NY Waterway is America’s largest privately owned commuter ferry company. It operates 35 vessels and carries over 8 million passengers per year along a 100-mile corridor of New York Harbor and the Hudson and East Rivers. Public safety is always a top priority. By deploying a highly innovative and integrated solution that includes Hitachi Visualization from Hitachi Insight Group, NY Waterway gained real-time visibility and communication across terminals and ferries.
Just as taxicabs are ubiquitous on New York City streets, ferries in the harbor and rivers are integral to getting people where they need to go. NY Waterway is the fastest and easiest mode of transportation to and from Manhattan. Before the area bridges were constructed, ferries were the only way to get on and off the island. In 1986, Arthur Imperatore and his family launched their ferry service with the first NY Waterway boat. Since then, NY Waterway has carried more than 200 million passengers and is operated by Port Imperial Ferry Company and Billybey Ferry Company.
Traveling by ferry can have its challenges due to harsh seasonal weather conditions. NY Waterway works to ensure safe passage for every rider, every time. Some years back, video cameras were installed on the boats and in terminals to provide data in the event of an incident. An automatic identification system (AIS) was also employed to track the location of each boat electronically. The AIS runs on local servers.
Unfortunately, there was not a cohesive way to view video in real time, and cameras were continually subjected to diverse temperatures, adverse lighting conditions and water spray. Consequently, cameras were not always reliable. Additionally, finding and keeping IP or phone connectivity while aboard vessels has long been an issue. This is mainly due to the fact that telecommunications providers do not always have complete coverage across water.
NY Waterway wanted to find a modern unified solution for gaining real-time and remote visibility across its operations. The answer came in a highly integrated and innovative assemblage of technologies and ideas.
NY Waterway envisioned a centralized yet mobile method to view and communicate with boats, regardless of where they were located. The hope was to improve connectivity across the water, while enabling video feed from boat camera to be remotely viewable at any time.
Anil Sookoo, principal of A.A.S Technologies, a voice, data and security integrator, regularly works with a camera manufacturing company. “We had the idea to pull in a wireless mesh network expert that uses antennas on moving vessels and on shore to help communicate data. Shortly thereafter, we had another great idea to bring in Pantascene, now part of Hitachi Visualization, for its cloud-based and dashboard-controlled integration of all the systems,” Sookoo explains.
The single solution was not the ordinary mix of technologies and providers, but it proved to be the right one. This composite of vendors put together a proof-of-concept demonstration for NY Waterway. They demonstrated how video can be both pushed to and pulled from vessel cameras; how public announcements and IP pages can be made across all boats and terminals at once; and how boat camera video can be viewed anytime and remotely. The demo offered something different and more complete than other proposals.
“This solution enhances our security by integrating our cameras, our DVRs, our wireless antennas into one central communication system. It also gives us the flexibility to stay on board and see what is going on in real time on our vessels,” says Jonathan Figueroa, director of facilities for Billybey Ferry Company, one of two companies that comprise NY Waterway. “We see opportunities to further enhance public safety and track vessel telemetry. The possibilities are endless.”
The NY Waterway’s public safety project was based on highly integrated solutions from various manufacturers’ technologies, along with Pantascene to bring them all together on a single, easy-to-use interface. A.A.S. Technologies managed the overall integration of the solution. At the high level, the solution enables camera video feeds to be transmitted through the network to the control system in a seamless way, allowing real-time accessibility.
Approximately 350 IP and analog cameras were installed on boats and terminals, replacing previous devices with more reliable performance in adverse weather conditions. DVR switches were also installed on the ferries to allow the streaming of video and data. Various video management systems (VMS) continued to operate at terminals.
The network was designed and built to optimize connectivity along the 100 miles of waterways. The fast-roaming wireless technology provides connectivity to moving vessels, up to 100Mb/sec and roughly 120 mph, allowing clear communication between shores and across the water.
