BIG site surveillance applications generate enough interest to enthrall SE&N readers in their own right – especially when the system in question comprises 100 IP cameras – some HD and some megapixel – all supported by a dedicated fibre LAN, a couple of powerful servers and one of the industry’s nicer video management solutions.
But Brisbane Markets Limited’s application appeals on so many levels it’s not easy to know where to start. It’s not just that this is a cutting edge IP surveillance system. Nor is it that it’s a physically huge site, an enormously busy site or a vital piece of the national food chain – particularly for Queensland.
It’s the circumstances of the installation itself. Calling this a charismatic install plays down the human cost of one of the greatest Australian property disasters of the last 50 years. But there’s no question whatever that the Brisbane floods were a central factor in the installation experience for both Brisbane Markets Ltd and integrator, Sunstate Security.
Boring down the Gold Coast Motorway from my sister’s place at Wynnum then swinging into the heartland of Brisbane, I get no particular sense I’m anywhere near the Brisbane River flood plain. Driving into the industrial area of Rocklea, Sydney boy is still none the wiser and it’s only later when BML operations manager Jessie Field hauls up the aerial images of the site during the flood that I get a sense of the enormity of the event for hundreds of thousands of Australians and specifically for BML and Sunstate. With only its warehouse roofs visible, BML’s 35 buildings look like a summer crowd in big sunhats neck-deep in a muddy river – on every side red-brown water stretches away.
For BML and Sunstate the Queensland floods turned their site from a brown field site into a green field site. Almost all infrastructure had to be replaced at furious pace, the site had to be cleaned and sanitised before it could be re-opened, as well as being made safe and secure, and all this and much more had to happen simultaneously.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and am lost in Rocklea after a few-year-old Navman stubbornly deposits me in the middle of a suburban street. There are phone calls required to establish exactly where the entrance to this retail behemoth actually is – a couple of kays back down Sherwood Rd. The place is quiet in the middle of the day – the rows of towering market halls still as a late-night railway station.
This sense of peace belies the nature of the Brisbane Markets. Incorporating the Brisbane Produce Market, Brisbane Flower Market, Brisbane MarketPlace (public), Brisbane Markets South Gate industrial estate and Brisbane Markets Commercial Centre, this 150-acre site is the beating heart of Brisbane’s fresh produce sales and distribution. Managing the operation is Brisbane Markets Ltd, which leases space to 254 tenants, including 53 primary wholesalers and 90 support businesses.
According to Field, the Brisbane Markets is the most important centre for the marketing and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in Queensland as well produce that is trucked, shipped and flown from growers throughout Australia and overseas to the Rocklea site.
“Brisbane Markets’ 53 primary fruit and vegetable and flower wholesalers and an additional 90 support businesses act as a clearing house for about 7,000 growers,” he says.
“A further 1,000 registered buyers, including fruit and vegetable retailers, secondary wholesalers, provedores, restaurants, cafes, food service businesses and exporters, source their fresh produce from the Market.”
And there are more huge numbers. The site’s access control system has 5000 active cardholders, it hosts an average of 16,000 members of the public a week and up to 7000 vehicles pass through the gates each day. When you consider these figures it’s easy to see how vital the site is to food supply in Australia’s third largest city and to the economy of the Sunshine State and Australia’s rural sector.
As Field talks about the site, I process eye-bytes of his office on the third floor of the new steel and glass building called The Fresh Centre that houses BML’s administration team. The space gives little of the man away. Field’s desk is cleared for action and there are a number of items in the room that indicate he was previously a military man.
“Our analogue system was 15 years old and it made securing the site harder. Searching was cumbersome. What we needed to do was consolidate all our CCTV into a single system with a single management interface.”
According to Field, the surveillance system’s primary purpose is general surveillance, loss prevention, traffic, access control and incident accident investigation. Prior the install of an IP solution these duties were handled by an analogue system that had been upgraded to digital recording that never gave operators the fluidity they required.
“We were working with aging technology prior to the upgrade and as the economy tightened we noticed crime was on the rise,” Field explains.
