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VOL. 35 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 25, 2011

BNA updating security cameras

By Judy Sarles

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Metro Airport is gradually upgrading its camera system in order to enhance security and surveillance throughout the facility.

The airport’s current analog system is being replaced with digital, resulting in better data storage and ease of integration for replacing and adding video cameras.

“As fast as technology is changing,” says Robert Ramsey, MNAA’s design director, “it’s becoming more difficult to support that software platform.”

When travelers traverse the airport, they won’t be aware of the enhancements to the security camera system. But they will be in a much safer environment than in the past. Cameras and monitors will have a higher resolution, essentially allowing airport staff operating and monitoring the system to have quicker response times to incidents and security breaches.

Normally, there are three operators watching Nashville Airport cameras around the clock. However, additional airport staff members have access to the cameras when a security incident occurs or there is a high-level security crisis.

The last upgrade of Nashville Airport’s software occurred about nine years ago, and there are now about 200 cameras on the property, including the parking lots. The new system will have roughly the same number of cameras, and only the main parts of the old system will be replaced. Through the use of a converter, the new system will initially incorporate existing cameras with just a few new digital cameras being added.

David Raske, business development manager at Portland, Ore.-based integrator VideoSurveillance.com, says digital cameras are not necessarily better than analog cameras.

“It really depends on their resolution,” Raske says. “So it’s not that it’s necessarily digital vs. analog. You can find analog cameras that would be better than some digital cameras.”

However, the trend in the industry is to switch to digital or Internet Protocol (IP), he says. IP network cameras have higher-end options that offer high-definition television or a larger number of megapixels, helping achieve greater resolution than analog.

Digital surveillance is superior because the view is much wider. It encompasses a whole scene, such as the full gate area or an entire luggage-loading tarmac.

“It’s all custom software,” Raske says, “but it lets you see things like loitering, people going in the wrong direction, left objects. The technology is imperfect but improving.”

When an event unfolds, a digital system with all-encompassing coverage aids airport staff in tracking individuals involved in the event or of potential concern throughout the airport. Airport security can easily access the recorded event on the digital system or transfer it to someone else who needs to take a look at it. A digital system also has much longer storage periods than an analog system.

“In certain situations it can be utilized as a forensic tool to look at different things,” says Chris Bidwell, vice president, security and facilitation, for Airports Council International-North America. “It can also be used as a deterrent and as security enhancement to prevent certain things from occurring at an airport. It’s one layer in the overall aviation security system.”

Ramsey says it is difficult to pinpoint how much each new digital camera at Nashville Airport will cost because of cabling requirements. However, because the cameras are going to be Internet-based, the cabling will be regular computer network cabling, which will cost less than the special security camera coaxial cabling that was purchased for the analog system. Ramsey estimates the cost per camera will run about $200. The cost of the current cameras was close to $2,500.

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