Tyco Integrated Security and two subcontractors took on an IP-based video surveillance solution at a new $27 million rail transit parking facility in Irvine, California. Under a tight deadline, a supremely coordinated effort was necessary to overcome obstacles before achieving success.
In California, a new four-level parking garage at the Irvine Transportation Center, located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, is providing thousands of daily commuter train and Amtrak passengers with a newfound creature comfort: convenience.
The $27 million structure officially opened last August with much expectation, and a collective sigh of relief. Where once riders scrambled to secure one of only about 500 parking spaces on a single congested lot, now 1,500 spaces are serving the needs of an annual ridership that surpasses 650,000.
Whether users of the free parking garage realize it or not, the facility also offers another significant benefit: peace of mind. The 500,000-square-foot structure is outfitted with an IP-based video surveillance solution provided by Tyco Integrated Security's national accounts group.
The $800,000 system includes more than 40 IP cameras, a video analytics piece at the train station platform and 120TB storage capacity, all covered by a unique five-year equipment warranty as well as a five-year service warranty.
Video is monitored onsite around the clock by a private guard service and is also streamed over a 10GB fiber backhaul to police headquarters at Irvine City Hall more than seven miles away.
Having won the project bid essentially twice, Tyco Integrated Security signed on two local subcontractors to complete an installation that includes IP video alarm integration with existing Code Blue emergency call stations in the parking garage and video analytics to survey the train station platform.
That might all appear like a clear-cut installing endeavor; however, Tyco Integrated Security's project managers deftly contended with more than one unforeseen hitch while staying on course to complete the project on a tight, mandated deadline.
Second Go-Round Is a Charm
That a robust security solution would help safeguard the new parking facility was a foregone conclusion for community leaders. For five consecutive years, Irvine has been named America's safest large city (100,000+ people), based on FBI crime statistics. Irvine's efforts to help protect its residents and visitors at the transportation center, which opened in 1990, are consistent with other concerted safety efforts throughout the community.
While the new parking structure was funded by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), the city took the lead in hiring a design consultant to draft the specification for the video surveillance solution.
The city hosted a pre-bid meeting at the train station in June 2008, which was attended by several prospective companies, including Tyco Integrated Security. It was then the remaining parts of the city's request for bid (RFB) package, including drawings and the terms and conditions, were handed out.
Likely because the city mandated a RFB - whereby the specification is not subject to negotiation - not every company chose to continue with the bidding process.
"It was a challenging specification," explains Paul Slaman, a national account manager who led Tyco Integrated Security's efforts on winning the project and seeing it through. While the specification was very well thought out and designed, he says, some of its technical aspects may likely have scared off potential bidders who had to weigh the tight constraints of being locked into the RFB.
"A lot of times in these situations companies, Tyco Integrated Security included, will make a go, no-go decision based on risk," Slaman says. "They decided they could not offset some of the risk that was in the specification."
Although Tyco Integrated Security would go on to ultimately submit the low bid, nevertheless the project would not be awarded just yet. A small technicality in the bond submittal precluded Tyco Integrated Security's submission from being considered a responsive bid. That prompted the whole project to go into a re-proposal and re-bid. The new bid solicitation hit the street in August 2008. In all, four companies would now make a run at the contract.
"We, in essence, had to go after and win this job twice," Slaman says
With Slaman and his national accounts colleague, Harold Williams, an integrated systems manager, leading the project, Tyco Integrated Security contracted with two local companies to serve as the project's installation arm. Redrock Security & Cabling pulled wire and handled the end-to-end installation of cameras; while networking company Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (ACS) took care of most of the storage piece and network switching equipment.
Together the two installing contractors, each with a unique skill set, allowed Tyco Integrated Security to form a cohesive team that would be able to meet the rigors of the city's RFB. "Putting the right team together was critical in being able to achieve what the city wanted and be able to put a winning bid out there," Slaman says.
Having secured the project, there was little time to sit around and ponder what lay ahead. "There were a lot of preconstruction meetings through the holidays," Slaman says. "We got our notice of award right around Thanksgiving  with a start date of Jan. 9."
Fiber Runs, Mounts and Extra Eyes
Seven analog cameras, mounted in and around the ticket office and train station platform, were already in use when Tyco Integrated Security commenced work at the parking structure. The specification called for the cameras to remain in operation to supplement the new solution, which features an IP-based video management system head-end by DVTel of Ridgefield Park, N.J. To accommodate the existing cameras, an encoder was installed to convert the analog signal to IP.
"All the existing cameras run to an IDF [intermediate distribution frame] room," says Williams. "All we did is add an encoder to that existing rack, unplug them from the original DVR and plug them into the encoder."
More than 40 IP cameras, a combination of fixed and p/t/z models also by DVTel, were installed throughout the four-level garage and its exterior. An individual camera is trained on each of the 16 Code Blue emergency call stations, which are placed at stairwells throughout the garage. These particular cameras are set to record at seven frames per second (fps) in normal mode; upon activation of the Code Blue unit, the cameras begin recording at 15 fps.
