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  The Digital Evidence Recorder - Visimetrics (UK) Ltd  
 

Visimetrics  - The Digital Evidence Recorder™ - Company

 

Beyond the CCTV cameras, it’s what you can do with the Video images that matters.

CCTV was hailed as the answer to many crime problems, from shoplifting through traffic and street crime. However, experience over the last 15 years has shown that it isn’t just the presence of the equipment that matters  it’s what can be gleaned from the images themselves. The requirements of court evidence need more than the grainy picture and a muffled sound track too often found. It is possible to record and store images and sound to a very high quality, however, it’s usually very expensive to do this, both in terms of equipment and consumables. In addition, the time spent accessing the huge amount of data obtained and presenting it in a form that can be easily distributed and used as evidence is prohibitive. The simple solution is to record it in lower quality, however, this won’t be of much use in court.

Technological developments have now squared this seemingly impossible circle. Today, it is possible to record and store images and sound that meet the highest requirements of digital evidence. It is also possible to export and distribute the images and data using user friendly software to create DVD’s which can be played on a normal domestic DVD player. But, this isn’t as easy as it sounds!

Custodial Review spoke with Visimetrics’ Commercial Director Craig Howie during IFSEC on how their company has developed solutions that have made them into one of the front running suppliers of this technology catering to observation critical applications such as the custodial market. First I asked him where, when and how they started.

Craig Howie: We started in Prestwick in1996. We were early pioneers in developing digital recording systems to provide users of CCTV systems with the viable alternative of storing images on hard drives rather than analogue tapes. It was new technology then and an exciting time to be in the business. People were aware that tapes had reached their functional limit. It was very time consuming to search them; cumbersome to copy from them and the quality from them degraded through use. We had a relatively basic digital system available in 1997. It gave us valuable experience in the market and enabled us to develop our systems based on initital user experiences.

Custodial Review: One of the big problems with the storage onto hard drives was the verification that the information was both original and not tampered with. How does your equipment give this assurance?

Craig Howie: In the early days there was a lot of scaremongering about what ‘could happen’. Lots of people were apprehensive about moving from analogue to digital. However, we are now in the 3rd generation of digital solutions and those fears have long gone. CCTV is now an integrated piece of the courtroom evidence trail, it does not stand alone of course, but has to be corroborated. We have an integrated process that verifies that the data has been taken from the source, where, when and by who. The built in audit trail verification certifies what has happened to the data; even if  someone has simply viewed the images it is documented. This is all done within the integrated software which we provide free of charge with all our Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and Network Video Solutions. The software is used to find the original incident files and then the operator can export them to make a copy of the required events. However, at no time can anyone amend the original source data that was recorded by the cameras and microphones. They are locked.

Custodial Review: How does your system handle the audio files?

Craig Howie: It is important to stress that in our system the audio is an integral part of our recorded file; hence it is not possible to manipulate the audio file separately. This completely ensures full  data integrity.

Custodial Review: What does your company provide?- is it the total package from camera to recorder and will your equipment work with other manufacturers cameras and microphones?

Craig Howie: Visimetrics is specialised in the design and manufacture of the recording equipment, we do not do the installation. Our recorders will work with anyone’s equipment be it analogue or digital. This enables our solutions to be installed as new or added in when a system is being expanded or updated.

Custodial Review: Can your equipment work with other 3rd party systems such as access control?

Craig Howie:Yes, we integrate with companies like ISM and their Genesys software. Genesys is a Control Room Management Suite which basically controls the entire security application. This enables the control rolm operator to access our video through a single security application.. We provide a Software Development Kit (SDK) which allows other software companies such as ISM, Cortech Developments and CNL to integrate all of our functionality in their Control Room Suites. The same applies with Affray and Alarm Call systems.

Custodial Review: When you consider the speed of development in technology and how quickly it becomes obsolete it poses the question: Is the format that your system records in future proof?- If data needs to be looked at again in 20 years time as part of an appeal or investigation, will it still be able to be read?

