The four cameras, installed atop the Philadelphia City Hall along with the famous statue of William Penn, provide a bird's eye view of the city. They were deployed so visitors with disabilities could share the same panoramic view as those climbing to the top of the 548-foot tower. Working in tandem with appliances from VBrick Systems, the cameras feed images to screens in an observatory on the building's handicapped-accessible seventh floor. The appliances also provide controls for tilting, panning and zooming the images being relayed by the cameras.
But come this weekend, the cameras will be retrained up a mile-long stretch of Ben Franklin Parkway, along which thousands of visitors will take in the Live 8 concert being held on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The concerts recall the LiveAid series coordinated 12 years ago by Bob Geldof and are meant to underscore a campaign to end extreme poverty.
Images up and down the convert venue will be multicast into a temporary emergency operations center that will be monitoring the Live 8 concert and several other Fourth of July holiday events, said Frank Punzo, superintendent of communications for the City of Philadelphia. The city also will use helicopters generating video downlinks. Any incidents or disturbances seen on the video streams will be relayed to police and other public safety officials on the ground via cellular transmissions, he said.
"This will provide us a view in real time. We'll have a direct line of sight," Punzo said. "But it's certainly not a replacement for policing."
Tony Moreira, director of Decisive's new public sector business unit, said the cameras were installed two years ago for a cost of about $3,000 each. The VBrick video server appliances that they feed into are priced at $10,000 to $12,000, Moreira said.
When the technology was first deployed, the solution provider discussed with city officials future applications, including public safety monitoring.
"There were two fears. One fear was that if they enabled multicasting, if they allowed this video stream to be across everywhere, it would flood the network," said Moreira.
But over the past several weeks, Pennsauken, N.J.-based Decisive has enabled the multicasting feature to support the surveillance application that will be used this weekend, he said.
Concerns over privacy also prompted the city to tread cautiously, but Punzo said as private businesses in Philadephia installed more surveillance cameras of their own, the city began considering its options more actively. Indeed, since the original surveillance cameras were mounted, Philadelphia has obtained a grant to install two cameras in Fairmount Park, after a series of well-publicized assaults. Those cameras are specifically intended to thwart potential crimes, Punzo said. When movement occurs outside of a certain region of pixels, an alert is sent to law enforcement officials.
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