AJAR-tec solves the case

Winner of the 2008 InAVate Award for Most InAVative large installation and runner up in 2009, AJAR-tec’s entry this year was another impressive project. Chris Fitzsimmons reports on the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) Crime Scene Investigation – Forensic Centre at Harperley Hall in the UK. The site also contains a Hydra immersive training facility for senior officers.

For fans of the CSI TV drama series it’s a dream project, and whilst AJAR-tec’s project manager Joe Duchscherer wouldn’t be drawn on whether he was a fan of the show, being responsible for a real crime scene investigation training centre has to be up there on the list of “interesting jobs”.

AJAR-tec was contracted to design, supply, install, test and commission new audiovisual and CCTV systems for the new home of the CSI Forensic Training Facilities at the NPIA’s Harperley hall site as part of a £15m redevelopment project. The scope of the project ranged from AV and room management systems for the classrooms to internal IP CCTV for the practical training rooms and a site-wide IPTV distribution system. AJAR-tec even installed satellite dishes and the headend for the TV system.

In undertaking the project, AJAR-tec was presented with several key challenges. Firstly was the requirement for an IP-focused solution. The client wanted maximum use made of its structured cabling system to ensure flexibility for future expansion. Another key challenge was to deliver intuitive control and management systems to allow the client top embrace all the available information without the need for a technician. Finally, the installation also needed to be carried out within strict budget restraints.

In broad terms the project can be divided into three easily digestible chunks. The first consists of the training room media solution. AJAR-tec was required to supply 10 training classrooms with identical operating environments.

Each room is equipped with a lectern, custom designed by AJAR-tec, the focus of which is a PC. It acts as a DVD player, as well as giving access to the network for video on demand content and the specialist software packages used by the Forensic CSI trainers. In addition it can also monitor the practical training block’s CCTV system.

Using features in Windows Vista, AJAR-tec was also able to use an AMX control system to control both the PC and external equipment. A 5” AMX NXDCV5 was installed in each lectern, which is used also for source selection – there is the option to connect a laptop should the need arise.

Displays in each room are a combination of a Sanyo PLC Xu88 projector and Smart 680 interactive whiteboard. The NPIA also includes the Smart software on its standard laptop build, so connected laptops can also use their full functionality. Several of these rooms are built with partition walls allowing them to be combined using multiple displays for larger sessions.

To maximise the use of the training facilities, a room booking and asset management system was also specified by the NPIA. AJAR-tec employed AMX Meeting Manager as a resource management suite, with each training room also having a 7” NXDCV7 panel mounted to the wall outside to show its status.

The second significant part of the installation, and the beating heart of the new training facilities is the PTB or Practical Training Block. Here a total of 22 areas are set up as different crime scene scenarios ranging from a complete street scene to blood spatter analysis areas. Here, AJAR-tec was required to supply non-intrusive monitoring solutions so that student conducting an investigation could be observed undisturbed. An IP-based server recording system for video (with audio capabilities should it be required later) with a simple GUI was implemented.

The system comprises 19 IP AXIS 215 PTZ type cameras, one located in each of smaller training areas, and two, higher quality JVC 655 PTZ cameras to cover the large area which forms the street scene. A TridenTek TridentX NVR system is employed as the main system recorder, which is capable of exporting and stored material onto DVD for review in the classroom. There is a total of 11TB of storage available on the Dell server, and recording is performed at full resolution and frame rate to ensure that the most minute details can be captured for analysis.

System control and monitoring is performed in a control room in which two PCs allow trainers to monitor different exercises simultaneously.

The NPIA was a very early adopter of IPTV systems across its estate and the Harperley Hall project provided another chance for them to make use of this technology. The system provides both entertainment feeds and course content over the structured cabling infrastructure to the 800-bed accommodation block and information to the public areas. The IPTV solution was also configured to allow the NPIA to interface other operational systems with it later.

AJAR-tec installed a total of three receiver dishes near the PTB, with the feeds being distributed through an Exterity Tridaptor DVB to IP gateways. Due to the distance between the PTB and the main teaching block the gateway output is fed via an existing fibre feed to the main comms room, from where it is distributed to the rest of the site.

Use of the Exterity IPTV manager allows full control of the system content, optimising the availability of relevant material to each particular area.

During the installation project, AJAR-tec received confirmation that they had won the contract to install the Hydra immersive simulation suite. The company worked with the Hydra team to develop an IP-based version of the system, taking advantage of the latest equipment and technologies.

The main system comprises two main command & control rooms and three breakout rooms with a dedicated main control room. The IP infrastructure means that additional rooms can be brought “on line” if necessary.

Each room is equipped with a multi-display Hydra PC, with Sanyo PLC series projectors firing onto DA-Lite motorised screens. APart wall-mounted, active loudspeakers provide audio reproduction with Beyerdynamic MPC65 and MPC23 microphones providing pickup for the two-way communications between rooms.

AV control comes from further use of AMX Netlinx controllers and a selection of touch panels, with Kramer supplying video routing, switching and DA conversion solutions, as well as a PIP200Xl picture in picture unit for each breakout room. Sharp 52” LCD displays are used for primary high-resolution video display.

Integration with the IP network for communication and signal sharing between rooms comes from Smart-e Cat5 transmitters and receivers and a 32x32 CatPro matrix switch.

In addition to the systems mentioned, AJAR-tec also installed the internal CCTV security systems as well as numerous other ancillary services delivering the client a truly comprehensive service. And the result? The customers comments speak for themselves.

“I am very pleased with the way that AJAR-tec has worked with me on this project and the result is a 1st class suite with huge potential and flexibility. It is one, if not THE, best suite in the UK. I believe AJAR-tec have done a really great job.” Commented John Jackson, Head of Simulations, Hydra/Minerva simulations team.

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