Columbus Security Effort Includes City-wide Access Control and Video Surveillance

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Columbus Security Effort Includes City-wide Access Control and Video Surveillance

By TMCnet Special Guest
James Young, President, Matrix Systems
  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the January issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.

The city of Columbus, Ohio, is quickly becoming a role model of municipality security with its ongoing unification of access control for city buildings into one centralized location and its use of a fiber-optic network that saves money and helps increase public safety.

Columbus is the nation's sixteenth largest city. Regardless of size, however, it is also one of the most progressive metropolises in security and access control. Most large American cities might have basic access control systems in city hall or police facilities. Columbus' ongoing efforts include the unification of dozens of city facilities under one IP-based network to help make possible ongoing high technology upgrades, such as city-wide access control and video surveillance. Overseeing the ambitious technology venture are city officials Miki Calero, chief security officer; Michael Plumb, security manager for facilities; Dave Bush, deputy director; and Johnny Scales, facilities administrator.

While the city has made significant cost outlays, unifying access control under one server-based system will save Columbus hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and labor in the long term as more buildings are added to the city-wide security infrastructure. Matrix Systems is providing the software and lending engineering, installation, integration, system testing, upgrade implementation, software training and 24/7 customer support to the city's security efforts.

Before today's technology became available, Columbus had separate systems with its own servers and building controllers at city hall, municipal court, the police department, public utilities and other major facilities. The $500,000 command center was the foundation of centralizing security in the city hall-based department of technology. However, the subsequent success of bringing the municipal court's access control online convinced city officials nearly anything was possible with the combination of skillful integration and today's technological advancements. Integration included a quick and inexpensive conversion of thousands of municipal court database entries, from seemingly incompatible systems, into the city's fledging centralized security. Now with municipal court online, the public utilities facility's connectivity is the next goal.

Video Surveillance and Management

The centralization has enabled a variety of programs to terminate at the command center, such as the city's new $166,000 video surveillance system, which was funded by a 2009 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The cutting-edge video surveillance program includes more than 200 cameras by Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y.; one HD camera by Axis (News - Alert) Communications, Chelmsford, Mass.; and video management software, which is fully integrated into the Frontier access control system. Nearly 100 cameras are spread throughout the facilities; however, 112 outdoor cameras are used in the neighborhood safety project. Video recording capabilities include 12 terabytes of video storage by Pivot3 of Austin, Texas.

As part of the centralization, the command center has its own 24/7 video surveillance police personnel and monitoring equipment. When triggered by an alarm situation however, Frontier automatically displays the incident on the security officer's workstation monitor for review. In addition to security, city-wide video and recording capabilities also have the residual police benefit of helping solve and prosecute crimes, according to Plumb.

"Some cities have public safety departments monitoring neighborhood cameras, but few have it all culminate in a centralized command center like Columbus," says Plumb, who worked with Calero to develop Columbus' strategy during a review of Chicago's neighborhood watch program – one of the nation's premier neighborhood safety endeavors.

Affordably Unifying Security

The city-wide fiber-optic IP system and the Matrix Systems Gateway (News - Alert) component made the unification connectivity cost-efficient and practical. Instead of expensively outfitting every newly added building with a server and access control panel, locations with 16 or fewer card readers use an MSG to communicate with the city hall base server. The 1,200-square-foot Pride Community Center, which has only two doors and several employees, for example, tapped into the city's security infrastructure and saved thousands of dollars in equipment and labor costs, and provided unprecedented security benefits at the site.

Calero and Plumb have offered building connectivity to most city department heads and facility managers. Thus, Columbus has steadily added city service buildings to the command center access control, such as parks/recreation, health, building development, public services and fleet maintenance. Consequently, city facilities with a small number of doors and employees now have unprecedented security capabilities. They benefit from audit trail recording, video surveillance, immediate credential access for new employees, system-generated lockdowns, and other technological improvements at just the cost of card readers and an MSG.

"We've had a growing reception to our offer of leveraging equipment, infrastructure and other security resources," Calero says.

Any city facility that comes online gets the benefits of 24/7 monitoring and its state-of-the-art equipment, such as the two Frontier workstations, five 42-inch and five 19-inch wall monitors by Bosch; Orion Images Corp., Westminster, Calif.; and Dell (News - Alert) Computers, Round Rock, Texas.

While access control is centralized, the city's credential production, which has generated badges for more than 5,000 employees, is divided into three locations in city hall and two satellite sites for convenience and redundancy. The Frontier access control software also allowed for the integration of the city's three badge printers and support software by Digital Identification Solutions (DIS-USA) of Greenville, S.C.

Columbus' security plans are rich in technology. The city is integrating a secure visitor management system from EasyLobby, a Needham Heights, Mass.-based Matrix Systems partner, into the access control system and making it available to all city buildings with connectivity to the central command center. City hall already uses EasyLobby for the 15,000 visitors it receives annually. Additionally, wireless biometrics, video analytics and mobile apps are all possible future technology upgrades with Frontier's open architecture design.

Columbus is a city that's second to none in security.

"The possibility of connecting any building to our command center via the existing infrastructure and monitoring it for security are capabilities few cities the size of Columbus have at their fingertips," says Calero.  

James Young is president of Matrix Systems (

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Edited by Tammy Wolf


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