HD Video Pulls Into the Calgary Light Rail Transit Station

Ensuring the safe passage of commuters has gained urgency as a focal point for transit bureaus throughout the world. Calgary’s light rail demonstrates how advanced high definition video surveillance enables agencies to better manage and secure their lines.

Spurred by the March 2004 terrorist attacks of Madrid, Spain’s commuter train system that left 191 dead and 1,800 wounded, and the July 2005 bombings of London’s underground trains that killed 52 and injured more than 700, Transport Canada has made transit security and safety a higher priority than ever before. In Calgary, with ridership swelling on the public transit network to more than 94 million by 2010, an upgrade of its early 1980s CCTV system was required to enhance the safety of both customers and Calgary Light Rail Transit (LRT) staff.

This resulted in the issuance of a request for proposal for a comprehensive video surveillance upgrade. The project called for replacing cameras with high definition (HD) models and supporting infrastructure at 27 CTrain stations and Calgary LRT’s security monitoring center, known as PS100.

“The primary objective of this project was to replace the aging CCTV system with current technology. The original system’s image quality had becomes poor and there was the potential for failure of older components,” says Stephen Hansen, Calgary Transit manager of safety and security. “In addition, with the changing nature of public transit there was a need to enhance the CCTV system to provide a higher level of customer safety and security while using the CTrain system.”

Aided by funding via multiple federal, regional and local grants and initiatives, the agency asked vendors to bid on an integrated CCTV system incorporating field stations and central systems, hardware, software, accessories, incidental work, and additional services. The $6.2 million project was awarded to Edmonton, Alberta-headquartered integrator CONTAVA in April 2010 and would take a year to be realized.

Integrator Has IT Factor

Incorporated in 2004, CONTAVA has grown its business by bringing a high level of IT expertise to the realm of physical security. With offices in Calgary, Fort McMurray (Alberta), and Vancouver, the firm serves more than 850 commercial and industrial client sites across Canada.

“What sets us apart are not our products but rather our ability to deliver and ensure product performance,” says company President Curtis Nikel. “CONTAVA sets an expectation or standard and then delivers on time and on budget. By executing consistently, we enhance our reputation and maintain a clear advantage over our competitors.”

The firm designs, evaluates, sells, installs, supports and services IT-based solutions for video surveillance; access control; intercom and sound; mass notification; networking; structured cabling; and intrusion and perimeter detection. Its widespread market niches include aerospace and defense; agriculture and food services; banking; casinos; forestry; government; law enforcement; manufacturing; pharmaceuticals; retail; transportation; and utilities.

To capture the Calgary LRT project, CONTAVA prepared a preliminary plan including risk assessment, schedule, organizational chart, change management plan and high level design. The city of Calgary had already engaged consulting firm IBI Group to gather requirements and generate specifications, so CONTAVA was chosen to handle the security engineering portion.

The integrator dug into the project in May 2010 and completed it on time and on budget by March 31, 2011. CONTAVA then began the service, maintenance and administration support portion of the contact, which is in place for the next six years.

<p>The project called for replacing cameras with high definition (HD) models and supporting infrastructure at 27 CTrain stations and Calgary LRT’s security monitoring center, known as PS100.</p>Meeting Spectacular Specs

To maximize public welfare and limit liability, Calgary Transit required end-to-end video surveillance to enable control center personnel to visually verify safe operations of the LRT platforms 24/7. The solution needed to provide full HD coverage of all public spaces to ensure subjects could be easily identified and support the offenders’ conviction process.

Additional key requirements included: simultaneous viewing and management of a large number of live video streams; strict retention and disposition of archived video; access to, searching of and export of archived video; designed to recover seamlessly from known system failure risks due to environmental issues; able to support a wide range of management and communication technologies with defined QoS (quality of service).

The following features of the ultimate solution are particularly noteworthy: designed to support 1,000+ HD camera streams; distributed architecture able to scale beyond current security requirements and applications; 31-station deployment, including conduit, electrical, network, server and application deployment; legacy system decommissioning and cutover minimizing downtime to a small subset of a single station’s cameras at a time; full overhaul of the control center during operations.

“CONTAVA worked closely with numerous manufacturers, including Genetec, Panasonic, Jupiter, Dell and Cisco,” says Carl Enright, the integrator’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The solution includes a 10Gbps IP Cisco backbone network extending to 27 LRT stations, Calgary City Hall and Victoria Park Operations Control Center. It archives and manages nearly 500 cameras operating in full HD, and will scale into the thousands.”

Managing Storage & Bandwidth

Breaking down the solution more specifically, Genetec’s Omnicast unified security platform includes 471 Panasonic WV-NW502S megapixel H.264-enabled cameras with vandal-proof domes, and another 23 Panasonic WV-NW964 outdoor-rated pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) models. Panasonic WJ-GXE500 IP encoders are also used where needed to permit the retention and incorporation of select existing analog cameras. The system is hosted on Dell R510 and R410 servers.

“The image quality from the HD IP cameras is excellent in comparison to the previous analog cameras,” says Hansen. “The Genetec software is relatively easy for operators to use with the availability of digital zoom and changing camera angles to improve views. The software has lots of functionality and features.”

The command center features a 33-foot (W) X 4-foot (H) video wall comprised of bezel-less commercial LCDs. A Jupiter processor provides seamless video monitoring in myriad configurations. More than 45 servers were deployed running archivers, failover archivers, a directory server, a failover directory server, and a domain controller. In excess of one-half petabyte (1,000TBs) of storage was deployed in a RAID-1 and RAID-5 combination.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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