Yale-New Haven Hospital: Meeting a Unique Security Challenge

It’s a 24-hour, non-stop enterprise with the added challenge of dealing with staff, patients, and visitors in high stress situations on a regular basis.  Because of this hospitals and health care settings continue to be one of the most challenging environments in which security professional’s work.

Not only do security professionals need to maintain a sterile environment when working in a hospital as they upgrade existing systems or install new, but often times they are asked to implement an access control or video system with as little disruption as possible to patients, employees and the overall security of the site.

Working in a health care environment is unlike any other setting. According to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, healthcare facilities are high-stress environments, requiring special security considerations.

Yale-New Haven Hospital - Security Challenge - Tyco Security Products - American DynamicsSo what is a security professional to do when it comes to embarking on a new security project? What are some of the steps systems integrators and security directors need to take to ensure a smooth transition with minimal interruptions to patients, nurses, doctors and also the security project itself?

Take a look at Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale-New Haven Health Systems which recently underwent a large-scale security technology upgrade. It needed to occur with the least amount of disruption yet with the highest level of successful outcome.

Officials for the Connecticut-based, 1,500-bed, Level-I Trauma hospital, world-renowned for outstanding patient care and medical technology, undertook a sweeping overhaul of the hospital’s security technology.  This was done to maintain and enhance security and safety throughout the facility and campus while contributing to the premiere standards of patient care.

A significant part of the multi-tiered plan involved updating access control and credentials for more than 12,000 workers in both the hospital’s and the health care system’s network. More than 1,000 doors and readers were impacted.

So how does this occur without a major disruption in the critical workflow that the hospital undertakes each day? Unlike a 9-to-5 business, there are no opportunities to pause the system overnight or on a weekend so everyone can be outfitted with new cards and to swap out all the readers and associated hardware.

To accomplish this comprehensive and multi-stage migration and expansion, a strategy was deployed to run the new platform — Software House’s C•CURE 9000 security and event management system — on the front end using proximity technology, while still running the legacy access control system on the backend to support the existing card technology.

As new people were added to the credentialing system, they were placed, via the HR database, into both the new and the legacy systems so cardholders could use readers from both systems. This way the deployment could happen over time, without interfering with daily activities.

Also behind the scenes, YNHH upgraded its CCTV system to an IP surveillance network, added its first thermal imaging camera, continued its migration to IP cameras and made improvements in its centralized reporting functions. And yet, to the doctors, nurses, administrators, and most importantly to the patients, there were minimal outward signs that this was all taking place.

The benefits of improved security are myriad, from the ability to follow in real time, throughout the system, critical visuals, alarms and data; to the cost savings that come from streamlining and centralizing operations; to the ability to better meet the regulatory expectations from the various groups that govern hospital operations.

Yale-New Haven Hospital has always been at the forefront of technology, whether it was the first X-ray in 1896 or the development of the first artificial heart pump in 1949. Now, with its migration to a cutting-edge security network, it continues that long tradition and provides security professionals with great example of a successful security project in a health care setting.

To find out more about the full solution deployed at Yale-New Haven Hospital, click here to download the full case study.


Click Here to Download the Full Case Study

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Security Analytics Thwart Retail Theft, But Tell Us So Much More

For one department store, it seemed like business as usual as shoppers perused the racks of merchandise, picking out the latest fashions. But in the security office, the person on duty was alerted to an anomaly — on a merchandising display, an entire section of high-priced jeans had been removed quickly. Was this an overzealous shopper looking to try on multiple pairs, or someone from an organized retail theft ring sweeping up inventory?

In this specific scenario, an officer was made aware of this potential incident through the deployment of video analytics as part of the company’s overall surveillance plan and was able to respond quickly. The retailer had established a set of rules within the system’s software so an alert would be issued if more than half the inventory on that rack was removed in less than one minute —  a common scenario known as “shelf sweep” when shoplifters are at work.

The same analytics that are deployed for high-risk security settings, such as airports and government buildings, are equally at home in a retail setting. Security Analytics Retail: Tyco Security ProductsLike the shelf-sweep rule, similar guidelines can be created so a security officer can be alerted when someone enters a storeroom after hours or when an object, like a package, is left in one place for too long.

