FOR all the talk about full digital solutions you don’t
see too much end-to-end IP CCTV in the flesh. That’s what makes Wollongong
Council’s fast growing digital street surveillance project so important. The
system’s 122 cameras deploy across Wollongong’s
CBD on its own fibre LAN buried under Crown St Mall and the City Centre,
reflecting a scale of vision most evident in the system’s rapid lateral
expansion.

When the second stage of this installation is complete, Wollongong’s public
surveillance solution will integrate 180 IP cameras in multiple locations, with
multiple monitoring points and a single archive solution. Now linked, or in the
process of being linked to the network, are Wollongong Police Station,
Wollongong City Gallery, and the main monitoring station in an office building
on Crown St Mall, Council’s main administration building on Burelli St, the Illawarra Performing Arts
Centre and the RTA regional office. These elements form the heart of a system
that will continue to expand significantly to include government and commercial
locations keen to benefit from the system’s positive momentum.

The key to the system’s success is the fact it is a
living surveillance solution, not an investigative tool designed to help courts
pick up the pieces. In Wollongong City Centre, the CCTV system is constantly
monitored and response comes not only from NSW Police based at Wollongong
Police Station. There are also 3 dedicated security officers, including 2
Special Constables, based in a control room on Crown St Mall whose dual roles
are to monitor the system and respond to events as they occur.

This might seem an unusual brief but it’s extraordinarily
effective. Images gathered by the CCTV system in the past 18 months have led to
more than 700 arrests for offences ranging from petty crimes and fraud, to shop
lifting, assault, drug dealing and more.

The system is really Wollongong City Centre Ltd’s General
Manager Paul Fanning’s baby. WCC Ltd is a stand-alone company with delegated
authority from Council, that manages, provides marketing, events and promotions
and crime prevention strategies for the ‘Gong’s city centre for Wollongong
Council. It’s like the Business Improvement Districts in the UK and USA
and Wollongong is regarded as one of the most
successful of its type in Australia.

In some ways it’s not surprising the CCTV system has been
successful. You can tell Fanning loves what he does. Fanning thinks
strategically and he brings a private enterprise mentality to his dealings with
government and public officers.

For many years Fanning was convinced the best way to both
prevent and detect crime in Wollongong’s
busy Crown St Mall and the wider City Centre was with use of IP surveillance
cameras but it was a tough sell, especially given the fact IP was not being taken
seriously in the electronic security industry.

Fanning has a delightful enthusiasm for his digital CCTV
system, his appetite clearly piqued by having to wait for technology to catch
up with his expectations. A forward and strategic thinker, Fanning embraced the
benefits of full digital early and could not be swayed. He had offers of
analogue cameras with encoders as field devices and networked back-ends, but he
was steadfast in his belief that this new system should not install, in his
opinion, aging technology, but a system that can be built on and expanded for
many years to come.

“I have to admit, this system has been a passion for me
for many years. To see the surveillance system in and working successfully –
it’s very pleasing”

Fanning wanted full digital and for him that meant blue
cable to the camera replete with PoE. And Fanning wasn’t just fixated on
cameras as edge devices. He wanted the core of his CCTV system – including
archiving and backup power – to be supported by Council’s IT department. And
not just maintenance support – Fanning wanted all the CCTV system’s hardware to
be sitting in the server room of Wollongong Council’s AdministrationBuilding
on Burelli St
– 4 blocks away from the Crown St Mall monitoring station.

After many months of personal research, Fanning’s
interest was heightened when he saw an IP solution at PortMacquarieAirport. That system
appealed and while Fanning admits he did not always understand the jargon
surrounding IT technology, it’s obvious he clearly understood the modularity of
IT infrastructure and appreciated the cost and functionality benefits accruing
from leverage of existing IT networks.

