The Mall at Short Hills, an upscale shopping facility in Short Hills, NJ, needed a more effective surveillance system to protect its patrons, tenants, employees, and infrastructure. From the beginning, the overall requirement was to implement a state-of-the-art digital video surveillance solution that would provide maximum coverage of critical areas. This included video cameras in the parking lots that would be required to provide clear images across long distances, even in low-light conditions.

There were a number of other requirements for the system, including a command console area, remote access to video, digital zoom for forensic review, license plate identification for parking lot egress points and the ability to incorporate intelligent video analytics. Budget was also a concern, as was scalability in terms of cameras, camera locations, storage and capability. Finally, the Taubman Company, the mall's parent company, wanted to use the system as an architectural pilot that could serve as a blueprint for other locations.

Upgrading at the mall

The Mall at Short Hills includes 160 specialty stores and restaurants, with Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchors, and featuring large number of specialty, international and luxury retailers, including Dior, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Cartier. The physical layout of the mall presented a challenge. Extending video coverage across the large geographical area of the enclosed, multi-level mall raised questions about system layout and design – should the system design be centralized or distributed, and should it be analog, IP-networked or hybrid?

To update and expand the mall's video system, Taubman turned to MTS Intelligent Surveillance Solutions, LLC, in Howell, NJ. MTS provides security solutions including digital video surveillance and integrated access control, with emphasis on systems that are vendor-agnostic and provide intelligent features. Rob Merchant founded the company over six years ago following an extensive career designing and developing digital media management solutions for security and intelligence organizations.

MTS designed the Mall's network and provided project management and technology oversight of the electricians implementing the network cable. Concurrently, MTS began building the head-end servers and performing discovery of the existing implementation. Although insufficient for current needs, the mall's previous DVR-based CCTV system was still seen to have value and would be integrated into the new system. Once the cabling was in place, MTS installed the networking appliances to build a dedicated gigabit copper/fiber network infrastructure throughout the facility. Installation included a major renovation and removal of the wiring to the command center and the re-termination and extension of the existing system to the newly located head-end.

Samsung cameras watch the perimeter

The new system expands the previous system that used two 16-channel digital video recorders (DVRs) and a matrix switch to manage images from 32 pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) and fixed dome cameras. Once the new architecture was operational, cameras in the old system that failed were replaced with Samsung PTZ cameras.  

Samsung’s analog PTZ dome cameras provide perimeter surveillance and are controlled by a 24/7 security command center facility
MTS designed the Mall's network and provided project management and technology

Due to Samsung’s proven performance and value at MTS’ other locations. , Samsung PTZ cameras were an easy choice for the project.

To provide clear images of the far corners of the parking lot of the Mall at Short Hills, Mr. Merchant selected Samsung’s high resolution 600TV Line analog PTZ cameras, which are connected to the new IP-based system using video encoders in a “hybrid” configuration. “I was very impressed with the zoom capability and the image quality at night,” he said.

Samsung’s analog PTZ dome cameras provide perimeter surveillance and are controlled by a 24/7 security command center facility. Encoders allow signals from the analog cameras to be transmitted along the IP network infrastructure and also enable pan-tilt-zoom control across the network without any lag. The PTZ dome combines 37x optical zoom with 12x digital zoom. Wide dynamic range (WDR) and digital image stabilisation are provided by Samsung's SV-IV DSP chip. The camera uses a ¼ inch vertical double-density color CCD imager. Other features include auto-tracking, advanced noise reduction and excellent low-light performance. “We needed a good WDR camera with maximum optical zoom to cover these large parking lots,” said Merchant. “The wide dynamic range (WDR) of the Samsung camera keeps images clear in harsh, high-contrast lighting. The video shows clearly what is happening in both the dark and light areas of a single image. The camera also performs well under modest street lighting.”

In addition to the low-light performance of the Samsung camera, Mr. Merchant likes the 37x optical zoom, which allows building-mounted cameras to view the far corners of the parking lots with enough clarity to allow operators to read vehicle license plates. Using a different camera to view the distant areas of the parking lot would have required more-expensive pole mounting and trenching to reduce the distance. Instead, the Samsung camera can see everything from the building, and the 37x zoom preserves every detail of zoomed-in images. “We need that extra distance in order to see everything,” said Mr. Merchant. In addition to reading license numbers, the clarity enables operators to identify a person or vehicle and to see incidents clearly. Archived video is clear enough to be used in court.

During busy times, mall security provides evidentiary video every few weeks to local police. The video might show the type of vehicle an alleged shoplifter drove after exiting the building, or show a car break-in or other parking lot incident. Within the last two months, video was used to help build a case against the perpetrator of a car break-in. Video from outdoor Samsung cameras aided police in the apprehension and will be forwarded to the county prosecutor's office.

“Our client is extremely happy with the Samsung cameras compared to what they previously had,” added Mr. Merchant.

The Samsung exterior cameras can withstand the sometimes harsh New Jersey weather conditions, which can include extreme temperatures from minus 20 degrees to more than 100 degrees F, as well as high humidity and 45 mile-per-hour winds.

