against the odds ECS Services
managed to meet. The size and scope of this installation puts it in another
league – the easiest way to cover the work all is by using lists.

ECS Services work for Council included:

* Installation of the new digital recording solution and
matrix switchers

* Relocation of all fibre cabling from the old data
centre to new data centre

* Installation of redundant communications paths for all
system between the data centre and control room to meet grading requirements

* Relocation of the Sydney Town Hall CCTV system to new
data centre – with a structured fibre back bone to support the relocation

* Building Council’s IT back bone via fibre and CAT6 from
the IT data centre to both control room and CCTV data centre

* Relocation of Town Hall House CCTV system

* Upgrade of all Street Safe camera modems

* Install of new access control and security

* Install of new CCTV for the control room

* Install of new phone system

* Install of all multi-media and AV equipment for control
room and other locations

* Upgrade 30 of intercom points around Town Hall, SydneyTown
Hall and CCTV Centre including replacing entire
cabling back bone for all the intercoms.

Along with this jaw-dropping list of tasks went the
following related systems and works. Read this carefully:

* A new purpose-built data centre and all cabling

* A new control room with complete amenities and briefing
room built to meet the Australian Standard, Grade C1

* A new gate house

* A complete fire system with smoke alarms, sprinkler
system, VESDA and gas suppression system for control room and data centre

* Construction of air-conditioning units – both chilled water
and air cooled systems complete with back ups and redundancy for both the
control room and the data centre

* A complete BMS interface

* All electrical works inclusive of new services, UPS
facilities that provide power for over 2 hours under full load to the entire
operation, as well as generator back up with auto start

* And finally, installation of all hydraulic services.

“I think in all fairness you could say this was a turnkey
solution and our scope of works not only changed but was expanded on as Council
requirements grew during the installation process,” says Masson.

“The scope of works is definitely from cameras at the
front end to complete systems in the back end and it includes building the
facilities to accommodate that back end. While cameras in the actual Street
Safe program were not replaced under these contracts, the works went from
behind the cameras all the way back to the main system.”

As Masson explains it, the installation has a long
history. It began when ECS Services started facilitating the installation after
the initial tender was won 18 months ago. But once the job was underway, the
team discovered that the space allotted in the old data centre was not
sufficient.

“At that point Council investigated the issue and made
the decision to upgrade the facility. Once this was done, Council went out to
tender with the additional requirements – that was the middle of last year,”
Masson says.

“The end result of all this was that we were successful
in the bid for the building tender as well. That meant not only were we going
to be installing the video surveillance system but we would be building the
control room and the data centre at the same time – all within the same 3 month
deadline!”

According to Masson, the building works commenced on
September 3, 2007, with all demolition, structural changes and major
infra-structure requirements to be completed within 6 weeks. These included
electrical services, air conditioning, fire system and hydraulics.

“The next phase (2-3 weeks) was to focus on the data
centre with an aim to more or less have this particular section of the project
to almost 90 per cent complete in terms of all the building and services to
enable the ECS installation team to commence on the structured cabling and
build of all the technical component for the CCTV,” Masson says.

“As it turned out, the data centre scope of works took 6
weeks to complete,” he explains. “At the same time all other services were
being completed in all areas to achieve substantial completion by December 1.

“At this point we then commenced the transfer of all
services and system from the old data centre to the new data centre and believe
me – it sounds much easier in words than it was in the field.

“This part of the job included relocation of over 700
fibre terminations, upgrading of all field modems from analogue FM units to the
new Pelco digital modems, building and fitting of all the operator work
stations and installation of all the media equipment for the briefing/board
room,” says Masson.

“The centre was then handed over to City of Sydney to commence a
“soft opening” with a process to customize systems and fine tune all to meet
their specific requirements.”

A key element of the system’s design and installation,
according to Masson, was the fact this was the first pure CCTV monitoring
station that is currently under the process of being graded to the Australian
Standards Grade C1 control room standard.

“A challenging part of this grading decision was that we
needed to build a fully graded monitoring station even though the grading as it
stands today applies exclusively to the commercial sector,” says Masson. “This
meant we had to work out ways to reinterpret the requirements of commercial
monitoring stations and apply them to this control room while meeting or
exceeding the standard.

“Some of these requirements related to construction of
the shell of the building – then there was the redundant air conditioning, the
generator backup, and redundant communication paths between the remote data
centre and the control room, ensuring data centre security and redundancy were
at the same level.”

Masson says that getting all the diversity of systems and
infrastructure into place within the time frame meant ECS Services developed a
partnership relationship with COS.

“There were lots of fast decisions and provisions that
had to be made – we could not have delivered this job in this time frame
without having the close working relationship developed with Council staff.

“Council was extremely co-operative during the entire
project; they were very certain of their end objective and simultaneously were
guided by ECS in the best manner to achieve the desired outcomes in terms of
what was a very complex installation,” Masson explains. “To their credit council
staff had done extensive research on their own and this enabled them to keep
abreast of all the technologies and intricacies involved.”

Masson says the initial system was designed by the
Council, however, as the scope of requirements grew, the base level design was
altered to meet Council’s expanding objectives with this process undertaken
through consultation between ECS and Council.

The network

An integral part of the overall system was the design and
construction of a dedicated network.

“We run an entirely separate and massive support for the
digital requirements of this system – it’s 1Gb anywhere on the backbone – we
use HP Procurve series switches so there’s no compromise at all in performance
or in quality,” Masson says.

“Our experience suggests a lot of problems with digital
solutions occur because of a lack of understanding of what network requirements
are for video – there’s little comprehension of just how hungry for bandwidth
and storage live CCTV can be.