Pulling cable throughout each level of the garage was made mostly uncomplicated thanks to construction plans that included conduit runs integrated into the building structure specifically for camera mount positions.
"The conduit was there but it wasn't always in the right place, so there was conduit extension work to do at each camera to get the right shot," says Randy Jara, general manager of Redrock Security & Cabling.
Because the specification called for a fiber backbone each camera mount location includes a media converter/transceiver and a power supply, both of which are housed in a standard NEMA metal enclosure.
All the cameras that were within 330 feet of the network switch - located in the main distribution frame (MDF) room on the ground level - were connected with Category-5e cable. "Wherever we had to go more than 330 feet, we used fiber from the network switch and then converted it at the media converter back to Cat-5e in order to plug in the IP camera," Jara explains.
In the end, about 60 percent of the cameras were connected via fiber-optic cable. The normal TCP/IP limitations with runs longer that 330 feet dictated the remainder of the cameras be connected via Cat-5e.
During the project, an increasing number of skateboarders gave cause for a change order to be written for two additional cameras. Enticed by 6,700 square feet of retail space nearing completion adjacent to the parking structure, word quickly spread the outdoor layout was a prime hotspot for 'boarders.
Security guards, who were kept busy chasing off the offending recreationalists, began to reference the site as the Irvine Skate Park. A remedy came in the form of an extra set of electronic eyes: one fixed camera and one p/t/z camera now offer a deterrence factor and the ability to watch the area more readily.
Video Analytics Receive Fine-Tuning
In the early going, even before the preconstruction planning process had been completed, Tyco Integrated Security spotted a potential technical issue in the specification's use of video analytics at the train station platform.
As specified, four existing Pelco analog p/t/z cameras that had been converted to a fixed position would be used for server-based analytics to detect persons or objects that crossed or had fallen onto the train tracks.
In question was the viewing angle of the four cameras, which were mounted near the track platform. "Specifying those cameras for analytics would have worked fine, but the location was not optimal," Williams says. "Until the experts, in this case the analytics manufacturer, actually tells you where the cameras should be mounted, it can really be sort of guesswork to a certain extent.'
Tyco Integrated Security brought in a systems engineer from the video analytics provider, Agent VI, to offer technical advice on the ramifications should the city go forward with the original specification and how best to mitigate any design flaws.
A field walk confirmed the viewing angles posed a few issues. Namely, when a person is standing on the platform their upper torso would fall within the analytic's "area of interest," generating a false alert or false positive. Some areas of the platform would not be covered at all, while others were obscured. A west-facing camera would also be subject to shadows from trees and poles during the late afternoon; saturation from the sun could obscure the view.
The recommended modifications called for mounting four new cameras underneath an existing walkway bridge that connects either side of the platform. Two cameras would view the westbound track; one camera for the eastbound track; and one camera would view straight down to the tracks below. Nearby, the four existing cameras in the original specification would continue to be utilized but for standard video surveillance purposes.
Slaman decided to make a PowerPoint presentation to the city, methodically detailing each issue and its resolution, to prevent any hint of impropriety and maintain a high level of customer service. It's not uncommon, he says, for an installing security contractor to pursue thousands of extra dollars in additional work to make up for lost margins on a low bid.
"Senior project-level management with large municipalities and college districts know this nonsense goes on," he says. "They are hypersensitive to it.'
The city proceeded with the design changes as advised and the project continued on course to beat the contractual 55-day deadline.
But not before a considerable impediment was dealt with. Work on mounting the four additional cameras underneath the platform bridge proved especially challenging, bearing in mind costs associated for missing the deadline would amount to $2,500 per day.
"Every time a train was approaching work had to stop immediately," Jara says. "If we were on a lift, we had to get the lift back down. There were a lot of interruptions that weren't part of a standard installation.'
On average the crew worked fitfully in 30-minute increments: The contract called for hiring an attendant who blew a whistle signaling each successive work stoppage. Thirty minutes on the job was followed by 10-15 minutes of downtime, continuously, until the work was completed.
"If we fell behind on something, we strategized how we were going to resolve the issue and keep moving forward," Jara says. "It takes everyone's willingness to make that happen.'
The entire installation was finished on time with about one week to spare. Tyco Integrated Security could have formally requested more days to complete the work because of the issues outside of their control but chose to decline the option.
The project's success led to OCTA inviting Tyco Integrated Security to present at a symposium attended by representatives from six Orange County cities linked by a transit corridor. OCTA is studying the potential for connecting six transportation centers, including Irvine's, with an integrated security solution.
"We were managing for the customer's expectations on this project and wanted to make sure that we had a plan that was cohesive enough to come in below the deadline," Slaman says. "That was completely the focus point."
For more information on Tyco Integrated Security's Transportation Solutions call 1-866-865-4728.