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Departments : First Look

Space Saver: WatchGuard's Hybrid Digital Video System

WatchGuard's hybrid digital video system is designed to reduce server cost.

June 01, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

One of the problems that agencies face in this age of a video camera in every patrol car is where to store the video. Every department is producing hours and hours of the stuff, and server space for digital video is precious.

The largest part of the problem is that departments typically store every taped encounter that their officers have with the citizenry whether that encounter is granny getting a speeding ticket or some drunk being TASERed after resisting arrest. "Customers have been telling us that on average only five to 10 percent of recorded video is something that anyone will ever need," says Jason Stuczynski of WatchGuard Video.

That's why WatchGuard has developed what it calls a "hybrid in-car video solution." The hybrid in this case is a combination of WatchGuard's DV-1 in-car digital video system, which writes real-time onto DVDs, and its new Evidence Library software suite, which features a program called "Critical Event Server."

Released back in 2005, the WatchGuard DV-1 in-car video system is designed to take the hassle out of recording digital video. The system burns each event onto a rewritable DVD in the same DVD video format used for standard entertainment DVDs. Each disc can hold up to eight hours of action and, of course, that's plenty for the most active shift because the recorder is only activated when something is happening.

"We are a true standalone in-car video system," Stuczynski says. "Officers who work in cars equipped with the DV-1 spend zero time assisting the video camera system. At the end of the shift, they just take the DVD out of the DV-1, and they don't have to mess with it."

The second part of WatchGuard's hybrid system is the video storage. The idea behind the Critical Event Server is to take the best of the server-based video system and combine it with the capabilities of the DV-1.

Here's how it works. The officer comes in from the shift and turns in the DVD to admin or drops it into a dedicated computer himself. During that officer's shift each incident has been electronically labeled as to what occurred: "routine traffic stop," "DUI Arrest," or "Use-of-Force," etc., plus a metadata file is created that contains names, triggers, GPS data, and more for every event. The WatchGuard Critical Event Server reads these labels and automatically determines which video files are critical and saves only those files on the server. Video events that are not types that would automatically be considered critical can be manually added to the server during disc check-in or even months later.  Plus, it adds the metadata files from every event, including the routine stops, to the Evidence Library database for searching and reporting of both critical and routine video events.

Stuczynski says that the major benefit of the Critical Event Server is that it reduces the need for server space. "The video files that you don't need from routine stops are stored on the original DVD, but they are not clogging up your expensive server. With Critical Event Server, you don't need so much server space and you still preserve all of your video recordings." The Critical Event Server can be operated on an everyday desktop computer. "It really has very modest system requirements, so you don't need a state-of-the-art computer to run it," says Stuczynski.

WatchGuard promotes its hybrid video system as the best of both worlds: real-time DVD burning plus server-based video storage, access, searching, and reporting. "This hybrid approach minimizes the total solution cost while keeping all of the advantages of a DVD system along with the advantages of a server-based system," Stuczynski says.

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