According to Probstein, several factors contributed to an analog video system being selected as opposed to an IP-based or even megapixel one. They included the customer’s familiarity, comfort level and satisfaction with an analog solution and its images, system cost, and the building containing a legacy of coaxial cabling and an absence of Ethernet wiring. In addition, the move to networked video has accelerated since the condominium RFP was originally issued in 2009.
“In the mid-priced condo market, the customer is often most interested in low cost and adequate performance rather than the best performance money can buy. We are quoting and installing a lot more megapixel systems today. We try to tailor the solution to the customer’s budget and needs. For some applications such as monitoring a door, gate, face at a guardhouse or a vehicle license plate, an analog solution is more than adequate. For others like monitoring parking lots, and large pools and decks, a megapixel solution is superior.”
Some of the more notable elements of the condos’ surveillance system include: infrared (IR) imaging rated up to 100 feet for the pool deck cameras; wide dynamic range (WDR) for the loading dock; corner-mount cameras inside the elevators; and high resolution cameras to capture license plates entering and exiting the parking garage. The concierge desk/area serves as the command center and is equipped with both basic monitors as well as a pair of 40-inch flat screens. Among the solution’s other components (see equipment list for more) are Altronix power supplies; Bosch, DoorKing, Farpointe and Securitron access devices; and Honeywell door contacts.
The system design was a joint effort between the condo officers and TEM Systems. Key fobs are used for door and elevator access, and a transponder system for garage access. It controls a total of 44 access points both internal and external to the building. The system controls doors and stairwells to provide total security for the residents.
To provide further security, the concierge programs elevators for visitors so they can only access the floor of the person they are visiting. Another security enhancement is an alarm at the concierge desk for key doors that can be used to remove property. It sounds if those doors are propped open for more than a preset time. Resident fobs give them access to their floor via the elevator controls as well as access to the amenities. These access privileges can be controlled by the board, allowing total control over who can access which doors, floors and amenities, and what times access is allowed.
All access and video system elements feature battery backup and surge protection in the event of power failure or other electrical issues, which are especially commonplace in Florida’s sundrenched tropical climate.
“During the summer, afternoon thunderstorms are the norm, bringing a lot of rain and lighting,” says Roether. “We adjust our schedules to work around this by starting early, scheduling inside work for the rainy days, etc. However, we have to be aware of the storms since we work on electronics and lightning can travel many miles on the power grid. Sometimes we pull our people off the jobs for safety.”
Hitches Handled, Client Happy
While TEM Systems carefully coordinated its efforts throughout the project with both the condominium’s maintenance staff and an electrician, a few bumps in the road were encountered during the process. Most of the challenges were associated with wiring and camera positioning.
“For starters, the drawings of the existing conduits were not correct. In addition, we ran into a problem with some of the existing conduit where it was crushed or filled with concrete. So we got a change order to run new conduit,” says Probstein. “And then some of the camera locations had to be changed to give the customer the exact view they wanted. This caused us to have to change some camera types that were not wide dynamic range to WDR to compensate for light and dark areas, and glare caused by these moves.”
Still another cabling issue impacting the video surveillance system was that the existing cable from a couple of old pool cameras was exceedingly long. This resulted in such a great voltage drop at the new infrared cameras that the IR imaging capabilities failed to work properly when transitioning from day to nighttime operation.
From end user’s perspective, the biggest issues were related to the stairwells and video imaging detail. “The most difficult aspect of the installation process was accessing the floor-to-floor stairwell fobs as four fire stairs had to be wired for fobs and fire exit capabilities,” says Conley. “Another challenge was getting the proper resolution and location of cameras to read people’s faces.”
After everything was up and running some further tweaking was necessary after network problems caused a couple of system crashes. Fortunately, after more than a half-century in business, TEM Systems is well equipped to deal with such eventualities professionally, expediently and to the complete satisfaction of the customer. And so continues the positive word-of-mouth referral cycle.
“We have been very impressed,” says Conley. “We refer to camera videos when research is needed, and the system works the way it is supposed to work. We have it all.”
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