Single system melds physical security monitoring for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Boston-based healthcare provider known for clinical and research expertise in fighting cancer, found a way to unify analog and IP video systems and other physical security controls into a common management platform.

Ralph Nerette, manager for security at Dana-Farber, said the addition of a new building meant the opportunity to install the newer IP-based video cameras and systems rather than continue using just analog camera systems.

But Nerette said at the same time, the question arose whether there should be two separate security systems. It was decided it might be cumbersome for security personnel to be managing physical security surveillance and response through two separate consoles and that a better approach would be to unify the old analog camera system and newer IP video cameras into one management platform and common interface.

[RELATED:Hacks to turn your IP-based video cameras against you]

Dana-Farber did this through server-based software called "victor" Management Software for Unified Security from American Dynamics, a Tyco company.

Nerette said a central server called victor Site Manager acts as a gatekeeper feeding in video streams and related data from both the extensive analog camera system and the newer IP-based video cameras, which are both primarily a range of surveillance camera models from Panasonic.

"We're leveraging the technologies and demanding better integration," said Nerette, speaking at the ASIS security conference in Chicago about how the new IP video-based cameras and its analytics have been brought under a single management console with the older analog systems. In addition, door-access systems controls have also been brought under this common security management.

"Ultimately, it's about the dispatcher," said Nerette, noting this unification of old and new video was done in order to make their job as simple as possible. Both analog and video content is recorded for later review if necessary.

IP-based video cameras have brought several advantages over analog, Nerette said. IP is higher definition and has a higher field of vision than analog, which sometimes means that fewer IP-based video cameras need to be deployed for surveillance. However, video storage concerns have to be carefully thought out in terms of cost calculations, he noted.

While Nerette's physical-security department at Dana-Farber worked in conjunction with the medical institute's IT department to establish the appropriate network and security for this unified video system, the video-surveillance network remains under control of the physical-security division, not IT, he points out.

"It's isolated and we own it," Nerette says about the video-surveillance network, noting it stands separate from the healthcare provider's larger network.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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