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Government Installation Issues

Nov 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Experts discuss challenges in security, budget, and technology.

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Security has been a major component of every government systems installation project in recent years. How did the events of Sept. 11 change the way security is regarded in the context of AV? Where do security issues sit in the hierarchy of systems' planning and installation?

Stanford: Security issues have risen in importance depending on the agency and function of the system, but have rarely been a driving force. Some facilities require speaker and line monitoring and reporting. There are many other projects where security simply isn't an issue. It seems like federal government projects are more likely to have security impacts.

Giblin: Finding qualified people with security clearances is challenging. IT systems security is another area that requires significant effort. Some jobs require full certification and accreditation. Certification is a quality-assurance process that ensures that the security controls on an IT system are adequate to protect that system. Accreditation is the formal acceptance of the residual risk by a client manager with an in-depth understanding of the business process being supported by the system who has been appointed by the head of the service unit.

Culbertson: Traditionally, we have not been involved with the security integration outside of the courtroom. That said, some of our integrations provide for system operation and control from remote offices where trained court personnel might operate multiple courtrooms per person using video/audio monitoring. There are certain intrinsic qualities to this type of configuration, which can be used or interpreted as additional security for the courtroom.

Hammond: I have not seen a big difference other than how the systems can help in the way of emergencies. System overrides and cable TV access has been the biggest change that I have seen. The biggest change has been job-site access.

What kinds of constraints — technical, financial, and operational — do security issues impose on integrators or consultants?

Stanford: Technically, security issues become another segment of the project. Whether it means providing audio inputs, or control ports, interfacing with fire alarm systems, or providing battery backup to support emergency evacuation messages. The biggest constraints operationally for us have been simply time. It takes longer to park, go through metal detectors, have the necessary background checks done on employees, and in general, just the hassle factor.

Giblin: Systems designated for installation in areas requiring security clearances are typically built and fully tested off site in CEI's shop. It is then relocated and installed by technicians with the appropriate security clearance. This can increase the overall cost of a project.

Culbertson: The issues that are most prevalent are the security aspects involved with media transport over the networks.

Hammond: As I stated, this has been the biggest change. You definitely have to budget time for crews to gain access to the job site and make sure that work vans are clean on the inside, and that technicians have been properly screened and registered.

Can you list a few of the government installations your company has done and describe some of the key points?

Stanford: Tennessee State House and Senate chambers and committee meeting rooms: BSS London for auto mixing 100 mics and house processing, which interfaced with a voting system for control. Justice A.A. Birch Courthouse Nashville, Tenn.: Yamaha DME with CP1 controller, mix-minus with auto mixing and house processing.

Giblin: CEI is providing integration services to the Library of Congress for the National Audiovisual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va. The facility will house 124 million items in 450 languages. The original materials date back to the 1800s. CEI is building a total of 10 rooms for digitizing audio and video content, plus two screening rooms and a 200-seat theater. The screening rooms each have two 16mm/35mm projectors, and the theater has two 16mm/35mm projectors and two 35mm/70mm projectors. This allows two copies of a film or two films to be played side-by-side simultaneously for comparison. CEI is also repairing, calibrating, and installing playout equipment for nearly every format, including obsolete video and audiotape machines, turntables, and projectors.

A second project in progress for CEI is the installation of Voice of America's extensive modernization effort to upgrade its existing television broadcast center operations in its Washington, D.C., headquarters. This modernization project includes the construction of a modern state-of-the-art television technical facility to accommodate the following operations: television master control, videotape master recording/file server ingest, videotape/DVD duplication, technical quality control, and automated on-air program playout.

Culbertson: Birch Building, Nashville, Tenn., Courthouse. Each courtroom has multiple video input sources, which require video-follow-audio capabilities and locked source video for evidentiary display and videoconferencing display. The courtroom staff had to have easy access and control of these sources during court proceedings. JAVS integrated control of these video sources (and the associated audio) with the JAVS AutoLog software and the CT-Vi audio/video processor. This allows courtroom staff to press one button to activate the automated switching mode, which allows the cameras to automatically switch to each speaker as they talk. It also allows court staff to press one button to lock the video source on the evidentiary system, or the videoconferencing system.

Hammond: The Forsyth County [Ga.] Public Safety Complex. One of the key systems in this installation is the Automation system by Tightrope Systems. This system allows them to record and archive all proceedings, stream to the Web, as well as serve their digital signage system.

And the City of Johns Creek, Ga. — the mayor of this city has a goal of having the most technologically advanced city in the state of Georgia. A key point of the installation is the Crestron [control] system that makes using the system simple and reliable. HD displays are used instead of projectors, due to low ceilings, and they make the installation very modern.

Are certain products or manufacturers more suited to government projects? Why? What's the synergy with suppliers and the integrator on a government project?

Giblin: Some of the larger equipment manufacturers have significant presence in the government sector. Their efforts are effective in getting their equipment specified in new projects. A different approach is required for all aspects of government business, including sales, consulting, and integration. Someone that is used to working for the private sector is often perplexed by the structure and complexity of government business.

Hammond: I would not say it is certain manufacturers that suit government projects. I would say that the products that are built well and are easy to use are more suited toward government. Local governments usually do not have the technical staff to support highly sophisticated systems, so things such as Crestron and AMX control systems that help simplify the operation go a long way.

As far as synergy between the supplier and an integrator, I would have to say that the most important thing is product support, training, and short lead times. Government projects require tight installation schedules and products with long lead times can make it extremely difficult to deliver the project on schedule.

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