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Oxford System

To the traditional Oxford college porters has been added University Security Services and a university-wide CCTV system.

Much of the commercial and retail centre of Oxford is owned by the university or individual colleges. All colleges have their own CCTV, but none have any monitoring facilities. Instead Oxford University Security Services (OUSS), the university department responsible for CCTV, covers a significant portion of central Oxford, and provides contracted CCTV services to colleges, and offers CCTV reviewing services to colleges. OUSS has a close working relationship with Thames Valley Police, responsible for the town centre’s CCTV system. The university’s CCTV recently underwent a major re-fit. This has seen the installation of some new Bewator Surcha domes and in the control room the replacement of five VCRs and four, 16-way multiplexers with four digital video recorders (Dedicated Micros BX2) and three matrix controllers (Bewator Visilynx V3i).
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Transmission
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The existing system was already using the university’s fibre-optic network to transmit images from the cameras to the control room, producing very quality images in the process. Fibre optic images suffer very little degradation despite short distances of copper from each camera to the network (up to 100m), the users report, and despite the use of line boosters and joints on the longest runs, which reach 2km in parts. The renewed system is now also connected to the university’s Gigabyte wide area network using two Draytek VPN firewall connectors. Dedicated Micro’s Network Viewer software is used to view and review images in the control room. Remote viewing is also undertaken from the university’s emergency secondary control room and, for maintenance purposes (such as re-programming the digital video recorders), from the installer’s site nearby. Both are connected to the central control room by way of a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
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What the supplier says
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Oxford-based Chris Lewis Security is the primary CCTV supplier to the university and is responsible for the university’s move from analogue to digital recording. On the choice of equipment, Chris Lewis was keen to emphasise the quality of the equipment installed: ‘The mix of equipment used on this install reflects the high performance requirements of the university. Bewator and Dedicated Micros make a very effective combination across all three key areas – image capture, recording and network access.’ The Surcha dome offers privacy zones, 99 presets, auto day to night switching and housing (D08ZXE-Z). It also offers integrated protocol support for Bewator’s own Visilynx matrix.
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Challenging install
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The university’s CCTV system covers many of the institution’s key faculties, such as engineering and science, and the key tourist area around Radcliffe Square. This is home to three of the city’s most attractive buildings ‘ the Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library and Bridge of Sighs. Chris Lewis says: ‘Designing and installing a CCTV system in the heart of a conservation area as strict as this is very difficult. It requires considerable sensitivity to the environment, its users and a detailed understanding of how to make the most of the technology available to you. The lengths we need to go to can be well illustrated by the dome outside All Souls College, tastefully disguised in a Victorian street lamp.’
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Monitor and review
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The university’s control room is in the Old Observatory. This consists of two distinct areas ‘ the review suite; and the more secure control room itself. The bank of control room monitors is reminiscent of many town centre CCTV systems, but Norman Stewart, the university’s crime reduction officer explained that crime prevention is not the primary purpose of the system: ‘This system is designed to protect students, staff and the university. It is not primarily about detecting crime. Having said that we have very close and cordial relations with Thames Valley Police who do not have a review suite of their own in Oxford. Also we have a fibre optic link to the police control room in Oxford and, with our permission, they can view any of our cameras should the need arise.’ Next door, the review suite provides the OUSS and other staff from the university and individual colleges, with the facility to review previously recorded images. Linked to the university’s bank of digital recorders, the review suite also features a simple combination of monitor, multiplexer, VCR matrix and DVR keyboards, plus a stills printer.
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Benefits
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Norman Stewart hails the benefits of digital recording: ‘Tape storage management was an absolute nightmare and so migrating to digital has eliminated a huge burden for us. Of course searching with digital is excellent. However to take advantage of the new technology, procedures for archiving will need to change. For instance, it’s important to consider whether an incident should be written to CD otherwise after 31 days the incident will be overwritten and lost. Another of the big advantages of digital is the recording quality. Our viewing quality has always been excellent since adopting the fibre optic network. But analogue recording was only at five frames per second. We’ve improved this five-fold with digital which is excellent. One further remaining challenge is night recording. This can only be addressed by the addition of infra red lighting to domes and there is little prospect of us being allowed to do this in Oxford’s conservation area.’ At his Headington office, Chris Lewis demonstrates the Network Viewer software from Dedicated Micros. This is used routinely by his company to remotely solve problems, set up new users and maintain the system. He says: ‘The network viewing software is very easy to use but also very versatile. Image quality is excellent, it is extremely easy to configure and there is a multiplicity of screen configurations to choose from.’


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