“Our analogue system was 15 years old and it made securing the site harder. Searching was cumbersome. To make matters worse we were operating from two individual software platforms split over the site divided by Sherwood Road.
What we needed to do was consolidate all our CCTV into a single system with a single management interface.
“As part of our plans, we decided to put in a very small new IP system with a handful of HD cameras to see if could perform in our environment and live up to our expectations.”
According to Field, there are a number of key operational aspects relating to the site’s security operation that attracted him to an IP solution.
“We look at events retrospectively and seldom need a live view,” he explains. “But we do need cameras with sufficient picture quality to allow us to identify people’s faces accurately. These fundamentals mean we needed capable cameras as well as a management system with a powerful search engine so we could look through hours of data and identify perpetrators, review any incidents, track stock and transport movements rapidly.
“Another factor was that BML had already installed a fibre network throughout the 150-acre site. This meant the backbone for an IP surveillance solution was already in place.”
As all these factors began to coalesce, Field says BML decided it needed a competent new supplier for surveillance that shared its vision and found one in integrator, Sunstate Security.
“Next, we had a look at what was available under the guidance of Sunstate’s Steve Ward, who came up with some great solutions for us. As we were looking at particular IP solutions we were very excited – we were ticking every box on our wish list, we were seeing dramatically improved image quality, better frame rate, good management solutions with good search engines that were user friendly, reliable and cost effective software and were non-proprietary gear.”
According to Field, proprietary solutions were one of the things BML had struggled with in the past and this time he wanted an open platform.
“As things progressed we made some decisions and put together a plan to swap some cameras out and install a small test system but then the 2011 floods hit and along with almost everything else, it destroyed our existing DVRs. We ended up with an opportunity to accelerate the surveillance upgrade project.
“The good part was that we had already done our homework on the right technology and chosen the right cameras, so it was just a case of picking up the phone to Sunstate and saying, we’ve got the green light, let’s make this surveillance system happen.”
According to Field, the new management solution and the cameras are extremely effective.
“Our crime detection capability has increased considerably and our ability to get results for the tenants and our business has been extremely encouraging, taking our service to a whole new level,” he says.
“What we’ve seen from a Brisbane Markets’ perspective is a complete transformation – there was very little confidence in the old system. Something might go missing and where a tenant would report it, there was a 50/50 that we would get a result for them. Now, because we able to capture reliable evidence that we can access rapidly, we are getting closure for people and it helps us to come from a position of a reliable and accurate account of an event.
“The tenants have seen greater results and less shrinkage in their own areas as a consequence – so much so that the system is in high demand. Tenants know we have the capability to find out what happened to a single missing case of lemons or tomatoes in an hour or 2 after their written request to us – the system is that efficient now. We target majority areas with the 100 or so cameras we have and so long as the field of view takes in the event, we can view all the details distinctly.”
From the narrator’s point of view, it’s painfully tempting to dive headfirst into key aspects of the install, to outline the challenges the team faced in those first wild weeks after the flood but given the pervasive nature of that element of the story, let’s stick to the system fundamentals for the time being.
“One of the advantages with NUUO is that it is ONVIF-compliant and that gives us many different camera choices,” he explains. “As technology changes and improved cameras become available, we can add or replace cameras to enhance efficiency.”
In its essence, this solution is a straightforward full-IP system. There’s an existing fibre LAN. There are off-the-shelf switches. There are dedicated NUUO servers. There’s a mix of cameras, including Samsung and Arecont 1.3MP units, as well as some larger megapixel HD cameras from Arecont handling vehicle entry points. There are also multiple authorised workstations running NUUO client software.
Handling the installation for BML was Sunstate Security’s Steve Ward. There’s plenty of professional rapport between Ward and Field with both committed to the operational streamlining facilitated by a switch to IP. Same as a lot of IP-capable integrators, Ward raises his voice slightly when he starts evangelising about the power of networked solutions. As we talk, his focus remains utterly BML-oriented, with a strong accent on user functionality.
“This site is unlike lots of others I’ve been involved with – most have a handful of highly trained operators that run their CCTV system whereas what we have at BML is a situation where every Brisbane Markets’ security officer can look at images from the system on a workstation or connected device,” Ward says.
