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Safe City program in Donetsk, Ukraine: 800 cameras managed by AxxonSoft software


The idea to create a Safe City video surveillance system occurred to top law enforcement in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine, in 2005. Viktor Dubovik, head of the Donetsk office of the Internal Affairs Ministry, was foremost promoter of the project alongside Vladimir Semibratsky, technical coordinator and originator of the project. The office conducted an analysis of the available software and hardware solutions, gauging the difficulty of establishing such a system in the city. Two key requirements drove the project: laying of fiber-optic lines to be owned directly by the Donetsk office of the Internal Affairs Ministry, and use of the video management capabilities of the Axxon PSIM physical security information management (PSIM) software platform to store video and distribute it to operator monitors.

"There were plenty of options on the market, but only one choice." This was the conclusion reached by Svyaz-Servis, the company responsible for deploying the Safe City project in Donetsk. Only AxxonSoft’s product met all of the requirements for use in these conditions, and particularly so in a dense urban setting. Even during installation and operation in Donetsk, the Axxon PSIM software remained unfailingly reliable, easy to use, and adaptable for every task required of it. In other words, exactly what was expected. This applied across the board, from the software overall to its individual components and modules.

During the first stage, which lasted several years, 38 cameras were installed in different locations: Lenin Square, in the center of the city; the city council, and the regional administration building. Video was transmitted to the precincts of municipal and regional police. Over 3 kilometers of fiber-optic cabling connected the cameras to police stations. So the municipal police force in Donetsk was able to try out Axxon PSIM in real-world conditions, even as the project was poised for expansion to a larger scale. The marriage of state-of-the-art software and network infrastructure gave technical staff remarkable opportunities to pit Axxon PSIM against the toughest requirements.

In early 2012, the Safe City project transitioned to its central stage: a new unit, the Police Quick Reaction Center (PQRC), was created with nine workstations, one for each district of the city. The PQRC was equipped with the latest technology and raised the standards for video surveillance higher still. Vitaly Zakharchenko, Minister of Internal Affairs for Ukraine, visited the opening of the PQRC and stressed the center's importance and key role for holding the Euro 2012 soccer championships. Zakharchenko expressed his pleasure with the state of the system and gave Vladimir Semibratsky, the originator of the idea for Safe City in Donetsk, a special award for his contribution to public safety in Ukraine.

Semibratsky, in turn, told of the benefits that the project has brought to Donetsk and its citizens: "We had high standards from the very start, requiring quick reaction to any requests received. PQRC dispatchers can use the modern, automated surveillance system to observe people and vehicles, monitoring and directing city police units with the help of Chronos-A GPS devices. The results of integration with Axxon PSIM modules have been astounding. As soon as someone calls 102 for police help, an officer can access nearby video cameras and see which units are closest to the site of the event. The officer can oversee the situation on screen and coordinate with patrol units to react appropriately. All the while, incident video is being recorded to the PQRC server, which is based on Axxon PSIM."

In the buildup to the Euro 2012 soccer championships and expansion in city infrastructure, the complexity of the Safe City project was due to grow several times over. Svyaz-Servis was able to combine video surveillance systems into a single centralized system, thanks to the special capabilities of Axxon PSIM. Integration was accomplished quickly, even though the cameras were from different manufacturers and situated at different distances from video recording and storage locations. With Axxon PSIM, it all just worked. "You can imagine the elation I felt – I could just stop worrying about which camera was installed at which facility," recalls Sergei Sevryuk, a Svyaz-Servis engineer. "We had Vivotek cameras at Shcherbakov Park, Novus on Lenin Square, Mobotix at the rail station, and Axis at the airport arrivals area. With Axxon PSIM, it was child’s play to tie this all into a single system. It all works precisely, exactly, and without failures. We don’t have to make any different rules or exceptions for any of the hardware. I can put any imagery through to any remote monitoring station – we’ve even transmitted a video feed to the headquarters of the Internal Affairs Ministry, in Kiev. The only question we still have to tackle is network bandwidth."

Network bandwidth became acute during the Euro 2012 games in Donetsk. The Safe City project blossomed to 800 cameras in different public gathering areas. Video servers were housed predominantly at the PQRC and in the police room at the Musical Park of Culture and Rest; the latter received video from the Donbass Arena and adjacent park areas, with about 200 cameras in all. This data transmitted to PQRC's remote workstations for monitoring. Even the 1-gigabit link between the police room and the PQRC was not enough. But overhauling the network topology was not an option either. New Cisco Small Business SG-500 routers came to the rescue, after a recommendation by ipland, a partner for consulting at AxxonSoft Ukraine. 10G transmission technology allowed easily clearing the bandwidth bar and setting the foundation for constantly growing demands.

A trait unique to Donetsk's Safe City project, unlike most traditional video surveillance systems, is the ability to use a centralized data center that is maximally protected, for archiving information from all system components in a single place. This approach is useful for its superior reliability and assistance in decision-making in emergency situations. The capacity of Axxon PSIM to support this design is enormously important for companies that need to keep tight control over information. Donetsk's center was built to this model and maintains this design, even as it grows far beyond its original scale.

In years of operation and handling massive sporting events, Donetsk's Safe City project has made an integrated safety system able to monitor all key locations in a major city into a reality, thanks to Axxon PSIM. Today Donetsk and its 1.5 million residents are safer.

"The Safe City program in Donetsk is an inspiring example of how law enforcement and IT professionals can come together to get great results. We think that this combination has set the stage for future work to make this protection available to every person in Ukraine. This is just the beginning, one that has laid the foundation for more such projects all across Ukraine. This work will make life safer for each of us and our children as well, giving us a sense of reassurance and confidence in our everyday lives," remarked Alexander Kurinnoy, director of AxxonSoft Ukraine.