Ironically it was at the Airport that Fanning met local
consultant from Real Time Communications Hugh Sheil, whose belief in the
ascendancy of networked surveillance systems closely matched his own. It was
Sheil who turned Fanning’s ideas into a plan and integrator TPE and wholesaler
Pacific Communications who turned those plans into reality.

Fanning’s vision benefited from a number of key
characteristics of the Wollongong CBD. The first big benefit was that there was
no existing CCTV system installed in the Mall and its surrounds – such a system
would have come with a legacy analogue cable plant. The second big benefit was
the fact that underneath Wollongong’s
Crown St Mall lay a network of unused conduits owned by the Council.

“Basically I was up at Port Macquarie looking at the
surveillance system there and I said to Hugh Sheil – this is the type of system
I need, I’ve researched it, I know IP technology is the way CCTV is going – we
don’t need tapes, DVRs or any of that – we need IP,” Fanning explains.

“By fate as it turned out, Hugh lived locally and knew
the area well so I asked if he would write a new specification to a tender that
would give us full IP CCTV,” Fanning says. 

“I have to admit, this system has been a passion for me
for many years. To see the surveillance system in and working successfully –
it’s very pleasing”

Fanning says the impact of a high quality street CCTV
system in Wollongong
has been dramatic.

“Since January 2007 we’ve had nearly 700 arrests – we
have had credit card fraud, shoplifting as well as picking up things that have
happened elsewhere like assaults. Additionally, police use the system to gather
intelligence on criminal activity and then make arrests

“We work extremely closely with the NSW Police – every
week we have police officers in here viewing footage to help in their
investigations for activity that has happened all over the area and sometimes
further into the region.”

Fanning says that while it’s important, CCTV is not the
be all and end all – instead it’s another tool in a crime prevention strategy.

“Our overall strategy includes crime prevention through
environmental design, improved lighting, clear sightlines, the removal of trees
if necessary – CCTV is a part of all this,” Fanning says.

“But we have found that, locally, CCTV is extremely
effective in stopping crime and if it does occur, CCTV is of great assistance
in investigating criminal events. 

“From a management perspective it’s good to know that the
system is a great crime prevention tool whose success has had a flow-on
effect,” Fanning says. “Going IP was the right move. You don’t want DVRs, CDs,
backups and their protocols – here it’s straight to the server room in
Council’s Admin building with full backup systems, air conditioning – we get
fantastic support.”

According to Fanning, the key element in relation to the
CCTV system is that Wollongong Council has an extremely efficient and capable
IT department that understands what he and Council management is trying to
achieve with IP surveillance.

“Since January 2007 we’ve had nearly 700 arrests – we
have had credit card fraud, shoplifting as well as picking up things that have
happened elsewhere like assaults. Additionally, police use the system to gather
intelligence on criminal activity and then make arrests”

“Having that IT group there has made a real difference,”
Fanning explains. “A lot of the work of setting up the network side of this
solution was put on them – the support of the IT guys at Wollongong Council
headed up by Paul Marskell, Jeff Howells, Mark Leonard and Wayne Fussell has
been excellent.

“The DVTel management solution is great too – it offers
all the functionality we need not just from a monitoring point of view but in
terms of the open architecture networking we need to do.

“Overall it’s a great system that just works and it’s
hard to believe this is one of the only full IP systems of its size in Australia,”
Fanning says.

The solution

The full digital nature of the DVTel networked solution
at Wollongong
allows a very flexible interpretation of surveillance with monitoring
facilities at multiple points and cameras installed wherever required. There
are 2 workstations in the Crown St Mall monitoring station, a dedicated
workstation in the police station, another in the art gallery, one in the
Council Admin building and another in the RTA building. Future workstations
will be installed at WIN Entertainment Centre and the Wollongong Youth Centre.

“Like all big systems this one is a work in progress and
it’s constantly growing and developing,” says consultant, Hugh Sheil. “At the
moment we’re integrating the Council’s AdministrationBuilding,
which currently has a legacy hybrid system installed, and we’re also in the
process of replacing servers and other hardware and finalizing our upgrade to
DVTel Latitude NVMS V5.”

