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Putting Smart Cameras to Work for K-12 and Higher Education

Explore the benefits of using smart cameras in K-12 and higher education environments to enhance the safety of staff and students, while reducing the complexity and improving the security of a surveillance system deployment.

August 5, 2020 7 minute read

Educational institutions around the country are facing budgetary constraints and increasing costs every year. The additional struggles and budget cuts influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic are adding to an already difficult situation impacting school systems. All of this compounds the complex matter of keeping staff and students safe.

Bringing simplicity to surveillance in education

Many schools still have legacy surveillance systems which are tremendously complex and insecure. This is due to all of the equipment needed to run a legacy surveillance system, including but not limited to: servers, NVRs/DVRs, storage devices, cameras, etc. Typically, all of these devices are not manufactured by the same OEM, which means that you have to ensure firmware versions are compatible with each other in order to get this system working. 

Usually once this is worked out and the system is up and running, it is left alone and therefore, insecure and subject to hackers. Schools need to protect student data and need to ensure a secure surveillance deployment.

A smart camera surveillance system can solve for all of these issues, is extremely simple to administer and ensures that a school’s IT staff is not forced to manage another complex solution. The Meraki Smart Camera surveillance system deployment consists of only the camera and the cloud, secured by the power of Cisco.

The cameras are always kept up to date, as firmware updates can be automatically pushed down from the cloud and in addition to adding security, this allows users to always take advantage of the latest and greatest features available.

Access video from anywhere, on any device

One of the many benefits of a smart camera surveillance system is the ability to utilize remote viewing. As long as a person is given access to a camera's footage, they can view that footage from anywhere, eliminating the need to be onsite. Removing the onsite requirement allows school administrators and security staff to view live or historical video from anywhere. This is especially handy for schools with a dispersed campus looking to centralize security and reduce the number of physical visits to remote locations.

smart camera surveillance system

Ensure cameras are always working

Often times, legacy camera systems have a camera go down unnoticed until after an incident. A camera may have been down for days or weeks without knowledge of administrators, and since it was not recording, the administrators could not provide the requested video footage. With a smart camera deployment, alerts can be set to notify staff that a camera has gone offline and requires attention. This proactive approach ensures the camera investment is operating as intended.

smart camera reporting

School administrators have expressed frustration about the spinning disks in their NVR systems because when one hard drive would fail, it would take the whole unit down — causing several cameras to fail at once and adding additional strain to already limited IT staffs.

Easily manage camera admins

Using included security features, organizations can quickly restrict access to video footage. Camera-only admins can be created and have access to all video footage. Video footage can also be revoked from network admins that manage the configuration of a camera, but do not require access to the video feed. In addition, users can be given access to some cameras but not to other cameras if needed.

Simply share video to internal and external users

We often hear that exporting video can be a complex and frustrating requirement for staff to complete using a legacy system, requiring staff to be on site and spend extensive amounts of time finding the necessary video footage, then attempting to export it, which often fails and requires more than one attempt.

With Meraki Smart Cameras, one-click exporting ability is available. Once the necessary footage is found, it can easily be exported and shared with internal users or shared externally as necessary. This could include local law enforcement, local government and even federal agencies. Authorized users can even share video to individuals that do not have access to the cameras by using a secure link and ensuring the integrity of the video clip by calculating a checksum value. All of this can be completed from anywhere while remotely and securely connecting to the system.

sharing camera access

Quickly find needed footage

The ability to perform motion-based searches makes finding relevant footage much simpler and faster. By selecting an area of interest within the camera view and a timeframe to search within, video footage will be displayed including motion in the specific area within the camera’s field of view. 

Each returned item will appear as shown in the picture below, with each frame from the video laid into a single still photo so you can quickly and easily determine if that video needs to be reviewed or can be excluded.

example of motion-based search

Motion alerts

According to IPVM, less than 1 percent of surveillance footage is viewed live and only a fraction of that percentage is actually watched later. With Meraki Smart Cameras, we can put the camera to work for us. Instead of spending time watching hours of video, we can take advantage of the motion alert capabilities.

Motion alerts can be set up on each smart camera. These alerts can run 24x7 or be scheduled. For example, if the school day and all after school activities are done at 4PM and the school should be empty for the remainder of the night, we can setup a schedule for school security, administrators or local law enforcement to receive alerts if there is motion detected in the school between 4PM and 6AM. These motion alert notifications will include the same still photo to provide the recipient understanding if action is needed or not.

Motion alerts can also be setup on specific areas of the camera's field of view — perhaps in restricted areas, or areas intended only for school administrators.

Object detection

Smart cameras are capable of performing object detection, which can include people and vehicles. Once a person or vehicle is detected, further analysis of that person can be completed, including but not limited to: 

  • Detecting lack of a mask or face covering.
  • Determining if that person is brandishing a weapon (gun, bat, knife, etc.).
  • Reading license plates.
  • Detecting a person’s emotional state (happy, sad, angry, etc.).
  • Determining how many people are in a given space.

Once a person, object or threatening situation has been detected, responses such as lock down, emergency notifications, alerts or other actions can be triggered automatically.

smart camera object detection

Integration capabilities

Powered by Meraki APIs, there are several integration opportunities available. Probably the most important to note here is the ability to integrate a school's access control system with the cameras. We can create an integration that will link badge entries with the necessary video footage, allowing administrators to confirm that the badge used matches the person entering. Alerts can also be setup for a door being held open or forced open to mitigate tailgating in restricted access areas.

We can help enable the ability to integrate with a campus store's POS system or with a campus security or lock down protocol system, among other smart camera consulting services. Contact us to discuss how smart cameras can simplify and secure your school's surveillance system.

Schedule a briefing with us to receive a demo and learn more about how Meraki Smart Cameras can enhance the security at your facility, or register to get access to our Quick Guide to Smart Cameras.

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