IP cameras are the doctors’ eyes at the University of Missouri, says CHRIS SANDERS, IT operations manager.
Aug 14 2008

Keeping an Eye Out

Web-enabled cameras emerge as efficient, functional tools for campus surveillance -- and prove useful in the classroom, too.

Mock surgery probably isn’t the first thing you’d expect IP security cameras to be used for in an education environment.

The University of Missouri (MU), however, has deployed Internet Protocol surveillance cameras in the medical school’s Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Clinical Simulation Center to let doctors view medical students’ “practice” work electronically.

Their installation is far from typical for security cameras, which are usually watchdogs at building entrances or other sensitive areas on campuses.

“I used to think of security cameras as low-end cameras. You see a blurry image. In the mock operating room, we need to be able to see the detail” that low-end cameras can’t provide, says Chris Sanders, IT operations manager at the Columbia, Mo., university’s School of Medicine, which is in the midst of deploying Axis Communications IP cameras. “But through the Axis cameras, we found that these images were good enough for doctors to use as an instructional tool. The doctors may be called into actual surgery. The web file allows them to view their students’ work later on the Internet,” Sanders says.

A growing number of schools are deploying IP cameras. The devices use the Internet to simultaneously route video surveillance of campus locations such as parking lots, dorms, classrooms, science labs and computer rooms to multiple sources, such as administrative and security offices.

While improved performance from a streamlined security network is one benefit of deploying an IP camera network, the Missouri application also illustrates how the devices and their networking capabilities can aid in instruction. The cameras’ applications are widening from straightforward security surveillance to more demanding jobs bolstered by their networking capa­bilities coupled with increasingly superior imaging abilities.

Cameras may sell for as little as $200 to as much as $1,500 each from camera manufacturers such as Sony and Canon to technology vendors such as IQinVision, 4XEM and Axis. The cameras have a range of features that may include higher-resolution capture, zoom capabilities, memory extensions, wireless access and other networking and storage features.

Medical Training Benefits

The cameras at MU’s medical school record students’ work and then transmit the images to a web file. Experienced medical doctors can view digital images of the students’ work in mock operating and emergency rooms at their convenience, then offer corrections and other instructions.

There’s also a cost benefit for the project, slated for completion this fall. Sanders says the cost of an analog camera (about $800), combined with the cost to convert analog camera images to digital (around $500 per camera) is less cost-effective than the IP cameras, which typically cost the school about $600 to $700 each.

“And the IP cameras encode the images right there, and you can view it with a two- or three-second delay, but with a substantial labor and cost reduction, and less equipment that can fail,” says Sanders, who adds that campus security is also currently converting analog cameras to digital.

He also says the deployment won’t stress the university’s network because the IP cameras let the school capture either 400 kilobytes, which offers relatively high-quality images with a low impact on the school’s network bandwidth, or 800 kilobytes, which offers even crisper images at a slightly higher bandwidth.

“We record multiple hours per day with the capability of more than 40 cameras in our data center,” Sanders says. “Bandwidth consumption and storage space certainly are a concern but reliability during high-stakes simulations is also vitally important.”

Networked Security

IP cameras, of course, have more conventional security applications because their improved networked functionality makes them versatile tools for protecting property and resources on campuses.

Loyola University Chicago deployed IQinVision cameras in and outside buildings on its Lake Shore campus, providing surveillance of parking lots, entrances and other sensitive locations. The video feeds are routed first to a central server and then over the school’s security network to viewing stations. The school can also send video to monitoring stations at the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses.

Loyola has deployed about 100 IQeye 501s, 510s and 703s. “It’s a megapixel camera that gives you a better picture as far as clarity goes,” says Frank Dale, manager of physical security for the university.

IP Flexibility

The city of Coral Gables requires permits before each security camera deployment at the University of Miami.

“With IP-based cameras, you can split the feed and send it to a couple of different places, or you can have the information routed to another recorder, so you have flexibility,” says Ken Ihrer, Temple University’s chief information security officer, based in Philadelphia. “With an analog camera, you are going to send that camera feed to a recording device, and that’s where you are going to keep that information.” Temple is upgrading its security network of 600 analog cameras to IP cameras, with 120 installed so far.

There are a lot of departments that need to see security video feeds for a variety of different purposes, so Ihrer says splitting the video feed comes in handy. “If we’re monitoring computer rooms, for example, and more than one person needs to see the feed, it’s much easier to do it this way,” says Ihrer.

Multiple Campuses in Detail

Operational efficiencies can also be derived over a large campus network that covers several cities across a state.

The University of Minnesota has installed more than 1,400 security cameras on its campuses statewide, from Minneapolis and St. Paul to Duluth, Rochester, Crookston and Morris. Bob Janoski, director of the university’s Department of Central Security, says IP cameras, which rely more on web infrastructure and less on physical equipment, have been installed at remote locations where a more robust deployment of physical hardware would be too costly.

“We’ve had a great deal of success in Duluth, for example, where the proximity to Lake Superior and the rapidly changing weather presents lots of challenges for maintenance,” Janoski says.

At the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., the quality of the pictures delivered by IP cameras is an enormous benefit, says Stewart Seruya, assistant vice president for IT security. The university has an ongoing deployment of IP cameras, with close to 500 installed over the past two years.

Seruya says the images are up to 5 megapixels, which allows for a high level of detail, and are taken about eight times per second. He adds that the web also enables images to be “pushed out” to police from monitors at dispatch either to officers’ cell phones or to monitors in squad cars.

The increasingly sharp imaging and networking capabilities IP cameras provide make them suitable not only for traditional security applications, but also for any application where another sharp-eyed observer is needed.

Crime Solvers

Grambling State’s WINFRED JONES says IP cameras have provided a clearer view of crimes.


At some schools, the camera’s ability as a crime-fighting tool is already reaping tangible benefits.

“It’s one thing to view the video archives to solve a crime. It’s another thing to be able to see someone attempt to kick in a door, roll away a vending machine or remove electronic equipment,” says Winfred Jones, associate vice president for information technology at Grambling State University, in Grambling, La. The university has installed more than 220 IP surveillance cameras over the past year, and plans to deploy about 100 more in the coming year or so. The university also plans to make IP feeds accessible to patrol cars. So far, the new cameras have helped solve several crimes reported to police — mostly assaults, thefts and vandalism. Campus police have also been able to stop crimes in progress. “The reliability of the video is stellar,” says Jones, who compares the quality produced by the IP cameras with that of a digital camera — a vast improvement over the older, primarily black-and-white security camera images. “We want to make sure that students and staff know that we’re deploying the same kind of security that is used at casinos and the Pentagon.”