Developments in airport integrated CCTV systems


Gary Mason hears from Peter Ainsworth, Head of Product and Marketing, Samsung Techwin, about the need to assimilate legacy and new CCTV technology in airports to upgrade their security systems at a realistic cost and return on investment.

securityAirports rely heavily on CCTV surveillance systems to provide them with security coverage in areas that include terminal buildings, perimeter barriers, airside zones and restricted access areas.

But many airports have legacy CCTV systems that run on analogue cameras and need hard wired cabling to support that infrastructure. 

Therefore it would be expensive and disruptive to replace those cameras with the latest digital camera systems. 

Peter Ainsworth worked on a major upgrade of the CCTV system at Charles de Gaulle Airport  in Paris which required the integration of some of the existing legacy systems with newer technology. 

“Airports are unique environments very much like small cities in their own right but with much stronger security,” he says. “A major challenge is that there are so many different groups of people involved with the airport. There are also a number of different agencies who want different levels of access to CCTV video footage at any one time.”

Multiple CCTV users

This includes normal security personnel, the police and even special forces at one end of the spectrum with non-specialist staff such as airport retailers at the other end. 

“They all want their own access to the same video,” he says. “And one of the challenges we face is how to bring all these different groups together to create a safe and secure environment. Also airports are ultimately very competitive environments so we have to balance the relationship between customer experience and security. But you cannot compromise one at the expense of the other.  Passengers must have a really good experience at the airport or they will simply go somewhere else but they must also feel really secure. “

He also says that “throwing solutions” at airport managers is pointless if it doesn’t achieve their objectives. “Meeting the customers needs is the next block in building the arch between analogue and IP systems,” he says.  “Unless we get this right the project will not succeed or become much more expensive than the original quote.” 

When Samsung started working on the Charles De Gaulle CCTV security upgrade it had a number of partners on the project. These included Genetec who worked on the software and recording systems and Aasset Security.

Charles De Gaulle needed to upgrade their CCTV system from analogue to IP but they made it clear to the contractor that they wanted a quick return on their investment. They also needed to complete the migration from analogue to IP without adversely affecting their running systems with little or no downtime. 

The incumbent system was analogue and they also had a huge amount of legacy coaxial cable in terminals and other airport buildings. Some of  the airport buildings had migrated  to fibre optic cables to run IP cameras but a lot were still using analogue systems. 

“They needed a vendor that could work with both analogue and IP cameras,” says Ainsworth. All the different parts of the system were tested well before going live.” Genetec also remained faithful to the Omnicast software that was already being used with the old CCTV system. 

“We had to make sure than any new cameras, whether they were analogue or IP worked with the old software before going live,” he adds. 

Mixing legacy and brand new 

The migration from analogue to IP will be a gradual process for the airport and will not happen over night.  For example the plan is in a few years to rip out all of the old coaxial cabling and replace it with modern networks. 

“They will eventually change all  the analogue cameras with IP models but the transition should be seamless because they will have the new software.” They will also retain the features that they bought with the original CCTV cameras.  This provided them with 60 frames per second but with the new technology that will be cut down to 30 frames per second but still give the airport real time video footage. 

They will also retain digital stabilization because the CCTV cameras mounted to monitor outside areas still need to be able to cope with the movements of all aircraft. 

It was also important that the airport would still be able to operate its system using low bandwidth. “When you have got hundreds of cameras on the same system low bandwidth is extremely important,” says Ainsworth. “ This is also closely linked to the running costs and storage capacity of the security camera system. 

These issues of making sure that existing infrastructure is kept going and wherever possible integrated into the new system is crucial he says because many airports like Charles de Gaulle do not have the funds to replace their CCTV systems and the infrastructure that networks it from scratch. 

“They did not have the funds or the capability to rip out all the coaxial cabling at all the different terminals. The solution had to be a hybrid one where a standard camera would work seamlessly with an IP one networked into the same system.”

The company are working on a CCTV replacement project at another airport where there are 6,000 new IP cameras being installed. But in this major upgrade the airport was also going to replace the 1,500 analogue cameras mainly because of the existing coaxial cabling infrastructure. 

The plan in two years time is to migrate those cameras to IP. “The original cost of the analogue cameras was lower than IP,” says Ainsworth. “But it was explained to the airport that the IP cameras are also capable of operating a real time analogue output as well. So the cost of upgrading the system is really reduced because they don’t have to buy and install two sets of cameras.”

Open platform systems 

One of the major aids to migrating from analogue to IP through integration is via open platform systems. 

Open platform technology is where the camera manufacturers develop the ability for third party companies to put their firm wear analytics into the camera that enables enhanced audio and video functionality and storage features. 

“This opens a huge amount of choice for the airport customer” says Ainsworth. “At Samsung we are experts at making cameras. But we are not experts at making analytics software so we have developed partnerships with companies who specialize in those areas to put their know how into our cameras.

“We need to work with companies like Genetic who are experts in video management software to give customers the systems they want. Another advantage is that the analytics functionality is being done on a camera not a server. The video does not have to go to a separate server to run the analytics so the infrastructure costs come down immediately. The bandwidth costs also come down because you are not using dual stream.

“The other great advantage is that whenever there is an analytic upgrade to the firm ware you do not have to consult multiple parties and do upgrade testing before it goes live. Because it is embedded in the camera it will work from day one.”

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