Univ. of Illinois Security Camera Upgrade Gets an A+

To upgrade its extensive campus’ security camera system, the University of Illinois installed 150 new Scallop imaging cameras

With more than 53,000 students, faculty and staff, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus is essentially a “city within a city” here. Like any municipality, the university works to prevent and respond to criminal activity and emergencies by offering a variety of programs that create a safer environment.

Campus lighting improvements, emergency phones, student patrol and self-defense classes are just a few of the resources to enhance student safety, but the university has also invested in electronic security technologies such as access control and video systems. At the Urbana-Champaign campus, the university police and Campus Informational Technologies and Educational Services (CITES) group partnered to design and implement a security camera system across the 1,800-acre campus.

The Urbana-Champaign campus has hundreds of cameras installed in academic, athletic, cultural and student housing buildings, as well as outdoor public areas.

“The Department of Public Safety takes a holistic approach towards security on campus, with the camera system being a key piece of that plan,” says University of Illinois Life Safety Engineer Ken Felsman, adding that the campus-wide system runs on open-platform IP video management software (VMS) from Milestone Systems.

When the university made the decision to add more cameras to its existing system, the stakeholders turned to Scallop Imaging to help address two primary areas of focus: situational awareness and image identification. With a constant 180° view and simultaneous zoom details in one standard video frame, Scallop Imaging offered models that delivered on both key requirements. “Scallop Imaging addressed our need for a camera that could deliver awareness in areas across campus where we wanted a wider view, such as hallways and open areas,” says Uros Marjanovic, network service engineer at the University of Illinois. Each department is responsible for its own security budget, so cost was also a consideration for which Scallop was attractive.

The team has installed 150 Scallop Imaging cameras – about 16% of the various total camera count – including both the D7-180 and M6-200 cameras in areas where the team found standard cameras unable to perform at a high enough standard for clear identification. Instead of the traditional “one lens, one piece of film” box camera approach, Scallop Imaging says it distributes the imaging task among multiple sensors and combines their output at video rates in the camera itself to work similar to the human eye. A true 180° view without using fish-eye lenses aided the university’s demand for improved situational awareness. Plus the cameras are durable, easy to install and have an extremely low failure rate, according to the company. “We do all installations in-house and found it very straightforward,” says Marjanovic.

The 6-megapixel (MP) M6-200 camera is a distributed image panoramic camera designed to provide high image quality under very low-light conditions. “We installed the M6-200 cameras in areas that are naturally darker or not well lit and in corridors where there are exposed light switches that can be turned off,” says Marjanovic.

As part of its mandate to provide patrol, investigation and emergency response services, the university police have access to the campus-wide camera system 24/7. “Campus police use the information gathered to create reports about specific events and can easily export video to share with stakeholders if necessary,” says Felsman.

Each department requests system access for specific employees to view their departmental cameras, primarily for live viewing. “Someone might check the cameras to be sure the path to the parking lot is clear before leaving at the end of the day,” Felsman says, for instance.

Another big reason the university chose to install Scallop Imaging cameras was because of the cameras’ sleek and discreet form factor, an important attribute in campus efforts to maintain the architectural integrity of the buildings “Scallop cameras fit in better with the campus’ overall design than a traditional dome camera mounted on a wall would,” says Marjanovic, noting that cameras are so unobtrusive that individuals walking by may not even know that there are cameras in the area.

“The Scallop Imaging cameras have helped achieve objectives put forth by our Department of Public Safety,” says Marjanovic of the university’s overall security and safety goal. Following this successful upgrade phase, the University of Illinois plans to add more camera security as the need arises and funding becomes available.

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