Kangan Institute weighs security, privacy with CCTV surveillance network

Kangan Institute has tried to strike a balance between campus security and student privacy while expanding its digital CCTV network, according to Kostas Kyrifidis, a senior consultant at the Institute’s resource management group.

Kangan Institute provides vocational training for 30,000 to 40,000 students spread across six campuses in the Melbourne area. The Institute has 400 cameras across the campuses, and Kyrifidis predicted the number will increase over time. In the two years since the school launched a digital CCTV network, the number of cameras has increased 20 per cent annually.

“The cameras are strategically located based on the risk assessment or profile of the building or facility,” he said. “Generally they’re located in main thoroughfares” where there are critical assets like server rooms or child care centres.

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CCTV is a “crucial” component for on-campus security, said Kyrifidis. “Over the last eight years, the Institute has realised that asset protection in all its forms – people, systems and infrastructure – is critical for its day-to-day operations.”

The cameras are used to monitor “anti-social behaviour,” stop theft and violence, and assist with traffic management, among other things, Kyrifidis said. They have proven “very useful” for deterring and responding to problems on campus, he said.

Kyrifidis stressed that protecting privacy is a critical element of its surveillance system.

“We are mindful of the fact that Kangan is an educational institution and we need to respect learners' rights to do what they need to do without Big Brother necessarily looking over their should all the time,” he said, alluding to George Orwell’s novel, 1984.

The Institute displays “adequate signage” to alert students, staff and visitors of the cameras’ presence, he said.

“There’s always the risk of malpractice” by camera operators, “but we are pretty confident at Kangan that our policies and our procedures are pretty tight and rigid, and [policy] breaches are dealt with severely.”

“While there is recording, there are strict requirements as to who can actually retrieve and [store] any of the imagery,” he said. “The policy clearly states it needs to be the security manager or someone higher to authorise that,” and another official must approve the authorisation, he said.

There is also “significant training” for staff who operate the cameras, and managers do spot checking on the operators, he said.

Video is stored for 60 days, Kyrifidis said. “We store only events that come up for inquiry or investigation.”

Going digital

In 2010, Kangan Institute decided to upgrade its analog CCTV cameras to digital. The digital cameras provide high-definition footage and allow Kangan to run analytics, Kyrifidis said.

For example, the camera can track a valuable object and detect if it is moved from a scene and trigger an alarm, he said. It can also visually detect if an emergency door has been opened, he said.

If the cameras get a “clear shot” of an individual, “we are able to look at our records ... and match the student to the object,” Kyrifidis said. However, supervisor authorisation is required to perform the match.

The move to digital will also enable Kangan security staff to add the capability to use tablet and smartphone apps so they can learn and respond quicker to alarms triggered by the cameras, he said.

To support the installation of digital cameras, Kangan Institute needed to build a new network.

Network reliability was a major requirement for the educator. “To provide a security blanket [and] to minimise our risks, we need to make sure that we can see,” Kyrifidis said.

Kangan chose a network from Allied Telesis on a recommendation from its CCTV supplier, Q Video Systems. The Institute considered using its existing network vendor, Cisco, but deferred to Q Video’s expertise in surveillance systems.

Kangan is now running a single network across all its Melbourne campuses, Kyrifidis said. “We have distributed servers at each campus that goes back to a main control room” in Broadmeadows. Kangan also has a redundancy site in Docklands, he said.

“We haven’t had a switch fail” or any other problems with the Allied Telesis network, Kyrifidis said.

He added that the network is expandable if Kangan chooses to add more cameras in the future.

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