VAR Gives Virtual Twist To Stage Diving At Live 8

The four cameras, installed atop the Philadelphia City Hall along with the famous statue of William Penn, originally 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. To aid with concert security, the cameras were retrained up a mile-long stretch of Ben Franklin Parkway to provide a view of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Images were multicast into a temporary emergency operations center monitoring the concert and several other holiday events, said Frank Punzo, superintendent of communications for the City of Philadelphia.

Tony Moreira, director of Decisive's new public sector business unit, said the cameras were installed two years ago and cost about $3,000 each. The VBrick video server appliances that they feed into cost $10,000 to $12,000, he said.

When the technology was first deployed, the solution provider discussed with city officials future applications, including public safety monitoring. "One fear was that if they enabled multicasting, if they allowed this video stream to be across everywhere, it would flood the network," Moreira said.

But over the past several weeks, Pennsauken, N.J.-based Decisive enabled the multicasting feature to support the surveillance application used over the holiday weekend, he said.

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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 and has since 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.

The pilot project, initiated about two months ago, is being handled by Decisive, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, New York-based Verizon and Philadelphia-based RGB Video. Punzo said he could have relied on internal expertise to help plan and deploy the two video surveillance solutions, but he believed the outside perspective that a VAR like Decisive could provide would make the solution more complete.