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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

Chapter 11. Use Cases

Below are several State department of transportation (DOT) use-cases outlining different approaches to closed-circuit television (CCTV) video stream sharing from Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Key differentiators between each user-case include:

Table 5. Highlights from three State agency approaches to streaming video.
State/Agency Key Highlights
  • Developed a streaming solution that has since been adopted by other States and agencies around the country.
  • Provides free and open access to thousands of camera feeds.
  • Handles different camera types, resolutions, etc.
  • Provides a consistent way to connect to agency video without the need for unique or additional hardware.
  • Technical solution developed by the private sector (Skyline Technology Solutions).
  • Solution currently consolidates over 12,000 streams from the National Capital Region.
  • ConOps focused—not MOU/legal agreement focused.
North Carolina
  • Innovative approach to working with the media in terms of paying for the required hardware.
  • Innovative approach to receiving additional non-financial benefits to the State through the provision of air-time.
  • An outsourced approach to the technical, management, and licensing agreement solution.
  • Licensing managed by Iteris.
  • Technical solution implemented by Skyline Technology Solutions.
  • Has consolidated video with data.
  • Has a more restrictive MOU that makes it more difficult to share video streams with government entities operating outside of the State of Virginia.
ConOps = concept of operations. MOU = memorandum of understanding.

Maryland Department of Transportation

The Maryland DOT's transportation management center (TMC) has been providing video feeds from its traffic cameras to multiple departments, agencies, key decision makers, and the public since the late 1980s. They have always architected their streaming solutions throughout the years in a way that allows them to restrict access to those feeds "on the fly" to protect sensitive footage during critical events. However, in the late 2000's, the agency was given a mandate to further increase the ability to share live video with more public safety agencies, other States, the public, and the media while also being able to ingest additional video feeds from these partners. With this new mandate, the Maryland DOT faced three main obstacles:

  1. The variety of the native video formats made interoperability difficult;
  2. The high bandwidth of the native video feeds restricted scalable distribution across networks; and
  3. The inability to share video in a common format across network, to large distributed user groups, as well as mobile responders.

To reach the highest number of non-DOT "public" first responders in Maryland, the Coordinated Highway Action Response Team (CHART) immediately involved the Maryland Department of Information Technology to ensure that the State's intranet (networkMaryland) would be able to serve as an additional conduit of the Maryland DOT emergency data and video system.

The work itself consisted of two primary tasks. If data and video was to be shared, the first task was to establish a secure video and data distribution architecture. The second task was to establish a scalable solution for transcoding the source video formats into a common format to enable multiple centers to view video and data from multiple agencies.

The problem: As shown on the top half of figure 9, in the past, data interoperability was met by placing "dedicated workstations" in each other's facilities and video interoperability by encoding/decoding/re-encoding/re-decoding video.

Image shows the old many-to-many sharing video sharing, which has poor scalability, is hardware intensive (initial cost and maintenance), and difficult to manage (verbal communication to select and pan/tilt non-native videos). Then is the newer many-to-many connectivity/delivery, which has poor scalability, non optimal security, and expensive associated with management of MDOT assets spread out across the State in non-MDOT facilities.
Figure 9. Diagram. Original Maryland approach to sharing data and video.
Source: CHART Submission for 2012 Digital State-Final, Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration

The Solution:

  • Video shared with partners through security approved, thoroughly tested Commercial Off the firewalls.
  • Video translated between IP-based formats instead of re-encoding/re-decoding between NTSC.
  • Multiple Security zones to enable sharing (and non-sharing when necessary) by class of video user.
Image shows new Maryland architecture, starting with an Internal multicast cloud, feeding to Cameras within MDOT, Ops Centers within MDOT, OTTS Glen Burnie, Internal / SSL Portal, and SOC. OTTS Glen Burnie and SOC eventually feeds to SWGI, Internet, Partners, and News Agencies.
© 2012 Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration

Figure 10. New Maryland architecture: sharing video and data across multiple security zones.
Source: CHART Submission for 2012 Digital State-Final, Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration

MDOT's technical solution was ultimately implemented by Skyline Technology Solutions which also implements enterprise-level video sharing solutions to other States. MDOT is successfully sharing thousands of video feeds from multiple agencies utilizing various source video formats by transcoding the video in real time, reducing the bandwidth of the video, eliminating unnecessary equipment, and presenting it in a common format that is network, security and distribution friendly. As a result, CHART has been able to increase the number of cameras available to the public as well as provide increased situational awareness to decision makers across the State.

Maryland has worked to replace aging cameras with newer IP cameras that can stream to multiple, simultaneous profiles. Maryland has also invested heavily in mobile CCTV cameras. These cameras can be mounted inside the vehicle dash or mounted to the top of the patrol vehicle with an integrated PTZ feature that can be controlled remotely at the operations center. Each patrol mounted camera costs approximately $15k to install and can be controlled by the State's transportation operation center/transportation management center (TOC/TMC) software. Video is transmitted via the State's secure Access Point Name (APN) across an AT&T network. These cameras provides agencies with mobile, remote live streaming video, providing realtime views of incidents and events where there are no fixed mounted cameras or infrastructure to provide surveillance. Now, operators and managers in the operations center have more information available to respond and manage planned and unplanned events. The State freely streams their mobile CCTV cameras to other agencies and partners.