But what is equally exciting is that, because of the nature of analytics and its information-gathering abilities, its applications can go well beyond the security realm and become a boon to other store personnel.

Retailers who have included analytics in their security systems to both detect incidents as they happen and aid in forensic investigations of thefts, slip and falls and other activities, are expanding the reach of this investment and applying it to merchandising, marketing and operations.

After all, these cameras are operating 24/7 so why not take this database of information and look at it in the aggregate?

Let’s go back to that department store and see how analytics can help sell some handbags. Data supplied by the point-of-sale system will tell the store operator how many designer purses have sold, but not how many potential sales of those handbags there were on a given day.

By using the video system, the store can track how many people came through the doors (the total pool of potential buyers), and then break it down even further, using rules within the analytics to narrow down how many people walked down the aisle where the handbags were merchandised and then how many of those shoppers lingered for more than five minutes at the display. This information, teamed with the POS data, can now give that store’s manager a conversion rate on the sale of her designer handbags.

Armed with the knowledge of how many bags were sold vs. how many people stopped to look at them, it may mean that the purses are in a great spot or, if the conversion rate is poor, this is an indicator that the bags need to be displayed elsewhere or the signage improved or the price reduced. Analytics won’t read the minds of the shoppers, but the data can provide a good snapshot of what occurred within the store. Using analytics to determine traffic numbers and patterns can aid in where to locate merchandise and even help set the number of checkouts needed on a given day.

From a security standpoint, analytics in video surveillance is a necessary part of doing business, but by expanding the potential of its use, the entire retail operation can benefit — deploying the same equipment, but just tweaking the data to fit each users’ needs.  It can be win-win for both security and operations, and who doesn’t like that?

For more on the role of video analytics as part of a retail security solution, download our recent white paper on Video Analytics in Retail.

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From Big Data Come Big Results

At one time or another, we’ve all experienced information overload as we’ve tried to sort through all the data saved on our computers, stacked on our desks and stored in our smartphones.

That same issue faces loss prevention specialists in the retail industry on a daily basis as they try to make sense of both historical and real-time events and activities captured in Point of Sale (PoS), store management, video, intrusion and access control systems.

Big Data Security - Tyco Security Products

This compilation is often referred to, appropriately enough, as Big Data: a heaping pile of bits and bytes that needs to be converted into useful information.

So how do you make sense of Big Data and put it to work for you? Think of it as you would the New York City phone book. If you were looking for someone named John, without having any other parameters with which to find him, you could spend  days or even weeks going through all the men named John in the book, checking out each one. But if you know that John’s last name is Smith, you’ve applied a rule that narrowed down the list considerably. It’s still likely to be long, so you look for an opportunity to narrow it even further, and look for all the John Smiths on Lexington Avenue. Now you’ve set the threshold for a workable list.

The same concept of sorting takes place when you apply analytics rules to Big Data. Each rule you add can narrow the data pool until you get to a level where the information is usable and actionable. For example, if you start with the number of  people who walk into a store each day, that number may be so large that it does not provide any actionable intelligence. But by applying rules — how many of the total number of people in the store actually made a purchase — you can get to a measurable result. So, if 700 people entered a store on a Sunday, but only ten made a purchase, and only between noon and 1 p.m., you have a result you can address.

Big Data can also be culled to address security issues such as employee theft. You know from applying rules to all your data that you have 100 returns to your store each day. And by analyzing the data even further, you find out that of all the registers in your store, 20 returns are from a particular unit. That raises a red flag. By adding more rules using your video surveillance data, you look at all registers to see when there are returns with no customer present.  Now, with this narrowed list, you can identify your likely source of employee theft. Advanced tools provide you with the ability to execute a search from two isolated databases and narrow the results based on the match of the combined data.  

By identifying and deploying specific applications to Big Data, you can achieve the goals you want for your business, whether it’s related to improving security, spotting business trends or gathering some other form of usable information.

The key with Big Data is to keep applying rules until you end up with usable, measurable, actionable information. From there, the sky is the limit as to what you’re able to find among all the bits and bytes you’ve stored up over time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the power of data mining and the usability of Big Data, please click here to view our recorded webinar, “Big Data: How to Combat Crime, Spot Business Trends and Determine Real-Time Traffic.”

