Safety Vision’s Chris Fritz

The transit industry is constantly evolving and improving, based on new technologies becoming available. It’s been in just recent years, for example, that most transit authorities have begun purchasing hybrid buses and looking at smart bus technology.

Video recording systems on buses are changing, as well. Some changes are feature-based: Camera counts are increasing, and hard drive capacities are growing. Other changes are more complex, as onboard video systems are integrated with bus communications systems to trigger events as well as record and report problems.

The biggest change in video recording over the past 24 months has been the migration from pulling hard drives to view footage toward wirelessly uploading video at the bus yard. And this change has spurred others, introducing new server and software infrastructure requirements to automate this retrieval process.

The migration to a wireless solution has not been without its problems. In large facilities with several hundred buses, the standard 802.11 a/b/g has limitations and is not reliable for video upload. In fact, 802.11 installations beyond 50 buses will usually fail. Safety Vision has developed a new wireless solution that eliminates the problems of standard 802.11 a/b/g systems and enables communication with 1000+ buses for very large deployments.

Transit authorities also are looking for easier ways to manage their video — for streamlined processes that allow them to avoid dealing with the hardware. Over the next year, we see the focus moving away from the digital video recorder (DVR) box and toward a complete video solution. As seen in the fixed security market, there will be a move toward IP-based video systems. No longer will a bus be considered an independent video entity consisting of 10 cameras and a few audio channels. Each camera will become a separate channel, addressable over IP networks and integrated into the larger total security solution.

These solutions will allow an operator to view a suspect via live video feed from any camera on a bus, switch to the door-view camera, and then switch to a platform-fixed security camera and follow the person into the facility via its network of fixed cameras. Safety Vision is working toward this full integration across mobile and fixed security solutions. This integration and availability of any video channel will occur over wireless and cellular networks and from security offices to mobile platforms such as patrol cars.

One of the first Safety Vision IP cameras will feature 5 megapixel resolution, with the ability to record full frame rate VGA video while taking 5 megapixel snapshots, as required. Additionally, these cameras provide a built-in electronic zoom-on-sensor without any moving parts and on-camera video and audio storage of up to 20 days.

This distributed storage model allows the network controller to become more of a network traffic manager and will not require the traditional bulky rotating hard drives, fans or any moving parts. If an additional camera is needed, it can be added with built-in flash card storage without changing the storage time of the other cameras.

Finally, the big change coming in 2010 is the roll-out of LTE (4G) cellular from Verizon, AT&T and other major carriers. This high speed cellular network will provide a link to onboard video systems higher than most users’ Internet connections. It will be possible to view live HD resolution video from a vehicle as well as download video events stored on the bus at 5x to 10x speeds. Access points will no longer be required, as always-on real-time connection to the bus is available.

With this real-time connection using Web-based services such as Safety Vision’s SafetyTrax tracking and reporting software, advanced vehicle location, health status and emergency event information can be transmitted with delays approaching as little as 10 msec all through the use of a Web browser interface from any location.

Over the next 2 years, transit authorities will be looking for a total video solution including live look-in and seamless integration with fixed security systems for total video coverage without the need to manage stacks of hard drives. They will be looking to simply log onto a Web site to review the information in they need in real-time. The key word here is “simply.” In the coming year, we aim to help our transit partners simplify their work processes while strengthening their security efforts.

Chris Fritz joined the Safety Vision team as CTO in 2007. Fritz’s appointment reflects Safety Vision’s focus on interoperable communications solutions — including the capture, management and distribution of digital multimedia evidence for fleets. An entrepreneur with joint venture formation experience, Fritz is the author of five patents pending.