“With this as our operational baseline, the system has got to be user friendly – I didn’t want to install a system you need an IT degree to operate. I looked holistically at the site considering who was going to use the system, how it was going to be used and then recommended a platform that’s very flexible, that lets us get the best out of it and allows us to move things around to come up with a very efficient system. In this case that platform was NUUO.
“One of the advantages with NUUO is that it is ONVIF-compliant and that gives us many different camera choices,” he explains. “As technology changes and improved cameras become available, we can add or replace cameras to enhance efficiency.
“In choosing NUUO what BML is saying is that they are not going to use one brand of camera and one specification of camera over the total site. This is a big site and a challenging site with a range of environments that needs a range of cameras with varying capabilities. There are more expensive systems than NUUO that have similar features but I felt they were all restricted one way or another – less open.
“BML is the biggest NUUO site in Queensland and it may be the biggest NUUO site in Australia. We’ve got around 100 cameras and we are about to install another 40. We run on 2 dedicated servers with another server ordered, so it’s a powerful solution that’s non-proprietary and is virtually future-proof.
“That’s vital because the system is growing fast. In fact, this building we’re sitting in was not started when the work began on the initial CCTV system – we started with 47 cameras and now we’re over 90 and there’s more building beginning over the other side of Sherwood Road – more warehouses, carparks and a weekend public market. There will be another 40 on the other side of the site. Importantly there’s fibre already over there – we’re very lucky that BML is visionary when it comes to infrastructure.”
Nature of the system
At the centre of the BML solution is that dedicated multimode fibre LAN which allowed Sunstate to focus entirely on the hardware. Fibre is perfect for BML. It’s a massive site with the cable plant running into kilometres. Most the 35 buildings have cameras and these reach remote fibre-linked switches over Cat-6 cable runs that are restricted to 100m.
“Each server has 32GB of RAM and 40TB of RAID storage and we are recording at HD at 1080p, 13 frames a second and getting 36 days of storage,” explains Ward. ”At 13 frames our video is virtually live – I think it’s the ideal balance between getting the best image streams and maximising the storage capacity.
“The servers are networked and the overall system resides on its own subnet using a free-standing network on the site’s multimode fibre LAN. There were site limitations to the network layout – in particular that we could only go 100 metres once we got onto Cat-6. Some cameras are PoE but on some of the longer cable runs we powered the cameras locally.
“All the 10 authorised workstations have NUUO client software and can securely access the server. Key security staff can also use the app on mobile phones so wherever they are on the site they can look at individual camera views.”
Sunstate has installed a combination of Samsung and Arecont cameras at Brisbane Markets. Later on as we walk the site I can see why this freedom was so attractive to the boys. Visually this is a tough site, with plenty of strong backlight and given its 24-hour operation, there are plenty of low light and no light situations.
“There are quite a few of the Samsung 1.3MP minidomes across this site – externally as well as internally. In some locations we’ve had to use Samsung IR cameras and in others we are using Arecont megapixel cameras – we have some 1.3 megapixel cameras and some 3 megapixel cameras for larger scenes. We tried 5MP cameras for a while but they were too hungry on storage, in our opinion.”
According to Ward, one of the things with megapixel cameras is the ability to get by with fewer cameras.
“You can be zoomed out and still get number plates when you zoom in using NUUO’s digital zoom and mimic PTZ feature on fixed cameras. That’s a big thing for BML – to be able to look at a queue of semitrailers and pick up numbers plates using the system’s digital zoom is a real asset for security officers.”
According to Ward, he was leaning to the Arecont cameras from the start.
“For our application we found they had certain limitations. They are better in low light but not as good with backlight. Having an open system allowed us flexibility. We’ve used the Samsung cameras where we need wide dynamic range and Arecont where there’s low light and big depths of field.
“As I said earlier, NUUO’s ONVIF compliance gives us the luxury of being able to choose whichever camera suits a given application. Things change so quickly in the industry these days but the system’s flexibility means that as camera technology changes we can move with it.”
There’s also some low level integration.
