Case Study from Nick Smeltzer, Warrington Collegiate
|This article was originally published within the RSC Northwest newsletter Volume 7 Issue 1 during Autumn 2007|
Warrington Collegiate used their new build as an opportunity to move from an analogue telephony system to an IP system. This was followed by a move to an IP based CCTV system. Their Deputy Director of Information and IT, Nick Smeltzer, explains why they chose to do this, how the move worked and the advantages of IP systems.
The move to an IP telephony system was based on several reasons including ease of management and long term cost benefits. Nick believes that although an IP system may require more expensive handsets, the backend infrastructure is cheaper and requires less time to manage.
They decided to use Cisco for their network and their telephony system. Using the same supplier for both ensured there were no compatibility issues or problems with the power requirements of the telephones. Every phone has dual network points at the back which act as a switch. This means that a PC network cable can be plugged into the back of the phone, avoiding the need for a separate wall port.
With the IP system, telephone numbers are tied to the handset rather than the port they are plugged into. This means that if a member of staff moves office they just have to take their handset with them to keep the same number. With the analogue system this could have required re-patching in the wiring cabinets and changing routing tables. The phones are plugged in via standard network point which has saved an estimated £2-3000 in cabling costs alone. Management of the telephony system, such as adding a new line, changes to voice mail settings and call diverts, can now be easily managed by any of the IT department as it is web based. When they were on the analogue system this required a specific member of the team who knew how to manipulate the command code.
In December 2005, they started to move over to an IP phone system. This was phased in as their new build developed, however this was always linked to the existing analog system until the final ‘old’ building was demolished a year later. During this time lines would go through the analog system. Routing tables were used to identify if users were local to the analog system, if not the line would be routed through the IP system. As more users were transferred to the IP system, the routing table became smaller. Eventually the lines were physically transferred too and the old system was switched off.
The high specification phones have a colour screen and can display html pages, while the lower specification phones have a monochrome screen which can display RSS feeds. At Warrington all phones are set up to display RSS feeds of BBC news, Warrington weather and news from the local newspaper. This provides access to information in areas where a PC is not available.
The IP phones can be programmed so the keypads provide functions other than making calls. One idea is to link the phones and CCTV to a gate. When someone wants to be let in, the feed from the CCTV could be displayed on the screen, and someone with the phone could type in a code on the keypad to open the gate. The system also gives call centre functionality, telling callers that they are in a queue and a PC can display who is in the queue and how long they have been waiting. The system even has the potential to detect changes in voice modulation, which can send an alert if someone starts shouting or arguing while on a call.
IP CCTV was installed internally after the new build had been completed. The external analog CCTV, supplied with the new build, has been converted with codex to run on the IP system. This system uses Controlware monitoring platform with Bosh Cameras.
Cameras are plugged into any live network points and can be easily updated with the latest software or codex. The reasons for using an IP CCTV system mirror the reasons for using an IP telephone system. Although the cameras are more expensive, the back end infrastructure of an IP CCTV system works out cheaper and it also gives a great deal more functionality.
The cameras can be set up to send an alarm based on movement in a room during out of hours. The buffering system will capture a recording from ten seconds before the alarm event, until ten seconds after the event. Face recognition is currently being developed which could allow the system to send an alert if a specified individual, such a previous intruder, comes into shot on any of the cameras. The cameras can also report back on any maintenance issues such as cameras being moved or unplugged.
The management of the IP CCTV system is very flexible as cameras can easily be added and viewing permissions can be modified. The camera feed can be displayed via an internet browser which allows for distributed monitoring. This allows departmental staff to log on to a computer either at work or remotely from home, and view what is going on in the rooms they have permissions to view.