Case Study on Wakefield's Enforcement Services Camera Control Room
Cameras in city centres, shops and rural areas are now able to track everything from traffic jams to individuals, and can even be used to monitor weather conditions and river levels. But controlling the cameras, and being able to access and retrieve the right picture at the right time, is a complex procedure.
However, advances in technology are making it easier. One of the UK's latest camera control centres, the WakefieldCity Metropolitan District Council's CCTV control room in Pontefract, has used a-v and security technology to simplify the operational interfaces and speed up incident response times. Wakefield spent £1.4m on revamping its control room and moving it eight miles to new premises in Pontefract. The system now allows operators to see 160 camera feeds, out of a possible 176, at any one time on a 5x2 array of 46in high-definition LCD screens.
There is no need to switch and encode camera feeds because every one is live. Instead of having to redraw the whole screen area according to a series of rigid templates - the norm in such installations – the screen mapping is fluid and can be changed by the operators on the fly. This, for example, allows them to follow an incident by switching between camera views in real time.
To speed up the process even further, the control for the cameras and screen displays has been integrated with other communications. So, instead of having to deal with a mass of different comms links - including police radio channels, retail radio security channels and fixed line audio communications from public help points in the borough - the operators now have a single audio interface that can be seamlessly linked to touch screen and joystick control of camera selection and positioning.
The high level of system integration has also speeded up incident response rates, made it possible to provide camera window feeds to police area control rooms and reduced the time it takes to produce CCTV evidence. Previously, it could take up to 30 minutes to trace a record of an incident using a paper log and retrieve the appropriate videotape.
Now, electronic recording to the centre's 27 terabits of storage means that a video report can be called up in 30 seconds and burned to a DVD.
Network Camera Control
In the new control room, up to seven operators manage cameras located across the area in Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford, Ossett, Featherstone, South Elmsall and Hemsworth. Each operator station has a joystick device for camera control, a screen and a touch-screen system, so the operator can select the camera(s) being viewed by simply calling them up on a map. A videowall in front of the room provides them - and the supervisor at the back of the room - with an overview of activity.
Touch-screen control systems allow operators to instantly assign any camera to a screen area and to dynamically change the display, without having to call up different templates and redraw the whole screen, losing camera views while the processors were coping. Previously, a complete re-map of a 160-camera view screen used to take several
minutes, which is a long time if the police and CCTV operators are trying to follow a runaway. Each operator can also review footage captured by the system's 208 recording channels.
The Wakefield control room's screen interfaces and control have been created using software from Synectics, which specialises in CCTV control systems, and control room/visualisation expert Eyevis. The UK operation of Eyevis supplied the Eye-LCD-4600W 46in 15mm mullion displays, Netpix 3800XE display controller, Eyecon wall - management software and Mauve RGB-Cat5 transmission. It also provided receiver units to link the control room with the racks of recorders and camera controllers installed in the Wakefield IT control room, which was 85m from the main screen display area.
The 1366x768 resolution screens have a 1,200:1 contrast ratio and a brightness of 700cd/m, while the controller is configured to take in 176 direct CCTV inputs and output up to 160 real-time simultaneous displays. There are currently 12 display screens - 10 in the main wall, plus one in a separate review room and a spare - and control is via Eyevis capture software, the control room LAN and an interface between the Eyecon API and the Synectics Synergy control system. The camera feeds come in by a combination of BT fibre and Virgin Media/ NTL broadband.
The 176 camera feeds to the Wakefield Council control room can be displayed on a single videowall using technology provided by Eyevis and Synectics. The Installation, which went to tender, was carried out by Quadrant Security Group's Integrated Systems Division.
‘We had to integrate a lot of legacy systems, says Wakefield project manager David Whitfield. ‘In the past, we had to cope with seven retail radio links and two police radio links. Now, we have a single feedback system coming over the
It's easier for the operators as well. 'We used to have to learn to use six different pieces of comms equipment', says CCTV manager Darren Pollington. ‘Now, we have much more flexibility. For example, when we had the floods last year, we needed to watch the rivers - you would never have put a template to do that into the old system.'
As a result of the new control system, Wakefield's population should feel more secure. Different forces will now be able to act together more effectively and traffic should flow more evenly. As Councillor Olivia Rowley commented, when she officially opened the control room in the week before Christmas: 'the CCTV system plays a crucial role in assisting the council and the police - it has been an enormous cost, but one that's well justified'.