Sheil says the key to the system was the fact that in the
planning stages there was much digging around looking at plans and drawings of
infrastructure in the area and during this process spare Council conduits were
discovered running through the mall. That was for just Stage 1. In planning
Stage 2 unused RTA conduits were found running under most of the city centre.

“Paul approached RTA management and they said ‘yes, we’ve
got these conduits’ and Paul said, ‘what if we gave you some camera views that
allowed you to monitor the traffic in exchange for letting us use of some of
them’?” Sheil explains. “This was a good deal for both parties because RTA then
could monitor roads around the Wollongong CBD. In addition, the Police would
have even more cameras at their disposal for monitoring and investigation.”

Sheil says that the existing RTA conduits are linked by
fibre connections carried through existing infrastructure and a few short under
bores put in during Stage 1 of the installation. A handful of these bores
allowed Council to create a significant network at minimal expense using RTA’s
existing conduits to link Council buildings and the police station to the fibre
network.

“The Australian Govt, NSW Police, TPE, Pacom and RTA have
been fantastically supportive and that level of support really typified much of
the reaction to this system right from the very beginning”

Sheil says the initial installation in Crown St Mall was
finished in Jan 2007 and incorporated 44 cameras.

“Integrator TPE did the large Stage 1 of the system –
which is the Crown St Mall – while Council handled the IT side of that
install,” Sheil says. “In a smaller secondary integration, Siemens installed
cameras at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre and the ArtGallery.
The expansive and technically diverse Stage 2 of the system, which is over the
wider city centre, including the termination cabinets and fibre, will again be
handled by TPE with Council doing the IT.

“From an operational perspective the Crown St Mall
segment of the system is designed so that anyone approaching the entrances to
the mall will be recorded and can be clearly identified,” Sheil says. “Other
cameras in the mall are set up to view incidents and these combined camera
views mean that if an incident is taken to court the evidence is greatly
strengthened,” Sheil says.

“The Australian Govt, NSW Police, TPE, Pacom and RTA have
been fantastically supportive and that level of support really typified much of
the reaction to this system right from the very beginning”

“Identification is an important capability of this system
because security officers and police use it in real time to view criminal
activities and react to them,” Sheil explains. “Also important is the fact that
while cameras are recorded at 12 frames, 4 CIF, they’re monitored at 25 frames
per second.”

In terms of the system’s structure, cameras are linked
using Cat-6 cable to termination cabinets in the field, containing 8-port or
24-port HP Procurve PoE switches. While fixed cameras are run on Cat-6 in a
star configuration, PTZ cameras need an additional power supply so they’re
supported by Cat-6 and power cables.

Sheil says the control of the PTZ’s are over the network
and there is a network interface point within 90 metres of any point within the
coverage area which means you can add a camera or by running a Cat 6 cable to
the required location without the need for additional power supplies.

“Once onto the fibre LAN, the signal travels to the admin
building’s server room via several core switches and then onto archivers with
40TB of storage that hold footage for 21 days” Sheil says. “At the same time
images from all cameras are available for monitoring in real time at multiple
workstations across the network, all you need to set up a monitoring station is
a network connection and a PC.

“Most this system’s networking components are
off-the-shelf and non-proprietary, so council’s not locked into any one
supplier, which is important here. There’s a 24-hour replacement deal with HP
and the CCTV system is included in Council’s overall network maintenance
program.

“Archiving servers are in the computer room of Council’s
admin building so they are supported with backup power and air conditioning,
same as the rest of the network,” explains Sheil. “We also have a couple of
concentrator switches in various locations in the field.

“Same as most CCTV applications, we’re limited for space
and have to manage heat in small spaces which can be a challenge,” he says. “We
have a series of interesting termination points – one in a bridge, one in a
fountain and one in the mall’s amphitheatre.”

