Public safety and the protection of property initiatives led the city of Mankato, Minnesota to deploy a city-wide IP-based video surveillance system. Founded in 1852, the city is the seat of Blue Earth County. It encompasses 18.26 square miles of land and water, and supports a population of about 41,000 (2015 US census estimate). Home to a variety of natural landmarks and higher educational institutes, Mankato provides a dynamic lifestyle for its citizens all year round.

Surveillance For Key Community Areas

The new city surveillance system uses a range of Arecont Vision megapixel cameras to cover key areas of the community, with the largest concentration of cameras deployed in the popular downtown entertainment district. Surveillance is also in place throughout Mankato’s city hall, civic event center, shopping areas, parking ramps, public safety center, municipal water plant, public work center, regional airport, and for multiple public parks and community streets.

The limitations of the previous surveillance system inspired extensive enhancements and capabilities for the new project. The original system NVR supported primarily analog technology cameras, with a small percentage of early generation IP cameras supporting only JPEG video.

The image quality of megapixel cameras could not be matched by this system, nor could it be cost effectively grown to address city requirements. In order to enjoy enhanced security, increased public safety, and the protection of property, a more modern and capable surveillance system was required. The city thus engaged security and communications integrator WW Communications to design and deploy such a project.The limitations of the previous surveillance system inspired extensive enhancements and capabilities for the new project

WW Communications

WW Communications’ COO Mike Bales led the effort and selected Arecont Vision’s IP megapixel cameras as the core of the new project. With regards as to why Arecont Vision was selected for the project, Bales explained: “A variety of factors led to the use of Arecont Vision, not least of which was the commitment and quality they provide as an American-based manufacturer. They are one of the few vendors who design and build their cameras in the U.S., and their cameras’ features and reliability reflect that.”

Delving further into what features specifically appealed to them, Bales concluded, “Simplified installation features such as remote focus, along with advanced features such as true WDR (wide dynamic range) were key factors in the decision. Additionally, the SurroundVideo camera series’ cost effectiveness and coverage capabilities placed Arecont Vision ahead of its competitors for the job.”

SurroundVideo cameras were first designed and pioneered in the surveillance industry by Arecont Vision in 2006. Now in their fifth generation, they provide non-stop coverage with four individual megapixel sensors for superior situational awareness and image quality while reducing the total number of cameras required for surveillance projects.

After deciding on a manufacturer, Milestone Systems was then brought on as the video management software for Mankato’s new surveillance system. Arecont Vision and Milestone are proven integration partners, having completed thousands of seamlessly-integrated city surveillance projects around the world.

Arecont Vision And Milestone Systems

Additionally, Milestone is a top-tier participant in the Arecont Vision Technology Partner Program and its VMS software is among those used in Arecont Vision’s MegaLab. “The close technology and support integration between Arecont Vision and Milestone helped ensure that a best-in-class surveillance system was delivered to the Mankato,” commented Bales. “The result is a single system for the city that is second to none in capabilities and can grow with the community’s needs.”

Arecont Vision remote monitoring Mankato study
The surveillance system has exceeded the expectations of the city to protect both people and property

City Surveillance Project Phases

Phase one of the project included deploying thirteen cameras to the newly-built public safety center. Phase two resulted in the deployment of thirty-seven cameras to the city’s entertainment district. The effectiveness of these cameras led to additional installations at city sites which greatly assisted in reducing common vandalisms and other public safety crimes.

Phase three of the project involved the installation of twenty-three MegaDome 2 single sensor cameras onto the fourth floor of a brand-new, four-story parking facility in the downtown area. Surveillance of the structure was further enhanced through use of a SurroundVideo Omni — a unique omni-directional camera introduced to the industry by Arecont Vision in 2014.

Unmatched Surveillance Capabilities

The Omni camera series offers four megapixel sensors that are mounted on three-axis gimbals inside a low-profile dome enclosure. The sensors can be individualized to cover virtually any direction, providing unmatched surveillance capabilities with a single high-resolution camera that is fully integrated with the VMS.

With the recent Public Works Center campus construction project, another three MicroDome G2 and five SurroundVideo Omni cameras were added to the city’s overall surveillance system. Five SurroundVideo Omni cameras and MicroDome G2 cameras were also installed along a pedestrian walkway that stretches from local hotels to the city’s civic center and entertainment district. The system is expected to continue growing in order to address public safety and property protection concerns as they arise.