“Over at the unmanned gatehouse we have IP cameras in the dual-height intercoms so cars and trucks can use the entry. The cameras allow the market officer over here can speak to and clearly see via NUUO who the driver is and then use the access control system to open the boom gate,” says Ward.
“The system has to have that flexibility – it has to allow integration with an intercom and it has to allow face recognition – and all this is being conducted 1200 metres from the primary workstation.”
Something that stands out about Ward’s stewardship of Brisbane Markets is his recognition of the need for Sunstate to be replaceable. Only a handful of integrators I’ve met have this attitude but it’s something end users want. Sadly, from an observer’s point of view, this profound desire among end users for an open back door appears to be the product of decades of leeching from unscrupulous installers.
“We are generally using standard components here – standard lenses – virtually everything in this system is off the shelf – nothing is proprietary, everything is designed to be replaceable – including us.
“The system is actually designed so that if BML wants to break ties with Sunstate tomorrow they can do so – they are not stuck with any service agreements. They can do things for themselves. They are free.”
Simplicity of license agreements for expansion was another attraction of the NUUO solution. When new cameras go in Ward calls out the supplier and buy more licenses and get an ID number and that releases another 4 cameras. There’s a license per camera as a one-off cost.
“We wanted a system where once we bought a license we owned it and there were no limitations to accessing the system’s capabilities in terms of the number of workstations we could run simultaneously,” Field explains. “Other systems would only allow 5 workstations to access the management system at a time and that was not good enough for us.”
It’s flat-out impossible to decouple the Brisbane Markets’ surveillance installation from the Queensland floods and once the boys turn their minds back to those challenging days the story pours out of them. According to Field, just at the moment BML had decided to push ahead with the small trial IP surveillance system almost all the site’s infrastructure was utterly obliterated by the flood water.
“Given Brisbane Markets’ vital role in Queensland’s food supply post flood the site needed to be opened as soon as possible,” says Field. “The situation was so bad that supermarkets were running out of fresh produce so the site had to get up to feed Queensland. Farmers were throwing away food because they could not get it to the Brisbane Markets and the Brisbane Markets could not get it on to retailers.”
“The Queensland Government declared Brisbane Markets an emergency area – it was priority number one – Brisbane Markets was where the cleanup of Brisbane really started. We had the army in – there were 43 fire appliances on one day washing away mud, including 2 of the big airport tenders – it was that serious. These had to be specially escorted because of their size.
“After being hosed, the area had to be chemically sanitized – the walls, the roadways. Also we had hundreds if not thousands of volunteers here, everyone worked feverishly for the common good. It’s unanimously considered to have been a remarkable achievement to have got the site restored in a limited capacity – the selling floor being able to trade – just 52 hours after the flood water receded.
“The Oxley Sewage Treatment plant is nearby and our site had been inundated not just with water but with raw sewage, broken glass, wooden pallets, oil slicks from adjacent service stations. There were 42 dead sheep from a neighbouring property found on the site, the fences had been torn down or become mini dams of trapped mud. There were thousands of pumpkins everywhere.
“There was the total loss of infrastructure – 382 vehicles predominately forklifts were ruined on this site alone. And when the floods hit it destroyed the analogue CCTV system. We were without video support – we were without any electronic security of any kind.”
Ward was expecting to install a small IP-based system when the floods hit and he was not expecting what came next.
“The water was still up when Jessie rang me. The water was tipped to go down over the weekend and Jessie asked how many guys I could have there on Monday morning. BML needed an entirely new system, Jessie said. That Monday everyone who works for me was here and we just worked and worked and worked. It was tough, it was hard, it was dirty. Nor was it just surveillance we were working on. We also did the boom gates, the access control, the alarms. Everything had to be entirely replaced as fast as possible.
“We were literally working from sun up to sundown in the most challenging conditions imaginable. We only stopped at sundown because there was not enough lights to allow us to go on. We were on generator for the first week or so, then onto mains, then there was a substation fire and we lost power again and it was back to generators.”
BML and its tenants didn’t just lose electronic security systems, they lost power, phones, lights, water, toilets and refrigeration as well. In the first weeks these missing pieces of infrastructure impacted the installation. At the system’s heart, the fibre backbone survived and only needed its terminations polished before recommissioning but all the copper cable had to be replaced. Did the floods make a Brownfield site a Greenfield site, I ask?
