A Hybrid Approach
Illinois school district upgrades its video surveillance system with new technology
- By Aaron Saks
- December 01, 2021
Community Consolidated School District 89 (CCSD 89), located in Glen Ellyn, IL, serves 2,300 elementary and middle-school aged children from the community, as well as from nearby Lombard and Wheaton, IL.
CCSD 89 employs 350 people working in six locations, including four elementary schools, one middle school, and one administrative building for Registration and Human Resources. The buildings used to have traditional analog cameras and DVRs running on coaxial cables, but the district recently made the decision to upgrade its system.
Upgrading to Expand Coverage and Improve Image Quality
“We were looking to improve the video surveillance system throughout our buildings. We used to have an analog, independent CCTV security system in each building, but we were looking for something that was more comprehensive and cohesive. We wanted an all-in-one pane of glass for video surveillance,” said Jeff Romani, technology coordinator for CCSD 89.
According to Romani, who is responsible for managing the district’s technology, the system had to meet specific requirements on several levels.
“At an administrative level, we were looking for a single system that would give us access to all our buildings,” Romani said. “At a maintenance level, because snow removal during the winter is a challenge for us, we wanted a solution that would give maintenance crews access to outside cameras, which would allow them to see snow conditions around each building. At a security level, we were looking to give our school administrators good, quick visuals on what was happening at the various locations.”
CCSD 89 wanted to upgrade and migrate to an IP-based system, but it was clear that the associated costs would be a challenge, particularly in relation to all the cabling it would require.
“We realized that the cost of migrating to an IP-based system would double if we had to run all new cable through our buildings. So, to save on costs, we wanted to keep portions of our existing cabling as part of any new design,” Romani said.
The Challenges of Implementing a Hybrid Solution
CCSD 89 awarded the project to Low Voltage Solutions, who submitted the most responsible bid. To keep costs down, increase coverage and provide all of the front-end IP features that the district wanted, the company proposed a hybrid system design using Hanwha Techwin technology, including Wisenet WAVE VMS. The plan involved using some of the existing coaxial cabling and installing Wisenet HD+ analog cameras to save on expense new cable runs and then running new Ethernet and installing Hanwha Techwin IP cameras for additional coverage and hard to reach locations.
“In some locations, we decided to use existing cable end-to-end. For example, we had a light pole that had multiple cameras facing into the building,” Romani said. “We used the existing cable and installed HVC and HCO series analog cameras. In other locations, we extended the system and installed QNV-8010R, QNO-8010R, and QNV-8080R IP cameras to get better coverage. In these cases, we simply installed 20 to 30 feet of new cabling, which was easy to do.”
One of the main challenges related to installing a hybrid system is getting the analog images into a digital IP system. Working with Physical Layers Technologies (PLT), the manufacturer’s representative for Hanwha, Low Voltage Solutions was able to solve this problem by connecting the analog cameras to Hanwha Techwin’s HRX-1621 DVRs. These DVRs convert the images into a digital format and then makes the IP video available to Wisenet WAVE.
“The cameras connected using the existing coaxial cables are HD+ analog cameras that provide a two or four-megapixel image. Those cameras were connected to the HRX-1621s, which were then licensed back into Wisenet WAVE,” said Dan DeCristofara of PLT. “The result is that from the user's perspective, there is no difference. While the image may happen to be going over coaxial cable, when you pull it up on the WAVE VMS, it appears the same from the interface.”
Keeping Schools Safe with 24/7 Video
Completed in the summer of 2020, all six buildings come together at a single location at the middle school, which also acts as the hub.
With this project, CCSD 89 increased the number of cameras on its system to 197. This comprehensive coverage means that the district is now better equipped to ensure the safety and security of its students and assets.
Designed to record 24/7, this system is important because CCSD 89 uses video surveillance footage mainly for post event investigation. The set up makes it easy for principals and assistant principals to retrieve necessary footage and use it as required.
If an incident in one of the halls at the schools has been reported, the assistant principal would go through the video footage, pull it up, and either download it or access it from any browser or mobile device,” Romani said. “Then they would look at the video with students to show what occurred and then with parents to ensure that the incident would be dealt with appropriately. With the new system, we're able to use video footage to ensure that kids are safe and to keep them honest.”
Improving Operational Efficiency
Using WAVE Sync, Romani is now able to grant permission to various stakeholders to remotely access the system from anywhere at any time. For example, he can turn access on and off quickly and easily for the integrator or other members of the low voltage solutions team, who might need to perform any remote maintenance or software upgrades. He can also grant access to members of his own team, school administrators, and members of the Building and Grounds Department. This has been especially useful for investigating alarms after hours.
“We have a third-party alarm company that notifies us if an alarm goes off in any of our buildings. Now, the grounds crew is able to access the system remotely at whatever hour of the day,” Romani said. “And, because all the clocks are synchronized across all the systems, they can easily find the associated video to determine if the alarm is false or if someone has entered the building.”
Having remote monitoring capabilities on mobile, tablets and laptops was another key feature that the district relies on.
Early on, CCSD 89 was interested in saving money by keeping as much pre-existing cabling as possible. Working with PLT and Low Voltage Solutions, the district was able to create a hybrid system based on Hanwha Techwin technology that met all of its needs. Says Romani, “This has been a very collaborative and successful process. The team was very responsive and provided answers quickly,” Romani said.
This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.