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Security Rocks

WHEN MUSIC FESTIVAL organizers decided to arrange the Rockstock music festival last year, one of their challenges was to develop just the right security for the regional airport venue selected. Rockstock would showcase 16 rock bands on two stages, and it would attract more than 6,000 fans.

The airport used for the one-day rock festival would have to be fully functional the day before the concert and back to full capacity the day after. The security, therefore, like everything else about the event, would have to be easily set up and removed. The solution was a wireless mesh surveillance system, including security cameras and monitoring stations that could be put up and taken down in a matter of hours.

Lachlan Kennedy, the event organizer, says that the Chatham-Kent (Ontario) Airport was a good venue for several reasons. Though shutting down the airport was difficult, he notes, the site wasn’t near to any homes, so there were no noise concerns. “We also chose the airport because it helped to market the event, and there was not another location that had adequate parking,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy knew that security would be an issue when the overall event planning began two years ago. “Security was our number one concern,” he notes. “We wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and had a good time.”

As it happened, serendipity played a role in the selection process. Kennedy was in talks with police, discussing possible surveillance solutions, when representatives from local integrator Damar Security Systems contacted him.

Dave Lavoie, an integrator with Damar, had successfully used wireless mesh technology for other temporary applications. Wireless mesh makes it possible to operate surveillance cameras without wiring or cabling. The cameras can be viewed via a control center just like traditional surveillance systems.

Damar had worked with several wireless mesh systems, but for this installation he recommended technology from Firetide, headquartered in Los Gatos, California. Like other wireless mesh systems, the Firetide product offered the possibility for multiple command stations, and its high bandwidth would accommodate analytics and streaming of high-quality image data. However, the Firetide system was superior to other similar systems because of the ease and rapidity with which it could be deployed and its robust security, according to Lavoie.

The concert organizers, police, and Damar representatives worked together to plan where the cameras would be placed and how the feeds would be monitored. The planning paid off, according to Kennedy, in the form of a smooth installation. The system was set up in eight hours during the day before the concert and taken down in two hours after the concert.

There were a total of six cameras—one trained on each of the two stages, one on the main gate from the parking area, one on each of the two ticket booths, and one on the gas tanks used to fuel the airplanes as part of the airport’s normal operations. For the camera aimed at the gas tanks, Kennedy decided to use analytics. The analytics were set to alert those monitoring the video if anyone entered the fenced-in area containing the gas tanks.

Kennedy also used a high-quality, megapixel camera at the main gate. The purpose of the camera was to watch for potential scuffles or other problems among patrons waiting in line. Because it was important to be able to see faces clearly, a detailed image was necessary. The Firetide system was critical in getting high-quality images, according to Lavoie. Some wireless mesh systems lack the bandwidth to transmit high-quality video, he says. However, Firetide allows for enough data to be sent over Ethernet to accommodate the streaming of evidence-quality videos. “We could have done up to nine megapixel cameras on this system, where we could have done only one or two on a traditional wireless network,” says Lavoie.

The Firetide system allows multiple command centers to be set up at any point on the network. Using this flexibility, Kennedy established two monitoring stations. From these stations, operators could control each camera individually. A police officer viewed the video feeds from a mobile command unit on site, and two Damar employees monitored the same feeds from a station set up inside the airport. (To round out the security, a total of 32 security officers and 12 police officers were on duty at the festival.)

The security of the video on the Firetide system was also a selling point. According to Lavoie, the encryption is stronger on the wireless mesh system than on traditional wireless networks. The Firetide system uses a proprietary technique that encapsulates the data, protecting it as it is being routed within the network. With this system, data is encrypted when it enters the wireless mesh network and decrypted as it exits the mesh at the central station. The encapsulation mechanism allows data to be routed without first being decrypted within the mesh. In other wireless systems, the data stream must be decrypted at each node to see where the information should be sent. This step leaves the information exposed.

Rockstock was a hit, and the concert will become an annual event. The security system was a winner as well, according to Kennedy, who plans to use the Firetide system at future festivals. “It was a massive success in terms of safety,” he says. (For more information: Andy Schreyer, inside sales, Firetide; phone: 801/590-8127; e-mail:[email protected])