Streaming live video for situational awareness

Vemotion, an independent company within the TeleWare Group based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, has come up with a solution that provides wireless video transmission, encoding and streaming of live video over low bitrate networks, such as wireless GSM/GPRS and radio networks. James Atkinson reports

Streaming live video for situational awareness

Both public safety organisations and enterprises are keen to access live video streaming to give them real-time situational awareness. Broadband is seen as the key means of doing this, but dedicated networks will be a long time coming. In the meantime, UK firm Vemotion has an alternative solution.

Ian Foxley, in charge of strategic business development at Vemotion, explains: ‘The first point to note is that we are hardware agnostic. We don’t care what you are viewing the video on and we don’t much care what cameras you use.

‘The second key point is that we stream video at low bandwidth,’ continues Foxley. ‘We take the live picture and put it into the control room, so the commander can see what is happening in real-time and respond promptly. It provides increased flexibility in operations.’ 

Vemotion can stream video from a wide variety of platforms, such as CCTV vans, mobile and deployable CCTV cameras, fixed CCTV cameras, local CCTV hubs, covert cameras, patrol vehicles, fire appliances, helicopters, and body worn cameras/remote operators.

‘The video stream can be integrated into existing control room systems such as VMS (vehicle management systems) and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition),’ says Foxley. ‘We can therefore maximise what the customer is doing with his existing platform. In the control room the video stream looks just like another camera feed coming in.’

The system also allows users to record video on their mobile devices, but Foxley says: ‘People tend to record the video feed in the control room and route it back out to area control rooms and to multiple personnel in the field at the same time. This provides a great flexibility of options.’

The Vemotion solution is made up of three main elements: encoders, a central server, and a viewer which can be a smartphone, PC, tablet or multi-screen remote control room.

System architecture

The live video feed from any of the above devices is transmitted by GPRS/3G, 802.11 Wi-Fi, PMN, satellite, LAN or WAN system into the Vemotion box of tricks, which authenticates the video feed, encodes the video for streaming and then transmits it to command and control centres, PCs or mobile devices.

The encoder is a video compression and transmission tool that allows Vemotion to transmit quality video over very low bandwidth connections, such as GPRS. The encoder application is responsible for maintaining communications with the Vemotion Streaming Server and delivering video from any camera in highly optimised form, therefore making efficient use of network bandwidth.

Encoding parameters can be controlled and managed so that the optimal settings can be found for any particular network conditions. The encoding parameters can be changed  quickly and easily by an operator, either working locally to the encoder or remotely from a  central location. 

Encoders can capture video from almost any video source, including analogue cameras and IP cameras, making the solution ideal for wireless CCTV. Once  the encoder is deployed, it requires a connection to the internet.

This can be provided in several ways, depending upon the situation, but a common way is to provision a 3G/GPRS router with a SIM card. This will use the mobile GSM networks in order to connect to the internet and then the encoder can begin sending video data to the Vemotion Streaming Server.

‘The other clever bit we do is that you don’t have to feed the video out singly,’ says Foxley. ‘Instead, it can be distributed to multiple viewing devices at the same time. We take one input and feed it out to lots of outputs.’

For example, by using Vemotion’s control PC multi-screen video stream manger, the operator or commander in the control room can select any one video stream and drop it onto the screen (or smartphone/laptop etc) of any person. ‘It is a very flexible and speedy management tool,’ says Foxley.

The cameras are remotely operated from the control rooms. Operators can issue commands to the remote cameras to pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ). This means customers do not have to rely on a local operator to control the camera and its movements. 

For vans and cars, Vemotion’s solution allows most existing CCTV cameras and vehicle PCs to be used; all that is needed is the installation of a router and the Vemotion software.

Vemotion in action

West Yorkshire Police: Using roadside cameras to track stolen vehicles and for anti-fraud and counter-terror purposes.

Leedswatch: Crowd monitoring and control. Marchers may pick a route where they know there is no fixed CCTV coverage, but Vemotion’s mobile solution means cameras can quickly be installed to plug the gap, allowing commanders to respond quickly to any situation.

Tour de France: Live video feeds for incident management streamed to police and gendarmerie.

UK Environment Agency - River Watch: Cameras send snapshots of the water level at pre-set intervals to record rising or descending water levels. This helps the Agency to be more efficient at putting out flood warnings – and saves sending cars out with people to undertake the monitoring. 

Protection of endangered species: Remote battery-powered ruggedised units connected to break beam sensors watch endangered species. When someone approaches, the cameras are triggered and an alarm is sent. 

Covert operations – Hot drop (rapid deployment): This usually involves a single camera unit, which can be positioned by an operative on top of a wall or left in a parked car where it will be controlled remotely. 

Fly tipping: Camera is positioned to record the vehicle number plate – link to ANPR.

Transportation – vehicle protection: Four or eight cameras attached to a lorry provide 24-hour remote monitoring and motion detection linked to GPS and a driver alert.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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