Teleste and Sentry360 have been working closely together to deliver the largest 360-degree railcar onboard camera deployment in the history of mass transit for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). This installation has been a long time in the making, with Sentry360 cameras first being implemented in 2010 as part of a pilot scheme by CTA. Following a recent webinar examining the monumental project, SecurityNewsDesk has been speaking to Thomas Carnevale, Sentry360 CEO, and Mike O’Dea, Director of Sales, Teleste, to get an inside view.
The CTA operates the USA’s second largest public transportation system, servicing the city of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs. The revamp of the surveillance system involved almost 4,000 cameras covering 900 rail cars, each one equipped with a Teleste network video recorder (NVR), to facilitate live and recorded footage which could be streamed wirelessly or via 3G links to one central control room. It’s no wonder Teleste and Sentry360 are proud of their joint achievement and wanted to shout about it.
“We think this installation is a rare story in the mobile security industry,” Carnevale said. “That’s why we hosted the webinar, to share our unique achievement. Mobile security is still finding it’s way in the transition from analogue to IP, so this installation is a rare story of an end-user who was frustrated with their analogue solution so decided to dive into a solution for the next generation. We have been very proud of this deployment with the CTA and the ways in which our cameras are combating crime in Chicago and we were thrilled to finally be able to share that.”
The response to the webinar has been overwhelming for both Carnevale and O’Dea. Not only were subscriptions to the live webinar in their hundreds but, within a few weeks after it was published, the recording on YouTube has been watched by some hundreds , not to mention the on-going flood of follow up enquiries. Clearly the industry is keeping a close eye on how this unique project is unfolding.
The CTA had very clear objectives when it set out addressing its surveillance system, and key among these was the need for cameras that could withstand the extreme environmental challenges Chicago faces. For instance, during extreme cold weather, like the article vortex at the start of this year, when trains are not in use electrical components can freeze. Carnevale explained that it was during the pilot process that Sentry360 proved the superiority of its cameras in this regard.
“In 2010, Sentry360 cameras were implemented under a CTA pilot program, funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, to retrofit the existing rail car fleet with an on-board video surveillance system,” he said. “As the cameras would be exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme heat/cold, humidity, and vibration, as well as unregulated electrical power sourced from the 600VDC third rail, the pilot program focused on the effect of these dynamics relative to the video technology.”
Another key objective that had to be met was the fact that any new cameras installed would have to function with the existing Teleste video management system (VMS) that was already in place.
Teleste has worked with the CTA for almost eight years now, according to O’Dea, providing both mobile and wayside video solutions. When Sentry360 were able to provide improved camera services at a fraction of the cost for the CTA the partnership turned out to be a match made in heaven.
“The biggest advantage of working with Sentry360 has been the speed and agility with which the team meets the needs of their clients and partners,” said O’Dea. “Not only are the products a higher standard than other providers, the company’s customer centric approach is truly unique. Sentry360 has the same flexible approach as Teleste, developing the best solution to fit the needs of the customer is a priority for both of us. The Sentry360 team cares deeply about getting it right.”
Carnevale added, “We are very proud of the technology partner we have in Teleste. Teleste was able to integrate Sentry360’s intellectual property, through a software development kit, into the CTA’s existing video management system. We pride ourselves on being a company that cares about providing the best solution, and pointing customers in the right direction for services we may not have. We love working with Teleste because we believe they share that same philosophy.”
Teleste operates in 27 different countries, and developing the best solutions for mobile network video recorders (NVRs) has become a key area of focus for the global security giant. The CTA utilises a Teleste mobile NVR, secured by an anti-vibration mounting kit, in every rail car and bus. The Teleste system allows all footage recorded by Sentry360’s cameras to be fed into one central location, the Teleste S-VMX. This footage can then through Teleste’s S-VMX be stored, analysed, searched through and even accessed by third party organisations.
The way Teleste and Sentry360 have come together on this installation has not only set a precedent for the mobile security industry, it has enabled the CTA to get full benefit of a system that is 100% scalable. And the project is far from over.
“Teleste provides a full-time onsite maintenance support service to the CTA,” said O’Dea, “this means we are always on hand to support the existing service. In addition, we can ensure the expansion onto rail stations and bus platforms currently taking place, as well as the addition of new rail cars that takes place on a rolling basis, occurs smoothly. Going forward we’re also investigating ways the system can be utilised to increase operational efficiency and rider experience.”
Carnevale explained further, saying, “The next step is to migrate the current solution to station platforms and buses, which is already underway, and there are future plans to deploy our cameras with Teleste’s VMS solution at intersections – so the scope is huge! We’ve really managed to provide a blueprint for mass transit providers everywhere to follow, and there are many keeping a close eye on how this is developing.”
He went on to explain that the Chicago Police Department’s Public Transporation Unit has released the numbers for the first half of 2014 and the CTA has seen an overall drop in crime of 34% compared to 2013. The number of arrests that have been video assisted far outweigh past arrests made from suspects that used the public transportation system of the city.
“These facts and figures show how our cameras are helping to lower the crime rate in the city of Chicago and making it a safer place for these commuters,” said Carnevale, “proving why expanding the system even further is the right choice for the city.”
Herb Nitz, CTA Director of Technology Engineering, commented on the success of this partnership, saying, “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 realised 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.”
The success of this installation with CTA is one of the main drivers of a spike in Sentry360’s status in the industry, shining the spot light on a small Chicago company that began life in a basement. Sentry360’s 14 megapixel camera, which a great product for capturing forensic information, license plates and facial recognition in numerous deployments, was named New Product of the Year last year for network cameras. And in January of this year, the company released its first ever non-camera product, an open platform, server, network switch and storage in one device, sentryEdge™, which won best new product at ISC West for Network Support Solutions.
Although Carnevale is of course proud of this success he is by no means surprised. The CEO is very confident in his products – rightly so if the CTA project is any measure – and he told SecurityNewsDesk that this growth and achievement is simply part of the plan.
“We are doing things differently to everyone else in the industry,” he said. “While the rest of the industry is going through a time of consolidation we still believe very much that end-users should use the best product for their needs, and the best way to service customers is to specialise in what we do best and be open and ready to integrate with whatever the client requires. This has always been our goal, and we’ve worked very hard to position ourselves exactly where we planned to be. We’ve had a big year of growth, in products and staff, and we have a lot of exciting things lined up for 2015. We’re just getting started!”
Teleste operates on much the same principle, believing that integration and a customer-focused approach is the best course of action. Although the company has been a market leader for much longer than Sentry360, O’Dea is keen to point out that it also has ambitious plans.
“Teleste is aggressively pursuing global expansion at the moment in response to increasing demand for advanced mobile security solutions,” he said. “The way people are using their security solutions is also evolving, and more is expected in terms of operational efficiencies. Teleste is in the ideal position to provide this. We’re expanding our North American staff to meet demand, and we recently launched our XXMS7 data solution which is a fully GIS based system and ONVIF compliant. Our integration and end-to-end video solutions are only going to grow.”
You can watch the full webinar about the CTA installation below:
For more information about Sentry360 or Teleste, visit their respective websites below: