Longview Independent School District Case Study
Longview ISD was tasked with upgrading their video surveillance system to IP for the district’s 11 schools.
Panasonic’s end-to-end IP solution provides access to live or archived video plus alarm and access control data. Support from the manufacturer helps ensure system-wide integration with lower TCO.
More than 850 i-PRO cameras, 16 NVRs and management software have been installed using the district’s network infrastructure. The system provides security and a sense of well-being and serves as a tool to help administrators understand any problems at the schools.
When voters in the Longview Independent School District in East Texas approved a $266.8 million bond issue in 2008, it paved the way for construction of seven new elementary schools, three new middle schools and a complete renovation of Longview High School. Recognizing the critical need for a secure environment for students, staff and school visitors, the bond also provided funding for a new districtwide Panasonic video surveillance system.
Brian Pitts, the school district’s director of technology, says video surveillance goes beyond security and a sense of well-being. It also serves as a tool to help administrators understand any problems at the schools. When a situation arises, the Panasonic system provides district officials the ability to “turn back the clock” and view video to aid understanding of what really happened. “There aren’t any dark alleys,” Pitts said. “Everything is open and public and subject to review. The decision was really about the safety of the district’s 8,400 students.”
Before money became available for the new system, video surveillance at Longview ISD was far from integrated. Several schools had stand-alone systems, including some made from do-it-yourself parts and others using brand-name products. The district’s first introduction to Panasonic was several years ago when Forest Park Middle School installed a Panasonic system to address the problem of vandalism.
With passage of the bond, the district wanted to settle on one standardized system as a part of the construction contracts. Because the school district was rebuilding its network infrastructure at the time, the new video installation would also be an IP system to leverage the additional bandwidth.
The highest priority in choosing a video supplier was reliability, and district officials recognized that the Panasonic system at Forest Park Middle School had operated dependably.
“We don’t have to think about it. It just works,” Pitts said. Located about a two-hour drive from Dallas, the district didn’t want to have a lot of service calls and needed a large vendor that could serve the remote area. Finally, the district wanted to integrate video with access control, and in reviewing multiple physical access control vendors, they found that most of them could integrate with Panasonic.
These factors led the district to select Panasonic as the system-wide video surveillance supplier. In retrospect, Pitts says it’s clear that choosing Panasonic was the right decision. “We’re 100 percent satisfied,” he said.
Accessing Video Views
The Longview Independent School District uses about 850 Panasonic i-PRO cameras and the Panasonic i-PRO WJ-ND400 network video recorder. There are six NVRs at the high school, and one each at the middle and elementary schools. Each NVR has 18 terabytes of storage. Each campus has the ability to access its camera views live or from archived footage using web access. The only campus that watches anything live is still under construction, and employees use video to view whether someone is entering into the foyer, which they can’t see because of construction.
Panasonic i-PROWV-ASM100 monitoring and management software, an earlier version of current WV-ASM200 software, is used to interface with the NVRs at the high school and from the central office. Pitts appreciates the “no-frills” functionality and reliability of the ASM100 software.
“The software is extremely straightforward and robust, and the limited clutter makes it easy to find your way around and ensures you can quickly do what you need to do,” he said.
The high school’s director of operations uses Panasonic’s ASM100 software to view the 300 or so cameras on the high school campus. He also has access to video from all the various campuses and can help other campuses locate footage of a specific incident. ASM software is used at the district office to view the entire system and to obtain archived video as needed. For example, a child recently got hurt in a cafeteria, and her parents had questions about how the event happened. Everything was captured clearly on video, which helped put the parents’ concerns to rest.
The system integrates with DSX Access Systems access control, which was also standardized system-wide. Integration with access control involved defining the nearest camera to each access point to provide video to accompany every access control event.
“When I’m looking at an event in the access control system, I can click on it and say ‘show that to me’ and it can bring up between one and four cameras watching that spot,” Pitts said. If an access point goes into alarm, the system can pull up footage of the event even hours later. The system also works with non-alarm events, such as answering queries (and showing video) of when a certain user’s card was scanned.
Until recently, Panasonic’s i-PROWV-NW484S vandal-proof day/night color dome camera, an earlier version of the current WV-SW355, a vandal-resistant dome camera, was the school district’s “go-to” camera for indoor and outdoor applications. More recently, Panasonic’s i-PROWV-NW502S megapixel vandal-resistant camera has become the fixed camera of choice and will be specified in contracts in the next wave of construction this summer. The newer camera features multiple stream formats (including H.264) and provides 1.3 megapixel images, for even greater clarity. The higher resolution of the megapixel cameras are making it possible to use fewer cameras in some situations.
Pitts says he appreciates Panasonic’s Super Dynamic functionality, which is a big selling point in situations, such as at the high school, where there are glass doors throughout. Panasonic cameras provide clear views through the glass and can show details of someone entering the building despite backlighting.
“We point our cameras directly at the door, and the dynamic range is very good,” Pitts said. “We use that feature extensively.” The vandal-proof cameras can withstand rough treatment—after all, kids are kids—and can stand up to anything that happens “within the realm of normal” in the school environment, according to Pitts.
For applications requiring pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) functionality, the school district uses Panasonic’s i-PRO WV-NW964 outdoor network day/night PTZ all-in-one camera. The extended zoom capabilities (30x optical zoom; 300x with 10x digital zoom) and image quality of this camera are used to view larger areas. Because no one is viewing the video live, the PTZ cameras are set to move to a series of pre-set positions to provide a sequence of views that can contribute to overall situational awareness. There are six pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras looking over the high school football field. The cameras are tied into the video production booth for use during live events with video displayed on the stadium’s large screen.
Camera counts range from about 350 (with 30 of them PTZs) at the high school, to about 60 cameras (including 6 PTZs) at the three middle schools and about 50 cameras (including 5 PTZs) at each of the seven elementary schools.
Pitts acknowledges Andy Allen and Joe Francis of Timarron Partners, the local Panasonic representatives, for their help during the installation process. He also appreciates that Panasonic has gone “above and beyond” to work with him on the access control integration.
“Panasonic connected us with their top technical guy, who said ‘here’s what we need to do and where we need to go,’” Pitts said. “Knowledgeable, technical people are available almost immediately. They are well-versed in how computers and networks operate, and I am very impressed with their willingness to work with people on a technical level.”
Another advantage of Panasonic is their willingness to work directly with the end-user to solve problems.
“We are a very hands-on, do-it-yourself shop, but departmentally we are larger than many integrators,” Pitts said. “We maintain the cameras ourselves.”
Throughout the Longview Independent School District, students, staff and school visitors now enjoy newly renovated facilities that demonstrate the value Longview’s residents place on educating their children, as reflected by passage of the bond issue. Security and safety are critical aspects of effective education, and the new districtwide Panasonic video system effectively fulfills the demand for unrivaled performance, reliability and functionality.