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Small Form Factor Cameras and Their Place in Security

As technology evolves, electronic devices are becoming smaller and smaller. From computers to cars, and everything in between, smaller form factors rule the day, and certainly, are paving the way of the future. We can see that mainframe computers have now been replaced by laptops, tablets, PDAs and smart phones.

As a result of advanced technology, data storage has also gotten smaller. This holds true for video surveillance applications as well. As chipsets and circuit boards have shrunk in size and grown in processing power, so too have video surveillance products. Where video cassettes were once used, now small storage disks hold terabytes of video data that reside in video recorders and cameras. In some instances, the video is simply stored in the cloud.

This trend does not stop at the camera level. How users manage video is also changing, thanks to the shrinking size of the technological components. Desktop computers that are used for viewing live and recorded video can be the size of a box of cereal, or a tablet computer can be used to monitor video on the go.

Over the last decade, the video surveillance market has grown by as much as 45% according to some reports. The increasing number of cameras worldwide is due, in part, to the demand for more and better security and, as a result, people have become more accustomed to seeing video cameras all around them.  

small form factor camerasNow that video cameras are so prevalent in our lives, aesthetics is playing a more important role. Businesses and organizations want to have small, discreet cameras that feature the same power and functionality as larger mini-dome, box and bullet cameras. Today, customers needing a camera that will blend in with the existing environment can choose from a variety of compact form factors, such as bullet cameras that are as small as a tube of lipstick. Now that is discreet! Even more sophisticated PTZ cameras are no longer the size of basketballs, but more the size of a half-gallon of milk, with some as tiny as a fast food restaurant hamburger. 

While the concept of 24-hour monitoring is far more accepted in today’s society, people don’t necessarily want to be blatantly reminded that they are being captured on camera while waiting on the street corner, the ATM, the grocery store or relaxing in the park. Likewise, retail and banking businesses must have surveillance installed but want to minimize the feeling of “being watched” for their customers. When it comes to video surveillance cameras, smaller really is the bigger trend!


Do you use small form factor cameras for your security? Please leave me a comment below about your experience.


The Value of Digital Video Recording Products in the Market Today

Many times, we take our security for granted, breaches in security occur every day, 24/7, spanning everywhere around the world. The majority of recorded surveillance video is rarely viewed until an event occurs. Video recorders are generally a second thought, as they record captured images that provide forensic analysis. It is only when an event, incident, or catastrophe occurs that the power and value of video recording equipment is displayed.

Video surveillance market research firms are predicting a spike in the demand for video surveillance equipment over the next several years as swift apprehension of suspects is attributed to video images capturing suspicious behaviors.

digital video recording dvrAnd even as the security industry is undergoing a transition in technology from analog to IP, digital video recording (DVR) systems continue to see a future for two very simple reasons: Familiarity and Reliability. DVRs have been the prevalent recording platform in the industry for more than a decade. There is a very large base of DVR customers, with end users and integrators alike, well trained on these systems. While the majority of Greenfield applications are installing NVRs, DVRs continue to see growth in several market segments such as education, banking, and hospitality. In some circumstances, end users who want or need to add cameras or replace a failed DVR will continue to invest in the platforms they know and trust, especially if there is no need to move to an IP environment.

DVR systems offer great reliability with some of the same strong features seen in the newer NVRs, including mobile apps that can be used with both new and older versions of DVRs. Having the ability to view video anytime from anywhere is a driving factor for users today.

Ease of installation and universal plug-and-play interoperability with any analog camera is another reason that DVRs continue to maintain their popularity. There are several thousand DVR systems that are in use in almost every market segment. DVRs can interoperate with any vendor’s analog cameras, making the installation and equipment choice relatively straightforward for many users. The experience that the installation force has developed with the DVR platform continues to be a major factor in their continued use.

Over time we will undoubtedly see a transition from DVRs to NVRs. As in many other industries, technological advancements will be a driving factor. But for now, we continue to see applications where DVRs are still the platform of choice for many. How long DVRs will remain viable in the security industry is anybody’s guess. But as long as they continue to provide value to their users, they will continue to have a place in the industry.


