California City Monitoring Examined

By: John Honovich, Published on Dec 19, 2010

The City of Industry in California has launched a program allowing the local police to view private video surveillance systems. In this update, we examine details of the plan and compare to the City of Atherton, CA's approach.

The City of Industry has partnered with a private company founded by a retired Deputy Sheriff. The company, called Public Safety Online (PSO), provides secure web access and connectivity to local businesses. 

Here's how the model works, according to a conversation with Public Safety Online (PSO):

  • PSO partners with municipalities. The municipalities pay PSO for ongoing service/access to video.
  • PSO provide a cloud based web service that connects video from local businesses, allowing approved authorities access to video.
  • PSO helps local businesses to get connected to their service. While they do not charge local business any service fees, local businesses must add an adapter between their local surveillance systems and the PSO service.
  • PSO offers a 4 port encoder and local installation to connect the encoder to the existing DVRs and provide remote access to their service. The estimated cost for encoder and install is $750. Currently, the local Chamber of Commerce in the City of Industry is subsidizing the cost by $500, meaning the local business only needs to pay $250 (one time, no ongoing fee).
  • Businesses pick their 4 most 'important' cameras and loop those feeds into the encoder.
  • Key limitations/issues to note include (1) connecting to IP cameras/VMS software and (2) providing remote access across firewalls. According to PSO, they are working on integration with IP/VMS software. Additionally, holes are routinely opened in firewalls which could raise IT security concerns.

The requirement of an additional on-site encoder and challenges with local system integration are not surprising. These reflect fundamental issues we've seen in similar programs throughout the world.

However, in contrast to the Atherton deployment, the local business absorbs less cost and the city more. The upside of this is that business is likely to be more attracted. The downside is that the city needs to come up with more funding for the program.

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