Consolidating two separate town centre CCTV systems into a single integrated control facility has produced many operational and economical benefits for Redditch and Bromsgrove. At the centre of the new control facility, is the latest  V-Tas  Pro Integrated Security Application Platform from i-Comply.

Following a shared services review by Redditch and Bromsgrove councils in Summer 2010, a joint management structure was proposed that included the consolidation of the two towns’ CCTV camera systems, to be integrated into one network at a newly refurbished Redditch Monitoring Centre. Rachel McAndrews, CCTV and Telecare Services Manager for Redditch Borough Council explains: “Both control facilities had been in place for a number of years and after many piecemeal updates were beginning to show their age. The consolidation of both systems seamed like the perfect solution, allowing us to pool our resources and invest in a technically leading-edge system with the goal of saving money in the long term.”

Control and back office systems were demonstrated by a number of different manufacturers throughout the planning and consultation period. The challenge was to consolidate over 150 cameras of varying service life from the two towns, in addition to the integration of recording and switching technology from a wide variety of manufacturers.

Installed at the refurbished Monitoring Centre at Redditch, icomply V-TAS system was selected to integrate multiple technologies from an array of disparate manufacturers, and the system now provides seamless control and management of every camera, in addition to all operational and administrative aspects of the system.

Disparate integration

icomply’s V-TAS Pro Integrated Security Application Platform  enables images from any of the cameras to be received, displayed and controlled at the Redditch Monitoring Centre. Allan Dickinson of icomply explains: “Thanks to the flexibility of the V-TAS Pro platform and some innovative system design, cameras from the existing Bromsgrove system are linked to an equipment room at the site of the old monitoring centre, where they are switched via a Synectics matrix, recorded on Veracity hard drives and encoded via Axis encoders ready for transmission on two dedicated RS100 data links to the new Redditch monitoring centre. The existing Redditch cameras are similarly Veracity recorded/Axis encoded on-site, ready for display on the monitoring centre video wall, via icomply video wall technology.”

“When selecting a control and management solution it was very important to us that the solution we decided upon was going to integrate with the existing infrastructure of the Bromsgrove and Redditch camera networks – in order to maximize the investments in technology we have made over the years,” explains Rachel McAndrews. “Selecting the V-TAS Pro solution from icomply has provided us with a single, effective point of control for our entire system, whilst their Back Office management solution provides comprehensive reporting on all aspects of system usage and performance.”

In-depth Back Office solution

In the Redditch Monitoring Centre, V-TAS’s comprehensive range of features affords in-depth control over the monitoring centre’s operational and legislative environment – helping to ensure a correct response to each and every incident monitored. This enables the smooth running of the CCTV monitoring centre and the supply of both short and long-term documentary assessments of its performance and effectiveness.

The V-TAS Back Office database management system retains all incident forms and data structure on a shared centralised database. Enhanced data overlay and mapping functionality; detailing when, where and what type of incidents have taken place is available via an ‘incident map’ of the monitored areas. This functionality permits easy identification of any emerging patterns, whilst access to graphically enriched management reports provide key tools for monitoring system performance and justification of actions.

Donna Heath, Monitoring Centre Team Leader, Leisure, Environment & Community Services adds: “The value of the V-TAS reports is that we can extract and report exactly the right information needed for each purpose. Prior to the V-TAS system back office administration and reporting system, a paper-based system was used, which consumed a large amount of the team’s time in the monitoring centre. Since the upgrade, we now enjoy instant access to the statistics we require, all intuitively presented within comprehensive reports.

“Our position is relatively unique as we cover three separate and diverse monitoring areas, Redditch, Bromsgrove and also the customer network of cameras in the Wyre Forest District. However, we need to supply statistics for the areas individually as well as for the system as a whole. Previously, this was a time-consuming and laborious task for our staff, but now, any report needed is just a few clicks away, releasing staff to tackle their many other duties, and helping us to provide the most efficient service we can.

“Reports generated from the system are also often used by other council departments to support proposals across both Redditch and Bromsgrove. For example, we can provide evidence for additional lighting, cameras or extra Police patrols in certain areas, equip Community Safety Officers with detailed incident statistics, or provide statistical support for Councillor proposals.”

“Additionally, we are able to build a detailed picture of our camera maintenance capability,” says Rachel McAndrews. “The V-TAS reports show us which cameras have required maintenance, when the problem occurred, and how long it took to rectify. This allows us to instantly assess our maintenance arrangements – making sure we are getting the best value for money. We can also assess if any areas are causing a particular problem or if faults with equipment are reoccurring; absorbing our maintenance contract. This means we can make informed decisions to decide if it would be more economical to replace the unit or continue to repair it.”

Control & recording

The 164-camera system generates a vast amount of information, which is processed on a daily basis and sees Redditch operators dealing with a wide variety of incidents. “Our area includes diverse monitoring subjects,” adds Donna Heath, “Redditch town centre has a large amount of shops, a busy shopping centre and a lively nightlife economy, whereas Bromsgrove is a typical rural town. This obviously means our operators need to respond to vastly different incidents with a calculated response, whether it is anti-social offences within the rural areas or public order incidents in the ‘no drinking zone’ on the streets of Redditch centre. Here, the V-TAS Pro interface means operators can view instant playback of an incident that just occurred, all whilst monitoring the live images via their spot monitors. This helps to resolve incidents quickly, and allows operators to direct officers on the ground to any offenders very easily.

“Our pro-active monitoring timetable enlists years of operator experience to ascertain which areas of the network to monitor at different times of day. For example, during the day we can monitor areas of the town centre that are busy with shoppers, and in cooperation from the local business via our Shopwatch system create a clear overview of that area.

“Similarly, as the week progresses and a nighttime economy emerges on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the team’s monitoring focus switches to the many bars and pubs in the area. Aided by the efficient Pubwatch system, our operators prove instrumental to an incident-free night on a weekly basis. Aiding police with direct descriptions of offenders via instant access to archived CCTV footage – dispersing and resolving any incidents before they escalate.”

“With a total project cost of £350k, the consolidation of the two control rooms is projected to provide an overall saving of £250k per year,” explains Rachel McAndrews. “The initiative will pay for itself with 18 months.

Comprehensive support

“The service and support we have received from icomply throughout the project has proved invaluable. We continue to enjoy support from the icomply team, who are able to rectify any issues we have with the system, remotely. The remote diagnostic capability means they often rectify issues we didn’t even know we had, ensuring our systems are not interrupted and our operations continue as normal.

“Although we have enjoyed a package of V-TAS reporting that suited our needs perfectly, we have further refined these via continued technical consultation with the icomply team. This has allowed us to ‘tune’ our back office administration and reporting to an infinite level, even seeing the icomply development team write specific programming especially for our application.”

icomply have supplied a technological solution to assist the daily running of the Redditch/Bromsgrove Monitoring Centre and to exploit both system and operator resources to the full. Allan Dickinson concludes: “Eliminating a time-consuming paper trail, and providing accurate, up-to-the-minute information combined with intuitive operator control is the ethos of the V-TAS Pro system, whilst our continual technological development means we are looking forward to many more years as a key technical partner with the team at Redditch.”

Since employing V-TAS, it has quickly become an integral part of the overall surveillance solution at Redditch, producing fast, detailed reports at the touch of a button. Additionally V-TAS provides a constant evaluation of system effectiveness and performance, whilst ensuring the safe storage of each and every incident captured. It has proved to be a vital tool for daily CCTV system management and an example of how the application of the right technology can maximise a CCTV network’s performance to ensure an economical future.