Security And City-Wide Situational Awareness

After a Mankato bar closed for the night, a major altercation took place, where the Arecont Vision Cameras were crucial in solving the crime

Depending upon the location and local requirement, the Mankato’s city surveillance system uses a range of Arecont Vision cameras. These include single sensor 2 – 5MP MegaDome 2 and MicroDome G2 cameras. 20MP SurroundVideo multi-sensor cameras provide 180° situational awareness coverage, while omni-directional SurroundVideo Omni G1 and G2 cameras cover an even wider range of deployments.

The city surveillance system is managed and monitored from a command center with a multitude of large screens displayed across a wall. “The surveillance system and the screens are critically important during high-traffic events in the city,” said Mr. Bales. “With three colleges here in town, homecoming is a very busy time of the year. There are also numerous festivals that take place in the city combined with a very dynamic downtown. Our staff is able to view the activities as they happen, enhancing security and city-wide situational awareness.”

Video Streaming To Cellphone Devices

It is not just the security center that can monitor this system either — video can also be streamed to cellphone devices and can be monitored for official use all over the city. The system provides public monitoring as well. There are about half a dozen locations downtown with indoor walkways and skyways that are covered by Arecont Vision cameras with live video, providing the public with supplementary awareness and security.

The surveillance system has exceeded the expectations of the city to protect both people and property. An example of the system’s usefulness was evident in a recent incident that made national news. After a Mankato bar closed for the night, a major altercation took place, where the Arecont Vision Cameras were crucial in solving the crime.

The city surveillance system caught the incident on camera, providing detailed video evidence which assisted law enforcement in proceeding accordingly. The cameras prompted the ideal outcome in an unfortunate situation, helping make the legal process more efficient and serving to greater deter the occurrence of future incidents.

When probed on how the system has performed to date, Bales responded that Arecont Vision “exceeded the expectations.” Arecont Vision looks forward to continuing this legacy throughout its work with the City of Mankato.

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How To Make School Security Effective And Unobtrusive For Students
How To Make School Security Effective And Unobtrusive For Students