“With this installation we are recording every video
stream at 25ips in 4CIF,” Masson explains. “And if you look at the system as a
whole, the operation of the analogue front end – the ability to undertake
monitoring and playback of multiple live, 4CIF, video streams simultaneously –
there’s a lot going on here in terms of processing.

“Taking this into account, using analog for the front end
and digital for the back end gives us the advantage of getting the best out of
both technologies.”

Masson says that the networked nature of the system makes
it future proof.

“This was demonstrated during the course of the actual
installation when our backbone infra-structure for cabling allowed us to add
numerous system after completion without any further building works,” Masson says.
“In terms of technology advancements, the system platform will allow easy
integration of other technologies.

ECS Services major projects manager, Jason Haugh, who
took care of the day to day management of the installation, agrees.

“This system is completely future-proof – the
infrastructure that’s in place will easily support new technologies as they
come out – there’s the space, the air conditioning, the battery backup – all
those things required are there,” Haugh says.

Installation challenges

According to Masson, the biggest technical challenge ECS
Services faced was keeping abreast of the numerous systems the team was
building simultaneously and being able to ensure that no component was going to
be left out during the integration process.

“There was also the challenge of getting the final
integration of all different components operating seamlessly in one uniform
environment,” says Masson. “With the time frame we had we did not have the
flexibility to build and test each system but had to plan extremely well to
ensure that all facets of the program which essentially represented the
client’s expectations etc were maintained.

“Also important was ensuring that day to day progress
changes requested by the client could easily be accommodated and facilitated.”

Masson says that another drama from ECS Services’ point
of view was the fact that there was a period of time during the installation
where the system was offline – it was unavailable for monitoring – unavailable
to emergency services and police who rely on it. In that time a huge amount of
work had to be done.

“The system was systematically relocate over a period of
ten days and in that ten days we had to literally transfer the entire operations
into the new operations centre,” Masson says. “At the same time because we had
to upgrade all the modems to new digital modems for every camera and we had to
make sure that every single camera interface was upgraded and worked as
expected.”  

Masson says that during the building phase ECS Services
had multiple groups of trainees down at Pelco’s office in Pyrmont undertaking
training programs pre-launch – a week after they finished their training they
had hands-on training with the system – this made it easier for operators.

Operational teamwork

As SoC’s Security Operations Manager, Alex Kennedy
explains, teamwork between Council’s security operators and the NSW Police is a
vital element of Council’s new solution.

“Operators at the Council’s Operations Centre are
monitoring selected video feeds 24 hours a day – if they see an incident, the operators
contact the NSW Police on a dedicated phone line to the Police Local Area Duty
Supervisor and operators in this operations centre can transfer video feeds
down to the Police supervisors office where they can be viewed on the police
monitors.

“With the integration of the new digital systems our
operators can play back incidents to police immediately. So instead of taking
third-hand information they are able to look at the original footage and
respond based on that – they know exactly what they are going to be walking
into,” Kennedy explains.

“During NYE there was one operator at police operation
centre, 3 here in the operations centre and a police officer here,” says
Kennedy. “Our capacity is 7 workstations including one at the police operation
centre and another in our briefing room – so that’s 9 all up. During an event
like NYE we will have vision streamed to police operation centre for the
duration of the event to assist with crowd and event management.”

Kennedy says that the way the Council operation centre works
is that operators at workstations canvas the city using the Pelco PTZ cameras.
He says there are 3 operators in the room at any one time, as well as a Security
Operations Coordinator who monitors the overall security operation.

“When they identify an incident they transfer the video
from here to police command and then police co-ordinate a response. This means
that police know what they’re walking into,” Kennedy says.

In terms of day-to-day operation to Kennedy explains that
the digital upgrade has made a huge difference to the control room’s day to day
operations.

“With VHS we had to wait for tapes to finish and then go
through them looking for incidents,” Kennedy explains. “With the system we’ve
got now, police can see in real time what we see and we can rewind an incident
and send the whole event including its lead-up to the police. It means what
used to take 2 or 3 hours can now be done in a few seconds – it’s that big a
deal.

“Clearly we work very closely with NSW Police – we are in
contact all the time – it’s a very close co-operation especially during big
events – the new system has enhanced our cooperation.”

Kennedy commends ECS Services installation team and its contractors
for delivering a critical solution on time with minimal interruption to
operations.

“The changeover was very smooth – taken as a whole and
considering everything involved. The products, the technology, the training
handled by Pelco’s people in Australia and the U.S., as well as the work of ECS
and ECS staff – from a control room point of view it’s all been excellent,” he
says.

Meanwhile, Pelco Australia’s Terry Yallouris is
delighted with the new system. He says the fact Council and ECS Services pushed
the envelope with this application served to highlight the capabilities of
Endura and the other Pelco products involved. Yallouris is also pleased that
the decision to go Pelco was based on Council’s experience with Pelco product
in real world applications over a long period of time.

“This is a longstanding Pelco site – we’re up to our 4th
generation Spectra domes here and the same applies to the matrix switcher – the
Council switcher was originally a Pelco 9760 and now it’s a new 9700 with forwards
and backwards compatibility,” Yallouris explains.

“A quality end-to-end installation like this is not only
fantastic from a supplier’s point of view – it works for Council and ECS
Services, too,” he says.

“Because Pelco is the sole supplier for this solution, Council and ECS
Services know they’ve got one door to knock on for everything from the front
end all the way through to the back,” says Yallouris. “Putting it simply, Pelco
stands behind City of Sydney’s
surveillance system, as we always have done.”