In addition to security, video from the cameras also provides operational benefits for the mall. If a vehicle breaks down, the camera assists security staff with the implementation of proper safety measures. In the winter, cameras can show where snow plows are needed. If an alarm goes off, video can show what triggered the alarm.

At the mall, Samsung outdoor PTZ cameras connect using video over unshielded twisted pair (VUTP plus power)
The Samsung exterior cameras can withstand the sometimes harsh New Jersey weather conditions

Mr. Merchant appreciates Samsung's technical support, although he has only needed to use it once when he had a question about a switch setting inside a camera housing. “It was a very positive support experience,” he commented.

“Everything we put in, we test, especially for an important client such as Taubman,” added Mr. Merchant. “We do our own investigation and try everything before we use it. Samsung has a proven product we have used in many locations, and our integrators have no problems with installation.” MTS has also used Samsung cameras successfully in the harsh, salt-water environment of the New Jersey shore.

At the mall, Samsung outdoor PTZ cameras connect using video over unshielded twisted pair (VUTP plus power) to an intermediate data frame (IDF). At the IDF, the video is encoded by Axis H.264 encoders. Each IDF also has Cisco and/or DLINK managed switches. There are eight IDFs connected to central head-end switches via single-mode fiber. The entire network is Gigabit Ethernet. IP-addressable cameras use Cat5e connections only to the IDF switches, taking advantage of Power over Ethernet (PoE).

Megapixel IP cameras are used on the interior of the facility. There are approximately 160 cameras in all covering the mall and its surroundings. Wiring topology design called for interior cameras to be IP-based. Although indoor (network) cameras are currently non-Samsung models, Mr. Merchant says that, based on his success using Samsung analog cameras, he looks forward to testing the newer network models.

With only eight fiber runs to strategically located IDFs, MTS was able to reduce overall cabling by over 70%. With all components being IP addressable, MTS is able to manage and monitor the system remotely. The mall's security team accesses video locally and centrally.

Technical specifications

The digital video surveillance solution at The Mall at Short Hills is based on an expandable, technology-agnostic architecture. Currently, the system consists of the following:

Servers. There are seven Hewlett Packard servers in all. HP Z800 platforms (dual Xeon) with TVISS8 240fps encoder boards are used for the analog (NTSC) cameras. Each server has 3 TBytes of storage for video (expandable). For the Network Video Servers (IP only), HP DL160 (dual Xeon) servers with 3 TBytes of storage are used. Currently, there are two Z800 and four DL160 servers for video management. In addition, there is one DL160 server running Windows Server 2003 and functioning solely as an archive server.

VMS. Intelligent Security System’s SecurOS 6.2 video management software is the back-end application for the surveillance system. It is a hybrid system capable of supporting analog and IP cameras and remote operator workstations. This system includes an Archiver function and is capable of having a license plate recognition module, a face capture module, and a face recognition module, as well as other intelligent feature modules. Displays inside the mall use large-screen (40-in.) Samsung monitors.

Megapixel IP cameras are used on the interior of the facility and there are approximately 160 cameras in all covering the mall
The digital video surveillance solution at The Mall at Short Hills is based on an expandable, technology-agnostic architecture

Storage. A total of 82 Terabytes of secondary storage includes Pivot3 RAID6 network attached storage. Pivot3's RAIGE storage subsystem, configured as a network attached storage (NAS) array, is used for secondary storage. RAIGE Director is hosted on the Archiver platform.

Power management. The entire system is powered via uninterruptable power supplies and generator power – including cameras, network and head-end. Additionally, IP-addressable power modules enable MTS to remotely turn power on and off to selected components.

System management. All computing and networking components are managed by an agent and agent-less systems management architecture that monitors the health of the hardware and software associated with the solution. This includes active polling of the system and agents that report (push) information back to the management head-end.

Archiving. The system is designed with a two-tiered archive. Short-term archive occurs as the video is captured, on each server’s local hard drive (3 TBytes) – this typically holds about 2 to 4 weeks, depending on activity. Every night at midnight till 9 a.m., each server runs an Archiver routine and sends the video to the Pivot3 RAIGE storage system, which is currently configured as RAID6. To extend the storage, the frame rate of the second tiered archive is lowered to 5 fps.

Samsung at multiple sites

MTS has also used Samsung cameras with other local customers, including installation of all-new “Safe Community” systems for several local law enforcement departments, including Maplewood (NJ) Police, Cape May (NJ) City Police and Sea Isle (NJ) City Police. Samsung Wide Dynamic PTZ cameras cover choke points throughout the Maplewood community, and dispatchers at police HQ can control and view the cameras to enhance safety throughout the community. When facility security weaknesses were identified in the Union County (NJ) Correctional facility, MTS performed an emergency design and system installation for the Union County Sheriff's Department, again choosing Samsung cameras.

“Simply put, I have not had a failure in more than seven years using Samsung products,” said Mr. Merchant. “Bottom line, if I find something that works for the particular client environment, at reasonable price points, that's what we use. Samsung offers a reliable, high-quality camera for the price. You wouldn't get anything better spending twice as much on another brand.” He has also seen the value-to-price ratio increase as prices have come down and product quality and capability have gone up. In fact, Mr. Merchant says he has seen some more expensive competing cameras that had shorter life cycles – and were replaced by Samsung.

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