Mobile video is an essential tool for investigating incidents on buses — accidents, falls, ADA complaints, bad behavior, and even crime. Like most transit operators, Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), which operates close to 1,000 buses serving an average of 330,000 passengers a day, relies on mobile video surveillance daily.
But reliability issues had plagued RTD’s old analog video system. Even when the cameras were working, poor quality video made it difficult to identify people or review what happened. And, because the cameras recorded to a digital video recorder (DVR) on the bus, transit police officers would literally have to drive to the bus depot to pull the DVR hard drives when incidents happened.
Bob Grado, RTD Transit Police Commander and Manager of Integrated Security Operations, recounted a situation where an officer had to stay on overtime on a Friday afternoon, drive through rush hour traffic to get to the bus, pull the hard drive, and come all the way back to do the review. It took four to five hours round trip, and the hard drive had failed, so as it turned out there was no video anyway.
Grado felt something needed to be done. So he came up with the idea of creating a high-quality digital video system that could download video wirelessly off the bus, enabling investigators to access it without ever having to leave their desks.
RTD invited several companies, including NICE Systems, to participate in a test. The participants simulated a bus pulling in and out of a depot by putting video servers on dollies and moving them in and out of the Wi-Fi network to see if they could automatically connect and start downloading. Only NICE was able to make it work.
Fast forward to today, and RTD is in the process of implementing NICE’s mobile video solution on its fleet.The NICE software runs on hardware from Panasonic Corporation of North America’s Transit Solutions group, including specialty cameras and a mobile recording platform specially designed to withstand vibration and weather extremes.
Over the next three years, RTD plans to retrofit approximately 500 buses with the mobile video solution, which will allow video to be downloaded automatically via Wi-Fi whenever a bus pulls into a depot, passenger concourse, or RTD facility.
The new system offers RTD transit police investigators high definition video, but the biggest benefit is the ability to access video remotely through theNICE Inform solution. RTD personnel just type in the bus number, date, and the time range for the video needed. When the bus connects with Wi-Fi, the system checks to see what video has been requested and immediately starts the download process. Investigators can also see exactly how an incident played out by combining mobile surveillance video, audio recordings and fixed surveillance video in a single timeline.
All in all, the project is a great example of how innovative ideas can be transformed into innovative solutions through outside-of-the-box thinking and collaboration.