Minuteman gets $7m MBTA mobile video surveillance project

Integrator also opens new office in Portland, Maine
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ANDOVER, Mass.—Within a year, hundreds of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) buses will be equipped with what Minuteman CEO Joseph Lynch calls “one of the most advanced multiband wireless IP video systems ever installed in mass transit.” The first group of buses will start transporting passengers the second week in November. 

Minuteman, a PSA Security owner, won the $7 million project at the end of July. 

“The contract is for the installation of high definition video surveillance platforms on buses that have the ability to broadcast live video back to [the] MBTA headquarters operations center … via LTE, cellular broadband,” Lynch said.

The buses can offload the daily video when they park in the bus yard, and law enforcement can stream live video from the buses to police cruisers when they are within a certain geographic range of the bus. 

“So if there’s an issue on the bus, the police can get within range of the bus and stream live what’s going on in the bus, while the bus is driving around its route,” Lynch explained. 

Mobile video surveillance on buses is typically a DVR on the bus and analog-based cameras. To download video, buses have to pull into a bus yard and connect to an access point.

The new wireless technology and IP video in the MBTA system, which was designed by the MBTA and A&E firm Jacobs Engineering Group, gives it many new capabilities. 

The ability of the command and control center to pull live video feed from the yard or from the bus any time of the day or night, as well as the ability to transmit live video to police cars “has never been done before,” Lynch said.

The system has three different radios and it changes modes depending on what the system wants to do with the video. 

In addition, the buses themselves have public view observation monitors, so passengers know that video surveillance is taking place. 

Another important capability for Minuteman is that the integrator can remotely manage the system from a central location. “We have remote management tools to troubleshoot and repair [the system] in real time, without having to roll a truck,” Lynch said.

Other cities around the country are interested in this technology, Lynch said. And the fact that this system can be remotely managed means “it can easily be deployed and managed around the country.

“It’s the first time this has been done, all of the manufacturers involved are very excited,” he said.

Two key manufacturers are Panasonic and Genetec. “The rest of the components and integration is being designed and software engineered [by Minuteman]. Some computer components, NVRs and things like that we are responsible for,” he said. Lynch says that Minuteman’s engineering capabilities are what cinched this project for the company. He’s hired six additional people, including software engineers, project management engineers and networking and general security engineers. 

The initial contract is for 250 buses and there will be an additional 360 buses that will have a partial system. The MBTA buses serve the cities and towns within the [Route] 128 metro area. Ten to 15 buses will be added every week and the entire fleet will be deployed by next summer. “The whole project will take us less than a year to finish,” Lynch said. 

In a separate announcement, Minuteman has opened an office in Portland, Maine. Lynch said the company has had clients, including some major colleges, in Maine for years. It has several potential projects in the works and is looking to expand further into northern New England, he said.