Ridiculous $100K Project / Now Stalled

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Oct 31, 2013

Update 10/31: When we first published this in July, we broke down how flawed the RFP was. Now, the city is delaying the project as it works through its concerns.

Industry professionals often complain about the effectiveness and fairness of RFPs. A small beach town in Delaware recently released a vague and confusing RFP for an 8-camera, $100,000 system. In this note, we review the town’s RFP for the project, breaking down what the RFP consists of and why it was put together as it was.

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Comments (26)

h.264 is mpeg4... right?

3 nines of reliability is also a different number from what I've seen, but so is 2GIF. Clearly they're in over their head/are trying to make it as confusing as possible so that their "preferred" integrator has the best chance possible. On the other hand if they like that integrator, and they've supported them with other cameras on their existing DVTEL system, I don't see why they shouldnt give them a leg up. They're doing it in the open, answerable to the tax payers at least.

Marty Major posting of a surveillance camera with GIF resolution in 3... 2... 1...

They should stream in animated GIF format. The internet would go crazy for them!

"free system monitoring via reddit"

H.264 is aka MPEG-4 part10. I assume a vendor could claim, "Hey my H.264 is also known as MPEG4 Part 10" but when people say MPEG, they mean MPEG-4 part 2. In this case since they explicitly required both MPEG4 and H.264, in common usage, it means that they want both of those and are not just calling H.264 by another name.

I do not know if they are actively trying to give a preferred integrator a leg up. Carlton?

@John, I'm just saying that if I were to be responding to it, that would be my argument... vwhich I am not going to be responding to it...

Vagueness begets Vagueness (or something like that)

Well, a person from the local paper seems to be convinces the integrator had it in the bag from the start. On the other hand,the town and the police say the contract hasn't been awarded but that Integration Logistics is their first choice. So ...

City Official 1: "Do you think we should hire a consultant who knows about these things, in the public interest getting the best system for the money we have to spend?"

City Official 2: "Naw, I watched CSI last night. I know what I'm doing."

'99.9% availability' is a dumb specifier. It's not quantitatively defined.

It's what people who want the system to always work say when they realize 100% is unrealistic and sounds dumb (stuff does break after all) yet want to emphasize that they still really want 100% uptime.

i.e.:

Does the 99.9% availability mandate mean just the recorder itself? (some cameras could be offline, but others are still recorded)

Does the 99.9% availability mandate mean the entire system including all cameras?

If I have 100 cameras, can 1 be permanently down as long as the other 99 are always working?

etc, etc...

If the 99.9% availability means the entire system, note their SOP that allows for 4 hour response for normal business-hour outages...

One camera down for 4 hours anytime in the first 6 months drops the availability requirement below the mandated threshhold (where it will remain until at least the 6 month mark from install).

Note: I am basing that calculation on Carltons 8 hours/year = 99.9% availability equation.

From Page 16 (of 18) of the RFP:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

D. PUBLIC ACCESS TO BIDS/PROPOSALS. By signing and submitting a bid /pro-posal in response to this solicitation, the offeror acknowledges that all documents, information and data submitted in its bid/proposal shall be treated as public information, unless other-wise identified as instructed below. The Town of Dewey Beach shall, therefore, have the undisputed right to release any/all of the offeror's documents, information and data to any party requesting same without further permission from the offeror. The Town of Dewey Beach and its representatives shall in no way be responsible for inadvertent disclosure of any proprietary or confidential information.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Carlton, once they are submitted can you obtain copies of all the bids?

Affirmative, Marty. Once they submit the bids they also become public record. Cities usually keep them from release until after the contract is awarded.

Some specifics from the technical specifications (RFP, pg 12):

A. CAMERAS

(7) Cameras must be capable of operating at 30 frames per second for both live and recorded viewing.

City-wide transport of the video from all the cameras to the recording device(s) at 30fps (99.9% of the time).... wirelessly?

(10) It is desirable that the cameras and their housings be bullet resistant.

Why do the cameras and the housings need to be bullet resistant? If the housings are, the camera within shouldn't need to be... :)

Integration Logistics

It kinda sounds as if these guys showed up at the walkthrough without need of a pencil and paper.