Photo shows CCTV camera mounted on the top of a gantry at the back of MD SHA's Emergency Patrol truck.
© 2016 Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration

Figure 11. Photo. Example of MDOT's Service Patrol Mounted CCTV camera.
Source: CHART Presentation to Ops Academy — 2016, Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration

Photo shows four examples of on-screen video captures. The first photo is a crashed car being towed, the second photo shows a dump truck spreading something on the road, the third photo shows a fire truck showing up to a crash scene, and the fourth photo shows traffic being rerouted due to a crash.
© 2018 University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory

Figure 12. Photos. Compound figure depicts four examples of on-scene video captured from mobile streaming CCTV cameras mounted in or on service patrol vehicles.
Source: RITIS Website - MATOC Screengrabs

North Carolina Department of Transportation

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) does not currently have the technical capability to stream their 900 CCTV cameras to the public or web at this time. They only publish shapshots to their traveler information website; however, they do allow the media to install servers in their TMCs to get access to live video streams.

Image shows NCDOT media agreement.
© 2019 North Carolina Department of Transportation

Figure 13. Illustration. North Carolina Department of Transportation media agreement cost language.
Source: Agreement between NCDOT and media, North Carolina Department of Transportation. n.d. "Media Agreement." last accessed, May 1, 2019.

NCDOT has created a unique method of funding their media-sharing. First, they make the media pay for and install their own equipment at the NCDOT. This arrangement is non-exclusive in that the NCDOT retains the right to enter into multiple agreements with other media entities—also requiring that those additional parties bear the cost of providing their own equipment. Alternatively, the media outlets can join forces and equally share the cost of providing images and equipment through additional agreements (see figure 13).

Additionally, the media are required to provide NCDOT with "15 thirty (30) second Public Service Announcement spots each year" that will run between the hours of 6AM and 7PM as shown in their Media Agreement in figure 14.

Image shows NCDOT media agreement, with the following excerpt circled: USER agrees to provide NCDOT: A. 15 thirty (30) second Public Service Announcement spots each year. These spots will run between 6 AM and 7 PM. B. Up to 3 logo changes per year at NCDOT's request.
© 2019 North Carolina Department of Transportation

Figure 14. Illustration. Unique language from the North Carolina Department of Transportation media agreement requiring that the agency be given 15 public service announcement spots.
Source: Agreement between NCDOT and media, North Carolina Department of Transportation. n.d. "Media Agreement." last accessed, May 1, 2019.

NCDOT is also in the middle of a massive infrastructure upgrade to all digital video and a transition to a new network. After the completion of this upgrade, NCDOT plans to re-evaluate, and eventually deploy streaming video. The North Carolina legislature is even considering recording their live traffic feeds for safety and security reasons.5 A $1.5M bill6 has been put forward to their general assembly.

Virginia Department of Transportation

In 2011, VDOT decided to outsource the serving of their video (and other data) assets through what they called their Traffic Video and Detection (TV&D) project. A core component of this program was to manage access to VDOT's live video streams through a web portal found at:

Image shows Virginia DOT video feed high-level network diagram.
© 2019 North Carolina Department of Transportation

Figure 14. Illustration. Unique language from the North Carolina Department of Transportation media agreement requiring that the agency be given 15 public service announcement spots.
Source: Agreement between NCDOT and media, North Carolina Department of Transportation. n.d. "Media Agreement." last accessed, May 1, 2019.

As part of this program, VDOT offers 15 frame per second video at 320 x 240 resolution at no cost to qualified users. However, the agency also offers 30 frame per second video at significantly higher resolution for media and other partners requiring this higher quality video. VDOT states that "All fees associated with the provision of high quality video are for cost recovery and will not contribute to revenue generation."

Photo shows Virginia DOT CCTV feed where cars and a truck are driving down a road.
© 2019 Virginia Department of Transportation

Figure 16. Photo. CCTV feed from the Virginia Department of Transportation 511 system.

Table 6. VDOT Media Partner Video Transition Options.
No Value Standard Video Streams Higher Quality Video Streams
Cost Free One time setup fee
Monthly maintenance & Telco fees
Optional custom interface
Video Streams Available More than 75 publicly available VDOT supplied cameras
Frames per second (FPS) bandwidth per stream resolution 15 FPS
192 kb per second
320 x 240
Up to 30 FPS
1000 kb per second
Customized based on Customer Needs
Methods of access All media members will be provided links (URLs) to the camera feeds Media members will be provided a link to our video distribution network
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation. n.d. "VA511 Media Partner Video Transition Options." Available at:, last accessed May 1, 2019.

Users interested in gaining access to the video feeds must first sign one of three different license agreements that are based on the expected use.

  • Public entity for non-commercial use
  • Private entity for non-commercial use
  • Private entity for commercial use

One key stipulation of the video sharing agreement is that the VDOT logo must be displayed at all times over the video feeds—thus providing branding and attribution to VDOT. In principle, this makes sense—especially for broadcasters, as it provides marketing of VDOT services and traveler information to the broader public. In practice, however, the large branding banner and smaller logo can obscure critical information--especially when zoomed in to an incident scene.

Licensing Issues

Proponents of VDOT's TV&D licensing agreement report that it helps VDOT maintain stricter control over agency data assets, receive due credit for VDOTs information, and recoup the costs of the data feeds. Opponents of the agreement claim that they are overly restrictive, cause financial hardship to the public (but particularly the private) sector, and cannot be signed by some governmental agencies as a result of liability, indemnification, and other State-based laws. Certain clauses are deemed too risky or contrary to local laws to allow an agency to be able to sign the agreement and acquire access. Of the most concern is the clause that States begin "This Agreement and all amendments thereto shall be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia…" Northern Virginia is part of the National Capital Region and borders Washington D.C. and the State of Maryland. For regional operations and coordination, it is imperative that State government agencies operating in these neighboring States be granted access to CCTV covering roads near borders. However, no State government will agree to abide by the laws of another State. This single clause has remained a frustrating barrier to CCTV sharing between government agencies.

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