By Jill Nolin

Baltimore County police officers now have access to live video feeds in the county’s 107 elementary schools through One View, a software application developed by Skyline Technology Solutions, and they may soon have access to other video feeds.

After a two-month soft launch, the county recently announced that IP-based cameras had been installed in all of the elementary schools and that officers can view live feeds on a secure site from their mobile devices, whether it be hardened laptops, tablets or smartphones.

The officers access the video using secure 4G/LTE connections from mobile devices and 100 MB/s to 1 GB/s connections from the county’s network. The secure website, which the county developed, enables officers to access a school’s floor plan, select a camera and stream multiple videos at once. Officers can either search for a school by name, sort the schools by precinct or locate a school on a county map.

“Giving them tools that are easy to use and quickly able to throw up helps them with situational awareness,” says Rob Stradling, Baltimore County’s chief information officer.

The school’s video is fed into a streaming server that is located on school property and built to handle many connections, as well as being optimized for lower bandwidth and mobile devices, Stradling said.  

The school cameras record locally to DVRs in a high-definition resolution, and One View pulls the video streams in an H.264 format. The officers stream the video as needed from the system and never directly attach to the school cameras, Stradling said.

“We are fortunate to have built a high-speed fiber network that connects over 25% of our schools and adding additional [schools] each year,” Stradling said. “All other schools are connected by TLS circuits and are capable of handling the bandwidth needs.”

Restricting the bandwidth without compromising the quality of the image is a challenge, especially when almost 1,800 people have access, Stradling said.

Although the application allows for as many as 16 videos to be streamed at one time, the county capped simultaneous at four videos for now to test the impact on the bandwidth. Only one video can be viewed at a time on a smartphone.  

“If you’re not able to keep that streaming piece at the right amount, you can quickly bring any application to its knees … That’s a lot of potential activity, and we haven’t experienced any issue,” he said.

“It’s an ability (Skyline has) in their software to have a one-to-many approach. A lot of folks will stream one-for-one … their technique is they put it on the server. We’re able to pick and choose whichever one we want. It’s not streaming them all at once.”

Prior to this program, there were no cameras in the elementary schools. The county decided to change that after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. Baltimore County was also the site of a high school shooting in fall of 2012 that left one student seriously injured.