The All-Important School Bus Video Surveillance

School Bus Video Surveillance

Every morning around the world, millions of children use school buses as their primary means of transportation to and from school, and these numbers look likely to grow. With carbon reducing initiatives that attempt to reduce the numbers of cars on the road in place in many countries, the use of shared and public transportation systems is on the rise and this could mean less parents taking their children to school in favor of school buses. In this regard, the safety and security of school children using these buses should be the number one concern of the schools and transport agencies operating this service. One of the safety and security methods employed by bus operators is the use of video surveillance systems on-board their vehicles. This is usually done using traditional analog or more advanced IP cameras systems coupled with either a digital video recorder (DVR) or a network video recorder (NVR).

Advances in network surveillance technology are now enabling school bus video systems to integrate with and improve existing analog surveillance set ups. Demand for a centralized unit to manage functions such as onboard internet, remote fleet management, driver behavior monitoring, real time video surveillance and recording are driving advances and upgrades to more modern or intelligent video surveillance systems build on open architecture CPU. In this article, we’ll go review the need and current implementation styles of mobile video surveillance on school buses and where the advancements are happening. Let’s start by looking at how these systems operate and function, what the differences are between IP and analog cameras and digital and network video recorders.


How these systems work can often depend on the hardware, or lack thereof, currently in use by the school bus operator. Analog surveillance camera systems usually work by converting an analog signal into pictures and then recording the footage on to a tape or using a digital video recorder to store a digital conversion on a hard drive. IP camera setups take advantage of an internet or computer network connection in order to send and receive data in real-time. Using a network connection, IP cameras can either feedback data to a network video server in what is often referred to as a centralized system, or, record to removable media on an NVR that can then be transported to wherever it is needed or offloaded through WiFi to a central location server, also known as a decentralized system.


Most school bus video surveillance systems use either digital video recorders or network video recorders depending on the types of cameras they have integrated into them. Digital video recorders connect directly to the analog or digital cameras that make up their video surveillance system and coverts the footage fed to it into a compressed, digital format. Mobile DVR’s used on buses today are mostly using removable SD Card Memory, which is more resistant to shock and vibration than the Hard Disk Drives (HDD’s) and also cheaper than Solid State Drives (SSD’s). Network video recorders work with IP cameras connected via network cable. However, the advantages of IP cameras over their analog equivalents are becoming more numerous, as we’ll see.


Why Use School Bus Video Surveillance?

As we’ve previously mentioned, there are various reasons as to why schools and school bus operators may want to use video surveillance systems in their vehicles. Protecting school children is the number one priority of any school bus surveillance system and they do so in a number of ways. For a start, video surveillance allows incidents to be examined in a non-biased, factual way so as to quickly gather an accurate timeline of events and dismiss any false claims or accounts. Children of a more recalcitrant nature may also be less inclined to misbehave or cause trouble if they know they are being recorded and could have their behavior followed up on. Exterior vehicle surveillance also helps protect against vandalism and poor driving from other road users as the use of surveillance cameras could deter them from attempting risky or illegal maneuvers. IP camera systems also allow for higher quality imaging resulting in improved identification capabilities.


Due to recent developments in IP cameras and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, new benefits to using these kinds of systems have come to light and begun to shape future expectations of the functionality of these technologies. Video analytics, for example, enables schools and bus operators to recognize car number plates and, in the future, potentially in students faces using facial recognition software. IP NVR systems with built in GPS are also being taken advantage of by school bus operators looking to integrate them with fleet management software and other vehicle and transportation systems. Remote monitoring systems are also useful for live streaming of video footage from any camera within an IP network to a chosen computer or smart device. This helps alert camera operators to unfolding incidents in real-time so as to speed up reaction times and improve the overall outcome of responses.


Which Systems Work Best?

The answer to the question of which systems work best is a little more complex than just this one or that one. As with many technological solutions, the best way to implement something often depends on what kinds of results you want to see from it and of course what’s your budget. If you’re a school or school bus operator looking to implement an operational surveillance system without the need for network features or additional IoT benefits, then traditional analog video surveillance systems would seem to be the way to go. However, if you wanted the latest in technological functionality and performance that allowed for high-quality imaging, simultaneous playback and record and real-time data exchanges over an internet or network connection, IP cameras coupled with a PC based NVR could be much more like what you’re looking for. Another advantage of using IP systems is that, by using Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports on an NVR, you can provide your devices with both power and data transmission through a single CAT 5 cable.


Another consideration to take into account when deciding on which kind of video surveillance systems would be suited for your requirements is the future. As briefly mentioned, future additions to any video surveillance system are likely as proven by the emergence of hybrid video recording systems. Therefore, it seems sensible to assume that systems that allow for smooth upgrade paths for existing technology and provide room for future expansion are the systems likely to be most widely adopted and implemented. In this sense, it would make sense to assume IP cameras with standard VMS based NVRs are likely to grow into the primary video surveillance systems in place for school buses, at least up until the next game-changing innovation in video surveillance technology. This could come in the form of built-in facial recognition technology or remote maintenance software that alerts operators to a systems maintenance and repair needs. Whatever the next technological innovation is, the objective of keeping kids safe on their way to school will always remain the same.

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