Successful games through surveillance

April 2015 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

While there were no credible threats against the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the city of Vancouver developed a security plan that could stand up to even the worst possible threat.

With public safety a top priority, the city and Vancouver Police Department (VPD), along with other provincial, federal, and private agencies, also wanted to facilitate – not repress – the opportunity for peaceful and lawful protests in an effort to protect free speech and privacy rights in Canada. Striving to respect the true Olympic spirit and dedicated to providing effective crowd management, the city deployed the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system at three key areas in downtown Vancouver, giving broad situational awareness to administrators, police officers, first responders, and traffic engineers whose job it was to maintain public order and safety during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Bird’s-eye view

“As director of emergency management for the city of Vancouver, it’s my job to plan and prepare for any major emergencies or disasters that might befall the city,” explained Kevin Wallinger. Providing a common operating picture to all agencies across the jurisdiction, the city’s state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Centre effectively coordinates all necessary resources – from police, fire, and emergency response personnel to transportation and traffic engineers – and prioritises capabilities in the event of disaster.

But facing an influx of millions in the downtown core during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Wallinger and his team realised there was an added need for a real-time situational awareness tool that could provide all agencies with an up-to-the-minute view of what was going on in key areas of the city, including Granville Street, Robson Street, and Hamilton/Mainland Streets in the entertainment district. “The Avigilon high-definition surveillance system is a powerful, flexible, and scalable end-to-end surveillance solution that gave us a birds-eye view of the downtown core during the Olympic Games, unobtrusively delivering the situational awareness we needed to ensure public order and safety while maintaining privacy rights.”

Broad situational awareness

Over a 60-day period, Robson Street, Granville Street, and Hamilton/Mainland Street corridors in the heart of downtown Vancouver were monitored 24/7 using the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system. At the Granville corridor, fourteen 5 MP Avigilon HD cameras, two 11 MP Avigilon HD cameras, and two 16 MP Avigilon HD cameras were installed at intersections for maximum situational awareness, while PTZ cameras were connected to eleven Avigilon analogue Video Encoders for improved performance.

At Robson Street and Hamilton/Mainland Street, a 5 MP Avigilon HD camera, along with additional PTZ cameras connected to 20 Avigilon analogue video encoders were wirelessly connected to several city-owned facilities where fibre infrastructure was available. The city also installed six 5 MP Avigilon HD dome cameras with integrated IR illumination and nine PTZ cameras connected to three Avigilon analogue video encoders at two additional Olympic live entertainment sites. These installations were connected to the network via the city’s fibre backbone.

Emergency Operations Centre staff seamlessly managed the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system using the Avigilon Control Centre network video management software (NVMS) with HDSM on five workstations and stored up to 21 days of footage on four servers. Additional workstations were set up at the Vancouver Police Department and the City of Vancouver Traffic department for added monitoring.

Improved image clarity

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games is not the first situation in which the city of Vancouver temporarily deployed surveillance cameras for the purpose of acquiring situational awareness. “Every summer, Vancouver hosts a fireworks display called ‘The Celebration of Light’ that attracts 1,2 to 1,5 million spectators over the course of four nights in a two-week time span,” explained Scott Raesler, manager of the Emergency Planning Unit of the Emergency and Operational Planning Section at the Vancouver Police Department. In the past, the city installed an analogue-based solution using PTZ cameras at key areas across the city to manage the crowds. “The image clarity and performance of the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system far surpasses that of our previous analogue-based solution.”

Wallinger agrees that there was a huge improvement in picture quality with the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system. “Tasked with monitoring the downtown core around the clock and in the dead of winter, lighting was an issue for us,” said Wallinger. “We were quite impressed with the image clarity we were able to achieve, even at night.”

Besides image quality improvements, the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system offered another critical advantage to the city: “Avigilon is an end-to-end surveillance system that includes HD cameras, analogue video encoders, network video, and an exceptionally powerful and intuitive network video management software solution to ensure maximum performance of our high-definition surveillance solution,” claimed Wallinger.

Because Avigilon is an end-to-end solution, the city was able to easily make adjustments to meet last minute requests for added cameras, users, or storage requirements as they arose. “We did not have a lot of time to get a very complex surveillance system up and running, and as we got closer to the Games, we saw a growing interest from other city departments, including transportation and traffic engineers who wanted access to the cameras without compromising privacy considerations.” explained Wallinger. The city had to scale and reconfigure the surveillance system to meet new requirements on the fly, something they were able to do because of Avigilon’s scalability and flexibility.

Avigilon Control Centre software’s advanced functionality and simple management tools were also critical to the city’s overall success in providing full situational awareness during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “In a high pressure event management situation like this, ease-of-use was critical to maximise the system’s performance,” commented Raesler. Operators quickly learned how to manipulate the system to drill down into an image and quickly identify or disregard an issue. “Although we were working in a very chaotic environment, we quickly got in the groove of using the system’s features, such as bookmarking events, for investigative purposes.”

Better crowd management

With real-time access to events in the downtown core, the city was able to achieve widespread situational awareness for improved communication between all agencies, resulting in the most strategic and effective crowd management possible. “Lack of situation awareness can make police officers nervous, sometimes leading to a more assertive response on the ground,” explained Raesler. “And because we were working with disparate groups that did not necessarily share the same approach to public order maintenance, it was even more important that we had the full picture.”

With the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system, first responders were better equipped to make strategic decisions in the event of an incident. General situational awareness also meant that the city and VPD could be more strategic in the deployment of resources to more effectively respond to emergencies, anticipate traffic and transportation issues and predict crowd movement.

According to Wallinger, the true success of the Avigilon high-definition surveillance system lies in the fact that his team had access to information about local incidents much faster than before. “I receive news alerts from our local radio station throughout the day and, in the past, I would always get them 15 to 30 minutes before I would hear about an incident from other sources,” explained Wallinger. “With the Avigilon surveillance solution in place, I actually got the information at least 30 minutes before the news alerts came in – a dramatic improvement in our communication abilities and overall awareness.”

For more information contact Avigilon, +27 (0)72 584 4992,,

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