The dashboard control software responsible for orchestrating the various systems was originally from Pantascene, which is now part of Hitachi Visualization. Intended as a comprehensive and intelligent end-to-end public safety solution, Hitachi Visualization enables the correlation of disparate or otherwise siloed data and video systems.
The brains of the Hitachi Visualization dashboard operation come from Hitachi Visualization Suite (HVS) software. Designed to aggregate data from incoming sources into a common, real-time operational picture, HVS delivers full situational awareness to support a myriad of public safety, smart city and operational systems. The integrative map intuitively organizes and manages information from multiple video feeds, sensor data and various third-party public safety systems, such as the AIS. Analytic features of HVS can tap public source information, such as social media and online news, to search and provide rapid correlations, anomalies and valuable insight.
“You literally can click on a vessel on the dashboard map, see where the cameras are located on that boat, and then click on a particular camera to view the video as it is recording. Very impressive,” notes Sookoo.
NY Waterway also relies on Hitachi Visualization Platform (HVP), which consists of edge capture devices. In this case, the solution used HVP gateways to manage integration, transcoding and data ingest services. These tasks promote optimal cloud live streaming and recording, and include workflow abilities to act on any sensor or alarm data. Information is collected, shared and analyzed via built-in wireless networked data and video feeds.
“We have helped develop a very holistic environment for public safety and preparedness. NY Waterway can more quickly and accurately respond to an event that might be occurring on the water or in a terminal. Whenever needed, cameras can be repositioned remotely, and customized alerts can be sent to designated personnel. It’s all possible from any network device, at any time or place, and can be shared simultaneously as the situation demands,” Sookoo furthers.
The NY Waterway project represents a modern approach to managing and mitigating public safety concerns.
A.A.S Technologies began implementing the multifaceted solution over two years ago. “We are continuing to tweak and upgrade over time. The original project involved significant effort and coordination. We were running antennas along the channels and setting up a point-to-point network to communicate with boat antennas. We dealt with very demanding radio frequency issues, because of the location and nearby airports and constantly changing sight lines in a densely populated area. We deployed the Hitachi devices all over the place to handle video compression and save on bandwidth,” Sookoo details.
“The lack of access to comprehensive quality and real-time information can be one of the greatest barriers to safer, smarter public security. The technologies in our project enabled us to eliminate so many barriers.”
Sharing and Collaboration
Hitachi Visualization Suite is a unified platform that runs in the cloud and is completely web-based. As a result of using HVS, NY Waterway has gained the proficiencies for accessing and sharing their security assets with other agencies, anytime, anywhere. Benefits of working with Hitachi Insight Group as well as experiencing other multijurisdictional cooperation include faster response times and more collaborative strategies.
Video feed and real-time dashboard controls are key components for incident verification and evidentiary use as well. NY Waterway is easily able to decide how, when and with whom to share information.
Reliability and Situational Awareness
Emergency preparedness calls for reliable, consistent procedures and technologies. There are several VMSs in use at NY Waterway. As with any disparate environment, there was a lack of consistency across login protocols, which in turn often lengthened the time required to find the desired footage. Now, the AIS and multiple VMSs are seamlessly integrated. Hitachi Visualization simplified login and retrieval, enabling NY Waterway to access feed from anywhere and promptly identify and reduce potential threats.
“Security situational awareness is a very high priority for us, and for our customers. Year after year, when we survey our customers, it’s about safety. They feel safe on our vessels and once they make it to our terminals, they consider themselves home,” says Donald Liloia, senior vice president of Billybey Ferry Company.
For NY Waterway, the horizon includes new dashboard amenities. Video playback features and the ability to monitor fuel on any of its ferries will further enhance visibility and response.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced big plans to expand the city’s waterway transportation to include areas not presently available for ferry service. New landing docks and terminals are planned, and Sookoo hopes it means more innovative public safety solutions like the one now operating at NY Waterway.
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