Marty, you are picking on them for not more clearly defining what they want by 99.9% when they did not even specify the transmission type ;)

But, yes, good point, in general, about 99.9% They need to be clear what counts to that. If a single camera is down for 8 hours on January 1st, does that mean there can be zero outages for the rest of the year? And if so, what is the penalty?

in Qatar, the majority of RFPs have this level of vagueness, be it from a private client or the government. Many clients do get free consultations out of a first-round of tenders. Usually after this, the client will cancel this "first round of tender" and come around with another tender, or issue "tender updates" to all tenderers as the design progresses during the tender.

We are always trying to weigh our choices of whether an incoming RFQ from an unkown source is a legitimately serious prospect or not.

Paying for a professional to do the design is never done yet - but our government is working on laws for CCTV design and consultancy. I am not sure what the rules will have, but one thing I know is that the government will eventually require consultants who have CCTV experience to not have any association with manufacturers nor integrators. They are required to make a living by designing CCTV systems on paper and thats it.

Currently the integrator is the designer in most jobs.

I know that CCTV design will become mandatory by an approved designer / consultant who knows our government's very elite requirements, as IPVM has written about before.

From the interview from the police and being somewhat familar with Dewey, it sounds like they went to a big city, Baltimore and copied their specs without knowing what they mean. Someone needs to be educated and fast before they waste the taxpayers $$$$.

Dewey is a beach town with few full time citizens.

If they prefer a local integrator that has worked with them in the past AND this is an addition to an existing system, there is no need to bid it out. They can sole source it and still be within regulations. They should just stop the games and say what they want.

What's frustrating to me is that this sort of RFP seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, for public (and many private) procurements. Occasionally I see a well thought out design effort from a purchasing entity, but usually I see catalog shopping and over-reliance on catchy-sounding features.

"If they prefer a local integrator that has worked with them in the past AND this is an addition to an existing system, there is no need to bid it out."

Some contracts last only so many years and then they have to bid it out again whether the relationship with the integrator is working well or not.

Any indication of if this project is being funded by a Homeland Security grant or Recovery Act funds?

Undisclosed, half of the $100K is being funded by a police grant. The other half by the town.

If Dewey got any "free" help from an integrator to develop these specs, they got what they paid for. Beyond an initial conversation, we don't participate in this sort of exercise unless we have a very, very, strong indication that the project requires our unique expertise. Otherwise we politely offer up our design services at our standard hourly rate. A couple of municipalities have taken us up on that - most don't.

looks like a typical RFP in New Zealand, the difference being that it would have been scripted by a consultant here not the local Police.

John why do you say "It seems from the optical zoom (25 - 35) that they want standard definition" ??

There are cameras available with optical x36 at 1.3MP and x30 at 1080p.

Because those cameras are new and this spec has been copied and pasted from other specs from year's ago!

Also, because if they really wanted MP, they would come out and explicitly require it. Indeed, if they do not say it, the winning bidder is likely to go SD just to save money.

To Wassim Abu-Zent's point; if the end user is truly interested in sending out a fair, unbiased RFP, and, they lack the internal expertise to generate that specification for equipment and scope of work; then an independent third party would be the "prudent" path.

The problem; today’s cameras are not cameras anymore, they're sophisticated computers with endless feature sets capable of addressing an almost unlimited number of end user requirements. For an independent, unbiased consultancy to survive with the knowledge necessary to handle all aspects RFPs like this require (knowledge of wireless mesh, fiber, etc.); the City would have used half the budget to secure a reliable RFP but only securing half the system they need.

Poorly written specifications are the Bain of any industry; but in the CCTV arena, as long as end users see a camera as nothing more than a camera, rather than what they've evolved to today; you'll have a very hard sell getting them to sacrifice system dollars for better specifications...unfortunately.

Undisclosed, I agree with you about the complexity of the system and the value that an 'independent, unbiased consultancy' with real knowledge. You mention that this would have used half the budget (i.e., $50,000). I assume you are being facetious about it being that high, no?

How much (roughly) would a quality consultant charge for an 8 camera, small city surveillance spec? $5,000? $10,000? It's hard to believe it would be that much more (unless someone has to fly in from far away?)

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