North Lanarkshire Council

An extensive network that keeps expanding

Serving a population of approximately 330,000, North Lanarkshire Council is the fourth largest local authority in Scotland and has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. As part of an ongoing commitment to public safety, North Lanarkshire Council has pioneered the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) as a way of fighting crime.

Centralised monitoring

Established in 1997 to manage and operate the Council’s CCTV operations, North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd monitors seven of the region’s town centres. Some years previously, Virgin Media Business had installed an analogue based CCTV solution to support monitoring operations across four different police stations. However, with no additional capacity for adding new cameras and videotape storage space running out fast, the existing infrastructure was over-stretched. To address the need for extra capacity and to improve the efficiency and flexibility of its operations, the Council decided to centralise its CCTV monitoring.

During the tender process to identify a communications provider for the new Central Monitoring Unit (CMU), the Council was impressed by the IP based CCTV solution from Virgin Media Business and specialist security solutions provider Controlware Communications. “We felt that an IP based solution would allow us to be much more flexible as an organization and would offer the best long-term value,” explains Emma Walker, Project Manager at North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd.

Client-focused approach

Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications worked closely with Council staff and the team at North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd to plan and implement a fully integrated solution that includes transmission of digital video images. “The Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications consultants were extremely client-focused in their approach and tailored a solution to meet our needs,” comments Ms Walker.

Dedicated account managers provided regular progress updates, raising any issues as necessary. “Considering the scale of the project, there weren’t many problems. However, the strong relationship we developed with Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications meant that we were able to work together to resolve any issues that did occur,” says Ms Walker.

First UK CCTV network of its type

The IP-based CCTV solution implemented by Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications incorporates quality of service and SLA guarantees. It is the first fully managed converged solution of its kind in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.

At each of the four police stations where activities were previously monitored, analogue camera feeds are now converted into digital signals and transmitted via an Virgin Media Business 2GB Metro Ethernet VPN to the CMU, where the images from over 230 CCTV cameras are monitored by operators.

Timing was crucial to the success of the deployment. “It was important that the monitoring service provided by the Company was not disrupted, so minimising downtime was a priority,” says Ms Walker. A phased approach was adopted with camera feeds for each area transferred to the control room in turn, and tested to ensure that there were no faults.

Another key priority was to ensure that the solution is as resilient and reliable as possible. The Metro Ethernet VPN infrastructure incorporates a selfhealing dual fibre ring to ensure that if one part of the network is damaged, data is rerouted without disrupting the transmission of CCTV images. In addition, Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications provide a 24/7 managed service to alert North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd automatically if it detects any faults. “This allows us to pinpoint the exact location of the fault and clarify whether it’s a camera, transmission or control room issue,” says Ms Walker. “We can then react quickly and take the appropriate action.”

Improved flexibility, increased efficiency

The solution enables North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd to work more flexibly and productively. “Because all the CCTV feeds are routed to one central location, our operators can monitor more images at the same time. This has enabled more flexible staff scheduling and transformed the way we work,” confirms Ms Walker.

Receiving images digitally also helps operators and Police Liaison Officers based at the CMU to work more productively: CCTV images from a precise date and time can be retrieved quickly, without spooling through hours of video-tape. If required, digital files can also be delivered electronically, without the need for officers to visit the CMU. Another significant advantage of digital images is the ease with which they can be stored. “We can now store CCTV footage for 31 days instead of 14, enabling us to follow new anti-terrorism guidelines,” says Ms Walker.

The Metro Ethernet VPN network allows North Lanarkshire CCTV to scale capacity incrementally according to its requirements, either adding new cameras or temporarily easing the number of cameras in a certain area. “This means we can make changes much more easily than before and respond quickly to changing circumstances – increasing coverage for a particular event, for example,” comments Ms Walker.

Serving the community

As it is a converged platform, North Lanarkshire Council can also use the Metro Ethernet VPN network to provide an internet telephony solution for the housing department and a data solution for the education department – delivering additional cost and efficiency benefits. In addition, the flexibility of the IP-based CCTV solution will also enable North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd to extend its monitoring services in future. “Using the same Metro Ethernet VPN network to link with other Council CCTV systems, we will be able to offer CCTV monitoring of schools as well as Council offices,” concludes Ms Walker. “Supported by Virgin Media Business and Controlware Communications, we will continue to provide communities with peace of mind, ensuring that North Lanarkshire remains a pleasant and safe place to live, work and visit.”

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