Digital Upgrades at Sanford

Author: 
Harold German
Published in: 
January-February
2009




Sanford International Airport

Known as Central Florida's "Gateway to the Sun," Sanford International Airport (SFB) near Orlando is one of the busiest airports in the country. With the daunting responsibility of accommodating approximately two million travelers each year, SFB had good reason to step up its interest in the latest security technologies.

SFB's former commercial-grade analog closed-circuit television system was based on the antiquated VCR format, and it lacked the ability and capacity to properly archive video recordings. This posed several problems for the SFB security staff, including inflexible options (they were limited to only using proprietary equipment for video playback) and inferior video quality (tapes were overwritten monthly). There was also a serious problem regarding the real-time positioning, control and management of live video feeds coming from the dispersed cameras, and archived video was not quickly accessible.

Clearly, it was time for a new security system. Bryant Garrett, SFB's chief financial officer and chief of the Sanford Airport Police Department, spearheaded its s




Facts and Figures

Project: Security Technology Upgrade

Location: Sanford (FL) International Airport

Surveillance System/Software: Omnicast from Genetec

Contractor: SiteSecure

The Benefits: Reduced response times, faster decision-making and improved airport security and traveler experience

election. His experience in airport security and extensive knowledge of the existing system served him well during the process.

Buying Right

Garrett's strategy centered on proactive planning: finding solutions for challenges that could present themselves in the future in addition to solving existing problems. Key selection factors were integration capabilities (to utilize existing hardware), scalability (to grow the system as needed) and flexibility (having options on hardware choices).

"A non-proprietary system would allow us to get competitive bids from multiple hardware vendors," said Garrett. Other important features for SFB were multiple-camera screen displays, manipulation of PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras and the ability to quickly switch from live to archived video. The new system also had to facilitate exporting selections of archived video in high-quality format for review by authorities at remote monitoring stations. Ease of use was of utmost importance, as studies show that one of the main reasons new technologies fail is low user adoption.

SFB's overhaul represents a new model in how organizations approach IT investments. In the past, they typically purchased several pieces of technology with varying functions (cameras, card readers, monitors, etc.) to create a system. The incremental or "buy-as-needed" approach was thought to be prudent, as it allowed organizations to solve specific problems while staying within their budgets. However, when different pieces of technology cannot interact with each other to ease data management, they cause other problems including loss of time, lack of productivity and the need to hire additional staff. For this reason, the "solution buy" is becoming more common and IT security vendors are releasing packages designed around the new approach.

Manufacturers now recommend systems that cover all security bases and provide integrative capabilities as well as scalability for the future. SFB selected such a product: Omnicast from Genetec, an "enterprise-class" video surveillance system that manages digital video, audio and data across an IP network to simplify the monitoring and management of security information. In addition to converting 50 of its existing analog cameras to digital, the airport added 80 new digital cameras.

SiteSecure implemented the system and built the necessary dedicated IP video network using the airport's existing fiber-optic cable. This setup also enabled SFB to keep its existing hardware and servers, as well as manage all security content from a central location, using Omnicast software. "Genetec has a very scalable solution which they can grow very easily," says Andy Bowman, VP of engineering at SiteSecure.

The Reviews Are In

The system's intuitive drag-and-drop operation proved popular with SFB employees. "The user interface was one of my favorite features," says Garrett. "For example, changing the names of the cameras is as easy as changing the name of a Microsoft Word document."

Another popular element was the video bookmarking, which enables the security staff to select and save any portion of video with the simple click of a mouse. Users can refer to their video bookmarks at any time and organize them to suit their preferences.

Video archiving was a central requirement for the SFB personnel, who are now able to archive and sort through extensive content very quickly, pull essential data, and if necessary, have it ready in high-quality format to send to others for review. In addition, the system's failover and redundancy features ensure that recorded videos are properly backed up, making the system completely fault-tolerant.

The system's ability to offer live and recorded video from almost anywhere in the airport proved to be a big hit. Terminal managers monitor aircraft traffic at the gates, ground and airline activity, passenger congestion in the terminal and at customs clearance, and door access throughout the large facility. Additionally, a law enforcement team now supervises various sites from a remote dispatch center, which is manned 24/7.

The new system has already increased the efficiency of SFB's decision-making and helped prevent security breaches. On several occasions, SFB has avoided the need to evacuate passengers from the terminal for disruptive rescreens when security officials suspected a breach. Immediately following each instance, security staff members were able to quickly determine that a breach had not occurred and operations resumed as usual.

Today, several users at multiple locations throughout SFB take advantage of Omnicast's features on a daily basis. "Its ability to offer viewings of live and recorded video from basically anywhere in the airport where there is access to the network was a huge plus for SFB," says Bowman.

SFB's new security technology has significantly reduced response times and facilitated faster decisions, which ultimately translates into monetary savings for the airport and a better and safer experience for travelers. Travelers aren't bogged down by repeated security checks, so they fly happier and feel safer. Likewise, security staff members don't feel intimidated by confusing technology and are more productive and effective at improving airport security.

"The software makes it very easy to get what you need," says Garrett.

Subcategory: 
Security

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