Sheil agrees with Fanning that an important element of
the system was support from Council’s IT department.

“The IT guys got their heads around the system straight
away but it took a bit longer for everyone else to get a handle on how it would
function,” Sheil explains. “The IT department is very supportive – if anything
happens on the network the IT department is all over it. This system is self
monitoring and that’s a big advantage in terms of reliability.”

Sheil says switchers, storage and servers are all
supported as part of the IT maintenance program.

“The IT department has also had training in how to
maintain the DVTel V5 software,” Sheil explains. “It means there’s a lot more
depth in support than you would normally get from a contractor with a couple of
IT guys – Council’s IT department is monitoring network health in real time.”

Along with IT support, and the savings you get with use
of off-the-shelf hardware, the full digital nature of this solution has other
advantages. Sheil says the art gallery installation highlights the flexibility
of DVTel’s PoE IP cameras.

“Because the spaces in a gallery are flexible and constantly
changing, instead of fixed installation points, there are patch points with set
zoom and focus. Depending on the displays in the gallery, cameras can be moved
around from patch point to patch point,” Sheil explains.

“This means it’s possible to plug and play cameras
wherever you need them to be in relation to a particular show – art gallery
technical staff handle this on a day-to-day basis.”

Sheil says an important aspect of the system is business
involvement and he explains that this support has enhanced the overall
solution.

“Businesses are very helpful,” he explains. “They’re keen
to allow us to use power from their buildings or mount cameras on their
buildings and this has allowed us to get the best camera views. Improving
security and safety in Crown St Mall is a priority for everyone and we’ve found
that as people hear the system is working they become even more supportive.”

Vital to the capability of the overall system is the
functionality of the monitoring software and Sheil says DVTel is ideal.

“What we were looking for in the control room was
simplicity and functionality and DVTel is a proven performer that’s easy to
operate and customize,” Sheil says. “Security officers in the main Crown St
Mall control room use a joystick to run the PTZs and they’re extremely good at
it.

“The officers know half the characters who are
perpetrating crimes – and they have great skill with the DVTel system – it’s
amazing to watch them working.”

Importantly, the workstations supporting the DVTel
monitoring software are part of council’s normal PC hardware – in this case
dual core Dell-based workstations.

“At the moment each workstation has 2 monitors and in the
next stage of expansion there will be another 2 monitors added to each
workstation,” Sheil explains.

The quality of images from the DVTel IP cameras is a real
eye-opener. These cameras are excellent, working well when dynamic range is
challenged by strong backlight and delivering excellent depth of field. Depth
of field is so good that cameras designated to handle facial identification
still manage to gather significant detail from activity taking place half a
block behind their target area.

Performance is just as good in night-time recordings,
with excellent colour rendition and faces clearly recognisable. Part of this
strong performance comes down to clever system design incorporating a careful
lighting solution but the DVTel cameras still manage to peer out of their
designated fields of view to provide a surprising amount of incidental detail.

IP surveillance from DVTel

Wollongong’s
video surveillance system is managed and networked using DVTel Latitude Version
5 software supplied by Pacific Communications. Latitude V5 is scaleable
enterprise-level multimedia management system that’s ideal for this sort of
application.

Features vital to management of larger video surveillance
solutions like Wollongong Council include a video matrix switch, a digital
video recorder and a digital multiplexer, which combine to allow viewing,
recording, analysis and storage of high-quality video and audio. Version 5 of
DVTel NVMS brings together network video management, access control, intrusion
detection, building automation, geographical mapping and more.

Important for Wollongong Council, Latitude NVMS Version 5
supports various manufacturer’s IP cameras and the system also allows for
workstations with four monitor outputs, each capable of 25 video tiles and a
combination of hyperlinked HTML Maps and Procedures, customised for each
operator.