Craig Howie: A Visimetrics solution is future proof in terms of the software, our equipment can read, replay and decode the raw footage from any of our machines. If you are asking for something that is cross platform, and can read and write to anything from any system then this just does not exist. In the analogue world there is a clearly understood standard for the transmission of image and sound data. Everyone operates to that standard and as long as you can transmit and receive to that standard then the information can be read by any compatible machine. It isn’t the information transmitted by the cameras that needs to be read in 20 years time. It’s the digital files equipment like ours covert it into that needs to be read. As long as you know the structure of those files, then you can read/view the file. So the data is fully future proofed.

Custodial Review: Reliability and dependability are essential qualities of this type of  equipment. It has to be reliable. What record does your equipment have?  What service back up do you offer?

Craig Howie: We have been making digital recording systems for 15 years and have constantly developed the software and hardware over that time. We support the installers who do the actual job of fitting it all together. We provide full technical back up. From a reliability point of view we ensure most of the components are standard. For instance, the hard drives are Enterprise class items which are made by at least 4 companies worldwide. The unique value add is that we provide the hardware that takes the analogue signal from the camera and converts it for compression and storage on the hard drive. We use hardware compression on all the video inputs. Most of our rivals use software compression. The hardware compression ensures that each input is always able to properly and thoroughly process its signal. It will not be affected by the central processor being busy with other tasks as can happen with software compression. Our solution ensures that if a lot of scene activity takes place – hence boosting the video image with a lot of fine detail -  the system automatically boosts the bandwidth to cope. This ensures that no matter what else is going on the recording will always be of the highest frame rate, resolution and quality..

Custodial Review: So will the same hardware be needed to decompress and view the image? Both now and in the future?

Craig Howie: No, although the data is compressed by hardware it is read by using software. The hardware is simply another method of carrying out the compression that ensures there is always capability within the system to do its primary task of storing images in the highest quality possible. We designed the system to do its primary task of recording information as well as possible. Hence, it has to have the capacity to handle everything that it receives. This is why each input channel has its own hardware compression equipment. It then cannot be busy doing anything else other than processing the image.

Custodial Review:  So what is it that Visimetrics provide that its competitors do not? Why should a specifier choose your kit?

Craig Howie: We optimize our recording systems to store very high quality video and audio information in a format that can be easily searched and simply exported. Backing up our systems with UK based sales support, technical support, training and education provides a comprehensive  offering for installer and user alike. Comparing digital recording systems is all about looking at compromises. Most manufacturers today promote their products on the basis of them being ‘low bandwidth’. In other words they do not use up a lot of infrastructure capacity. However, the lower the bandwidth, the lower the quality of the recorded material. This is not acceptable in a custody suite where it may be important to be able to see exactly what a prisoner is handing over. It’s no good from an evidential point of view if they cannot identify what is being done. One of the unique features of our system is that it also exports the data in “movie” DVD format enabling it to be replayed on a domestic DVD player. This is useful because most Police computer networks are locked down to prevent installation of unwanted programs. So a program to view CCTV footage usually has to be loaded onto the network by the IT department. Our solution does not require that as it can be played on any make of DVD player. This facilitates huge savings in time and makes it very convenient for the Police, Courts and Lawyers.

Custodial Review: What about after sales?

Craig Howie:  Usually a security installer will provide all the required training and will be the first line of support should a problem occur. If they need back up from us then this is available both in person and remotely. Problems they cannot handle are referred to us and we provide 24/7 support to critical sites. Problems are very rare though, and usually a result of heat!  The systems are often not i[VU1] nstalled in data rooms. If the environment is not air conditioned the hard disks can become very hot reducing there lifespan.

Custodial Review:Where has your equipment been installed?

Craig Howie: 25-30% of UK Police Forces and approximately 70% of HMP sites today use a Visimetrics DVR solution.

Visimetrics have earned their reputation by concentrating on developing equipment that meets the needs of evidence; they have developed equipment that ensures that CCTV is more than just deterrence, by ensuring that the footage is a usable tool in the evidence chain.

Thank you for talking to the Review.

 


 [VU1]Craig – I thought that the point you made was that often the eq’t is NOT installed in a data room and hence not in an aircon’ed environment – which then can create problems with heat.???

 

 
   
  Tel:    44 (0) 1292 673 770
Web: http://www.visimetrics.com
Email: sales@visimetrics.com
 
Fax:   +44 (0) 1292 677 990
   
   





















     
 

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