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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Transportation Management Centers: Streaming Video Sharing and Distribution - Final Report

Chapter 10. Recommendations

Deploying a streaming video solution is technically fairly simple. However, developing a long-term plan for operations and maintenance of the system is a task in and of itself. Agencies that can sustain and grow their systems for years to come will have tackled the following tasks:

  1. They will have fully documented the benefits of sharing streaming video with stakeholders, and will routinely communicate the various business cases for doing so on a regular basis to staff and stakeholders.
  2. They will engage stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure that needs are being met.
  3. They will have implemented processes that make it easy for new stakeholders to share or receive video feeds without having to change their own networks or sign restrictive agreements.
  4. They will publicize their video sharing efforts frequently to legislators, the media, and other stakeholders.

The following is a summary of recommendations and lessons learned that have been gathered during this synthesis. Agencies should focus on these key considerations to help ensure long-term success, agency buy-in, and minimal disruption to operators and budgets.

Business Case Justification

To be successful in sharing closed-circuit television (CCTV) video streams, key leaders within the agency must identify and agree upon the overall benefits of sharing CCTV. This is critical to justify the necessary investment and effort. The key benefits to the agency include things like: Improved incident response, improved relationships with partners, better cross-jurisdictional coordination, more effective traveler information, and public service. Agencies that understand these benefits are better able to provide long-term budget justification for continued streaming.

Operational Considerations

Agencies can minimize the impact on operators by implementing easily accessible kill-switches built in to the agencies advanced transportation management system (ATMS) and CCTV platform. Kill-switches reduce operator concerns over zooming in to sensitive incidents. The most technically mature agencies have implemented kill-switches that only disable video streaming to the public and the media while continuing to stream to public safety and other agency partners.

Technical Considerations

While there are many feasible technical solutions to video streaming, the most successful, cost-effective, and stable solutions follow these guiding principles:

  • They leverage existing, proven technologies.
  • They avoid motion jpeg technologies or providers who specialize in similar outdated technologies.
  • They invest in enterprise level management that provides the following basic features:
    • Normalization—they normalize different video feeds from various camera technologies. They handle compression, color, resolution, frame rates, quality, and output formats.
    • Streaming—they are capable of high-volume, low latency, and one-to-many streaming.
    • Manage—they provide tools that make it easy for agencies to manage their streams, application programming interfaces (APIs), statistics, update metadata, and otherwise manage and trouble-shoot streams.
    • Share—they provide for multiple sharing options including browser-based, mobile, thick client, etc.
  • They work with companies that have expertise in the multiple aspects of video sharing (networking, standards, etc.) that can dramatically affect cost.

Regarding hardware, agencies should always replace failing cameras with newer IP streaming cameras that support multiple, simultaneous profiles. This specification will make it easier to stream video to different “Classes” of users—the media, public, and trusted agencies—with minimal impacts on operators, networks, cost, etc. More detailed hardware specifications can be found in Table 3.

Concepts of Operations vs. Memoranda of Understanding

While memoranda of understanding (MOU) are popular with agencies, they can be problematic. Agencies that must develop a MOU should avoid “governing” language, which can inhibit cross-border sharing. Other constricting language that moves the MOU closer to a contract should also be avoided.

The most open and successful sharing strategies do not involve MOUs or legal agreements at all. Instead, they focus on common operating principles (or a concept of operations (ConOps)) that explains the overarching goals of sharing.

A well-defined ConOps will communicate the need, purpose, and vision of video streaming both within an agency and among partners. A strong ConOps will address issues of performance expectations including uptime, network utilization, as well as clear case for controlled sharing in case of sensitive information during incidents — such as kill-switches and PTZ control.

Institutional Considerations

The key to successful stream sharing starts within an agency. Close coordination between agency information technology (IT) and operations staffs is extremely important as it provides a strong base for development of good relationships with external partners. A strong ConOps can be an ideal way to establish strong relationships with external partners without overhead that sometimes comes with MOUs or other formal agreements.

While in-house implementation is a good approach in some instances, agencies have benefited from leveraging expertise of their private sector partners who can provide expert installation and maintenance as well as continuous (24 hours per day, 7 days per week) operations. In fact, hosted solutions have become more prevalent among agencies due to their lower cost and higher reliability bought on by the ability to leverage economies of scale. Agencies now have the option of purchasing hardware appliances that support the streaming of hundreds or thousands of cameras OR they can outsource their streaming entirely.

Agencies need to strongly consider the increased burden on staff who will need to manage technology, networks, and media/third party relationships.

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