Schools today are charged to provide an environment that is both safe and conducive to learning, which can be difficult considering the range of security incidents and challenges they face, including bullying, fights, graffiti, theft and more. In addition to working within often tight budgetary constraints, a main challenge is to provide the highest level of security in an aesthetically pleasing way that doesn’t make students feel as if they are in prison. While these two needs may seem mutually exclusive to some degree, that doesn’t have to be the case. School security can be achieved without building 20-foot walls or putting barbed wire around the perimeter. The key to balancing the security and learning environment can be found in the four pillars of a good school security strategy, namely people, practices, technology and physical environment. A mobile app or text notification system could be used to alert students and staff of potential problems Situational Awareness One of the most effective measures to take is to educate staff and even students to learn to be aware about their surroundings and adopt the 'If you see something, say something' mentality. In an emergency, time is of the essence, so the speed of response becomes critical. Educating staff and students to recognize potential problems and report them is a good first step. Augmenting this with mobile apps and/or texting capabilities, for example, that allow someone to send a photo to school security or law enforcement for quick assessment and evaluation, can speed response even more. A mobile app or text notification system could also be used to alert students and staff of potential problems and provide instructions on what steps to take in order to remain safe. By providing real-time situational awareness about potential responses, these types of technologies can reduce the number of armed guards or resource officers needed to patrol a school or campus, which also makes students more comfortable and able to learn in a non-prison-like environment. Security Best Practices Every school should establish a set of security policies and procedures and ensure that staff and students understand what to do if they suspect a problem or if an incident should unfold at the school. However, too often, schools may not know where to start when seeking out best practices. And once these policies are in place, there may be confusion about how to audit them to ensure people are properly educated. The NFPA has begun work on a school security standard that would address a range of issues schools face on a daily basis A number of organizations are available to aid with this process, such as the Partner Alliance for School Safety a group founded in cooperation with SIA (Security Industry Association), which provides resources and tools to help schools and security professionals evaluate and establish the best security protection for their buildings. These guidelines and best practices are designed to help schools spend their often limited funds on the right security solutions. Safe and Sound Schools provides downloadable school security toolkits, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has recently released the NFPA 3000 Active shooter response guidelines and has begun work on a school security standard that would address a range of issues schools face on a daily basis. The key takeaway is that the information is out there, and the organisations mentioned above are excellent resources for helping schools create safe, secure and learning-conducive environments. Technology In School Security The second thing that needs to be considered is how technology can be brought to bear to contribute to school security. Video surveillance with video analytics can be deployed to monitor areas at certain times of day. For example, once school starts, there shouldn’t be a lot of activity in the parking lot or in particular areas around the school. For these situations, intelligent cameras with video analytics can be used to detect activity in those areas of interest to alert school security that something may need their attention. This might be a vehicle entering a lot or driving against the normal traffic flow, which may simply be a parent arriving to pick their child up early, or it could be something worth following up on. Radar detection is ideal for perimeters, where a device can be set up unobtrusively to alert when someone enters a particular area In any case, this is something that should be brought to the attention of someone who can quickly assess the situation and determine what, if any, response is needed. Because the goal in a potentially dangerous situation is speed response times. The faster you’re able to detect something using technology, the faster you’re able to respond. Therefore, being able to identify something happening in a parking lot and alert school resource officers could provide 30 seconds or a minute head start for response, which can get the school into a lockdown situation and get first responders on site more quickly.Facial recognition systems and providing access through smartphones could help create a more welcoming and secure environment for students, staff and parents After-Hour Monitoring Solutions Monitoring buildings and facilities after hours presents a different set of challenges. For sporting events, the National Center for Spectator Sports and Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi provides best practice guidance for sporting facilities and events not only just for universities but even including those at high schools. It’s been shown that using lighting at night can deter crime. However, it can be expensive to keep a building and grounds illuminated all night, every night. To mitigate these concerns and potential costs, there are video cameras available with extreme low-light capability that allows them to see in near-dark or in some cases complete darkness. This allows a school to save money by turning lights off while achieving a level of surveillance performance similar to daytime deployments. Radar Detection Another technology for effective school security, both during and after school hours, is radar detection. This is ideal for perimeters, where a device can be set up unobtrusively to alert when someone enters a particular area. Radar can be deployed with a single PTZ camera, which can track whatever has been detected to provide real-time situational awareness for a school resource officer or law enforcement to investigate to determine the potential threat, if any, related to the perimeter breach.Following the four pillars of school security can ease the process while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of securing educational facilities More often than not, schools are faced with issues that are not necessarily the worst-case scenario everyone fears, such as how to identify parents and others who are authorized to pick a child up from school early. In this instance, facial recognition systems and providing access through smartphones could help create a more welcoming and secure environment for students, staff and parents. Lighting And Landscaping In addition to technology, one of the things that can contribute to a safer school environment is environmental design. CPTED provides four basic principles, one of which is natural surveillance, which follows a 'see and be seen' philosophy. In other words, when people know they can be seen, they are less likely to commit a crime. The main points in this general principle are lighting and landscaping. For example, a school doesn’t want to block potentially vulnerable areas with landscaping, so the height and thickness of any potential landscaping elements should be carefully considered. In general, openness and visibility should be the guiding factors. Securing Physical Environment Another aspect of the physical environment is maintenance. If a window gets broken but isn’t fixed right away, that tends to invite vandalism. These are just two of the guidelines CPTED offers for creating a more secure environment that doesn’t feel like a prison. In general, finding the right mix between maintaining security and providing a welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and learning-conducive environment can seem like a difficult – if not impossible – task. Following the four pillars of school security can ease the process while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of securing educational facilities.

The Road Forward For Arecont Vision After Bankruptcy And Acquisition
The Road Forward For Arecont Vision After Bankruptcy And Acquisition

Arecont Vision is a company in transition to say the least. With its balance sheet burdened with debt, the company is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and simultaneously being acquired by a private equity firm. The ‘new’ Arecont Vision that will emerge after several months when the process is complete will have a new owner, a clean balance sheet, and be poised to succeed in the competitive world of video surveillance, says Raul Calderon, Arecont Vision CEO and General Manager.Good companies go through restructuring, and the company will be better off after doing it. We will be able to lead” Ensuring Business Continuity An asset purchase agreement announced this week with an affiliate of Turnspire Capital Partners LLC involves the private equity firm acquiring Arecont Vision’s assets. To eliminate the debt, the company has initiated proceedings under Chapter 11 of the United State Bankruptcy Code in the District of Delaware. “We want the industry to know that we are restructuring our business and our financing,” says Calderon. “We are not going out of business. It is a financial restructuring more than anything.” Business will continue uninterrupted during the bankruptcy, he says, with debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing provided by Arecont Vision’s current secured lenders. Turnspire, as the ‘stalking-horse bidder’, sets the low-end bidding bar and guarantees the company will have new ownership at the conclusion of the process “Good companies go through restructuring, and the company will be better off after doing it,” Calderon adds. “We will be able to lead and innovate, to be stronger, better and faster once we finish.” For perspective, it is interesting to note that, in the broader business world, some well-known companies have emerged from Chapter 11 even stronger, such as Delta and American Airlines and General Motors. Investment In Product Development Previously Arecont Vision has been burdened by the costs of $80 million in debt the owners took on in 2014. The burden of that debt has limited the company’s flexibility to react to the more competitive industry landscape, and to implement strategies to reverse softening sales numbers in the last couple of years. “We couldn’t use the money in the company because we were servicing the debt,” says Calderon. “In order to be compliant with the enormous debt service, we made decisions to reduce head count and expenses.” “[The bankruptcy] will free up that money to invest in the organization,” he adds. “We will be able to make decisions for our future rather than the past, including investments in product development.” Focus and investment will be on key functions such as engineering, product development and sales Although there is an asset purchase agreement in place with Turnspire, there will also be an auction that could result in a higher bidder. Turnspire, as the ‘stalking-horse bidder’, sets the low-end bidding bar and guarantees the company will have new ownership at the conclusion of the process, either Turnspire or a company that outbids their offer. Calderon says Turnspire “shares our vision and will ensure an exciting future for the company.” The transaction is expected to move fast and close within a couple of months.Arecont Vision expects to continue to compete based on technology differentiation in the market, rather than on price Maintaining Technology Differentiation-Based Competition Turnspire Capital Partners is a private equity investor that is a ‘turnaround specialist’. Their website describes their role as targeting “high-quality businesses that have reached strategic, operational or financial inflection points and stand to benefit from [a] hands-on, operationally focused approach.” Calderon says Arecont Vision’s investment banker, Imperial Capital, was instrumental in bringing Turnspire to the table. The Turnspire purchase agreement proposes that the new owner retain the majority of employees, and the overall function and motivation of the company will remain. New levels of outsourcing, new software tools, or other strategies may be implemented to increase efficiency of operations. Focus (and investment) are likely to center on key functions such as engineering, product development and sales. After the acquisition and bankruptcy are completed – in the next several months – Arecont Vision expects to continue to compete based on technology differentiation in the market, rather than on price, says Calderon. Business As Usual Customers and partners see it as a positive step, and they understand that getting rid of the debt burden can only be positive” Calderon declined to be more specific about future plans for the company under the new ownership, who will ultimately decide what those plans are. He did reiterate Arecont Vision’s past successes and expected continuing role in the market. “We are looking to provide the leadership and the type of solution we are known for providing,” he says. “We have come out with some innovative things historically, from megapixel cameras to the first H.264 cameras to the first omni-directional cameras. We have not stopped our innovation, and our intent is to lead the market again with innovative solutions. Another key is to do right by our customers today and in the future, improving customer service, providing better offerings to our customers – that’s what we will be looking to do.” “I’ve had a lot of conversations with customers and partners in the last couple of days,” Calderon says. “I can say the conversations have been encouraging. They see it as a positive step, and they understand that getting rid of the debt burden can only be positive. Customers and partners have offered help, and we’re still closing deals. It’s business as usual.” He noted the company is seeking transparency throughout the process and wants to ‘get in front of’ the information flow, rather than allowing others to drive the narrative.

High-Speed Airport-screening Systems Will Improve Soft Target Security
High-Speed Airport-screening Systems Will Improve Soft Target Security

Several recent terrorist and mass violence attacks have been directed at soft targets, or relatively unprotected locations where people gather such as outside a music venue or in the unscreened passenger areas at airports. Attacks in public areas have led to the development of new security technologies aimed at protecting soft targets. One company addressing the challenges is Evolv Technology and its Edge automated high-speed personnel screening solution. The system integrates walkthrough firearm and explosive detection for high-throughput protection of events and soft targets.The Edge system has multiple detection sensitivity settings to respond to various threat scenarios Enhanced Visitor Experience The system seeks to increase security without compromising the ‘customer experience’. People simply walk through single-file – between two 5-foot-tall stanchions. One lane can screen up to 800 people per hour, and the system detects explosives or metallic objects without the need for pat-downs or wands or other invasive procedures. Any personal belongings can remain in visitors’ pockets. A single security guard is needed for each lane to verify any detected threats. “The system combines an improved security posture with a better visitor experience,” says Mike Ellenbogen, CEO of Evolv Technology. “We need to fly and have been trained to be screened at the airport, but we don’t expect to be screened going to see a ball game or a Mozart concert. Evolv recognized a need for a new way to inspect people before they enter these types of facilities. It’s a seamless system that pulls various technologies together. We want to feel safe but without having to sacrifice the quality of the experience.”Screening analytics provide data on the numbers of people screened by time of day and by result The system combines millimeter wave and magnetic field sensors, along with artificial intelligence (AI)/ machine learning and can incorporate additional data such as biometrics. Known bad actors can be identified using facial recognition. The system has multiple detection sensitivity settings to respond to various threat scenarios. Expanding Perimeter Protection A security guard provides the human touch by verifying any threats detected by the system. The locations of concealed items are displayed on a photo of the individual using a color-coded box overlay. Screening analytics provide data on the numbers of people screened by time of day and by result. Ellenbogen says the company is working to have the system adopted at entertainment venues, performing arts centers, sports centers, for air and rail transportation, and to protect high-profile government buildings. The Edge system can expand the protected perimeter to a wider area that was previously unprotected. The Edge system can expand the protected perimeter to a wider area that was previously unprotected For example, concert-goers exited the arena of an Ariana Grande concert May 22, 2017, in Manchester, U.K., and entered the surrounding area that was unscreened and unsecured. Placing a user-friendly screening system around a wider perimeter outside the concert venue might have prevented the use of an improvised explosive device in the terrorist attack.Placing a user-friendly screening system around a wider perimeter outside the concert venue might have prevented the use of an improvised explosive device in the terrorist attack Threat Mitigation With Soft Target Approach Likewise, a 2016 bombing at the Brussels Airport occurred in the departure hall outside the passenger screening areas. Securing a wider perimeter – for example, screening customers discreetly as they enter the airport building from a parking area – could have provided additional security against such an attack. Ellenbogen confirms Evolv has sold a number of systems to major European airports to screen visitors and passengers as they enter the front door. “Addressing the threat to an airport or train system is different than screening passengers; we are looking for different types of objects and different types of materials. The idea is to be able to detect threats to a venue before they get into the venue.” The soft target approach can also be applied to public buildings, such as courthouses, and used in lieu of more invasive metal detectors and x-ray machines. The portability of the Edge system enables a ‘pop-up’ approach to security – i.e., to relocate the system to address specific or changing security threats easily. The self-contained system only requires a wall plug. Labor reduction (because of faster throughput) can help offset the system costs but it’s difficult to quantify the improvement in the visitor experienceImproving Security Posture At Event Venues “It’s surprising the level of importance [venue owners] put on the visitor experience,” says Ellenbogen. “They see that their brand starts at the front door. They are eager to find alternative security solutions that come across as more inviting, less imposing, less closed down, less invasive than the solutions they have been using,” he says. “They are driven by a desire to improve the visitor experience as they improve the security posture.” He says current events, including terrorist attacks and mass shootings, drive awareness among venue owners to improve the security of soft targets. “The level of interest is high, and it spikes somewhat when there is a big headline,” Ellenbogen says. He notes that the system is more expensive than a metal detector, but about a third the cost of familiar airport body scanners. Labor reduction (because of faster throughput) can help offset the system costs, but “it’s difficult to quantify the improvement in the visitor experience,” Ellenbogen says.

Key highlights
  • Surveillance for key community areas
  • WW Communications
  • Arecont Vision and Milestone Systems
  • City surveillance project phases
  • Unmatched surveillance capabilities
  • Security and city-wide situational awareness
  • Video streaming to mobile devices