Millennium Square is a popular square in the centre of Bristol, right beside the At-Bristol Science Centre, an interactive science centre. For visitors to the centre, the square and its remarkable water features and sculptures is a convenient meeting point, made yet more attractive by an enormous LED wall and many restaurants and bars close by. Millennium Square is visited by immense numbers of people every year. Added to this, its location close to the neighbouring Harbourside and the many festivals held there, it is understandable that the expansive Millennium Square is a busy Bristol locale.
For this reason, the city administrators decided to improve security in the public square and install a video system equal to the task. Previously, surveillance for the square had been provided by just a single PTZ camera, part of the At-Bristol centre CCTV system. “The @Bristol Control room is windowless and the Panomera system is used daily by security staff to give us a live, virtual window on to Millennium Square. Previously the square was covered with a single PTZ which was generally left in a wide angle view to give us an overview of the area. The problem was this meant if we had to retrieve any evidence the recorded images needed to be digitally zoomed and would pixelate too much to be of any evidential value,” relates John Whittaker, security team manager for At-Bristol.
Everything in view
So the biggest challenge was to find a solution that delivers a continuous overview of the entire square at highest detail resolution, but which is still cost-efficient and easy to operate. “Our experience with the PTZ camera was that the recordings taken from it are basically worthless for purposes of subsequent investigations due to the low resolution. One alternative would have been to install several HD cameras at various locations all over the square – but then the job of operating the cameras would become very complex for the security staff, and the infrastructure costs would be prohibitive”, Whittaker explains.
Finally, Bristol City Council found the solution at a CCTV User Group conference, where they learned about Panomera multifocal sensor technology by Dallmeier. With the patented sensor concept of this new camera technology, it is possible to monitor even very large expanses from a single installation point, with very high resolution and consistent depth of focus. And, the entire viewing area is recorded at all times, unlike PTZ cameras, which only record the area they are currently viewing live. “The Panomera gives us the best of both worlds – the wide angle perspective plus the high quality detail at the furthest point,” says Whittaker.
“We have been working with the city administrators in Bristol for several years now”, says James Walker, MD for Dallmeier UK. “The city already has many Dallmeier products in place, and this was one reason why they decided to test the MFS technology.” A suitable installation site was chosen for the Panomera in consultation with the CCTV provider Select Electric. A single Panomera camera with a 90° viewing angle is enough to monitor the whole of Millennium Square in the highest possible resolution.
The images from the IP camera are recorded at a rate of 12.5 fps on a Dallmeier video appliance. One workstation in the security office in the At-Bristol centre allows the recordings to be searched as well as live monitoring of the camera feed. A second workstation has been set up in the Council Emergency Control Centre, where it is used daily by the CCTV operators to monitor the area.
“We know we are not missing anything now, because we can look for incidents in the recordings after the fact,” says Whittaker. “Knowing the whole square is being recorded at high detail across the whole scene all the time also enables us to track offenders that have been reported by members of the public perhaps in other areas. The square is a main thoroughfare and this enables us to provide continuity on an offender’s direction – both where they are going and where they have come from.”
Independent system operation
“The images from the Panomera are reviewed and analysed not only by the security operators in the At-Bristol science centre, but also by the city council security personnel – entirely independently of each other,” states Ray Murphy, MD of Select Electric.
Unlike PTZ cameras, MFS technology has multi-user capability, i.e., multiple operators can view the camera images at the same time and tilt or zoom as they wish – not only in the live images but also in the recorded material at the same time, without interfering with the other users.
“Millennium Square has a busy schedule of events throughout the year which attract thousands of members of the public. We have used Panomera to obtain evidence for a number of incidents. In fact within its first couple of weeks of installation we had video of a handbag theft which the police said was the best quality images they had ever seen from a CCTV system,” says Whittaker.
“The Panomera multifocal sensor technology from Dallmeier is a remarkable solution to the problem of monitoring the whole of the Millennium Square – no other system would ever have been able to do that from a single installation point,” Whittaker concludes. “We are both pleased and impressed with the power and ease of use of the system and would not want to be without it.”
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