“Yes, it did.” says Ward. “We went from a little project of 7 cameras that was in the early proposal stages to a full-blown IP surveillance solution that needed to be installed on a site with no services whatever.
We’d never installed anything of this nature before – and nothing in the time frame allotted.
“At the start with electricity turned off we were working with generators and these were in short supply. We’d need to do a test on something at the far end of a cable run and by the time we’d got back someone had taken off with the generator we were using.
“When we started there was mud everywhere – there were fleets of fire trucks just washing the mud off everything. Only 52 hours after the water went down Brisbane Markets opened for trade so you can imagine the amount of work and the intensity of work that went on in that time.
“We really were in the middle of it. You’d think we’d have had free run to carry out our own work but in the event everyone had free run of it and the place was total mayhem. Every single cold room had to be repaired. Every power point had to be tested and repaired, every phone system had to be replaced. Lights and switches had to be replaced and all electrical infrastructure had to be tested and replaced.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of people working here, electricians, plumbers, refrigerator repairers and it was filthy dirty. Council would not allow the sale of produce from the site until it had all been sanitised and approved.”
Jessie Field did not leave the site or sleep for 5 days straight.
“We started the recovery with a skeleton staff and then we started to get a bit of control. We’d lost all of our rosters, we’d lost all of our paperwork, contact lists, all our procedures – small things you don’t think about – they’d all been destroyed in the flood. We’ve now introduced procedural changes to ensure this never happens again but at the time we were working from memory.”
As Ward points out, in the midst of all the challenges of reconstructing its core operations BML management had to make some big decisions about which way they were going to go with the surveillance system – would they try to patch up the analogue or go with IP?
“The funds had not been allocated for the new IP system but the system was vitally important,” says Field. “On top of operational concerns we were in a situation with our insurer – we needed to get the CCTV system up and running again to ensure security and safety on the site.
“The budget was quickly made available and it was self-funded until insurance repaid the losses of the old system. In the days after the flood management gave the green light for the project to roll out.”
Freeing up funds was only the beginning.
“We had not contemplated so many new cameras – we’d not even considered where we should put the new type of cameras,” says Ward. “We had to sit down and think strategically about where we’d put the cameras, how we’d fill holes that existed with the old system.”
According to Ward, while his primary interest was security, that was not and could not be, BML management’s only interest.
“That was the real issue from my perspective. We were not the priority. The big priority, understandably, was operational – power, phones, cleaning. We had to grab time here and there to get security decisions made. We were given a lot of autonomy but you know it will come back and bite you if you make the wrong choice so we needed to give good cost effective advice and do it very quickly.
“We had to, in a very short amount of time, recommend a way to go – the first order was $150,000 worth of equipment. It was a gamble in the sense we’d had no trial but we were very lucky we’d done a lot of homework. We just had to commit ourselves and do it and instead of installing the 7 camera trial system we committed ourselves to replacing every piece of surveillance equipment BML had got.”
Complicating matters for Sunstate was the fact the company handles more than just video surveillance for Brisbane Markets and all the site’s electronic security systems were crying out for immediate attention.
“In the middle of the CCTV installation we were trialling boom gates from Belgium. When it came to the access control system we were starting from scratch there, too. I got every Tecom 4-door controller in Queensland and then chased every 4-door controller in the country. No access manufacturer holds the amount of stock we needed to put in on a site this size. We replaced every 4-door controller on the site as well as replacing the panel.”
BML had absolutely no access control and no alarms for a couple of weeks. Curiously, Ward says, all the 4-door access controllers had actually been blown apart – perhaps by some voltage spike during the process of flooding.
“We are still working on parts of the wider security system and when we take lids of housings they are all filled with mud.”
Q Video Systems is the supplier of the NUUO equipment and the Samsung and Arecont cameras and Ward says the QVS team gave Sunstate and BML a lot of help.
