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Secure Monitoring of Power Generation Facilities

National Grid Power Generation Facility Monitoring

A large, international electricity and gas company that provides power to millions of people across the United States depends on an East Coast monitoring complex to secure their power generation and distribution facilities. As part of the state-of-the-art system designed and installed by Alliance System Integrators, RGB Spectrum’s OmniWall 32 Display Processors work with its MultiPoint® Control Room Management System (MCMS) to enable the integration of multiple security platforms.

The facility operates on a 24/7 basis. Operators monitor alarms and respond to access breaches, security threats, and other potentially problematic situations. The two hundred sites monitored here include power generating stations, operating yards, liquid natural gas plants, electrical substations and the company’s corporate headquarters. “Our client needed a system with the highest level of responsiveness across multiple systems with full keyboard and mouse control” observed Tony Damico, a Senior Systems Engineer with Alliance Systems. “RGB Spectrum’s MCMS and OmniWall Display Processors provide an outstanding level of functionality and reliability, and uncompressed visuals result in pixel perfect image quality.”

The main control room contains two identical monitoring systems for redundancy. Each side of the room has an MCMS system that includes three control stations, each with seven local monitors, plus a shared 2 x 4 video wall. An OmniWall processor enables the real-time routing of video feeds from security subsystems or news broadcasts to any display device in the room. This set-up is mirrored on the other side of the room, with a second OmniWall processor and MCMS, for a total of six control stations. The complete redundancy built into the installation ensures that, if necessary, either half of the room can operate the full monitoring system.

MCMS integrates all displays under a single unified interface accessible at each control station. The intuitive GUI allows operators to access information from any source computer in the system. KlickSimple™ technology enables each array of control station monitors to function as one continuous display, controlled by a single keyboard and mouse. MCMS enables a collaborative work environment through a user-configurable system of permissions and priorities. Operators can request and take control of specific system resources while a supervisor can immediately assume full control over the system to coordinate response.

The primary advantage of the MCMS is its ability to seamlessly integrate disparate security systems, without time-consuming and expensive custom software. In this installation, MCMS consolidates control of a Verint video management system (VMS), which integrates over 2500 camera feeds; an Amag access control system, which monitors 2000 card readers; and 100 Videofied motion detection systems, which monitor access to critical areas.

Each side of the room has a total of 22 computers which process incoming video streams from the security systems. Eleven of the computers are installed with a VMS client station that accesses analog video camera feeds over the IP network. Six computers are dedicated to the access control system. Another receives signals from the motion detection systems. The remaining four computers function as operator workstations and provide access to alarm reporting forms, email and other applications. An identical set of 22 computers are used with the equipment on the other side of the room. Every computer is installed with an External Desktop Adapter (EDA), a hardware device that enables remote access to source computers without requiring software installation. These allow the MCMS to provide operators with highly secure KVM control of the computers and immediate access to visuals.

When the security system detects a potential breach, operators use a combination of audible alarms and video streams to determine the necessary response. An IP audio system extracts audio from incoming video streams and feeds the audio into a switch, which consolidates them into a single output. A squawk box located at every control station receives this signal and gives off different tones depending on the type of alarm sounded. Operators are trained to recognize and respond to these alarms, and use the MCMS interface to access and display information to determine how to respond.

For example, the motion detection systems generate approximately 1000 alarms/week. When an alarm sounds, an operator can access a 10 second video clip of the alarming location. Most of these are false alarms; viewing the video clip allows operators to determine whether the alarm was triggered by an animal, wind, etc. and helps operators dismiss the alarm in 80 percent of the cases.

For the remaining alarms, an operator will check the video feed and make a determination about whether or not a situation is suspicious. If a situation is deemed to be problematic, the operator will notify security guards, the local police department and an in-house investigator who works with the police to resolve the situation. In the event of a serious threat or emergency situation, operators can use the OmniWall processor to scale a video or computer signal source across multiple monitors of the video wall for a shared view by all personnel.

The MCMS provides an extremely effective way to consolidate the monitoring of multiple power generation and distribution facilities. Although sophisticated in design, it is easy to use. It offers an integration platform that simplifies control of all security systems with an intuitive GUI that makes it easy for operators to access critical information.

Tony Damico observed that the performance of the installed system has exceeded the client's expectations. "The system has the power to handle a wide range of inputs, but is streamlined enough to minimize the time required to train operators," he remarked. "RGB Spectrum’s KVM control is extremely responsive, and the MCMS GUI is intuitive, reliable and easy to use. The client became convinced of the robustness of MCMS after trying unsuccessfully to break the GUI for over an hour. If I could offer one word to sum up this installation it would be…brilliant."

About Alliance System Integrators

Alliance System Integrators provides clients with specialized installations of security and communication systems. We evaluate and implement new technologies in response to changing client needs and technological advancements within the industry. Continually building on the deep technical knowledge of our staff, we provide exceptional value for customers, by delivering innovative security solutions with professional integrity. Our pledge is to establish lasting relationships with our customers by exceeding their expectations and gaining their trust through superior performance and knowledge within our industry.