The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, serving 107,000 students in the metropolitan Houston area, is like a lot of school systems in the United States: Money is tight, but the need for security is high. But Cypress-Fairbanks has been luckier than most. They turned to Vicon‘s ViconNet IP video solution and have been able to install video systems at all of their facilities. Now, they have completed an upgrade that consists of over 3000 cameras, spread across over 120 network systems, and the project’s scope will continue to expand as new facilities are built.

As the third-largest school district in Texas, Cypress-Fairbanks includes eleven high schools, 17 middle schools, 52 active elementary schools, and several administration buildings. As the district has grown, technology advancements have become a priority.

Testing, Testing

When the District decided it was time to upgrade to a digital system, David Straughan, Director of Security explains, “We decided to set up criteria and invite all the vendors with products to visit us and demonstrate their product. That was quite expensive and a major undertaking.”

Straughan and his panel (which included himself, technicians, the assistant director and some of the school principals) came up with a list of 14 criteria that any new digital system would have to meet. Among them: Did they like it? Was it user friendly? Did it lock or freeze up? What were the storage capabilities? How many errors did it have? Did it have simultaneous playback and search capabilities? Was the technical support there? Was it standalone? What were the warranty standards? Was there duplex view and record with streaming video?

“We took those 14 criteria and tested 16 different digital recording systems,” Straughan says. “We gave each one two weeks and installed them in three of our schools. At the end of the two weeks, we evaluated their system.”

The whole process took about a year, he says. In the end, Vicon was the clear winner. The next step was to select an integrator to implement the Vicon system throughout their facilities. After a detailed analysis by the school district, the project was awarded to Convergint Technologies in Houston, Texas. Convergint Technologies was awarded the project based on their experience with delivering the Vicon solution as well as their successful track record with K-12 installations in the Houston area. Convergint also supports a number of other large K-12 schools in the Houston market.

To date, Convergint has installed Vicon’s Kollector hybrid DVRs in the many school and administrative buildings throughout the Cyprus Fairbanks district.

The Digital Edge

The school district is more than pleased with the choice. For starters, the Vicon system allows the school district to keep their extensive investment in analog cameras. “The Vicon product takes the analog cameras and records them digitally. The monitors go from the camera to the computer,” Straughan explains. This allows assistant principals and key people on campus to review video right from their desktops.

However, the system also accommodates new IP cameras, which coexist on the same system with the analog cameras. From the operator’s standpoint, all the cameras interface with the ViconNet software in the same way.

“We wanted our principals, who aren’t in the security business, to not have to be technology experts,” Straughan says. “It’s kind of like Windows. We found that the Vicon system had point and click and drag operations. It was very simple. In five minutes we can teach someone how to navigate on it, if they already have some computer skills.”

Other benefits included the resolution and storage. “Vicon was one of the highest on resolution,” Straughan says. “It also has great storage capabilities. With 16 cameras, we can get a good two weeks of recording time.”

Beyond the School Buildings

Prior to installing the Vicon system throughout the education buildings, a Vicon video management solution had already been in place at the District’s agricultural and transportation centers.

“At the agricultural center we have livestock. If there are any intruders, our dispatcher can make a virtual tour of the facility. If we have an incident, officers can look at the video first. Operators at the transportation center use it to keep up with buses and numbers. Incidents at the bus centers have dropped dramatically.”

Court Admissibility

Soon after the first systems started going in, the district and a neighbouring district with the same Vicon system; experienced break-ins. In both cases, recorded video clearly showed the perpetrators activities and was later presented and accepted as evidence by the court.

Very few digital video systems have actually been tested in court. Cypress-Fairbanks recent experience gives them peace of mind that they made the right choice for their current and future needs.