Do you have a DVR system installed in your organization or company? Please leave me a comment below to discuss its pros and cons over an NVR system. 

Importance of Video Intelligence + Metadata in a Fast Paced World

It seems that the perceived value of video surveillance ebbs and flows based on the events that occur in our everyday lives. Over the past few years, the use of video surveillance has been thrust into the spotlight, bringing praise from law enforcement officials about its effectiveness and raising expectations about the depth of information video can provide.

Beyond the preventive measures the mere presence a surveillance camera can bring, the ability to retrieve information from recorded video quickly is considered one of the most valuable tools in an investigation. And in our society, which expects instant access to information, video surveillance is no exception.

video intelligence metadataImagine former methods of searching for video applied to recent events, where thousands and thousands of frames of video were taken. To find a specific piece of footage searching frame-by-frame-by-frame…well, you can imagine the number of hours that could take. Today’s video intelligence software “watches” every frame of video produced by the camera and records data about each frame of video it’s watching; this is called metadata and it is based on analytics rules predefined by a system administrator. Time, date, motion/linger, direction, etc. are just a few examples of the data that can be stored about each frame.

Consider the following example: A car was allegedly damaged in a parking lot, and now the security supervisor must investigate the incident. The only information known is that the car arrived at 8:00 am and left the lot at 8:00 pm, meaning that 12 hours of recorded video needs to be reviewed. Without the tools offered by modern video systems, such as motion based or video analytics based searches that identify relevant scenes within a few minutes, the hunt for relevant video clips could take hours.

Both motion based or video analytics based searches use this metadata, which guarantees that searches can be performed within seconds. You can compare meta-data in video to a simple Google search, where the system is already creating results as you are typing your keywords into the Google search bar. Because Google uses meta-data about the Internet, search results can be presented in a fraction of a second.

Like Google, this metadata creates a wealth of intelligence that security operators can quickly and easily search and retrieve, obtaining the critical results desired. Combining the speed of state-of-the-art Network Video Recorders (NVRs) and ultra-intuitive user interfaces, this powerful meta-data provides faster, more reliable search results to system operators, and in turn to law enforcement or corporate security looking for answers in the wake of a security event.

Watch this short video covering some of the video analytic features of the victor Management Software for Unified Security and VideoEdge NVR that are critical to event management and especially investigations.


Have you seen examples of fast video results making a difference in everyday life? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


The New Power Paradigm | Power over Ethernet

Providing power to an access control system has always meant multiple, specialized DC power supplies for controllers and locks, each with their own battery backup requirements. As access control moves towards the edge with small, smart IP controllers at each door, a new option is gaining traction – PoE, or Power over Ethernet.

Power over EthernetBecause PoE provides power and data through a single cable, it is especially suited for new construction, where CAT-5 network cabling can be easily run to each door. While often associated with Voice over IP phones, IP surveillance cameras and wireless access points, PoE is becoming a more commonly accepted method for powering access controllers, readers, and yes, even locks.

As the trend toward intelligent network devices at the edge grows, this lends itself to a higher reliance on PoE. Thus, knowing that this is the way the industry is moving means it’s important to have a good understanding of PoE and how it will work for access control.

Clearly, there are benefits to PoE, not the least of which is that it can save money for most installations by taking advantage of the economical CAT-5 cable. Instead of paying to have power run to each door, integrators can make use of the existing PoE infrastructure, especially in new buildings. Additionally, there can be some savings as installations get away from relying on numerous battery setups, especially for locking systems, and move instead to PoE.

As with any installation, planning is going to be critical. Standard PoE provides 15 watts on each port, so knowing how much power each device uses will dictate your needs. A single door controller, for instance, will work well in a PoE setting, while a controller that provides both card-in and card-out functions, or one that uses biometric readers, is going to require more power.

PoE Plus ups the power ante to 30 watts per port, but some devices may not be rated for PoE Plus so, again, it’s important to have that data in hand when planning the installation.

The next generation of PoE — in the form of PoE Ultrawill be at least 50 to 60 watts, up to possibly 90 watts, thus being able to support more locks and even more powerful readers, ensuring PoE will be a viable option well into the future.

