Spanning The District
State-of-the-art data center serves 26 schools spanning 39 square miles
- By Paul Kong
- April 01, 2018
The Everett Public School district is located in Everett,
Wash., and is the largest city in Snohomish County.
The school system includes 27 schools spanning 39
square miles, with a student population of almost
20,000. With so many campuses to monitor and protect,
it was clear that the older surveillance system, a mix of off-brand
analog products accumulated over three decades located at each site,
was no longer adequate.
CATCHING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY
Thanks in part to a state-wide grant, in 2014, Everett Public Schools
upgraded its entire video security infrastructure to a digital, IP-based
system that included intelligent cameras from the Hanwha Techwin
Wisenet camera line and a well-suited interoperable Video Management
The information technology department was asked to design a
modern security system that would serve the district’s current needs,
be cost effective and handle future expansion. To accomplish the task
for all campuses, they recently constructed a centralized, state-of-theart
data center for the district headquarters in Everett. The initial IP
camera system, featuring Hanwha Techwin products, was installed in
2014 to provide security video coverage at the then new district headquarters
by RFI Communications. In 2015, a district-wide video system
was installed by Cabling & Technology Services.
“Our video surveillance system was built to provide information
and access to multiple stakeholders in the school district, including
school administrators, principals and our police officer partners,” said
Brandon Knutson, video security system manager for Everett Public
Schools. “While campus security officers are primary users of the system,
not everyone needs to see everything, and the ability to precisely
control access to feeds has been key to simplifying the system for
administrators and principals while still allowing law enforcement the
comprehensive access they require.”
CENTRALIZED DATA CENTER
The move from siloed analog security systems for each school to a
centralized hub architecture for all video feeds has been a huge success
for the organization. The district has achieved a new level of
control, quality and confidence. With more than 600 cameras in use, and more Wisenet series cameras from Hanwha added regularly, the ability to expand and manage the system is a key benefit for the district
and its security partners.
Like a typical data center—and unlike a typical school—the Everett
Public Schools data center has power backup and redundancies in
place. In addition to the security infrastructure, all data processing for
every system, across all campuses, happens centrally at the data center.
CAMERAS, ACCESS AND STORAGE
Each school is on its own VLAN, sending isolated feeds to the central
data center via a 10 GB fiber optic network to all schools. With so
many camera feeds coming in, analytics play a key role in managing
which feeds are recorded onto the facility’s 220TB of SAN storage.
Knutson and his team use a combination of motion detection and incamera
“on the edge” intelligent analytics.
“The cameras integrate perfectly with the VMS system, and we particularly
like the on-the-edge analytics that the cameras provide in
addition to using motion to trigger recording,” Knutson said. “In most
cases, we record only during motion or other analytic triggers. The
latest cameras come with an entire suite of analytics which includes
loitering, intrusion, entry, exit and disappear, but we mainly use the
intrusion function, which we find very reliable.”
As feeds come into the data center, the VMS determines who gets to
see what using LDAP group assignments. A principal at Cascade High
School will have a VMS client installed on a capable PC receiving feeds
from the data center to his or her school campus. A police officer can
see the entire district including support buildings.
“When we developed the system, we rolled out a policy about retention,
who sees it and what it’s used for,” Knutson said. “For image storage,
we keep 30 days’ worth of storage. For the most part, we use the
system in a 'post-incident' capacity, helping us to answer questions
around any type of incident that may occur. It’s a great protection for
staff as well as students when it comes to sharing what really happened
in a given situation.”
ADVANCED ANALYTICS AND CYBER-SECURITY
“We’ve been using the Wisenet X series for single imager cameras and
we really like those,” Knutson said. “Two significant differentiators
about these cameras are their wide dynamic range and their performance
in low light. It’s pretty phenomenal. Any camera can give you
good daytime vision, but when things get tough it really separates out
the camera vendors.”
Because of the close integration with the VMS provider, Knutson
and the team are able to use the cameras’ multi-stream capabilities,
dynamically switching between an H.264 low resolution and H.265
high resolution image when required. When viewing a grid of 6 x 6
cameras on the VMS, the smaller images can use the low-resolution
stream. This keeps CPU/GPU usage low. If an operator clicks on an
image to enlarge it, it automatically switches to the H.265 higher frame
rate image for more detail and resolution.
“We’re currently installing our first multi-sensor, and we’re excited by
the economies of scale we can achieve with these cameras while making
no sacrifices in terms of performance and flexibility,” Knutson said. “We
are currently testing the X series rugged interior cameras. We’re particularly
interested in the sound analytics that come with those cameras.
We’re looking at gunshot, explosion and glass breakage analytics.
“We like the commitment to cyber-security,” Knutson said. “We’re
very aware of the cybersecurity issues surrounding some camera manufacturers,
and we feel good about the company’s
South Korean ownership. Moving forward, we have
a new elementary school in planning, and we’ll be
using Hanwha Techwin cameras there too.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.