A technical school district whose students have gained fame in the computer-robot fighting competitions called “Battlebots” would be expected to have the latest video surveillance technology, and now it does.

The district’s six locations are linked by a video surveillance system that is a hybrid of the analog system installed approximately 10 years ago and the latest IT video networking technologies. The network provides centralized control from district headquarters of video surveillance at any of the schools’ locations.

“These days, everything needs to be controlled in the schools,” explains George Gonzalez, director of technology for Bergen County Technical School District, Hackensack, N.J. “We don’t have that many incidents, but we just want to be prepared in case we have one.”

So in 2004, the school district embarked on a quest to obtain federal Homeland Security and county funding to link the analog system with a computer network.

“It was a long process,” Gonzalez remembers. “We had to write a grant to the federal government, and we got partial funding. Then we had to combine that with local funds to be able to get the top-of-the-line system that we were interested in.”

“Part of the system is IP and part is DVRs — analog video,” explains John Centofanti, president of JMC Solutions LLC, Plainsboro, N.J., a manufacturer’s representative. “We’re able to encompass both types of components and combine them into an integrated solution using digital video management software.”

The technical school district’s headquarters is in Hackensack, N.J. “The Hackensack site is the central monitoring station for all the sites,” Centofanti adds. “They can monitor, manage, record and play back recorded video from the head end.”

Gonzalez reveals that the equipment was hidden for security reasons. “Most of the time, the system is placed at the main office where it’s visible, and all the hardware is there, so it’s easy to destroy,” he notes. “What we did this time was we hid all the hardware in a place only authorized personnel know, and then through the software and the network, it can be accessed from anywhere.”

Expansion of the system will be ongoing. “As they move forward and wish to add other buildings into the surveillance network, we will add the necessary equipment at that time,” Centofanti continues. “They have a dozen more locations around the county they plan on integrating into the system within the near future. There’s no limit as to how many cameras, in however many locations, and how much video storage you can put in the system.”

The view from a particular camera and a diagram of its location can be accessed from a single graphical user interface (GUI) with the system from Vicon.


The initial project installed last July was priced at $325,000, relates Rick Sylvestro, general manager of Triad Security Systems, Union, N.J., the job’s integrator.

At the Hackensack site were 72 analog video cameras. “They have a very progressive IT department, and they had 72 analog cameras, and they wanted to bring that all back over IP,” Sylvestro explains.

Half of the 72 cameras record at 4 CIF and 30 frames per second (fps) while the other 36 record at 2 CIF and 15 fps.

The network video system Centofanti designed uses 18 four-channel video encoders connected to eight network video recorders (NVRs), six of which are for video storage and two are for monitoring stations.

Each storage NVR uses RAID5 technology and has 5.7TB of storage. Each of the five satellite locations has 100 analog cameras between them and a 900GB DVR. Most of the equipment and ViconNet digital video management software is from Vicon, Hauppauge, N.Y.

Installation of the job took approximately six weeks, Sylvestro estimates.

“It was challenging,” he concedes, installing eight NVRs and six RAID storage devices. “The way we really look at jobs like this is as if it is one or two dozen little jobs, and everything falls into place, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the whole scope of the job.”

Most of the analog cameras were retained and their output converted to digital through encoders. “It was actually plug-and-play, because most of these cameras were previously installed,” Sylvestro relates. “So we’re taking the analog and just transferring them to IP. Forty new cameras were installed in the satellite schools, most of which have dropped ceilings.

“Each satellite school had a handful of cameras and added a handful of cameras, typically in the hallways, entrance doors and parking lots,” Sylvestro explains. “They had a combination of fixed and PTZ cameras.

“That was the beauty of them wanting to have a system go over IP – they didn’t have to recable because we were able to use the encoders,” Sylvestro points out. “If you didn’t have encoders, you’d be running Cat 5 from your NVRs to the cameras, so in that sense it saves them a lot of money by being able to use the existing coax cable.”

John Burkert (left), a technician with Triad Security Systems, trains Dexter Evans, a Bergen County IT technician, in accessing video surveillance views from the Bergen County Technical School District’s six buildings.


The customer is satisfied with Triad and Vicon’s efforts. “Installation went very smoothly, and in a matter of a couple of weeks, it was doing everything we asked for,” Gonzalez maintains.

The technical school district is able to access cameras at different locations using a drag-and-drop map as the graphical user interface (GUI).

“They are able to employ under the software platform a mapping GUI, which allows them to start in with an image of Bergen County almost like an image you get from Google maps and go to a particular building, and then a room or floor within the building, and then select the cameras from that building,” Centofanti reveals.

Two of the school district’s IT technicians, Tom Tosi and Dexter Evans, received two-and-a-half days of training in New York on the surveillance system.

“We were married to them throughout the whole project,” Sylvestro concedes. “You have to be if you’re doing anything IT. Those guys were very helpful; if they have a problem, they call us out for service. They can diagnose a lot on their own.”

The IT employees have been training others at the school district to operate the system, such as the police officers who are assigned to the school.

“They rotate them, so we had to train almost every police officer, so when they come they are familiar with the system,” Gonzalez reveals.

Network security and reliability were not an issue in the job. “Years ago, networks used to crash more often, but they are now so stable, the issue isn’t there anymore as it used to be,” Centofanti maintains.

The school’s pre-engineering students’ Battlebots team, the Titanium Knights, won second place in the BotsIQ National Championship in 2007.

“In the last five years, we’ve had two first places, one third place and two second places,” Gonzalez remembers.

Building the robots to compete against robots built by other schools helps the students learn that the methods of math, science and physics have applications in the real world. Perhaps one of them will go on to design an innovative electronic security system or device!

“I did a lot of investigation – we went to a lot of conferences to get familiar with the latest technology, so when I drew the specifications of what I wanted, there were very few companies that could do that,” Gonzalez notes. “We were very sophisticated in what we wanted to implement.”

Sidebar: On the Job

From Vicon (www.vicon-cctv.com):
  • 9 KPX120900 – CCTV – Kollector Pro DVRs 120fps 900 GB

  • 18 KTX4 - CCTV – four-channel encoders

  • 36 VC600s - CCTV - Indoor color dome cameras

  • 4 SVFTW23 outdoor hi resolution day/night PTZ dome cameras

  • 1 VN1000V3 - ViconNet 16-channel workstation viewer software

  • 3 KTX4cc - CCTV - Rack kits for eight KTX4

  • 1 Netswitch24 - CCTV – 24-port GB Ethernet switch

  • 1 Netswitch24PoE - CCTV – 24-port Ethernet switch PoE

  • 17 V725UPSs - CCTV – Uninterruptible power supplies, 725 VA/450 watt

  • 9 VM17LCDRK - CCTV - Monitor rack kits

  • 9 VM617LCD - CCTV – 17-in. LCD monitors

  • 8 VNNVR80 - CCTV - Network video recorders

  • 6 VNRAIDA16400 - CCTV - 5.7TB RAID storage devices
From Altronix (www.altronix.com):
  • 2 AXR2416UL - CCTV – Rack-mounted 16-camera power supplies
From Middle Atlantic Products (www. middleatlantic.com):
  • 2 PTRK21PD - CCTV – 36-in. racks with Plexiglas doors on casters

  • 1 CCTV - Connect 72 existing analog cameras to KTX4 encoders

  • 32 Cat 5 patch cords