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An Alternative to Current Image Technology

I've been looking for an alternative to our current image technology. My institution is in the same position as many others: the need to upgrade our system and the desire to do better at providing an image of investigative quality, with no money to do it. Are there any new alternatives for our existing cameras? We've already dropped our lobby cameras to six feet and installed height-marker cameras.

Your lucky day! Several months ago a bank security officer set out to accomplish an upgrade with some "out of the box" thinking. He emailed the FBI's Larry Carr with an excellent solution and what follows is the banker's email message:

I emailed you a couple of months ago about an improvement we were trying to make regarding video at our teller workstations. Our current system is hard-wired and lowering the cameras or relocating them would have been a very costly project. One of our staff had the idea of installing webcams at the workstations. I spoke with our IS group, and they researched the feasibility and system requirements. They recently installed the system for approximately $100 per workstation. It has proven to be a huge improvement.

To further improve the bank's video monitoring capabilities at the Customer Service Representatives' workstations, current webcam technology will be purchased and installed. Webcams attached to the workstations will provide a more detailed picture than is currently possible. Resolutions of eight megapixels for still images and HDTV quality videos in full color will now be available. Also, since the webcams will be placed below eye level, these improvements will also help defeat attempts to mask a face by wearing a hoodie style sweatshirt and/or a baseball style cap, designed to thwart the capturing of images from cameras placed in the traditional overhead positions. The new system will also allow a detailed view of the customers' hands and will help in identifying specific actions and/or transactions that may ultimately come into question.

The software that will be installed as part of the system is designed for video monitoring and will allow the CSR to record on demand or can be configured for continuous recording, archiving approximately the last hour's activities while overwriting older files as the work day proceeds to prevent excessive disk storage requirements. These cameras can also be remotely monitored in a manner similar to our current system. The initial software license allows for installation on twenty machines. The installation can be transferred at no cost to new workstations, as current ones are phased out as part of routine upgrades. The cameras are relatively inexpensive and use an interface that is universally available with no modifications to the workstations.

The net result will be increased definition of images to aid law enforcement agencies and bank personnel in identifying people, as well as a more detailed view than is currently available. The software has been tested and does not cause any noticeable degradation in performance on the workstations, so it should have little impact on our core service provider software's ability to run efficiently. Use of the cameras and software is intuitive, and the software can be configured to start automatically when the workstation is powered on for the day, relieving the staff of any responsibility for remembering to launch it.

Installation of the hardware and software can be done with existing staff resources. Likewise, training on the software can easily be handled in house. The system has been tested at one workstation and works well with impressive results when captured images are viewed or printed out.

Costs are as follows:
Item Unit Cost Quantity Total

Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 $69.99 each 9 $629.91

Active Webcam Software $390.00 ea 1 $390.00
Note: site license for up to 20 computers

USB extension cables (10') $9.99 9 $ 89.91

TOTAL $1, 089.66

First published on 2/22/10

First published on 02/22/2010

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