EnviroCOMS has spent many years leveraging the Milestone VMS to create a new environmental digital asset management system that combines video, data and analytics, to monitor wave heights, measure shoreline erosion, calculate beach population density, improve beach safety and analyse risk prevention tactics. Now EnviroCOMS is being used to manage assets in real time. 

COASTALCOMS, the parent company of EnviroCOMS was founded in Melbourne in 1998 as a group that delivered specialized video content analytics and environmental monitoring via public and private cloud architectures. The technology was cutting edge and garnered plenty of attention. In the mid-2000s, Australia’s Queensland government contracted CoastalCOMS to create a system to better monitor local environmental assets as part of its Smart State Initiative. 

For the Queensland project, CoastalCOMS created a spinoff group called EnviroCOMS to create environmental engineering applications. With financial backing from the Qld government, EnviroCOMS created advanced digital weather models, smart data analytics and reporting, and a system for storing and managing manual and real-time environmental data. Early in its existence, EnviroCOMS archived and stored video on its own video management software (VMS) platform. 

In 2007, Nigel Sim joined the EnviroCOMS team as senior application developer. He faced a 2-pronged challenge: develop a more advanced environmental digital asset management system that could communicate with a VMS; and select a cloud-hosted infrastructure where the VMS and data could be hosted. EnviroCOMS looked for a new VMS to fuse seamlessly with its data systems. What was needed was a large-scale solution that could handle global monitoring of video and images, while also processing environmental data and analytics. 

Early IP adoption meant the company was at the forefront of the digital revolution which started to gather momentum in the late 1990s. Chris Lane, co-founder of CoastalCOMS, says the company was doing IP streaming before IP cameras existed – CoastalCOMS’s first cameras were broadcasting live on the Internet in 1999.

“We have long believed that IP was the way of the future,” he says. “So it was logical that when we started looking for a VMS partner, we would gravitate to a software platform leading the IP video revolution, which in our opinion, was Milestone.”

EnviroCOMS decided on incorporating the Milestone open platform into its monitoring system due to its flexibility and robust levels of support. 

“Milestone has been a superb addition to our solutions,” Lane said. “It supports so many different cameras, and we can really dig into the software to tailor it to our specifications. It allows for an incredible level of granularity.”

Lane and his team have had Milestone XProtect software incorporated into the EnviroCOMS solution since 2009. The EnviroCOMS system primarily monitors wave heights, measures shoreline erosion, calculates beach population density, improves beach safety and analyses risk prevention tactics. This is done internationally in partnership with organisations as varied as CoastalWATCH, surf life saving groups, port authorities, government departments, specialized consultancy groups, coastguards and city councils. 

“We used the Milestone rules engine to drive cameras based on time profiles,” said Nigel Sim. “After the event, we would extract recordings during those profiles and our video extraction and processing (VEAP) system would dig through the workflow and process the results.”

As a digital pioneer with global interests, it was natural that the team would also be very early adopters of cloud. EnviroCOMS has been using Amazon cloud-hosted infrastructure since 2007 and this allows Lane and Sim to run cameras on beaches across California, Hawaii and Australia, and quickly push video to a command centre without needing individuals on each beach manning the equipment. 

“Choosing the right cloud infrastructure was an important piece of this puzzle,” Sim said. “And we love how well Amazon and Milestone work together. We’ve never had any issues when it comes to storage.”

Data Asset Management Projects

Drawing on nearly 20 years global experience, EnviroCOMS recently built an internal self-monitoring data asset management system robust enough to handle all types of environmental monitoring. Now the team is working to create a system that customers can tailor to their specifications. The internal EnviroCOMS data asset management solution included high quality visualization and reporting tools, and the team continues to work with Milestone to create customised data management asset solutions that can handle video and images in addition to large data streams.  

According to Lane, the first step to achieving this goal is building a data management toolset that allows customers to manage their own projects.  

“We want to put the power of our solution in the hands of the people who are using it,” Sim says. “That means pulling in third-party data streams like weather providers and tide gauges. Milestone gives us the ability to see video and images in real time. When we combine that with powerful data and analytics processing, we get unique and truly innovative solutions.”

In the case of Townsville City Council, EnviroCOMS was tasked with creating a smart water application. This is part of the Queensland government funded Sensor-Q project, which aims to unite James Cook University and CoastalCOMS in an effort to initiate practical applied science and research projects in Queensland. The initiative is supported by a grant from the Queensland Government Accelerate Program.

As part of the Sensor-Q project, Townsville Council is also leveraging Milestone to create a smarter, more sustainable city. Working in concert with EnviroCOMS, Townsville is using Milestone to develop a low-cost system to help monitor urban water usage and measure water quality from creeks and streams. 

“We’re looking at a really powerful solution here,” says Lane. “Our custom environmental data management system leverages Milestone for a solution that measures water level on spillways and records video of certain positions of a dam. It stores video archives and processes environmental data and advanced environmental analytics. It’s more than just security – it’s a business intelligence application.” 

And EnviroCOMS is also currently partnering with dozens of environmental projects around the globe, including one on the Gold Coast Seaway. The idea for this project began in August 2015 when a dirty water plume was discovered in the Seaway. Still images are taken from 3 set positions in the seaway every 30 minutes from the EnviroCOMS camera, processed in the Milestone platform and exported to researchers. In December, James Cook University deployed a water quality buoy with sensor equipment to take measurements of temperature and turbidity in the area.

And EnviroCOMS is also partnering with the All Saints Anglican School on the Gold Coast in Queensland to monitor its wetlands. A camera and weather station have been installed to collect images and live data feeds of wind speed, wind direction and rainfall. This data assists school students with projects on environmental monitoring. Measurements of temperature and turbidity are recorded in the wetlands and relayed back through Milestone. The image data includes daily 1-minute video clips at 7am from set camera positions, which are collected and stored in the Milestone platform. These videos are used to count the number of birds in the wetland area. Daily snapshots at 8am are also taken from these positions, which can be used to create a time-lapse video of changes to the wetland before and after a flooding event. 

“In all these applications, Milestone has become a critical tool for us,” Lane says. “We’re leveraging its video capabilities to monitor major environmental changes, which will help us make more informed decisions about how we take care of our precious natural resources moving forward.” ♦