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Integrated Emergency Response

Nov 19, 2012 12:09 PM, By Don Kreski

New tools and tactics for the modern emergency operations center


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Jupiter Canvas

New Tool

Jupiter Systems Canvas visualization and collaboration tool allows users in a facility, across a campus, and around the world to see, share, annotate, and collaborate on secure video and desktop streams. Canvas allows authorized users to receive a captured stream or “canvas” to any PC or mobile device. They can use their finger to annotate directly onto the moving video or type onto it. All of these annotations can be seen by other authorized users—effectively turning individuals personal devices into networked video display walls. A canvas can include a source viewer for video and desktop streams, a grid for organizing objects, a label that can have dynamic properties and display data from network sources, and a frame that can include a title. A toolkit allows other widgets to be custom made by Jupiter, the integrator, or end-user. Canvas provides object-level security for all sources and role-based security architecture, and supports Windows Single Sign-On (SSO). —Cynthia Wisehart

iPad Control and EOC

When Santa Barbara County took its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) from a 1600-square-foot trailer with one projector and a small TV to an 11,000-square-foot building with several technology-enabled spaces, Electrosonic provided audio, video, and data information support plus videoconferencing and streaming video capabilities.

A centerpiece—and a challenge—to the design was the role of iPad-based control as envisioned by The Sextant Group. The implementation of this particular innovation pushed the use of the Crestron iPad app into new territory, says Electrosonic Project Manager Jeff Galatro, Sr. Five mobile tablets devices, operating on the building’s secure Wi-Fi network allow the EOC to control the majority of its systems. The tablet not only controls all AV components throughout the EOC—including displays, videoconferencing, PTZ camera, and digital signage—it also retains all standard iPad functionality, including web browsing, and can be used as a source by plugging into the various facility displays.

The iPad devices also serve as interface to the Media Distribution System. As the primary head-end for the AV system throughout the facility, it includes sources such as direct broadcast satellite, off-air antenna, cable television, DVD player, OFCI WEBEOC feeds, and videoconferencing codecs. The distribution system allows any source to be viewed from any location’s display or PC via a full Haivision Furnace system.

Galatro explains that the key was running separate incidents of the Crestron software for each iPad to avoid collision and latency. Each iPad can operate simultaneously; each can control any aspect of any of the room systems without stepping on each other. Interlock is used only to assign dedicated videoconferencing codecs to any of the five rooms.

Galatro credits Crestron programmer Oliver Pemberton with coming up with a system for running the five instances of the operating system. In fact, the system has now scaled to accommodate five more instances via the web browser, and can in theory scale to accommodate as many devices as desired. Galatro says his team worked closely with the county IT department to resolve security issues to allow the iPads to operate over the network.

"Because these devices are used by consumers—and integrated with Apple products like Airport and Apple TV, there’s an idea that they’re plug-and-play. This is most definitely not the case," Galatro says, adding that his preference is to also include a fixed Crestron panel on a dedicated network as a backup. However, the cost benefits, flexibility, and user preference for mobile devices suggest that finding ways to integrate them with commercial systems and software can be worth the effort. "In our world, an iPad is only as good as the programmer and the hardware engineer." —Cynthia Wisehart

HDCP and EOCs

This AV installation at the Minneapolis Emergency Training Operations Training Center helps meet the training and response needs of the Minneapolis Fire Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the city’s Emergency Management services, along with other regional partners. AVI-SPL designed the system to facilitate collaboration and allow departments to quickly share time-sensitive information. This includes both internal information and a multitude of external sources including many with High Definition Content Protection (HDCP). One key reason for the use of Crestron DigitalMedia on this installation was the city’s reliance on consumer broadcast services and the media for communications. It was critical that the system be HDCP compliant across the range of sources and display devices, and the HDCP management has been the cornerstone of DigitalMediafrom its inception.

Gary Pehl, lead engineer on the project for AVI-SPL says this installation was an example of a growing reality—consumer media and consumer devices create cost, feature, and expectation pressures on commercial systems. That means coping with the shifting sands of HDCP compliance (and other consumer-driven elements) in a commercial-grade way. Once you accept that, Pehl says, the obstacles start to look like opportunities.

"Robust, functional, useful systems are harder than ever to design—that’s a huge value we can add," he says. "End-user experience is greatly enhanced as end-users become more technology literate, and our systems effectively support and satisfy their expectations."

Regarding the EOTF specifically, access to locally generated informatics is done through computer—maps, GIS, BIS, shot spotting software, and dispatch utilities, as is typical in such settings. But commercial television is also critical—local and national news is absolutely indispensable via cable television, satellite television, and Internet.

"Crestron saw this marriage of consumer and commercial coming together and marshaled the full capacity of their resources towards mastering this landscape," Pehl says. Pehl says that Crestron’s comprehensive support system—both in the interest of project success and in advancing their own mastery—has been an important factor. It translates to three years of accumulated knowledge in handling varied and evolving consumer standards, devices, and protocols.

A few examples off the top of his head? "Hot Plug," he says. That’s when the source provides power to the sink to enable communication even when the sync is not directly powered—a protocolthatis not always implemented correctly, which can cause an unpredictable response by the source. In addition he says, not all displays accept all resolutions on all inputs, which often results in a really incomprehensible, and effectively failed, end-user experience. From his viewpoint, the glue that made it possible to have a secure, stable system that blends in protected consumer content and consumer device was CrestronDM and the support that goes with it —Cynthia Wisehart



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