BUSRide Magazine spoke with expert Réal Barrière, transit solutions product manager at March Networks, about the importance of surveillance technology, common pitfalls when installing and integrating new software, mitigating false liability claims, and more.
Why are safety goals and benchmarks important when planning a surveillance policy?
When a transportation authority prepares to purchase a video surveillance system, they have already done their homework and established a list of requirements necessary to achieve their goals. They know what their current security capabilities are, and so they can typically benchmark those against the future improvements they are anticipating with the new system.
Without these goals and benchmarks, it’s difficult to gauge the success of a new surveillance system a year or two down the road. In addition, security objectives are a great tool to use to help assess the pros and cons of different solutions. By simply asking your systems integrator or manufacturer if the video system they are recommending can support all of your authority’s stated security objectives – including meeting stringent automotive industry standards and an ability to prove performance and reliability based on past deployments – you’ll get better insight into that system’s capabilities. Engaging in a one or two vehicle proof-of-concept is even better, as the results will clearly demonstrate how effective the solution will be in helping you meet your goals.
How does innovative technology, like high-definition video, secure connectivity, VMS or 360° cameras, affect incident response and reporting?
All of these capabilities have improved incident response and reporting significantly. High-definition (HD) video captures crystal-clear images, for example, and 360° cameras also eliminate blind spots, so there’s never a question of what happened during an incident or who was involved. In addition, many IP cameras also support a zoom capability, so you can distinguish small details such as a clothing brand label to further support accurate identification.
On the VMS side, a video management solution with a secure connection over a wireless network enables fleet operators to respond more immediately and accurately to incidents, and even provide secure access to real-time video for first responders when required.
Whether you’re retrieving video after an event or viewing real-time video in a monitoring center, the level of detail and accuracy provided by today’s intelligent video enables operators to react more quickly to situations and access compelling video evidence to support investigations and combat false liability claims.
How can a comprehensive surveillance system reduce (or even eliminate) false liability claims?
Clear video evidence can absolutely reduce or put an end to false liability claims. Being able to show a video clip of a person entering a bus after an accident occurs, for example, or an automobile driver obviously at fault in a bus accident, can immediately change the conversation when it comes to false claims. The key is to ensure that the video being recorded is very clear, so there are no doubts as to what occurred. You also need sufficient surveillance coverage on the interior and exterior of the bus to ensure that any incident is adequately captured.
Several years ago, one of our transit customers shared some interesting statistics with us – including the fact that it had used video evidence to resolve more than 50 false claims out of court in one year and defend itself against another 25 false claims. At the time, the authority estimated that 75 percent of the liability claims it handled each year were fraudulent, frivolous or exaggerated.
What are the pitfalls (common or uncommon) operators should avoid when installing and integrating new surveillance hardware and software?
There are many common considerations that are critical to ensuring optimum performance of your video surveillance system. These include: installing cameras properly to capture the expected fields of view; ensuring compatibility between cameras, video recorders and other integrated peripheral devices or systems; and confirming that bandwidth and storage capacities are sufficient for the video being captured.
For example, streaming 1080p video over a 4G LTE network to a command center can be costly, especially when multiplied over hundreds of buses, each with multiple surveillance cameras. There are, however, different techniques you can apply during setup to help reduce costs. Pre-programming your cameras based on activity levels, so you’re capturing lower-quality video during low activity periods and higher-quality video during peak periods, is one method. Testing different video resolutions and frame rates to find the right balance between image quality and bandwidth consumption is another. A solution that supports alternate streaming is also helpful, as it allows you to capture a lower resolution, less-bandwidth intensive stream for live viewing, while recording a higher resolution stream to your video recorder.
Does paratransit have different surveillance system requirements than transit at large?
Overall, a video system for paratransit would need to meet criteria similar to a bus fleet, including providing high reliability, the ability to capture clear video, software that’s easy to use, advanced search and investigation features, wireless access to video, and so on.
While a paratransit system may incorporate fewer surveillance cameras, the placement of those cameras could vary. Most paratransit operators ensure that client boarding/disembarking points are clearly captured, and many also require integrated audio recording as well, so a video solution that offers both is ideal.
Another consideration for paratransit operators might be sourcing a very power-efficient video recorder that won’t drain the vehicle battery while recording during periods when the vehicle is turned off. Paratransit vehicles spend longer periods at rest while drivers help clients board or disembark. These are critical recording times and paratransit operators need to know that video is being recorded reliably even when the vehicle is off.
How does a customized system integration enhance visibility, response time and safety for a transit agency?
A video surveillance solution that integrates with other onboard systems and vehicle data – as well as wayside locations such as stations and park-and-rides – is a must for transit authorities today. Such a solution not only improves search and investigation capabilities significantly, it extends the use of the integrated data beyond security to areas including operations and maintenance. These integrated solutions exist today and don’t require a lot of customization.
Video integrated with Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and/or Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) data, for example, enables transit agencies to search for recorded events including hard brakes, speed, GPS location, door malfunctions and driver-tagged incidents, and review these events along with the associated video. The clear video and metadata enable fleet operators to investigate complaints, liability claims and other events quickly and cost-effectively to see what actually occurred and arm themselves with compelling video evidence. Maintenance can also benefit by searching proactively for incidents such as door malfunctions, viewing the integrated video to see what the issue might be and dispatching someone for repairs if needed – well before an incident occurs.
Finally, a video solution that offers system management for both bus fleets and wayside locations via a single client software gives you better visibility into your entire operation. It also makes it easier to deploy software updates to all of your surveillance devices (cameras, recorders etc.), and reduces the time and cost required to train staff on multiple systems.