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Mobile Video Surveillance on BlackBerry Devices
By Jeff Goldman
Great Days, LLC, a specialty construction and design firm based in Chandler, Arizona, uses BlackBerry smartphones to keep an eye on its construction sites 24 hours a day, with the help of the MobileCamViewer mobile video surveillance solution from California-based mobiDEOS.

According to company president Robb Corwin, Great Days works with clients on everything from consulting on initial design ideas through all aspects of construction. "It's a multi-faceted one-stop shop... the primary focus is on residential -- doing custom homes -- but we also find ourselves doing commercial buildings as well," he says.

One of Great Days' biggest challenges, Corwin says, has always been keeping an eye on its construction sites -- monitoring vendors and subcontractors, knowing who's on or offsite, maintaining security, and watching for damage. A few years ago, the company began placing Dedicated Micros cameras and DVRs at each site, but they were simply recording video for future playback, not transmitting it live.

About a year ago, Corwin says, he asked both Dedicated Micros and Southwest Access and Video, which installs Great Days' video surveillance systems, to look into the possibility of deploying a mobile monitoring solution for its construction sites. At a trade show, both companies met with representatives of mobiDEOS, which had recently begun offering its MobileCamViewer mobile video surveillance solution.

Soon after, Great Days deployed the MobileCamViewer solution -- and Corwin says it's transformed the way he runs his business.
 
The system allows a user to view (and pan, tilt and zoom) any camera at any of his sites remotely from a BlackBerry device. "What mobiDEOS gives us the ability to do is to go to a live image and be able to see what's going on at that moment," he says.

Having that kind of mobile access to real-time video, Corwin says, has been particularly useful in making sure that subcontractors are doing their job. "We'll call a sub and say, 'Are you at the house?' -- and he'll say, 'Yeah, I'm in the house, working on the kitchen'... and we can pull up the cameras and say, 'Well, where are you? Because I don't see you or your truck,'" he says.

Similarly, the system allows Corwin to give directions to contractors remotely. "If an electrician is coming to fix a light... and he calls and says, 'Which one are you talking about?' -- I can say, 'Walk out in front of the house, okay, now walk to your right, to your right, to your right, now stop, turn left,' as though I'm standing right there with him," he says. "And those kinds of things just save a great deal of time."

The cameras can also be triggered by motion detection. "If something goes into our site through a designated gate, it'll snap a picture and take a still image, and then it'll forward us that picture via e-mail... and if we get a message that there's been an entrance into the site at a particular time, we can... view the cameras on our BlackBerries to get a more detailed shot or to watch a live shot," Corwin says.

While much of this could easily be done from a PC, Corwin says it's infinitely more convenient to have access to it on a mobile device. "Having the BlackBerry has given us that 24-hour comfort level that no matter what happens -- even if you're out back with your kids and they're playing soccer, and somebody enters your site... you can view the image and see exactly what's going on," he says.

Great Days currently has three sites up and running, with 16 cameras at one site and 24 cameras at each of the other two sites. Four Great Days employees have access to the solution on their BlackBerry devices -- Corwin says they've used BlackBerry Curves, Storms and Tours, and the system has worked well on each one.

And the deployment itself, Corwin says, was extremely affordable. "If you put a four-camera DVR on a site with four cameras... on the low end, you could be into it for under $1,000," he says. "And then the software is just whatever the monthly fee or the annual fee is for mobiDEOS -- which is really, really minimal."

Ultimately, Corwin says, the solution has greatly improved his and his employees' quality of life, simply by reducing the number of times they have to get in a car and drive to the company's sites.
 
"It gives us great flexibility, and it's freed up an enormous amount of time for our people," he says. "It's gotten rid of a lot of wasted energy, a lot of wasted time, and it gives you peace of mind."
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