Mexico's Arco Norte Deploys Genetec's State-of-the-Art Omnicast Platform As Part of the Core of its Intelligent Transport System

As one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, Mexico City suffers from major traffic congestion. In an effort to alleviate the problem, construction of the Arco Norte began in 2006 (translated: Northern Arch), a 223 km road that arcs around the suburbs of the capital city. The road skirts around the northeast of the metropolis through four states, and allows pass-through travelers to bypass the city itself, saving up to three or four hours in travel time. The Arco Norte crosses several other high-traffic thoroughfares and includes 14 main intersections. Because the road is part of a closed tolling system, charging vehicles for the specific portion of road traveled, a toll plaza was required at each of the intersections; altogether the 14 plazas comprise approximately 80 toll lanes.

One of Arco Norte's toll station.

The Business Challenge

Though the Mexican government owns its public roadways, including the Arco Norte, it often awards Concession Contracts to third parties for building, maintenance and running of its various roads. IDEAL was awarded the contract for the Arco Norte and, as soon as construction began, they started exploring their options. In order to ensure safety and smooth travels for their users, IDEAL knew they needed to have eyes on the road to monitor levels of traffic congestion and potential hazards or incidents. They also needed eyes on toll plazas to monitor safety and accuracy of toll transactions. With an average of 18,500 vehicles travelling on the Arco Norte each day, this was no small feat. The road operators required an intelligent transport system (ITS) that would include a video surveillance system to monitor and manage the entirety of the 223 kilometers from their central control center, built midway on the Arco Norte.

Arco Norte's Security System Requirements  

Since the Arco Norte was a new road, there was no ITS or security system in place, this allowed the opportunity to start from scratch and sketch an optimal solution from the ground up.  IDEAL knew they needed a cutting-edge and technologically advanced solution.   They hired Americas Resources, a Genetec Certified Integrator, and leader within the ITS and vehicle control systems industry, to take on this challenge. Americas Resources' team led by Guillermo Gutierrez, Operations Manager took on the task of project design and implementation for this installation.

"We wanted an IP video surveillance solution that could send video feed back to the control center. However, even more integral was finding a platform that would be extensible enough to allow video to integrate with the tolling and auditing systems to create a complete package," said Mr. Gutiérrez. 

The team began its work by conducting a wide search for all potentially viable platforms from a large number of vendors. The Arco Norte needed a flexible video surveillance solution that was IP-based, and which would allow for gradual expansion of the system as needs and technology evolved. After casting the net wide and spending hours evaluating the advantages of a number of systems, Mr. Gutiérrez came to the conclusion that Genetec's Omnicast would be the best fit for the Arco Norte's varied needs.

The Perfect Solution  

Once Omnicast was chosen, Americas Resources developed the structure of the system. Omnicast is the video surveillance system of the Security Center, Genetec's unified security platform. The Security Center's open architecture provides full flexibility for the end-user to configure and setup the system as per their needs. 

The initial phase included designing and installing a fiber-optic network infrastructure along the length of the road, all tied back to the centrally located control center. Approximately 30 Bosch AutoDome 500i Intelligent Day/Night pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras with 36x optical zoom were installed along the road to allow maximum video coverage and control with the fewest number of resources. AutoDome 500i Day/Night cameras feature excellent sensitivity to provide high-resolution images during the day and in low light conditions. Built-in image stabilization improves video clarity when the cameras are installed on unstable mounts, such as polls that may shake or sway.

All video feeds were routed to the control center for monitoring, managed by the Omnicast user and stored via NAS (network attached storage) equipment. This first phase helped to establish the robust network infrastructure and was useful for traffic monitoring and incident management, but was only a preliminary step.

After the initial network was in place, 90 additional fixed Bosch FlexiDome IP and Dinion IP cameras were installed (both indoor and outdoor) at individual toll auditing booths in each of the 14 toll intersections. The cameras use progressive scan technology to capture sharp images, even when there is a high level of motion. Ideal for outdoor use, the FlexiDome cameras are protected against water and dust to IP 66 standards.

The over 300% increase in video feeds made it more practical to add local NAS equipment and individual Omnicast systems at each toll plaza, with a networked connection to the control center. This allowed video feeds to be pulled to the central location piecemeal as needed.

The open architecture of the Security Center and its Omnicast video surveillance system provided additional flexibility for Arco Norte to select their preferred hardware or integrate third-party systems. The unified security platform is designed to gather, analyze and index data from systems such as video surveillance, access control, license plate recognition, intrusion detection, sophisticated maps and other systems for consolidated security management.