“They came out to the site and spent a lot of time here. One of the things we did was get cameras and a laptop and go up in a scissor lift at every proposed camera point and see what things we could do with the cameras and how that effected the images on the NUUO client in real time – it was a sort of a trial by installation. We don’t need to do that now but in the beginning we would do a physical demonstration to ourselves to inform our decisions.”
Ward says that many cameras are on buildings but some are located on light poles in carparks.
“We had to run low voltage power to pole locations and we needed to get special 24v switchers. There’s lots and lots of trenching so getting power to places we needed was not a problem.”
Also involved in the installation was BML’s IT department predominantly Julian Kreundl who was heavily involved in the networking side of the system and was a key to much of the decision making process.
Challenges of the site
As I write this it seems overkill to launch into the challenges of the site when the installation itself was so testing but there’s no question Brisbane Markets would have been a tough install without the floods. The key issues here are ease of operation, cabling distances, depth of field and variable light.
As Ward explains, Brisbane Markets is a site with unique issues.
“BML did not know what they were asking for in going to an IP surveillance solution, given the nature of the site and its operations. I knew immediately it was a low light site and that was a big consideration of mine – I needed to steer BML in the right way.
“It’s a 24 hour site. Most the trucks start getting here at 10pm at night and they spend all night unloading and then the buyers start getting in about 6-7am. We get about 6000-7000 vehicles through our gates every day – it’s just a huge operation.
“These working hours meant we need to pay special attention to lighting,” Ward says. “One of the failings of IP systems is low light performance and we had to be very careful to choose the right cameras and install them in the right locations.
“There’s a lot of artificial lighting but we still had to find the right locations to exploit it. To get it right I would come here at night and drive around in my car measuring the lux readings at various locations to establish were we could or couldn’t place cameras.
“In some locations we use an Arecont dual lens camera that has 2 lenses in one camera, one for day and the other for night, all in the one housing. That’s given us a benefit. We can change the zoom so we zoom in closer for night and zoom out for day. It’s a single camera that acts as 2 cameras.
Lighting wasn’t the only issue the installation team faced.
“There are some areas of electrical interference on the site, in particular an area where at the same time every day some EMI source giving us issues – we had to re-run some cables – I think it was a cold room starting up.”
Camera placement was another concern.
“Given the big B-double vehicles on the site we needed to ensure our camera placements were high where we could so we could look down on them – we were conscious of that. The floods called for elevation, too.
“And conducting an installation in a working market had its challenges. We had to get in among all the tenants and run cables, climb ladders, use scissor lifts and all the rest of it.”
According to Field, a key requirement of the new system was ensuring maximum coverage all the time.
“We used to have a lot of PTZ cameras around the site and we had found through bitter experience that more often than not they were pointed in the wrong direction when we needed footage,” Field says. “Now we can get 4 good fixed IP megapixel cameras for the same price and we are capturing a lot more vision than we ever did with the PTZs. That’s helped a lot. PTZs work – we aren’t anti-PTZ – but our operation does not need them – it was not an effective security solution for us. It was not price-related – just an operation fundamental.”
And Ward explains that in order increase coverage from fixed cameras the installers used a number of techniques.
“We overlap fields of view, we stagger camera coverage like a waterfall and this has worked well. We can go back and look at the footage and if it’s in our fields of view and enhanced depths of field we will not miss anything. We considered fixed hemispherics for corner locations but decided our existing coverage was more than good enough.
“In my opinion, some people will put in PTZs because it saves them from having to choose the perfect field of view – the camera can be adjusted to suit requirements after installation. At BML we have put in fewer cameras, in the right locations.”
From a management perspective, Field says the system is used extensively by security personnel who can continuously operate and monitor the cameras and software at various access key positions within the markets.
“Investigations and search functions are mainly performed in a control room environment and are made available for viewing for tenants upon requests,” Field says.
“Events and incidents are easily downloaded from the server with copies provided to site insurer for future reference. The razor search function has been revolutionary for us in detecting pixel change on user defined potion of search screen making searched for lost property or unauthorised events far easier to detect with higher degrees of accuracy.
“Another key benefit is the traffic counting feature which accurately counts all vehicle entries and exits with user-friendly grabs that can be broken down to hourly, daily monthly and annual rates. Vehicle registration plate detection has greatly increased levels of detection leading to the identity of alleged suspects related to various matters.”