“The biggest user benefit of V5 from an operator’s point
of view is the ability to watch playback and live views on the same screen
meaning more flexibility and user friendliness,” says Pacific Communications’
senior sales engineer, Paul Gregory. 

“You can view up to 25 images per monitor on a quad head
workstation and what that means is you can have 100 cameras – many more than
you’d need. In Wollongong the upgrade to V5
incorporates expansion of the system including the art gallery, the RTA and the
CouncilAdministrationBuilding,”
he says.

According to Pacom’s Scott Myles, DVTel’s Latitude NVMS
Version 5 also offers significant improvements in functionality.

“Going to DVTel V5 we now have Scene tracker and the
potential for analytics,” he says. “Also important when compared to earlier
versions of the system is that Pacom and DVTel have complete control over
development – this flexibility has allowed customization to suit the Wollongong
Council application – it’s a great solution moving forward.”

Myles says one of the most pleasing aspects of the Wollongong system is that
it shows while many people say it’s not possible to get high quality out of IP,
the opposite is the truth.

“The quality of the images this solution is delivering
are exceptional,” he says. “These are straight IP cameras, not megapixel, and
at 4CIF they are delivering superb quality image streams with excellent depth
of field. Something like this shows just how effective IP can be not just in
terms of flexible installation but in terms of performance – the images are
exceptional.

Myles says that a strength of the installation is that
it’s a green field site.

“There are not too many sites like this one with no
existing infrastructure and with access to buried fibre – it’s a perfect
location for IP video,” he says.

Myles also points out that while Wollongong Council has
provided its own off-the-shelf hardware and delivers significant inhouse
support, Pacom is able to offer that support and provide turnkey applications
if required.

Also integral to the system’s functionality are DVTel IP
cameras, including the Altitude 9840A Pro Series network PTZ domes and the
Altitude 9540 network fixed cameras. The PTZ’s offer 4CIF, 23x and 35x zooms,
depending on camera location, have wide dynamic range, auto iris, auto focus
and backlight compensation, vandal resistance and IP66 weatherproofing.
Meanwhile the 9540 fixed camera also delivers 4CIF image streams, has a Pixim
chipset, super wide dynamic range, day/night mode, auto white balance, auto
gain control and advanced back light compensation.

These 2 cameras, along with the 9523 series fixed cameras
just installed in the art gallery, link to the network via RJ-45 ports and
incorporate Layer 2 multicasting to support multiple monitoring locations. It’s
a combination of features that makes them ideal for Wollongong Council’s
application.

“Tony Pollard’s TPE did the installation of termination
points and cameras in Crown St Mall – they’re a local company so this was a
reference installation for them and they did a very good job,” says Gregory.

“TPE went to the extent of custom designing and building
mounts for PTZ cameras in order to get the best possible coverage and the
results speak for themselves – it’s an impressive installation.”

Fanning too, is pleased with the camera choice. He says
that as part of the planning process the team involved looked at a large number
of cameras and assessed their footage day and night in order to pick the best
cameras for their applications.

“Our security had major input into the camera selection –
once they understood the general principles of identification and incident
cameras they knew exactly what features they needed to catch criminals and they
knew where they wanted those cameras to be,” Fanning says.

“I have to say that our security officers and Special
Constables have been instrumental in the system’s overall success – they work
well above and beyond the call of duty.”

Fanning says that in hindsight he is very happy council
went full IP.

“The quality of images is exceptional. We’ve improved the
lighting in a few spots but the general performance is great – we got all the
flexibility we hoped for with IP and we have made no compromise on quality.”

Benefits of the system

Fanning says the decision to go IP was a long process in
which he read everything on the subject he could lay his hands on. There was
also market research done locally and on the national level looking at the
effectiveness and potential impact of public CCTV systems. He also put a lot of
work into their Code of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures for the
system.

“During this research it came clear that the subsequent
effectiveness of the cameras in solving and deterring crime means the area is
safer – that’s important for visitors and shoppers to the mall and city
centre,” Fanning says.

