Nestled in the gently rolling hills of rural Virginia, Sweet Briar College is a women’s liberal arts college spanning over 3,200 acres. The campus includes a distant equestrian riding site and other remote facilities connected in some places by winding dirt roads. With such a large campus, keeping an eye on everything becomes as challenging as it does critical.
Over the years, Sweet Briar’s small IT team, led by Chief Technology Officer Aaron Mahler, has been tasked with adding more and more elements to their network, including security cameras. Their ten-year-old legacy system was cumbersome and created extra work for Mahler’s staff. As long-time Meraki customers, the team already understood the value in a cloud-managed system, so they were eager to implement the new cameras.
A large campus with several remote facilities made monitoring during off-hours challenging.
Staff from various parts of the school, including the library and bookstore, were unable to easily and autonomously view video footage in their areas due to the complexity of the video management software.
The historic nature of the campus and its architecture provides extra limitations on networking infrastructure and makes it difficult to house extra hardware without disrupting the beauty of the site.
While the school enjoys great network connectivity, the IT team wanted to ensure that bandwidth was used for mission-critical IT and educational tasks, not just security camera footage.
Sweet Briar’s previous camera system was generally challenging to manage, with a complicated and cumbersome interface.
The team had no way of knowing when cameras went offline or stopped recording, which caused major issues when it came time to recall footage after critical events.
In reference to their old camera system:
“We wish we didn’t have any cameras. They are so unreliable that when someone comes to us for footage and we don’t have it because the camera was offline we get blamed.”
The team installed almost 70 MV cameras across the campus.
MVs in remote parts of the campus are connected via wireless mesh with Meraki APs.
A mix of MV21 and MV71 cameras allows for full coverage both indoors and out.
Mahler’s team assigned granular access controls to staff from various teams, allowing them to monitor only their pertinent areas.
With Meraki MV:
“The ease of use is tremendous. The amount of time savings for your staff, the installation and managing the cameras, and the ease of use for your campus police or security office…are all tremendous selling points for us.”
A relatively small team of campus safety officers can provide a safer environment for students and faculty without having to be everywhere at once. The simple web-based interface and mobile app allow them to easily stay keyed- in to remote areas.
Centralized management and the ability to configure and view video through the Meraki dashboard have saved the Sweet Briar staff—from the IT team to the librarians—a considerable amount of time and effort versus their old system.
With user-based permissions, campus staff in charge of specific facilities can better manage their areas since they no longer require a set of eyes onsite at all times.
Installation posed no major technical or aesthetic issues, even in buildings over 100 years old.
The Motion Search tool allows for staff to quickly identify specific events on campus without manually sifting through hours or days of footage.
The team receives alerts when cameras go offline, allowing them to proactively address the issue before they miss a critical event.
If you noticed a new tab that says “Analytics” pop up in your Cisco Meraki MV dashboard last week, you weren’t dreaming. MV has officially taken its first step into the video analytics world.
Specifically, the MV team is delighted to announce the launch of heat maps, which will give customers valuable insights into customer behavior, school safety, and more. Staying true to one of the team’s core principles which drive product decision making—business value through intelligence—developing heat maps is just the first step in delivering advanced analytics tools to our customers.
Heat maps show an overview of the last week’s worth of motion data, on a per-day basis, giving insight into how a space is being used by students—are they using the playground equipment on the weekends?—or how customers are moving through a retail store location.
Most importantly, as with all Meraki products, cloud management means that every existing MV user will now automatically have this heat map tool available to them (as a public beta): no software installation, payments, or configuration required. Simply log in to your dashboard account to try it out for yourself.
So your first five MV cameras have just arrived. Now what? Proper, strategic camera installation can make all the difference when it comes time to review footage. Taking the time to map out your deployment before the big day (installation day!) can mean the difference between finding your boss’s stolen iPad and coming up empty handed. Here are some tips and ideas to help get you started:
1. Think context and identity. When installing MV cameras (or any security cameras, for that matter), two cameras per key area should typically be regarded as a minimum requirement. One camera should be zoomed out, with a wide field of view for context. The other should be zoomed in on an area where you can easily catch a face walking by (think door entrances) in order to catch detail and help you identify potential perpetrators.
Having one or more cameras situated so you can easily perform a motion search can help too. This may double as your wide-angle camera, or a third could be useful. As with network deployments, camera deployments will vary widely based on your particular use case. Consultation with the experts—your partner or installer—is recommended.
A zoomed in camera for identification.
A wide angle camera for context.
2. Aim!MV is a fixed, varifocal lens camera, so lens adjustment should be done during physical install. Use the Meraki Mobile App to simplify installation that much more and reduce the likelihood of dropping your laptop off the top of a 10 foot ladder.
Setup with the Meraki mobile app is a breeze.
3. Focus. While lens positioning adjustments must be made during physical install, zoom, aperture, and focus settings are adjusted remotely, through the dashboard or the Meraki app. MV’s autofocus tool allows you to either focus on the whole frame, or select a specific area to focus on. Check out this mini-demo to see how easy it is to adjust these settings.
During the months prior to launching Meraki MV, our extensive user experience testing for the new product spanned everything from the layout on the dashboard to physical installation of the security cameras. In doing so, we realized just how difficult it is to stand at the top of a tall ladder while holding a laptop (often the unfortunate reality of IP camera setup). That’s why we’re excited to announce that the Meraki mobile app for iOS and Android now supports MV security cameras.
The Meraki app makes it easier and quicker than ever to set up your cameras. View live video feeds and adjust focus, zoom, and aperture, all from a smartphone. Simply download the Meraki dashboard app on your phone, login with your standard dashboard credentials, and then navigate to your cameras in the left-hand navigation menu. Click on the camera you want to view, and then click “Live” in the lower right hand corner. The live video feed will automatically start to stream, and, if needed, you can make any necessary camera adjustments. For video walls and enhanced video monitoring functionality, MV also works with mobile browsers in Android.
Kiss the days of climbing onto a ladder with a laptop goodbye, and say hello to security camera configuration and management from your phone! Whether onsite or halfway around the world, the mobile app will help to keep tabs on what’s important to you and your organization.
As always, our engineers are keeping their ears open for requests through our Make a Wish tool. It’s hard to believe MV just launched a couple of months ago, and MV engineers have already added full disk encryption and support for the mobile app since then. Just imagine what could be coming next!
A big challenge of managing the physical security of a large office, school, or other campus is keeping an eye on what’s important at any given time. One way to help streamline this daunting task is grouping relevant video feeds—whether by location, tag, or anything else—into video walls. This not only helps with the organization of seemingly endless video streams, but also creates screens that can be used in a ‘command center’ setup in the main security office or elsewhere.
In contrast to many hard-to-manage and/or clunky video management software (VMS) packages available today, the browser-based Meraki dashboard provides a simple and streamlined experience. Meraki MV doesn’t require any additional software packages or plugins, and best of all, with the dashboard interface, you can create a video wall in just a few clicks. See it in action: