March 2012

Tech improves efficiency, reduces costs for mobile surveillance

by Brittni Rubin, Assistant Editor

Recent advancements in the world of mobile surveillance are helping transportation agencies expand their functionality and cut long-term costs in the process. Among them are increased camera placement on board vehicles, DVR improvements, better wireless connectivity and the development of information systems for video monitoring.

Not only are manufacturers finding new ways to build a more fluid relationship between these key components of successful mobile surveillance, they're making user-friendliness a stronger priority as well. But because new technology emerges almost every day, it's important to stay abreast of the latest trends and products to determine which investments will better benefit your fleet.  

Camera Expansion
High quality has already become the industry standard for mobile surveillance cameras. Today, a range of digital recorders are available for transit vehicles; agencies can hand-select lens type, camera size and shape. And as audiovisual technology continues to improve, almost all cameras can produce DVD-quality video and contain infrared capabilities to monitor evening routes.

But with camera quality under control, surveillance manufacturers are now shifting their focus toward quantity. Whereas in the past transit agencies could install a maximum of three to four cameras inside a single bus, current systems now allow for as many as 16. They can be positioned on both the bus' interior and exterior as well.

The increase is primarily attributed to recent advancements in hard drive technology, according to Rodell Notbohm, GM of Woodinville, Wash.-based Apollo Video Technology. The hard drive disks used within mobile surveillance systems have gotten larger, making it possible to record more footage at once while still maintaining the necessary video quality and recording retention.

"Typically transits will want to hold their video for at least two weeks to a month, or even longer," Notbohm says. "When hard drives are smaller, even if you wanted more cameras, you wouldn't really have the space to store its footage and that was the big problem."

The information gathered by mobile surveillance is most commonly used for crime deterrence and accident mitigation. And, investing in more cameras equals better coverage. This not only prevents lasting damage, but also allows transit agencies to save money in the long run, according to Notbohm.

"You save money in the discovery — it doesn't take six months to conduct an investigation. If there's an accident or crime, everything that happened anywhere on or near the bus will have been recorded," he says.

Since there are more cameras on board, companies now have the ability to also monitor driver behavior and road safety, answering questions like: Is my driver running red lights? Are vehicles violating the bus' stop arm?

Now, cameras can be placed on the outside of a bus or looking out the driver's windshield. With eight, 12 or 16 cameras on board, you can monitor these unconventional areas without sacrificing vehicle hotspots.

Placing cameras outside a bus isn't a new development, but a growing concern. And, it heavily ties in to the current industry trend of expanding camera placement, according to Chris Shigley, national sales manager for Omaha, Neb.-based Radio Engineering Industries Inc. (REI).

A 360-degree view around the entire vehicle provides transit agencies a chance to observe what goes on around their buses with more accuracy. This includes watching exit and entry points and even something as detailed as the license plates of vehicles, either in front of or behind the bus.

Companies have become efficient in working with different kinds of space as well. Even smaller buses can be equipped with 12 or 16 cameras.

"With our video devices, we have the capability to get a certain view basically with no matter what vehicle we're working with; that's one of the best things we do from a company standpoint," says Shigley. "We adjust knowing that there are limitations when it comes to vehicles and are prepared for customers to request different things and have their own unique preferences."


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