October 2008 GWB Technology Column

Local Company to Install Cameras on UNCW Campus

Access Control Consultants (ACC) maybe new to Wilmington, but has just been awarded a contract by the University to install 144 video cameras as part of a project to increase security on campus.   The additional cameras are “part of the continuing safety initiatives that UNCW launched a couple of years ago,” said Cindy Lawson, Assistant to the Chancellor for Marketing and Communications.  “When these enhancements are complete more than half of our residence hall will have cameras.”

Larry Blumenfeld, ACC president, has been in the security business for 27 year and said that instead of traditional video cameras, his company plan to install networked versions at UNCW.  “We feel like we are at the edge of technology, pushing buttons.” Networked camera use TCP/IP connections instead of hardwired connections and can be deployed anywhere there is a wired or wireless network.  According to Blumentfeld, these new cameras allow for advanced features such as centralized monitoring and video analytics, where computers assist with the human monitoring.  With video analytics, software can determine if someone has left a package or  is walking the wrong way down a hall way.  It can also can highlight potential problem and do license plate recogontion.  “The average person can only look at a video screen for twenty minutes and keep their attention,” said Bluementfeld, and video analytics can “help eliminate this burden a security guard.”

ACC is based in Greensboro, but recently opened an office in Wilmington as part of a strategic partner ship with Genesys networks.  Genesys will be providing remote backup service for the digital video footage created by the cameras.  Blumenfeld stated that file sizes and video frame rates are starting to put pressure on data storage.  “We are putting boxes out with 2-3 Terrabytes and they are still not enough,” said Blumenfeld.  Genesys networks will provide the backend remote storage to reduce the need for local storage on their systems.

Thermal Imaging

Wilmington-based Andrew Consulting Engineers has expanded their service offering to include thermal imaging technology and to provide non-invasive inspection of buildings, homes and industrial equipment.    “Part of our main business is forensic engineering and investigating problems with homes and businesses. Mainly, ‘What are the problems? Where is the source of the problem?’” said Neal Andrew, professional structural engineer and founder. He went on to state, “Thermal imaging is a non-destructive method to further our forensic investigations and engineering.”  The firm’s chief thermographer, Tommy Webster, uses equipment from FLIR Thermal Imaging Systems that also provides thermal imaging technology for military and commercial systems.

Andrew stressed that other thermographers who might have similar equipment can identify where a problem might be, but a licensed, professional structural engineer is able to define the problem, allowing you to proceed with proper maintenance. Both Andrew and Webster spent over 32 hours in lab time and training, with additional hours spent just learning the software, to become certified.  They also report that they are the only certified FLIR operator in the region.  Andrew spoke of a recent inspection of the New Hanover court house, where their reading of the thermal images identified hot spots and potential problems in a mechanical system and a possible overloaded transformer.  Andrew explained that the system can also be used to detect heat loss or water leaks in residential or commercial buildings by looking at the heat signature of walls, ceilings or windows .

“There are endless amounts of applications for this technology; in every aspect of structural, residential, commercial as well as industrial venues,” said Webster. “Our professional alliances with Mechanical and Civil Engineers as well as Architects just help to bolster the level of services that we can provide.”

Wilmington Public Transport Employs Green Technology

Anyone who has ridden a WAVE Transit bus or driven by a bus shelter may have noticed that they have outfitted the shelters with solar panels.  As part of a plan to improve security at bus shelters, WAVE Transit made the decision to add solar-powered lighting to every shelter.  “The easiest way is to go to Progress Energy and have them install a meter,” said Albert Eby, WAVE Transit Director, “but each shelter would have to have a meter.”  This would be more expensive than solar panels in the long run, and Eby said the meters would be also be unsightly and a susceptible to vandalism and theft. As a result, Eby picked solar panels instead. The first shelter to be outfitted was on the UNCW campus, and Eby said that they “were just getting the program together, when someone ran over a shelter” with a car.  Installing solar panels and batteries to power the lighting was a more expensive option initially, but according to Eby’s calculations, it would pay for itself over the life of the shelter.

Eby stressed that solar was just one of the environmentally-friendly initiatives in which WAVE transit is involved.  WAVE Transit is also exploring using biodiesel and converting to hybrid buses.    WAVE Transit had also begun to make plans to replace some percentage of their petroleum diesel in a pilot program until the price spiked.  “Biodiesel was running 3 cents [a gallon] more, but is now 20 cents more.  We are hoping to revisit it when the price comes down” said Eby.

Hybrid buses are another technology that WAVE Transit finds attractive, but it is not yet cost effective to implement.  Hybrid buses work like hybrid cars, with a diesel engine used to generate electricity, electric motors replacing the transmission and a battery to recapture energy during braking.  According to Eby, Chapel Hill has a several hybrids in their fleet, and Charlotte has a couple.   The problem for Wilmington is that a basic hybrid bus costs approximately $525,000 compared to a traditional diesel bus, which costs around $325,000.  Eby said that even with the high price of fuel, hybrid busses are not yet cost-effective without Federal or State grants.   While hybrids increase fuel economy by between 50 and 100%, fuel costs are not high enough to justify the higher initial cost.

Wilmington is a “victim of own clean air,” said Eby, because they do not qualify for programs designed to control ozone and other air pollution as Chapel Hill and Charlotte do.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one federal program called Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) provides over $8.6 billion to offset the cost of projects that reduce ozone and other air pollution.  Wilmington does not qualify for this program because it meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards at present.  “Rapidly growing areas need access to CMAQ so we can implement innovative programs like hybrid busses,” said Eby.   Eby believes that cleaner technology increase the positive environmental aspects and energy savings of public transportation