How does NUUO’s awesomely named Security Crystal Board management solution look in the flesh? The system’s interface is good-looking and as Field shows me around I can see it’s simple in operation. The appearance is very slick. The skin is X-Men metallic, streamlined yet with all the fundamental controls right there in front of the operator – screen views, searches, saves, zooms, tools.
The greater part of the interface is given to camera views with controls on the right side of the screen. Anyone familiar with common video players would readily adapt themselves to its operation.
In order to get a feel for system performance, we take a look at the footage from 6am that day. The images are extremely good from the 1.3MP cameras. There’s great depth of field and face recognition as far out as 25 metres from the lens. When I ask, Field tells me we’re looking at Arecont 1.3MP units. They are excellent cameras, I think.
Something else from a management perspective is that Field observes when there are 4 cameras on the screen the system works very well but drop an additional 2 cameras on the main screen and server performance slows down a little. It’s not a huge difference but is there with the higher resolution cameras.
Low light performance of the cameras we view is very good, as is backlight performance. We are moving between cameras – and presumably between Arecont and Samsung units. I don’t get to find out which is which in this rapid process but the camera selection from Sunstate can’t be faulted.
As Field drives his system you can see the challenges the system faces given it operates 24 hours a day. The low light, the reflections from big white trucks, from headlights, shadows, strong backlight as the sun breaks over rooflines. At Brisbane Markets there’s a real need for cameras with the ability to work across a wide range of conditions.
Next, Field calls up the razor search which I sense is a favourite for the BML team, given its ability to simplify post event investigations and to give tenants real results. It’s very straightforward in operation.
“NUUO razor search means if someone steals the pallet we can draw a box around the pallet before it was stolen on the recorded footage and the system will then search and find all activity around that pallet and give it to us a list of events. We take the investigation from there.
“The time it takes to have a security officer sit and watch hours and hours of footage is expensive and there’s the human element of error. With NUUO the system detects pixel change and you have complete confidence in the result.”
Field’s visceral appreciation for this function is grounded firmly in the challenges of manual and semi-manual event searches of a bygone era.
“In the past you had to go to a remote DVR to view footage. It was a complex system and only a small group of trained security officers could get the most out of the system by doing the searches. When we allocated people for searches we lost them for half a day – and they could still miss an event.
“With the new system lots of times we’ve been able to use the system to resolve an issue in a few minutes,” he enthuses. “Just recently someone dropped $1000 out of their pocket and we were able to identify the person who had picked up the cash, find them quickly among the 2000-odd people on the site and encourage them to return the money to the rightful owner.
“We also find when buyers come in, a tenant may take fruit or vegetables to vans and if someone needs more of something it’s very easy for them to just pick up someone else’s unattended produce. With this system we can just go in and do a razor search and sort the trouble out. When the perpetrator sees the footage the arguments end.”
“The Oxley Sewage Treatment plant is nearby and our site had been inundated not just with water but with raw sewage, broken glass, wooden pallets, oil slicks from adjacent service stations.”
Along with the Razor search there’s also a time line search that allows play forward and back. Next, Field finds a rego number at the front gate. We are looking at one of the Arecont 3MP image streams and it’s very good quality. The camera is able to dig deep into the scene and get clear images at a long distance – I estimate the depth of field in this scene at around 50m.
We also look at a scene in which we can see the unmanned gatehouse and view people and vehicles coming and going. The images are glittery sharp – it’s another Arecont 3MP camera – and there’s face recognition and plenty of detail. It’s the sort of scene that clearly indicates to me how far camera technology has come in only a couple of years.
“That gate house is not manned 24 hours a day so using the vehicle counting features NUUO has out of the box, we can work out what are the peak times of the day and ensure there are guards rostered there at those times,” explains Ward.
“We just draw a box here and a box there and then we count consecutive breaks of these boxes, the first break indicating direction of travel. It’s a low cost option that helps us understand peak times and manage rosters to perfection.”
“And operationally, being part of the network, it’s so easy if someone wants something you can just send email an image. It’s not a matter of burning to CD – everything is very easily done. It’s a remarkably user friendly system.”
