NYPD Plans Surveillance Data Network

New York's finest discuss the storage implications of massive video surveillance effort

May 8, 2008

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- The NYPD is planning a major storage upgrade to support an ambitious video surveillance project covering Manhattans financial nerve-center.

Speaking at the Tri-State CIO Forum here today, NYPD CIO Jim Onalfo described the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (LMSI) as key to the city’s counter-terrorism efforts.

”It’s the kind of thing that Al-Qaeda wants to go after,” he said, describing the plan to deploy surveillance gear across a southern swathe of the city, including Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, and City Hall. “When a terrorist is going to attack something, they do about 20 to 40 surveys, so it is really important that we keep track of what is happening.”

The LMSI project, which began last year, could eventually see cameras deployed on around 1,000 buildings, as well as an undisclosed number of police cars, generating massive quantities of data. Police officers will also use sophisticated tools such as facial recognition software to identify terrorists before they strike, according to Onalfo.

“This is the first solution of its type in the country,” he told Byte and Switch, explaining that the LMSI storage infrastructure will be robust enough to handle large quantities of video data from multiple sources, including the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center and surveillance gear in police cars. “When you carry streaming video, it’s humongous -- there’s just so much more of it.”The NYPD already works closely with IBM, which provides the mainframe infrastructure for the department’s vast DB2 database, although Onalfo refused to reveal which vendors will provide the LMSI storage.

The official nonetheless confirmed that the storage infrastructure will involve SANs and a dedicated fiber-optic network for transferring video data.

Two data centers are being built to support LMSI, although, for security reasons, Onalfo would not reveal their locations. The exec was a little more forthcoming on the subject of day-to-day surveillance, explaining that officers will use Microsoft’s Virtual Earth application. “That will allow us to dial into a camera and see a specific scene,” he says.

Media reports have estimated that there could be up to 3,000 cameras deployed in southern Manhattan by the end of this year, as New York follows in the footsteps of London, which has arguably the world’s most extensive metropolitan surveillance network.

The NYPD technology chief, formerly international CIO of manufacturing giant Kraft, also touched on other aspects of New York’s police IT infrastructure during his keynote today. “Now, because of Katrina in New Orleans, we’re installing satellite dishes on all the police precincts in case there’s a flood. If we have these satellites, we will be able to function.”The exec explained that his department has also been using an IBM product called Entity Analytics that is traditionally deployed in the casino industry. “It will figure out who you are are,” says Onalfo, explaining that the identity recognition software can sift through vast pools of information. “We ran this tool against 2 million of our records and found 700,000 duplicated names.”

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