When dealing with a substantial, complex security system installation - often covering multiple sites and many hundreds of people - you clearly need a security vendor with the resources and experience to deliver.
Smaller security companies may not have adequate means to support the longevity of these projects. This generally isn't an issue for larger companies, but beware - not all such companies are well placed to deal with large projects.
Securitas Technology has worked with Stansted Airport, part of Manchester Airport Group, since 2004. In 2013, following a successful tender, Securitas Technology started work on upgrading the substantial CCTV system at the airport, which was reaching the end of its life, with the main platform no longer supported by the manufacturer.
The CCTV system was successfully designed, installed, commissioned and is running smoothly. But how did it get to that point?
The first decision was essentially a product one, with an agreement to migrate the CCTV system to a new open IP platform. This leverages the benefits of network technology and allows for integration of a wide range of edge devices and third party systems; ultimately it's highly flexible and allows the CCTV system to develop with the needs of the client.
As with most large security systems that are IP based, there needs to be clear communication, demarcation of responsibility lines and joint decision making between the different client stakeholders; most commonly IT and security.
Detailed planning then took place, before a single piece of equipment was installed. Getting the system design correct up front was vital. Yes, things will change along the journey, but the core of the system design should not.
At Stansted Airport, we undertook a comprehensive review of camera collection points, comms rooms, control rooms and viewing locations, detailing all existing equipment to facilitate platform migration planning. Furthermore, each camera had an up to date benchmark image taken to identify if they met the quality levels required for operational and compliance needs. This information is also extremely useful for ongoing system service and maintenance as staff can refer back to the image generated by a specific camera to see if it has deteriorated or changed in any way.
As the CCTV system had expanded alongside the growth of the airport over the years, the camera numbering system had become confused. As part of the migration process we re-numbered the entire CCTV estate so that the number of a camera reflects its location, making system navigation easier for operators and engineers.
We ensured all stakeholders were engaged in the planning process and determined at an early stage which departments and people within those departments have access to the system and at what level. Working closely with those responsible for the network infrastructure was also essential to calculate storage and bandwidth for each comms room / collection point.
Before pressing the button and going full steam ahead with the installation project, a pre deployment stage is necessary for large projects. Equipment orders need to be placed by the security company and licenses secured, with the former sometimes having a longer than expected lead time. Network engineers may need to add capacity to the network to cope with the increased traffic. Critical aspects of the security system need to be clearly identified to minimise disruption, especially during critical periods. Equipment needs to be pre programmed and tested before being deployed.
In case of Stansted Airport, client workstations had the software applied and were connected to the network for testing. Encoders and IP cameras were pre programmed and the system set up at Stansted in a sandbox environment to thoroughly test it.
All Systems Go
With all the planning done, the equipment and network ready post testing, the migration to the new platform and installation of new equipment where required began in earnest. Regular communication is essential at this stage. In some mission critical parts of the CCTV system this meant hourly communication and cameras being out of action for less than an hour and never at the same time.
For most large high security systems, a phased migration is necessary. At Stansted, for example, new video walls were installed to work alongside the legacy ones. This meant that operators could be trained on the new equipment in the actual working environment but without any disruption to the CCTV system. The legacy video walls were only removed after this stage.
As part of the handover process, training on the security system for all relevant parties is essential, and a mix of classroom and hand on onsite training is best. Furthermore, training needs to be adapted to meet the needs of the specific audience such as control room operators, fire and safety staff, police etc.
Most organisations will manage the system in house post handover, but that's not always the case. Stansted Airport's CCTV platform is fully managed by Securitas Technology in close partnership with the CCTV Asset Owner & Security Compliance team. We work as part of their team and have dedicated staff on site. As part of this service we configure new camera and user partitions and assign privileges (signed off by Stansted under a strict procedure); add and remover users; run activity reports on the user database for Security Compliance review; provide application patches; monitor servers to identify potential issues; review storage capacity; add new cameras and apply firmware upgrades; and deliver ongoing training.
Large, complex security systems, especially those with high security requirements, are not easy to deliver. They require skillful, experienced hands, substantial resources in both financial and staffing terms, and a clear, consistent procedure that everyone is fully aware of. Don't assume that just because you are dealing with a large security vendor they will have all of these in place; think like a security professional and ask to see the evidence!