Devising a more efficient installation, while also staying competitive on costs, is driving many integrators and their customers to explore PoE.

Want to learn about the benefits of implementing PoE with Access Control?

Learn the basics of PoE, PoE standards, benefits of PoE, PoE within access control and avoiding the pitfalls, and the future of PoE by watching a recording of my PoE opens new doors webinar.

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Here are just a few testimonials we received after the live webinar concluded:

  • Thanks for a really informative webinar. The information on the Midspan power was really helpful. As a matter of fact, I used that knowledge today to figure the needs for a 16 camera installation we just received.” – Paul Abbott, RCDD | Simplexgrinnell
  • I found the webinar was extremely well presented and very informative. Please pass on my thanks to Rick who was my tutor when I got my C•CURE 800/8000 certification.
    – Barry Dawson | Tech Systems, Inc


How are you using PoE at your business? Please leave me a comment below.


Live Video Monitoring or Recording?

Live Video MonitoringAs IP video continues to gain traction in security, the capabilities of the technology are challenging some established guidelines of when to record video and when to monitor live video. Along with the technology, these standards have evolved to encompass a host of different scenarios, satisfying the diverse needs of end users in a variety of applications – from casinos and hospitals to parking garages and sports stadiums, and more.

There is little argument that the decision to monitor live video vs. record for forensic purposes should be based on the value of the assets being protected. In casinos, for example, the high cash value of potential losses makes it an easy pick for live monitoring, whereas your average commercial office building generally relies on recorded video.

Depending on the specific needs of the application, another important factor to consider is the deployment of video analytics, which can add more sophisticated levels of efficiencies and automation.

As such, many employ video recorded on motion, which reduces bandwidth consumption and the high storage costs associated with storing hundreds of hours of continuous recording each week. In some scenarios, however, this could negatively affect your security operations.

Take this example of a large urban hospital. With about 1,600 cameras all set to record on motion, the video management system was logging in excess of one million events per day. The sheer number of alarms overwhelmed security staff, and became a waste of time to attempt to clear them all, rendering the information useless.

While it’s true that a scene with little activity will produce a very small amount of data, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration. Take the difference between a camera view of an empty asphalt parking lot vs. that same parking lot shaded with many surrounding trees. The empty scene, where changes from frame to frame would be minimal, would typically produce a camera stream of as little as 0.5Mbps. In contrast, moving objects, such as leaves blowing in the wind as in the tree-filled scene, as well as low-light or shadowy conditions even during daylight hours, can have significant ramifications on the use of motion detection, increasing the amount of data streamed to up to 10Mbps.

Lighting is a key consideration when employing video motion detection to save on storage costs. Modern mini-dome cameras, with their own onboard IR illuminators, are typically able to counteract low-light conditions. The additional cost for the IR functionality will be more than compensated by the savings in storage and potential equipment wear and tear that can be a consequence of inadequate lighting.

As in the hospital example, trying to manage and record such a significant flow of information, particularly from high-resolution cameras, can have serious ramifications on equipment health. Triggered by factors such as poor lighting or improperly configured equipment, these large and sporadic rushes of data sent to a recording device, known as thrashing, cause it to repeatedly start and stop writing, which can significantly shorten the hard drive’s life span. Over time, this weakens the recorder’s ability to function properly.

For the hospital, an analysis of the facility’s alarm activity showed the best solution would be a hybrid approach – using motion-based recording on a scheduled basis only during certain times of the day and only on certain cameras.

In areas where analytics are deployed, the same hybrid approach can also apply very successfully. A large sports stadium that sees more than 50,000 people enter its gates within a 12-18 hour window on game day can also be easily overwhelmed with event alarms from the video management system. Simply by identifying on which cameras it was necessary to continuously record as well as monitor and during what time periods, situations of excessive alarm events can be avoided and managed successfully.

Striking that balance between continuous and motion-based recording takes a little more setup on the front end but can save in the long run on hardware wear and tear – and, ultimately, lower your cost of ownership.


How are you utilizing your security equipment to lower your cost of ownership? Please leave me a comment below.


PTZ in a Megapixel World

PTZ CameraIt was heard in many security related market discussions over the past 3-4 years that the era of the PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom camera) was over.  Megapixel technology would allow the digital zoom and detail in video that would make the mechanical PTZ obsolete. After all, fixed megapixel cameras are a fraction of the cost of mechanical PTZ, often with greater resolution.  And with enough of them covering the viewing scene, these fixed cameras would resolve the main issue with mechanical PTZ, which is when it looks in one direction, it misses the action elsewhere.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the mechanical stalwart of the analog era, along comes the emergence of high-megapixel fisheye cameras that can dewarp the curved view and digitally PTZ around a 360 degree view. Now, with one camera, a security professional can see the entire field of view in real time and in the recorded video.  Wow, how could a higher cost device that can’t look in all directions at once compete with that?

However, as IP camera manufacturers improve their megapixel fixed camera offering, and as they push dewarped fisheye technology to 5 megapixels, so too do they release HD PTZ cameras with longer mechanical zoom and faster rotational speeds. Is it that old habits die hard, or is there a market for these cameras that can’t be served by the fixed newcomer technology?

The answer lies in the evolution of resolution from analog to IP and the actual customer needs.  Mechanical PTZ cameras rose in popularity at a time when analog resolution was too low to meet much of the need. With mechanical zoom, that resolution shortfall was overcome. And that is what many people think of when they imagine megapixel fixed technology overtaking the mechanical. However, there are several uses that the fixed technology has yet to address, and are driving not only the continued use and investment in PTZ, but innovation as well.

For security professionals that engage in active surveillance and need to see the detail of activity at distances greater than roughly 30 feet, the mechanical PTZ still is the weapon of choice. While the recent economic downturn has reduced the investment in active surveillance, it is still a core activity in the gaming and higher end retail verticals. The dewarped 3 and 5 megapixel fisheye cameras can zoom in for evidentiary detail of theft to about 30 feet from a camera (depending on the height). But a 1080p PTZ with 20x mechanical zoom can achieve this at 350 ft.

If one stands in a control room of a casino or retail Loss Prevention station, and watches the officers track, zoom, and move with targets as they investigate in real time, it is evident that while many of the prior uses for PTZ have been consumed by less expensive technology, PTZ is the only tool that can meet the needs of these video power users.


Has technology changed your view on PTZ Camera necessity? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


LCD Monitors bring Change: Technology does not stand still

crt monitors lcd monitorsAs we complete the transition from CRT monitors to LCD monitors, we find that, in some cases, there is not an apples to apples comparison between specifications. The technology incorporated between these two architecture platforms is different and some of the specifications between the two platforms are no longer applicable.

To display an image, a CRT monitor redraws the entire screen with a new frame. This is known as the refresh rate specification of a CRT monitor. The higher the refresh rate (in terms of cycles/second or Hz), the more frequent the refresh rate resulting in a higher quality picture. Typical quoted CRT monitor refresh rates are 60 – 120 Hz.

LCD monitors do not display the picture using this technology. They simply change the color of the pixel on the screen as required. This spec is known as the response time of an LCD monitor. A lower response time implies that the pixels can change color state much faster, resulting in a higher quality picture. An LCD monitor does not publish a refresh rate specification, only a response time specification. Typical specified response times for LCD monitors purchased today are 5 ms, whereas they were more than double this when LCD monitors were first introduced.

So which technology is better? One can make arguments for both technologies but, in general, the marketplace has already chosen and LCD monitors are the only monitors that are currently available. Some of the major reasons LCD monitors have displaced CRT monitors are:

  • Use less space
  • More energy efficient
  • Less eye strain due to reduced flicker
  • Higher resolution monitors available
  • More environmentally friendly – “green”

The one application where CRTs may have had an advantage over LCDs is in PC gaming applications. Because of the high speed required with PC games, CRTs may have had an initial advantage in these applications because the response time of the initial LCD monitors was not quick enough. As the LCD technology has progressed to achieve response times of 5 ms or less this disadvantage has all but been eliminated.

You can bet that there will be future enhancements to the LCD monitor technology going forward (increased resolutions, LED backlighting) which will make some of the topics discussed here obsolete. As the title states “Technology does not stand still.”

What changes to monitor technology do you see impacting the security industry? Please leave a comment below.