Cracking The Case
University of Tulsa elevates campus surveillance to an art form with Axis high-resolution network cameras and Agent Vi analytics
- By Larry Newman
- July 01, 2016
AS THEIR AGING ANALOG CAMERAS BEGAN TO FAIL, THE
UNIVERSITY OF TULSA STARTED REPLACING THEM WITH
A MIX OF IP-BASED TECHNOLOGY FROM MULTIPLE VENDORS.
WITHIN A YEAR, THOSE CAMERAS FAILED, WHICH
LED THE UNIVERSITY ON A SEARCH FOR A MORE RELIABLE
ALTERNATIVE. THEY WERE SEEKING A SOLUTION
THAT COULD DELIVER BETTER RESOLUTION AND SUPPORT
AN ARRAY OF ANALYTICS TO ADDRESS THE TYPICAL
SECURITY CHALLENGES OF AN URBAN CAMPUS.
PROTECTING THE ASSETS
The system also needed to be advanced enough to protect priceless
artwork and artifacts housed in the Gilcrease Museum as well as the
newly constructed Helmerich Center for American Research, both
managed by the university.
With guidance from JTI Security, a Tulsa-based integrator and Axis
partner, the university replaced its end-of-life analog cameras with
more than 300 high-resolution, fixed dome and PTZ network cameras
from Axis. Each camera model was chosen based on its ability to deliver
crisp, high-quality video in specific lighting conditions.
Agent Vi and other analytics embedded in the cameras provide realtime
and forensic assistance in investigating events. The few legacy
cameras still in working order are attached to Axis video encoders and
integrated into the network-based surveillance solution. Campus security
monitors and controls the cameras remotely from the university’s
Dispatch Center through an OnSSI Ocularis CS VMS.
The ability of the cameras to capture exceptional video quality helped
campus security locate a student’s stolen property in just 37 minutes.
In another instance, camera analytics also drew security’s attention to
a car moving erratically in a parking lot; staff immediately contacted
local police who dispatched paramedics to the scene and saved the life of the driver who was having a stroke.
Given events on U.S. campuses in recent years, the university’s
Department of Campus Security decided to re-evaluate its entire surveillance
operation. It spent a year testing and rejecting a variety of
IP-based cameras before turning to JTI Security. The integrator recommended
a portfolio of Axis fixed dome and PTZ network cameras that
could provide superior video quality even under difficult lighting conditions.
To maximize performance, the legacy DVRs were replaced
with OnSSI servers and an OnSSI Ocularis CS VMS.
“A majority of the cameras that the university purchases were highdefinition
AXIS P33 Series Fixed Dome Network Cameras,” said John
Edwards, owner and president of JTI Security. “Their broad feature set
covers about 80 percent of the applications the University of Tulsa has.”
AXIS P33 Series includes cameras with Lightfinder for color video
even in extremely low-light environments, infrared LED accessories
for areas with no lighting, wide dynamic range for locations with
bright sunlight and shadows in the same frame and two-way audio. JTI
also installed other high-definition Axis camera models including the
AXIS P55 Series PTZ network cameras in the football stadium to monitor
game crowds and AXIS Q17 Series Fixed network cameras in
select parking lots.
The cameras cover a wide range of venues including entranceways
and hallways, computer labs, practice rooms, the football stadium and
sports facilities. Surveillance is also needed in other areas of the campus
such as the Performing Arts Center, Student Activity Center, parking
lots and dormitories.
CATCHING A THIEF OR A GOOD SAMARITAN
When a student who had been sitting on the patio outside the dining
hall reported a stolen item, campus security reviewed the video from a
fixed dome network camera mounted inside the entrance to the building
for forensic evidence.
“The camera looks out through the glass doors and was able to capture
a good image of the person involved in the incident,” said William
Redding, assistant director of security technology and card services. “It
was a bright sunny day, but the wide dynamic feature on the camera
was able to capture all the details, from the sneakers he was wearing to
the kind of hat on his head. We would never have been able to see
anybody through that doorway with our older analog cameras or even
some of our older non-Axis network cameras.”
By comparing the time-stamped video to an access control report of
student ID card swipes, security was able to identify and apprehend
the suspect in just 37 minutes. The item was returned to its rightful
owner and the thief faced university disciplinary action.
The school also used the combination of cameras and swiped ID
cards to track the whereabouts of missing artwork from one of the
engineering buildings. The video revealed that a custodian had accidentally
knocked it off the wall and took it to his supervisor.
SAVING A LIFE
In another instance, Redding was testing out a fixed network camera
in a campus parking lot one rainy night to see if he could read the
license plate of the vehicles.
“The dispatcher was monitoring the camera and noticed a car enter
the closed parking lot at the back of the building,” Redding said.
“Despite the rain we could easily identify the kind of vehicle, the color
even the license plate number. On our older camera the vehicle just
looked like blur.”
The dispatcher noticed that the car was moving erratically all
around the lot, so security immediately contacted the local police who
dispatched an ambulance. “We learned that the individual driving the
car was suffering a stroke,” Redding said. “If the camera hadn’t picked
up the details of that car, who is to say whether that person’s life would
have been saved?”
The live demonstration of the university’s surveillance system always
draws a crowd at freshman orientation.
“Parents love seeing all the different protocols we have in place to
watch over their kids, not just during the day but all night long as well,”
One added precaution is the cross-line detection analytic that Redding
uses in the cameras covering the parking lot adjacent to the
female dormitory. Programmed to trigger alerts to the Dispatch Center
between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. whenever a vehicle enters the lot, security
can then take manual control of adjacent PTZ and wide angle
cameras to observe the student parking the car and safely entering the
dorm. Or if it appears that a driver is loitering or driving aimlessly
around, security officers are immediately dispatched to the lot to determine
the individual’s intentions.
SPOTTING OBJECTS LEFT BEHIND
TU also uses Agent Vi analytics to detect objects removed and objects
left behind, especially in the Performing Arts Center, which is located
on a busy public street.
“The analytics help us track the whereabouts of expensive artwork if
it’s removed from the wall,” Redding said. “We often find ourselves
using it in the busy lobby area to help students find where they left
their bags. Equally important, it alerts us to someone walking in off the
street, dropping an object and leaving.”
PROTECTING PRICELESS ARTWORK AND ARTIFACTS
In addition to the usual residential halls, academic buildings, parking
lots and other campus venues, the university is also the steward
of two city properties: the Gilcrease Museum of American history
and art and the Helmerich Center for American Research, which
houses the Gilcrease Library and Archive. JTI Security will be swapping
out more than 120 legacy cameras in the 66-year-old museum
with new AXIS P33 Series cameras to protect the world’s most comprehensive
collection of art and artifacts from the American West,
including Native American relics, historical manuscripts, documents,
The University of Tulsa also installed a number of fixed network
cameras in the parking lots surrounding the two buildings to keep
close watch on the grounds around the clock.
“We’ll definitely have a large footprint of cameras with IR LEDs
because, like most museums, the Gilcrease is dimly lit to protect the
priceless artwork,” Edwards said.
JTI Security and Redding also worked together to design state-ofthe-
art surveillance for the newly built Helmerich Center for American
Research next door. The facility stores artwork not currently on
display at the museum and provides high-tech cubicles for researchers
to check out and examine more than 100,000 rare books, documents
and unpublished works archived on the premises. Each of the 17 cubicles
is monitored to deter vandalism and theft.
“All the windows automatically change tint to
block out any harmful sun rays, so we needed a
camera that could deliver super high-resolution
under those conditions,” Edwards said.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of CSLS.