Ottawa focuses on IP cameras to secure facilities


The City of Ottawa is replacing its aging army of 400 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras with Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled units that will improve data gathering and security system integration.

The older cameras, installed in 2002, are credited for reducing damage to public property.

“Our vandalism bill dropped from $900,000 to zero when we deployed these cameras,” said Bob Gauvreau, manager of corporate security, for the City of Ottawa.

Early last year, however, Gauvreau saw the need to replace the cameras to keep up with emerging technology. “Our CCTV cameras did their job, but we needed to take advantage of new technology to improve our capability.”

The older surveillance devices were most effective in securing the city’s 14 pools where vandals often threw garbage, harmful chemicals and even dog feces. The cameras were linked to the municipal local area network that fed images to a central command centre. The system reduced the need for manual patrol of city property.

The City of Ottawa encompasses 11 former regional municipalities, covers 2,800 square kilometers and is home to more than 700,000 residents. Gauvreau looks after the security of some 15,000 public employees and thousands of visitors who use the cities 900 facilities and some 700 parks. Replacement of the older units is expected to be completed before summer.

Gauvreau said the new IP cameras will provide better image resolution. He said grainy pictures produced by the CCTV units hampered identification and cost his team precious time. “We were losing time in trying to identify people in grainy images or empty scenes captured by the camera. That was not acceptable.”

The IP-based surveillance camera from Sony Electronics Inc. uses the company’s new distributed enhanced processing architecture (DEPA).

The feature allows pre-processing of data to take place in the camera. The method reduces network communication and bandwidth requirements but also produces clearer and sharper images, said Carlos Varela, product manager for Sony Canada.

The lower bandwidth requirements and elimination of “environmental noise” such as rustling leaves from the system “leads to faster searches of video material,” he added.

With the older system, a separate motion detector sent a signal to the camera to pan, tilt or zoom towards a particular spot where the sensor detected movement.

Motion detectors are integrated into the Sony camera’s body reducing the need to purchase another device to add to the system.

Varela said the unit’s motion sensors can distinguish between actual target images and false alarms caused by environmental noise. “This ensures that only real events are recorded and data storage is not wasted on useless footage.”

The cameras can also be attached to an alarm and two-way audio system to enable security personnel to talk to and receive verbal response from persons in the camera’s view.

While CCTVs, analog cameras and tape-based video recorders still dominate the security market, these are aging technologies, according to Gauvreau.

Centralized surveillance monitoring, once a major advantage offered by CCTV could now be a disadvantage in an increasingly mobile world where access to security videos might be demanded from a laptop or wireless handheld device, he said.

Gauvreau is also planning to integrate the new cameras with an automated card entry system that the city uses for its employees.

Reliable means of authentication have become more vital to organizations as technological advances make it easier to fabricate or steal identity, according to Alicia Wanless, visionary and coordinator of the Walsingham Institute, a Toronto-based security think tank.

“Organizations are increasingly searching for more tamper-proof means of identification,” she said. For instance, Wanless said, governments are increasingly moving towards biometric ID cards.

Although not yet widely used in the government space, biometrics has trickled down to the consumer space. “We now have simple biometric locks for laptops that sell for as low as $20. We’ll see more of these types of gadgets as prices go down further,” said Wanless.

While Ottawa does not employ biometric cards, IP cameras deployed at city building entrances will provide an extra layer or authentication, Gauvreau said. “Apart from magnetic card IDs, we will also have visual confirmation and recorded images of the person entering the building.”

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