CCTV’s role is changing, so will your city network
Just as video is driving bandwidth growth on the internet, it is quickly becoming a key driver for smart city networks as well. But instead of carrying Netflix and HBO, these city networks are backhauling CCTV traffic. This might seem a bit odd, since CCTV systems first took off in the 1970s; it doesn’t seem like the kind of cutting-edge technology that would be a key driver for building out smart city in the 2020s.
CCTV meets AI
CCTV is going through a digital transformation as video analytics using artificial intelligence and machine learning transform even the older CCTV cameras into sophisticated multi-purpose sensors. These new smart video systems reduce the laborious work of watching multiple CCTV camera feeds by intelligently detecting anomalous events, such as intruders, and alerting personnel in the control center automatically. They can also be loaded with many smart algorithms to do other specific tasks, like reading license plates.
These new capabilities, mixed with a heightened concern around the safety of citizens and security of city infrastructure, such as schools, transit stops and utility substations, is leading to an expansion of municipal CCTV networks. Even smaller cities and towns are embracing CCTV, often actively collaborating with neighboring municipalities to share the costs of these sophisticated systems.
Public safety agencies are one of the stakeholders pushing for the greater adoption of CCTV. Having extended coverage of municipal areas gives first responders much better situational awareness in the case of an emergency event. Wider coverage of surrounding areas such as neighboring towns and villages also provides more information to tackle crimes. And the video analytics capability means that they are often alerted to issues much faster than before.
A network for tomorrow
So, what does this mean for the city network? Backhauling video traffic is a bandwidth-intensive task, and the expanded use of CCTV often requires municipalities to rethink their networks. To begin with, it usually calls for the expansion of the original CCTV coverage with more camera locations and higher resolution. The numbers of cameras at locations also increases to give fuller coverage — since video analytics monitor in real time, increasing cameras doesn’t mean increasing personnel.
This increases the demands on the backhaul task. More cameras on the street means more devices to connect, and to power up since cameras are typically powered via the Ethernet cable for installation and maintenance simplicity. More cameras also mean more streams and higher network bandwidth. The video streams need to be delivered to video analytics gateways, in addition to the video management system.
All these new factors add up to a different approach to the city network. Our blueprint for a city CCTV network starts at the access level, where cameras plug into power over Ethernet (PoE) access points. These feed into a fiber optic access ring, usually in the 10 Gbps range because of the amount of video. The ring then connects through IP/MPLS edge routers to redundant data centers and both operations and command and control centers with the whole system being managed centrally by network services management software.
Figure 1. A blueprint for a generic CCTV network
To reach areas that aren’t wired into the city network, 4G/LTE and 5G wireless can be used, either connecting to a public operator or creating a private wireless network for the municipality. Wireless access allows the city to connect with first responders wherever they are, connect to autonomous vehicles and environmental sensors, as well as operating drones for a variety of uses, including locating missing people and warning people on the ground in case of imminent disasters such as wildfires and tsunamis.
The smart city platform
Although driven by the revolutionary change of CCTV applications, rethinking the city network is an opportunity to establish a network platform for many kinds of smart city applications. We recently worked with Seine et Yvelines Numérique in France to upgrade their school network, connecting 114 middle schools across the region.
Their COO, Laurent Rochette, captured very well the benefits that the community will realize from the new network: “There will probably be numerous applications that will use this new network and most of them are linked to the concept of a smart city. For instance, we think about traffic and mobility management, smart energy or public lighting services”. He added “putting in place this infrastructure now will future proof the network, enabling the Yvelines Department to add services that they do not even know about today.”
Today, Yvelines is using the network for e-learning, internet access and networking with the school community of teachers and parents — and it provides the best possible protection with a much-expanded CCTV security network. The other opportunity, and this was certainly the case in Yvelines, is to consolidate multiple legacy networks onto a single multiservice network, reducing maintenance, upgrades and administration for their IT staff.
We work with many communities from large dense urban centers to widely dispersed collections of smaller communities such as Yvelines. In our experience, there is a hunger to move forward and begin to realize the many benefits of being a “smart city”. Almost all these applications require a modern communications network to support them. Yet, it is difficult to make the case for this level of investment without a keystone application that will make the business case and secure the funding. CCTV security seems to be one of those keystone applications that can launch your community into a smart city future.
Discover our solutions for smart cities. Visit our Future X Cities web page for information on business applications, digital value platforms, multi-cloud, dynamic security and high-performance networking for smart cities.