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360 degrees in Chicago

Claimed as the largest 360-degree camera system in mass transit history is the Chicago Transit Authority’s. The CTA operates the USA’s second largest public transportation system.

In 2010, cameras from Sentry360, a USA-based manufacturer, were fitted under a CTA pilot, funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, to retrofit the rail car fleet with on-board CCTV. As the cameras would be exposed to extreme heat and cold, humidity, and vibration, as well as unregulated electrical power sourced from the 600VDC third rail, the pilot focused on the effect of these relative to the CCTV. With over 800 potential rail cars to retrofit, the CTA sought to maximise the field of view with minimal cameras per car, supported by an open-standards IP architecture that allowed for integration with other systems.

Blind spots

Simply put, if a camera was pointed left and an incident occurred on the right, the camera was useless. To achieve full coverage within a CTA rail car, up to six legacy-fixed field-of-view cameras would be required, resulting in six video streams to be recorded. During the multi-year evaluation, Sentry360’s offered coverage with no blind-spots, using only two Sentry360 FullSight 360 degree fisheye Ultra-HD cameras per rail car, while reducing the bandwidth for recording and streaming to two video streams while retaining all virtual pan/tilt/zoom for live and post-recorded video.

Then CTA retrofitted the Sentry360 to the remainder of the fleet. CTA could add two additional 360 degree cameras per car, one within the railcar to provide redundancy for the initial two-cameras and one outward facing camera to view the right-of-way as the train travels. Elimination of fixed field-of-view cameras inherently created extra recording capacity within the CCTV system to allow the extra cameras while staying under budget. The final project included 3600 Sentry360 cameras on nearly 900 rail cars.

Thomas Carnevale, Sentry360’s CEO said: “This project sets a new standard in public transportation video surveillance. Our solution will be examined and modelled in mass transit systems all around the world.”

The ceiling mounted, low-profile, FullSight cameras have an omni-directional vantage point, giving investigators incidentdetails even in the heavy traffic of the transit system.
The cameras are integrated into the CTA’s existing video management system platform, made by Teleste Corporation. Teleste was able to integrate Sentry360’s intellectual property into the CTA’s existing video management allowing the correction of the fisheye view, and delivering the capability to pan-tilt-zoom in all directions both live and forensically, in recorded video.

Herb Nitz, CTA Director of Technology Engineering, said: “Our end users were increasingly frustrated having to view video across incompatible video systems. For years, we had searched for open- standards based and scalable IP video solutions suitable for mobile fleet use that were compatible with our current fixed video management system. Our initial goal to find an IP camera that could operate in a challenging mobile environment led us to Sentry360. The benefits we realized from the immersive 360-degree technology of the Sentry360 cameras and the ease of integration far exceeded our expectations for any IP mobile camera solution.”

Future real-time wireless communications will allow the CTA’s Control Center and the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications to view live feeds from the rail cars on-demand.


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