Choosing the right in-vehicle surveillance system
By Johnson Yang
Mobile technology is taking video surveillance to new frontiers, and challenging professional applications are demanding new technology requirements, from enhanced durability, to wireless connectivity and improved onboard power management.
With all of these advancements to consider, what is the right system for your bus and what features or technology should be considered? Before moving forward, we see everything going back to the basic principle of: What is the purpose of installing video surveillance on board? After that question is answered, it should lead to one simple question: How much budget should we commit? After these basic questions are answered, below are four of the next areas to consider when choosing the right in-vehicle surveillance system:
Number of cameras
This is easier to deal with. The purpose of installing cameras on board is for a bus manager to consider what should be seen. Normally four to eight cameras for a large 40-foot bus should be efficient: one pointing toward traffic, another facing the driver and the front door, and one to watch the back door. Additionally, a couple of cameras for the cabin and a surveillance camera installed outside can also be used as backup cameras. Bus managers can also consider cameras outside for each side of the rear mirror. This kind of camera setup provides the bus driver and management with “blind-spot free” vision.
Hard disk drives have been widely used in every data storage application, and it is the same with surveillance video recorders. The spindle type of disc is delicate though, and may get damaged on a bus without proper protection. An anti-vibration mechanism would make the video storage more secure and able to handle all kinds of road conditions. Solid State Drive (SSD) is another nice way to store video; however, the smaller capacity with higher price makes this option less desirable.
In addition to having anti-vibration design, the recording system must have temperature control for both heating and cooling adjustment. This keeps the system running in different weather conditions, especially when the system is installed in a hidden or non-air conditioned compartment.
Wireless networks for cell phones are now in the fourth generation (4G) and that provides wider bandwidth with faster data transfer speed. This creates a better environment for video transmission, especially for on-the-road situations. An onboard video surveillance system with 4G provides a connection tunnel between the vehicle and the fleet operator, allowing the driver to have the ability to report any unusual situations in real time so the operator can take immediate action when needed.
For example, when a potential threat occurs, the driver is able to contact the fleet operator via a silent panic button. To achieve this, the system with General Purpose Input and Output (GPIO) control will be needed. Fleet operators can also communicate with the driver to identify the incident through two-way audio, if this is also important to the operation.
These actions cannot be done without a 4G network. Of course, the cost of a monthly data plan (with reasonable bandwidth) needs to be taken into account.
Backup and maintenance
When the bus returns from a route full of video recordings, fleet managers often like to move these assets to another place even though they’re secure on the system’s hard drive disk. However, backup to a server would be best.
In the past, staff simply grabbed the hard disk drive and gave it to IT personnel to do the backup work. This may seem simple enough, but don’t forget the backup job has not started yet and staff still rely on IT personnel to finish the process. Therefore, a system with Wi-Fi is more automatic and will reduce the labor required.
When uploading videos, the system still needs power to complete the work, which means it uses the battery when the vehicle’s engine is off until the backup job is completed. Without good power management (and lower power consumption), the battery will drain fast and the bus may not start the next day.
System maintenance or any updates can be troublesome and labor intensive. Software that can do all-in-one batch processing while utilizing Wi-Fi can definitely save labor and possibly overtime work. Maintenance is always a huge cost that is often overlooked, and this work will need to be performed regularly to keep the system working properly.
No matter what you choose, an onboard video surveillance system should meet all the challenges and get the job done. Protecting the bus driver and the passengers is the top priority for bus management. With the right video surveillance system, it keeps an eye on everyone and every aspect of the bus by making it more efficient while on the road.
Johnson Yang is the vice president of sales at Plustek Security in Southern California. Plustek Security is a manufacturer of ruggedized, high quality mobile surveillance products. To learn more, visit www.plusteksecurity.com .