Technology Elements Help Build the Next-Generation Work Center
Advanced cameras, analytics tools and other solutions enable agencies to optimize data and achieve success.
State and local governments are using data to make their localities safer, more efficient and more secure. Achieving these goals requires agencies to collect, analyze and act on data — the more (and the more recent), the better — quickly and effectively.
To do this, many governments have established next-generation work centers (NGWCs), which integrate multiple data streams into a single, cohesive picture, allowing users to assess a situation in real time and make decisions accordingly.
Technologies supporting NGWCs include surveillance video cameras and video management systems; data analytics software, situational awareness platforms and visualization solutions; and network, storage and compute infrastructure.
For NGWCs, data visualization is more than an amenity. It is “one of the fundamental tools of modern data science,” according to the Harvard Data Science Review. Dashboards, graphics and geospatial representations allow viewers to recognize trends or patterns that may not be apparent in spreadsheets or narratives.
In NGWCs, video walls provide a focal point for observation and analysis. These massive visual displays can provide a single image or display multiple inputs simultaneously. In the Memphis Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), a video wall comprising 36 display units spans 130 feet, easily accommodating camera feeds, computer-aided dispatches and interactive maps.
Video Cameras and Sensors
For NGWCs with a law enforcement focus, surveillance video cameras are a primary asset.
As 5G coverage expands, the number of IP-enabled cameras is poised to jump. Gartner projects that the largest market for 5G IoT solutions worldwide will be outdoor surveillance cameras, reaching an estimated 2.5 million units in 2020 and 11.2 million units by 2022.
Cameras help agencies deter crime, track and gather evidence, and identify suspects and witnesses. In the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office, the Eye on Crime unit keeps tabs on more than 100 cameras that, paired with license plate readers, helped to recover 81 stolen vehicles and arrest 39 suspects in the first six months of 2019.
The surveillance objective will determine the right camera for the task and the right configuration of built-in analytics and other features. Panoramic cameras are often used to gather information on traffic accidents, for instance, whereas detectives collecting investigative evidence may rely on the details provided by pan-tilt-zoom cameras. A 2020 report from the Urban Institute, which studied the Milwaukee Police Department’s camera deployment, noted that officers generally preferred a combination of panoramic and PTZ cameras.
Connected sensors also are on the rise, driven in large part by smart city initiatives to improve municipal services. Sensors can be a rich source of information for NGWC activities — a development that led one expert to observe that “in many ways, the smart city movement is providing the infrastructure necessary to increase public safety.” The San Diego Police Department, for example, has augmented about 100 investigations with data from streetlight sensors.
Video Management Software
Video management software, powered by sophisticated algorithms and machine learning capabilities, lets agencies correlate video from several sources under a single interface for viewing, recording, management and analysis.
Because video analytics applications can analyze visual data in real time — including data from multiple feeds and multiple points in time — they empower NGWCs to pivot as a situation evolves. In concert with other technologies, such as criminal information databases, VMS can arm officers with real-time information that permits a safer, faster response.
AI-enhanced video analytics capabilities, such as automated pattern recognition, support a variety of applications, including license plate readers, detection of suspicious activities and objects, and identification of changes between two images — all tasks that could be crucial to an investigation but are difficult to accomplish manually.
Data Analytics and Situational Awareness Platforms
The volume of data available to agencies is a major asset, but only to the extent that users can access the information they need, when they need it. Analytics software separates superfluous information from high-value insights that advance a goal. Similarly, situational awareness platforms integrate disparate data sources into a single view in which data becomes visible and actionable.
The most advanced platforms, powered by AI and deep learning, are often cloud-based, in part because many organizations lack the technical proficiency and resources to layer their own AI tools onto a platform, but also because vendors may prefer to keep AI algorithms proprietary. While still emerging, these tools continually improve as the technology matures and as machine learning capabilities calibrate their performance.
The ability to connect decision-makers is an important feature of NGWCs. Solutions include videoconferencing, web-based teleconferencing and secure texting systems designed for small groups.
When an NGWC serves as a crisis response hub, collaboration tools can be lifesaving. For example, after a natural disaster or other event that causes multiple injuries, video collaboration solutions can enable frontline professionals to relay information to emergency department staff at nearby hospitals. With this information, hospital staff can begin triage care even before patients arrive, which can save lives.
Data Center Infrastructure
Networking, storage and compute solutions connect and power the disparate elements of an NGWC into a cohesive system. Unlike the comparatively static environment in which many enterprises operate, NGWCs engage with environments that are dynamic and mobile. The network edge is fluid, just like a city itself. Accordingly, advanced networking provides the flexibility and reliability that allow agencies to match the mobility of their communities.
In New Orleans (PDF), the RTCC takes in feeds from more than 400 IP-enabled cameras, supported by more than 500 integrated service routers designed to withstand environmental conditions. The routers support both LTE WAN cellular and wireless LAN connectivity. The more that NGWCs rely on remote endpoints to collect data, the more they will need high-functioning wireless and fiber-optic networks.
NGWCs that prioritize video require a robust server and storage architecture, sufficient to process and record data-heavy video files. That said, new cameras are more efficient than older models, placing fewer demands on storage and networks. An NGWC could potentially lower its data center requirements by upgrading camera systems.
Want to learn more about how data integration can improve your agency’s decision-making? Read the white paper “The Power of the Next-Generation Work Center” from CDW.