Intelligent Infrastructure For A Smarter Campus

Technological advancements enable campuses to proactively mitigate vulnerabilities

Schools and universities are increasingly the targets of both physical threats and cyberattacks. As a result, security and IT leaders are on a continuous search for solutions that help keep students, staff and data safe and secure on or off campus. Recent high-profile incidents have emphasized these risks, bringing these threats and their challenges to the national conscience via mainstream media outlets that are asking if enough is being done to keep our schools safe. While the answer to that question is more than a bit challenging, significant technological advancements are enabling educational institutions to more proactively mitigate vulnerabilities and create a more secure, intelligent campus.

Video surveillance has long been used to improve overall situational awareness and aid stakeholders to more effectively respond to incidents. Research by the National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2016, 81 percent of public schools used video surveillance to enhance safety. And in today’s connected world, there is a significant demand for video data, as schools realize that it can be used for a wide range of purposes.

The rise in the deployment of these systems leads to a significant influx of data generated by surveillance cameras, as well as other security and connected devices (the “Internet of Things,” or IoT). Not only are schools collecting massive amounts of information, but the data obtained is more important than ever before. Because campus environments are mission-critical, leaders cannot tolerate video loss, system downtime or the inability to access live or recorded video in the event of an incident. Video data is valuable to help ensure a secure campus and stakeholders must ensure that a robust IT infrastructure is in place to protect it.

This is a common problem as organizations adopt more advanced technology. To illustrate this value, one of Texas’ premier school districts found a way to advance its video surveillance efforts and streamline its IT infrastructure to support its growing data requirements.

RICHARDSON ISD

Located in Dallas County, Richardson Independent School District (RISD) consists of 54 campuses that serve more than 38,700 students. Including administration and support, RISD maintains 70 facilities covering more than 6 million square feet with 35 million square feet of grounds.

The school board has long focused on ensuring a high level of safety across its campuses. It began installation of a video surveillance system to enhance security in the mid-2000s. Years later, the analog-based system needed to be upgraded to a network-based solution to keep up with increased data generation. Scott Porter, Project Manager at RISD, worked to leverage existing devices with new IP solutions, creating a hybrid system.

“We’ve always viewed video as mission-critical,” Porter said. “The biggest problem was always ensuring cameras are running as required and making sure video data is captured and available when needed. When we decided to move toward an IP infrastructure, we knew we needed a more resilient video storage system.”

Once the legacy cameras reached end-of-life and additional funding was made available, Porter upgraded to IP cameras and a next-generation video management system to enhance resolution and extend video capabilities. But by that time, the district had amassed 66 individual servers, which were time-consuming and complicated to manage.

DEALING WITH COMPLEXITY

Porter was interested in how modern IT infrastructure could help consolidate operations, enhance reliability and scale easily as video and other data demands increased. He began researching the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). When deploying this advanced IT datacenter technology to video surveillance, users can consolidate servers, storage and client workstations into one enterprise-class solution that is easily managed from a single user interface without the need for specialized IT skills.

“When I saw the return on investment HCI could deliver over time—specifically due to reduced infrastructure and ease of expansion— I quickly came to the conclusion that it was the ideal solution for our district,” Porter said.

The HCI platform RISD deployed is specifically optimized for demanding, data-intensive video surveillance workloads. Using standard off-the-shelf server hardware, the solution aggregates the storage, compute and bandwidth resources from multiple servers into a single unified pool that all cameras can access, which maximizes performance and storage capacity utilization. It also delivers industry-leading resiliency; even if multiple hardware failures occur, including an entire appliance, video management servers will remain online and recording, and any previously recorded video will continue to be protected and accessible.

RISD stores video for a minimum of 30 days to help the district maintain safety and investigate incidents, such as theft, unauthorized access and property damage.

“We used to get vandalized frequently and our crews were up every weekend replacing windows and washing graffiti,” Porter said. “We added four cameras and now have maybe one broken window a year. We believe that video is a valuable deterrent and an important forensic tool, which is why we are willing to invest in ensuring it’s available when needed.”

Porter said RISD is dedicated to continually seeking out ways to improve capabilities while staying within budgeting parameters. As the district looks to the future, it is analyzing the value of face detection and other video analytic software as a valuable benefit to the overall security program and envisions the use of other programs for automating video search functions.

“The safety and security of our students is paramount to us,” Porter said. “We like to look at advanced technologies, like Pivot3, to see how they can help us maintain our strong security posture. We owe it to our leaders, students and families to make the best investments we can.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - October 2018

    October 2018

    Featuring:

    • The Importance of Coordinated Communications
    • Technology and School Security
    • Invisible Protection
    • AI Comes to the Classroom

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