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8 signs it’s time to improve surveillance in your transit environment

8 signs it’s time to improve surveillance in your transit environment

Upgrading your transit surveillance system is only going to be a headache, right? The idea of migrating your current solution to a new one, the disruption to your usual service and the delays it could cause sounds like a lot of hassle.

But in the back of your mind, there’s that nagging voice that knows your current system isn’t performing as effectively as it did ten years ago. Whether it was Albert Einstein or not who said it, that famous adage about insanity comes to mind:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

At some point, your outdated or analog system isn’t going to deliver the level of security cover your passengers deserve, and won’t perform effectively enough for you to do your job properly. As a transit security officer, you want to fulfil your duty to protect members of the public as they go about their lives.

So how do you know when it’s time to improve your transit surveillance system? With the help of Rick Spillane, Direct of Sales, USA East for IndigoVision, here are some of the identifiers to look out for.

Sign 1: The quality of your footage isn’t fit for purpose

When you watch your recorded footage back, what do you think? ‘Great! This video is crystal clear, I’m so glad we caught the perpetrator!’ or ‘There’s another piece of blurry footage we won’t be able to use to find the criminal.’

Poor-quality footage, or video which takes so long to process that it delays legal action, is a common occurrence in transit environments and can cause problems with identifying culprits. Rick Spillane explains why this might be the case with older security systems:

Some companies out there use a server which becomes a bottleneck; when they're writing the file, too much happens at once. It slows down everything and then re-formats it so it can be written in a smaller format.

Are you still transcoding video? Does it take too long to export footage, leaving your transit hub vulnerable in the meantime? This could be one of the symptoms of your train CCTV system needing modernizing.

Sign 2: It takes too long to perform cyber updates

As a transit IT officer, you’re the person who has to take care of the technical equipment – how it operates and is maintained. This means the importance of cyber vigilance and cyber security isn’t lost on you. But on old surveillance equipment, reducing network vulnerabilities can take large chunks of your working day to complete.

This is one of the major concerns for transit security officers, Rick Spillane says, which didn’t used to be as much of a focus:

The IT operator needs the ability to perform software upgrades over time because there are more software upgrades than ever. In years past, cyber wasn't as big of a problem or wasn't looked at as a big risk. But today, it’s a major driving importance for businesses.

With newer security products, you could do a 20,000 camera firmware update in two and a half hours. With older solutions though, you might find that it takes you a week, or more.

Sign 3: Your surveillance system isn’t easy to use or integrate with other solutions

If you’ve had it a while, you might know your transit surveillance system really well, but to new people joining your business, the existing equipment might not be so easy to look after. Maybe the solution is cumbersome, slow or doesn’t work automatically, requiring a lot of manual input? Rick Spillane notes:

IT departments want a solution where the equipment is easy to take care of and integrations are straightforward.

Many transit security officers decide to use Linux with their newer cameras. As it’s an embedded product, it’s very stable and integrates with Windows – this way, you don't have to do Windows updates which can cause frustration.

Sign 4: You can’t balance automation and manual control

Analog and manual systems might make processes time-consuming, but it’s how a lot of IT operators prefer to work. That’s understandable: if it’s all you’ve ever known, then it’s a sure way to feel in control. Rick Spillane has worked with a lot of experienced security officers who work like this:

With old analog systems, the operators that use them enjoy using a keyboard that allows them to punch in a number such as: camera 198, then use the joystick to move the camera around.

Relinquishing control may worry some operators, but the great thing about modern IP system technology is that you don’t have to choose manual or automated – you can use a combination of the two:

There’s now a product that does so much of the manual jobs for you. But it still respects the traditional style of controlling a camera, and brings it into the 21st century way of doing things: everything operating from one hub.

Sign 5: You can’t access your footage anytime from any device

Lack of flexibility about where in your station you can view footage could really be frustrating for you. You can only view camera footage from a central control room, so in the event of an emergency, what happens if you can’t access the room? Rick Spillane says that this outdated model is impractical compared to modernized transit surveillance systems:

If you want to look at a camera, instead of looking at it from your phone, from your laptop, or from your iPad, you have to look at the unit which runs through the server and out to the camera from a fixed position.

Would you benefit from being able to pick up your phone or tablet device and check your cameras there? This could mean, even when on the move, you still have visibility of your whole transport environment.

Sign 6: You don’t use Artificial Intelligence to enhance your security 

Are you able to monitor and regulate people flow in busy times? Can you break down passengers into specific groups and use that data to inform your future safety procedures? Rick Spillane says that:

If you go into the AI side of things, you could look at things like how many women are actively showing up from eight to nine o'clock, versus men.

If AI isn’t a part of your current security strategy, implementing it to find out more about the people travelling through your transit hub could really help you build a broader picture of the security requirements needed. If you aren’t able to analyze your data for patterns to inform future surveillance decisions, are there vulnerable groups or scenarios that you potentially haven’t planned for?

Sign 7: Your team can’t access footage at the same time

You might find that the wider team at your transport hub doesn’t always communicate well and share intelligence. This might be due to the technical limitations of your train CCTV system, such as the cameras crashing if you overload them with too much activity. Rick Spillane says:

If something bad happens at the train depot, all of a sudden, you might have 100 people trying to look at the camera, all at the same time. In most systems, if 100 people go to look at a single server at one time, that server will crash.

Is your existing transit surveillance system one of those that relies on servers? If several people try to view recorded footage at once, does your system buckle under the strain? With an IP alternative, multiple authorities can view footage all at once – meaning no delays and no danger of losing or corrupting footage.

Sign 8: Your cameras aren’t capturing what they need to (or capturing too much)

Are your fixed cameras positioned correctly to capture meaningful and relevant information? As transit environments grow, sometimes cameras get neglected, meaning they don’t continue to monitor the most crucial areas. It could be that there isn’t enough camera coverage across certain areas.

Meanwhile, you could be capturing too much of others – if you aren’t able to adhere to GDPR standards, and your cameras are picking up things they shouldn’t be. Rick Spillane says the answer could be PTZ cameras:

When you move a Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera around, you can mask out people's windows. So if you've got a camera facing an apartment building across the street, you can program those windows to be blacked out so no-one is looking in.

What contingencies do you have in place to help maximize the effectiveness of your existing equipment, or minimize disruption to those around the station?

If any of these eight signs feel familiar to you, then it might be time to start thinking about moving towards modernizing your transit surveillance system. Perhaps they don’t all apply to your workplace, but if you’re worried about falling behind – and neglecting to protect travellers – then it’s time to improve surveillance in your transit environment.

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