“Effective video surveillance is a process and it’s
working in Wollongong,”
he explains. “As criminal elements in the community become aware of the system
their behaviours change. It assists us, council, NSW Police, the RTA, ArtGallery,
Illawarra Performing Arts Centre and the community – it’s great for everyone.
Success has taken a lot of work and time for many people but in the long term
it’s paying off.”

Fanning says the original mall system was funded by
council, but the broader Wollongong
city centre system in the process of being rolled out is being funded through a
grant from the Australian Government as part of the National Community Crime
Prevention Program.

Getting this funding was by no means guaranteed but Fanning
pursued it relentlessly. Along with his other qualifications, Fanning is
accredited as a performance coach in leadership behaviours. That explains his
success in engaging various government bureaucracies in the process of rolling
out the system.

“It is a partnership approach, based on the original
system, the security being funded by Wollongong City Centre Ltd and the grant
from the Australian Government. I applied for the grant and received support
from the then Lord Mayor and CEO of the Council, along with the NSW Police
Local Area Commander and the local Senator.

“If anything happens on the network the IT department is
all over it. This system is self monitoring and that’s a big advantage in terms
of reliability”

“In reality though, I don’t think anyone ever really
thought it would be granted, but we never gave up, and they were very pleased
we got it. We ended up being awarded $485,000 to expand the system which is the
largest grant of its type ever given in this Australian program,” Fanning says.

“I don’t know whether it’s been luck or good management
but we’ve just had really good success and support all the way through the
project. We’ve had excellent co-operation from the RTA. We have full
co-operation from Council, NSW Police and now private businesses are getting
involved. It’s really been a partnership approach, everyone has helped each
other.”

Fanning says the system will become even more effective
once stage 2 is completed.

“We have stage 1 finished and stage 2 is about to be
rolled out,” he says. “As part of stage 2 we’re aiming to have a PTZ on every
pub and nightclub in Wollongong City Centre, with our security officers,
Special Constables and police having accessing to these new cameras 24 hours a
day.”

Meanwhile Fanning says the support of Sheil and Pacom
were vital to the success of the installation.

“Hugh and the team from Pacific Communications believed
in the concept of IP video and they worked to give us what we wanted rather
than trying to convince us to install something they had,” Fanning explains.

“It’s clear to me that the backup, support and knowledge
we got from Pacom and Hugh were the best I’ve seen for ages. They take ownership
of the system, are excited about its capabilities and that to me is very
important. And they uphold values of honesty and integrity and you can tell
they love what they do. 

“We also have had great support from TPE the local
company who did the installation in the mall – they have been outstanding,”
Fanning says. “Tony Pollard and his company TPE take pride in what they do.

“From memory in 18 months of operation there’s only been
one instance of network failure other than power and that was when a rat got
into a conduit and chewed through a fibre.

Drawing on his experience, Fanning says any council doing
trenching, refurbishments or paving should run conduits for fibre. He says they
shouldn’t just plan for today, but what conduit infrastructure can be used for
in the future.

“Those fibres can be used for everything and anything –
once fibre’s in, the infrastructure is there and can be used for automatic
parking signage, PA systems, pop-up bollards, CCTV – whatever.”

“I’m very happy with the IP CCTV system – it’s great –
we’ve been really fortunate to get a good system in.” Fanning says. “If we’d
gone analogue we’d have been dreadfully disappointed. There’s no doubt we’ll
have one of the most comprehensive public surveillance systems using the latest
technology in Australia
when Stage 2 of this system is completed.

“I’m very happy with the IP CCTV system – it’s great –
we’ve been really fortunate to get a good system in.” Fanning says. “If we’d
gone analogue we’d have been dreadfully disappointed. There’s no doubt we’ll
have one of the most comprehensive public surveillance systems using the latest
technology in Australia when Stage 2 of this system is completed”