Making Old Cameras Smart and Secure

    Cirencester College is a large sixth form college on the outskirts of Cirencester, in Gloucestershire. The college offers vocational training and the new T-level technical qualifications in Engineering, Health, Finance, Early Years, Business, Accounting and Construction, in addition to A-Levels. 

    The college  has undergone significant growth over the past 5 years, adding a sports hall, a multi classroom complex, T-Level and STEM buildings, an Animal Centre and the Gloucestershire Digital Skills Centre, and is continuing to expand, with additional buildings still under construction.

    This growth has seen full-time student numbers increase to over 3000, with another 100 apprentices using the campus on a part-time basis.

    Cirencester College Outside of Building
    Cirencester College Floor Plans

    The Challenge

    The college already had an existing CCTV system of over 100 cameras covering the campus, these were a mix of Dahua and Hikvision Cameras. The college had 3 different recorders with no connection/integration between them, all three of which could only be monitored locally. This caused a number of challenges:

    • Investigation time was increased because if you had to search for an incident across multiple cameras this might need local access to individual NVRs, you had to manually download footage from each NVR and save on a USB stick.

    • Whilst the NVR's could be accessed on the network it required 3 different logins and you had to login and logout 

    • Remote access to the NVR's off-site required a VPN making mobile access and browser access difficult to achieve securely 
    • The current system didn't allow any room for expansion in terms of storage or hardware capability

    • The search features were basic time based search. So fast forward and rewind until you see the person or incident you were looking for.

    • It was complicated to use and had 3 different user interfaces across the campus

    • It was difficult for the school to provide access to the CCTV for any users as they couldn't restrict access to certain cameras or remove the ability to download footage

    • They couldn't afford to update all the cameras but wanted an upgrade path for cameras and a system that supported multiple camera manufacturers

    • Uptime is critical for safety and security and their current NVR's could take weeks to fix if they were faulty or they would have to replace 

    On top of this, many of the cameras were also quite dated, with poor resolution and no smart features. This made managing security across the campus extremely difficult.

    The recent expansions and increase in student numbers had only exacerbated this problem, with the periods between lessons likened to “being at a festival”, due to the sheer volumes of people moving around the site.

    Compounding things even further was the nature of the campus itself. Cirencester College is open plan - no walls or fences surround the site, which backs onto a caravan park and the grounds of an 18th Century country house.

    While the college had no intention of changing this setup, the open plan meant people could enter and exit the site from almost any direction and at any time. If they were to effectively safeguard students and protect the campus outside of hours, the CCTV system desperately needed to be updated.

    However, due to the lean nature of education operations, the college needed to outsource the entire design and installation process to minimise costs. One member of their security team had previously worked at New College Swindon, where we had previously installed a high-end CCTV system, and recommended that we be contacted to design and install this one as well.

    The Solution

    Cirencester college CCTV
    Cirencester College CCTV Cameras

    One of our first actions was to demonstrate the value of an Avigilon Alta (Ava, at the time) setup to unify and improve the CCTV systems they already had. All but the very oldest cameras on site could be fitted with a cloud connector, so they could be viewed from any computer on site, or even remotely with the right login.

    The Avigilon Alta system instantly made all their old cameras "Smart" to enable the security team to search for individuals by appearance, track people moving around campus,  bookmark events and share footage via a link - making monitoring the site considerably easier.

    All video footage would now be stored on a 160 terabyte server, the largest offered by Avigilon Alta at the time. This would have capacity for up to 200 cameras - more than enough extra space for the cameras that would be needed to cover the buildings still being constructed. Due to the throughput bandwidth requirements we configured two 10Gbit network interface cards to accommodate the amount of network traffic from the cameras.

    When it came time to set up the system, we were able to migrate over every single camera in one day, minimising downtime.

    The increased accessibility of the system has allowed for greatly enhanced monitoring of the campus. Incidents can be identified rapidly, repeat troublemakers can be tracked, and trespassers can be flagged and located automatically, improving security and safeguarding at all times of day.

    What’s more, the system is so user-friendly that less-specialised security staff can be tasked with monitoring the campus, freeing up the main security team to handle any incidents that may occur.

    Of course we also had the challenge of installing 43 new cameras across a campus that is constantly in use. We negotiated with the client out of hours working as not to disturb normal day-to-day operation

    The project included over 220m of underground ducting and 3 CCTV columns. All columns were supplied with Power, Fibre Network and Network Switch. All provided and managed by Chris Lewis.

    We also installed some wireless point to point links for some of the cameras as groundworks were not possible due to a newly finished car park area and the cost involved in excavation.

    Here is a quick video of the benefits of an Alta Aware:


    Benefits are summarised here for Cirencester College:

    • One unified easy to use CCTV platform
    • Accessible anywhere in the world on any internet enabled device (with required credentials obviously)
    • Granular permission levels to allow department heads to have access to only their cameras and restrict downloads and sharing of footage only to authorised staff
    • Software interface and analytics are constantly improving at no additional cost
    • Map showing locations of all cameras with live activity rather than having to remember camera 14 is Maths Block Ground Floor
    • Unlimited Cloud Archiving and 30 days of cloud backup at no additional cost
    • Unlimited Users and Remote Support
    • Super Fast investigations through Unified Security of Alarms, Access Control and CCTV. Utilising appearance search and face search.
    • Share live or recorded footage with police or security in seconds via SMS or Email
    • Secure & centralised remote access to cameras
    • Motion alerts, people & vehicle analytics, motion plotting, heat maps, timelapse
    • Unlimited scalability with hybrid cloud connected cameras

    The change in user experience is chalk and cheese and it's now made the cameras more available and they are used much more regularly than before

    The Tech We Installed

    43 new 4K CCTV Cameras

    Avigilon Alta Cloud Connector

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