Arco Norte integrated Omnicast with the tolling system, creating a unified management and security platform never before seen on Mexico's roads. Americas Resources used Genetec's Professional Services Team to help develop a tailored plugin for Omnicast that would allow toll transactions to be associated with particular camera feeds and video clips. Toll transactions, including vehicle data, enter the system and are tagged to corresponding portions of video so that, should the need arise, administrators can later perform searches to pull up all required information at once.

Americas Resources also put Omnicast's flexibility to work by integrating the traffic surveillance feeds with the Arco Norte's traffic management platform. Operators can map cameras and pull up the video feeds from within their traffic management interface. This avoids the pesky and time-consuming need to switch between client interfaces. Operators are able to do their job more efficiently and are better prepared to handle road incidents or other time-sensitive situations. In the near future, Mr. Gutiérrez also plans to integrate Omnicast's PTZ camera control into the traffic management platform to complete the Arco Norte solution.

"The implementation of the Genetec solution went quite smoothly. As a matter of fact, the flawless performance of the system is what has been taking us back to Genetec for other roads we are working on now. It's a very mature platform," said Mr. Gutiérrez.

The Benefits

Omnicast is a highly extensible platform, and allows IDEAL to plan for future expansion of their system. IDEAL is able to add additional cameras one-by-one to newly-discovered high-risk areas or blind spots on the Arco Norte. Remote access from IDEAL's corporate offices, as well as for emergency response personnel is also provided. As the Arco Norte evolves, IDEAL is also looking into utilizing Omnicast's alarm management features in conjunction with video analytics to automate traffic incident alerts. Additionally, the use of the new Security Center Mobile application will allow Arco Norte to view video from their mobile devices, increasing response time no matter the location of the respondent.

The Arco Norte has been in operation now for over a year. For a staff of road operators who had no prior experience with a system of this kind, they have found Omnicast's interface to be exceedingly user-friendly and intuitive. Having the ability to store video and later quickly navigate the archives has allowed IDEAL to utilize the Omnicast system as a toll-operator quality control tool. It has also enabled IDEAL to analyze road incidents after-the-fact and pinpoint any potential improvements to their daily operations.

In a real-time capacity, Omnicast has also been vastly useful as a traffic management tool. Road operators are able to view the entire road at once, making incident diagnosis and response immediate. The system has also allowed for quick evaluation of the effects an incident might have on traffic conditions several kilometers back. Orchestration of emergency vehicle arrival, monitoring of response time and surveying to ensure all needs are addressed can all be accomplished from one single location in the control center.

Omnicast has also proven its worth by assisting toll operators to assess proper fee schedules for various vehicles. Because the Arco Norte employs a closed tolling system, charging drivers for the specific portion of road traveled, there needs to be some way to keep track of a vehicle's road entrance and exit. To accomplish this, the Arco Norte uses RFID cards, which record each vehicle's entrance, allowing a toll operator to swipe the card upon exit and determine the correct fee due. Unfortunately, there are occasional hiccups wherein the RFID cards do not read properly, or properly record an entrance. When this occurs, operators can easily pull up video feeds from the toll plaza a driver claims to have used for entrance and corroborate the story using a license plate number or other visual identification. This allows a foolproof way to assess the proper fee despite the card's malfunction, and without requiring a lengthy fact-finding mission.

IDEAL has also employed Omnicast's IP functionality to publish over 20 select camera feeds to the Arco Norte website to allow travelers the ability to monitor traffic conditions independently, before they leave home.

IDEAL has been so pleased with rollout of the Omnicast system that it's already being implemented in other roads. In the future, they plan to combine all systems under one platform using Genetec's FederationTM feature. This way, IDEAL will be able to monitor all cameras from all systems for all their various roads from their headquarters.

IDEAL is a visionary among road operators; the Arco Norte is the first Intelligent Highway in all of Mexico. It has set a benchmark for other operators and authorities of the Mexican Department of Transportation who have looked to the Arco Norte when setting road requirements, and as an example to which other operators may aspire.

"Using Omnicast for this install has helped confirm Americas Resources as a knowledge leader for this type of system for transportation applications," said Mr. Gutiérrez. "I would definitely recommend this type of IP platform to other road operators, without question. The platform is extremely flexible, and we have been absolutely satisfied with the truly seamless installation of this technology.

Arco Norte Images

Arco Norte's operation center. Arco Norte's operation center.

Cameras are positionned alongside the highway's roadside assistance telephones. Cameras are positionned alongside the highway's roadside assistance telephones.

Multi-lane toll stations are equiped with cameras along the lanes. Multi-lane toll stations are equiped with cameras along the lanes.

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