Video Surveillance Best Practices: What Works

Our experts explain how camera selection and placement, appropriate integration and the right policies allow your campus to make the most of your video surveillance technology.

University labs, research facilities, power stations, water treatment facilities, parking garages, dorm entrances, large public areas, arenas, entrances to locker rooms, stairwells and elevators are just some of the locations on campus where video surveillance cameras are being installed. Despite the fact that they already seem to be everywhere, the growth in the number of cameras shows no signs of slowing down.

The Berklee College of Music, for example, has experienced a 25-30 percent increase in the number of cameras per year it has deployed on campus. Additionally, it is quickly transitioning its older analog cameras to IP, and officials anticipate that the entire video surveillance system will be completely IP by the end of the year. Quite a remarkable feat considering that less than two years ago, the campus had no IP cameras installed whatsoever.

Related Article: Spending Too Much on Video Surveillance?

So what are some of the best practices Berklee and other educational institutions are incorporating so they improve security and get the greatest return on their technology investment? Campus Safety magazine spoke with several video surveillance experts to find out.

Proper Cameras Can Address Lighting, Coverage Issues

Megapixel, panoramic or hemispheric, pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) and analog high resolution cameras are all popular choices on college and K-12 campuses.

Rob Hile, director of integrated security solutions for Siemens Industries, for example, prefers hemispheric cameras in hallways for schools and universities that are on a budget but want greater coverage. “Instead of putting two or three cameras up to cover an intersection, you can put up one hemispheric camera and get a wide angle view of the entrance and corridors,” he says.

Backlight and low light issues, as well as glare from shiny surfaces and outside lights pose challenges for almost any video surveillance installation. Fortunately, these issues can usually be addressed with analog and some IP cameras, which filter the unwanted glare.

“When we take a look at the types of cameras that you might find in a 24-7 [hospital] environment, we see a lot of ultra wide dynamic range cameras, especially if you need to have good images at night where you might have a lot of parking decks,” Lenel Director of Product Management Peter Boriskin says. “You might have glare from traffic and headlights being shined into the camera lens. Some of the infrared [cameras] help mitigate some of those challenges.”

Siemens Account Executive Rich Reidy adds that “most colleges want to leave their lights as is. We are trying to fill that void with a specific type of camera that works well in low light or positioning the cameras in a certain way so there isn’t a problem with ambient light coming from the outside.”

According to UTC Interlogix’ Commercial Leader for Video and Transmission Kostas Mellos, much like lighting challenges, the placement of the cameras (which are often all-in-one mini domes) can also help to address vandalism.

“You’d be surprised what kids can come up with sometimes,” he says. “But in general, you will see the cameras are installed a lot higher, which means you’ll have challenges with capturing the best views.”

Rugged enclosures are another important piece of equipment that protect the cameras from vandalism, as well as harsh weather elements.

Integration With Access Control Is Becoming a Reality
Of course, many campuses have legacy systems that must be integrated into the new solutions. Additionally, those video systems need to tie into other systems, such as access control.

“Some colleges have a huge embedded base of access control, so integration with video and access control is paramount,” Reidy claims. “If you have the integration, you can use the access control system to create triggers. Instead of buying analytics, colleges are saying, ‘We’ve got this embedded base out there. Let’s see how we can tie it in and supplement it by dropping in some cameras in certain locations to help our police force respond.’”

There have been concerns over the years that the databases managing access control weren’t robust enough to handle its true integration with video surveillance. However, Reidy says universities have addressed this problem by working on their database issues.

“There was a major push from 1994 to now to get everything on one card,” he adds. “Now we’re taking it to another level.”

Security Must Work Closely With I.T. and Have a Plan
With all of this integration and the addition of high-resolution cameras, bandwidth issues can be a challenge, particularly for retrofit environments.

“You are sending more and more video over the same network, and if you don’t put a lot of thought into how the network is designed, you could get into a situation, especially with megapixel and high definition cameras,” Hile says. “You are using up more and more bandwidth.”

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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