I’m not surprised when Field tells me a lot of his people are self-taught on NUUO. I’ve played with NUUO Titan before and the controls are intuitive and instantly familiar.
“We did a small training session – we had QVS come out and speaking to us and we asked for a couple of changes to the software so we were able to help develop the software and enhance its capabilities but it was a very simple learning process.
“The average security officer here is accessing this system multiple times every day and the guys picked it up as quickly as we did – it’s a great system for them. Our CEO has it on his computer too, and is very happy with it.
Ward says the security officers are extremely good at finding ways around challenges. If they want to track a vehicle back to its point of origin and they can use multiple different cameras to trace the movements of a vehicle within the site.
“Some of the enhancement features of the NUUO software – the ability to take backlight out and adjust contrast levels without affecting the watermarked video footage have been a real help. The ability to make a scene a little bit brighter, a little bit darker to get results.”
Ward credits part of the performance we’re enjoying during the demo to the cameras themselves.
“I think it’s important to mention that we also have very configurable cameras and they do meet our needs – they get it right.”
BML has a great surveillance system and the fact it was installed under great duress reflects highly on all involved. It seems clear the spirit that drove Queenslanders during those first tough weeks in 2011 was there in spades at Rocklea.
“When the water went down, the incredible amount of service that followed from there – we had people from Sunstate supporting us on the ground within hours and we had stock on order within days – you’re talking about major infrastructure change,” says Field.
“Then over a period of a 2-4 weeks we’ve installed state-of-the-art cameras on the site and software that was a perfect choice – it did not take a lot of training. It’s the sort of software that anybody with a basic understanding of CCTV cameras can have a look and navigate through the basic features.”
Before I visited the site, Field sent me a detailed outline of the site. As part of his outline he’d made a list of benefits that he feels have accrued from the new system. They include a non-proprietary platform and components, improved configurability and search capabilities, ease of use, increased levels of detection, improved image quality and reliability and a reduction in crime levels. Then there’s acceptance by tenants now that they can rely on the system in time of need.
But also on Field’s list were some points with a particular resonance in that they pointedly highlight critical past failures in our industry’s performance. These included a reliable liability position with the site’s insurer, improvements in parts availability and delivery times and awesome after sales service.
“Generally it’s been a very, very good experience,” explains Field. “It’s good to see the tenants benefit from and appreciate the system – they’re the ones realistically paying for it and they like a return on investment. They can see the images – see an event – see value in the system. Every comment we’ve got after a tenant has come over to look at footage has said – ‘those images are a lot better, that’s a good system’.
“The local Sherwood police love the system too – they attend the site if there’s an incident and they can view footage or we supply them with footage they can play on any Microsoft workstation. We help them with their enquiries. Without needing a proprietary player for the footage as it has a range of options on particular file formats – none more recognised than Microsoft windows player.
“And our insurer is happy as well – every incident gets backed up and forwarded to the insurer. It’s nice to be accurate when you’re dealing with insurance and litigation – this system has given us a lot of confidence.”
“With the benefit of hindsight we can calmly and rationally review the end result, however, it was a deeply committed combined approach from Sunstate Security and BML that has developed a high performing surveillance system that everyone can be very proud of,” Field says.
“The system is right for the purpose because Sunstate acted on every requirement with meticulous precision drawing on the obvious benefits of years of industry knowledge to get the solution we now have. We are delighted with the end result and the ongoing professional services of Sunstate Security. The difficulties and complexities of the floods have only increased the bond between both BML and Sunstate Security.”
From an installer’s point of view, Ward’s indelible memory is of mud and hard work but most of all he recalls a sense of community and team effort.
“A fleet of fire trucks came up from Northern NSW – it turned out every little town had sent their fire truck up to help us wash the mud away. You’d be working and a car would pull up and someone would get out and hand you a plate of biscuits they’d made. The Lions club was doing sausage sizzles because none of the shops were open. It was a difficult time but you saw the best of people and a determined human spirit.”
“One of the failings of IP systems is low light performance and we had to be very careful to choose the right cameras and install them in the right locations.”