At Croydon College, Barriers and swipe cards ensure that access is strictly controlled.
OCS Security Systems has installed more than 60 cameras and Dallmeier digital recorders, covering the main building, particularly key areas such as the perimeter, entrance, corridors and IT rooms.
The college has no need for full time monitoring, but all camera views are captured by the recorders and can be viewed in near real time if required, or called up later from the recordings.
Output from the cameras is recorded to a trio of Dallmeier DLS 24 hard disc recorders. The college will soon be adopting Dallmeier’s Leonardo technology, the DMS 240 system. Features include H.264 high-standard video compression and simultaneous real-time recording of video and audio for all camera inputs at all frame rates. OCS Security Systems Corporate Development Director Roger Noakes says: "Dallmeier continues to add useful new features while providing stable machines that are ideal for the security industry.” Leonardo also includes the option to view a real-time split display of all the cameras connected to the recorder.
The college’s switch to the Leonardo system will coincide with changes to the layout of CCTV. The recorders are all grouped into a single location, from which they feed their recordings to a bank of nine screens in the main control room.
Without careful planning, the CCTV cabling layout would have needed frequent alterations during building of new basement workshops to keep every camera connected to a recorder. However, OCS is keeping cabling changes to a minimum by locating the recorders close to the cameras they serve.
The college’s Premises and Estates Manager, Ken Crouch says: "There will be a Dallmeier recording system on each level and all the cameras for that level will come into that recorder." Everything will be recorded within the mini-communications room set up on each floor, which simplifies cabling. Only the recorder’s output will need to be fed to the main control centre, avoiding the need to reroute the cables from individual cameras.
Dedicating a recorder to each floor was the most sensible solution, he says. The refurbishment will last some three years and orchestrating the work involves considerable planning. The solution avoids disruption to the network during the building work, ensuring reliability. "There is no point putting in wiring only to take it out again," adds Croydon College’s Client Care Supervisor, Eddie McCourt. The infrastructure is being installed at present, with a view to switching over in summer 2007.
"The idea came from consultations and discussions with OCS Security and our IT Manager," adds Mr Crouch. The decision was not made on the basis of cost – although this has proved to be one of the most cost effective options. "It was done because of logistical support and also to ensure the security of the system. The infrastructure is a lot easier to maintain by having it laid out this way."
"OCS Security has been extremely helpful in terms of support, backup and helping with future plans", says Mr Crouch. "We’ve included them in discussions every time we’ve extended a part of the building or have carried out refurbishment. We explain our objectives and they tell us whether or not they are feasible." The discussions ensure that money is only spent on solutions that will serve the college’s aims. "If you don’t need it, they won’t sell it to you," says Mr McCourt. "OCS Security Systems offers a range of services complemented by excellent customer care. They always make you feel like an important client," says Mr Crouch.
He is also pleased with the performance of the recorders. "They are easy to operate and the recordings can be viewed practically in real-time. The recorders can be stored anywhere within the building and operate very well on the network. We don’t get any problems." If required, sections of recordings can easily be archived to disc and photographs can be created from key frames. Each recorder holds at least three weeks of footage, with the exact amount depending on the number of cameras served.
Most of the cameras are domes, with pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) models externallt. More PTZs will be introduced as part of the redevelopment, for instance to provide flexible coverage of seating and TV-viewing areas around the new refectory. New cameras are colour, although some older black and white models remain in use. "Our intention is to switch everything to colour eventually, because the picture definition is a lot better. Every new camera installed is colour," says Mr Crouch.
Only the ’front line’ cameras – the external cameras and those covering the entrance and key areas such as the refectory – will be routed directly to the control room. The ’front line’ cameras can then be viewed live from the control room’s bank of nine monitors, while the recordings from the others will be available there in ’near-real-time’.
Given the large number of students, it might be expected that there would be a frequent need to monitor recordings. "In fact," says Mr McCourt, "this is rarely the case." The cameras however provide other benefits beyond investigating any thefts or vandalism. "Security has changed over the last 15 years," he says. There is now greater emphasis on customer service. Students and staff appreciate the knowledge that the cameras are there. Mr Crouch believes that the cameras provide something of a deterrent, as well as creating a sense of security. "Students know that they are in view and protected."
The cameras are useful in the event of an accident or for checking if students are in restricted areas. Cameras are also useful in monitoring people exiting the building, for example during a fire alarm and enable the college to monitor the effectiveness of its evacuation procedures.
The college continues to explore further options for enhancements to the CCTV network. One idea that is being considered is the installation of cameras with individual IP addresses. "This would allow us to call up an individual camera to watch," says Mr Crouch. Another option being explored is the use of cameras with PIR controls so that recordings would only be made when there was someone in the vicinity, making it even easier to check for any incidents.