Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cameras on the blink

Cameras on the blink
Out of 165 cameras at traffic junctions in the city, 35 don’t work. Fed up with BSNL playing truant, traffic police explore wireless connectivity

The cameras at traffic junctions are possibly the most effective deterrent that keeps the traffic violations in check. The big boss who keeps an eye on everything from the sky sure has a way of making you tow the line whether you like or not. In these times of terror, the constant surveillance also adds to our sense of security. But apparently this eye is not that intimidating. The reason: More than 35 cameras out of a total of 165 do not function for close to six hours in the day because of connectivity issues!
The 14 wide screens at the Traffic Management Centre in Ashok Nagar police station many a time have blank screens because the camera is down. The two government bodies in charge of this service - the traffic police and the BSNL - continue with the blame game.
“We have never had 100 per cent connectivity from the time the first camera was installed at the Kamaraj Road-Cubbon Road junction in 2007,” says Prahlad Kulkarni, SI with the Traffic Management Centre.
Bangalore has 301 traffic signals, of which 160 have surveillance (PTZ) cameras which have to be operated manually and five enforcement cameras that are automatic. All of them operate on leased lines with a bandwidth of 4Mbps. Yet, the connectivity is no better than a broadband. “The PTZ or pan zoom tilt cameras are all IP-based cameras. Images are transmitted over the Internet and in real time. Though we have optical fibre and wire cable connectivity, there is always a problem,” says Mallikarjuna Raju, team leader of the tech teams that handle the TMC.
Dug-up roads are no friends of underground cables and the BSNL connectivity is no exception to the case. The underground optical cables and wire cables are often cut because of unplanned digging of roads by one department or the other. Add to this the disrupted power supply and what you have is a blank screen.
“It is expected that when you have a leased line, any problem is attended in a matter of hours. BSNL waddles over our complaints. If we are lucky, then complaints are attended to in a week. If they decide to take their time, I really can’t say. We have spent close to Rs 2 lakh on surveillance cameras and about Rs 25 lakh on enforcement cameras. What is the point if they can’t function?” says a senior TMC official.
Sample this for BSNL’s ‘efficient’ service: Cameras installed in Agara, Iblur and Sarjapura junctions have not been functioning for the last three months. The camera at Ananda Rao Circle was down for more than 20 days because of a technical problem. “It happens quite regularly,” say the traffic cops.
The log shows that since July 2009, the down time for BSNL is about 17 hours a day. In comparison, Airtel which is the service provider to the traffic cops for their Blackberry facility, has a down time of less than 0.1 per cent.
“There is nothing that can be done about it because the government accepts the lowest quotation for any service and BSNL provides that. Never mind the quality of after-sales service,” lament the techies at the TMC.
To overcome this problem once and for all, the traffic police department is now looking at turning the entire system into wireless connectivity which functions on radio frequency.
“We have put forth a proposal where a pilot project will be set up from Khoday Junction up to BHEL factory to have wireless connectivity. There will be seven cameras on a 15-km stretch. The route has been chosen so are no hurdles to a ‘straight line of sight’, which is mandatory for wireless connectivity,” says the TMC official. However, the BSNL has already raised objection to the project.
The telecom service provider is also quick to defend itself about the various connectivity problems. “Agara and Iblur junctions have infrastructure works in progress. The Ananda Rao Circle junction had also been dug up and our cables were cut. We have to go through a procedure of calling tenders. These things take time. We are also a government body,” say the BSNL officials. That just about sums up the state of affairs.


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