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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Use Caution When Naming Bus and Cameras

Over the course of the last several weeks, multiple issues have been noticed in the Technical Support Department that have been caused by the way that individual bus numbers or the names of each camera have been entered during the configuration of the DVR.  It is important to remember just a couple of items when it comes to naming the bus on the DVR as well as the name or description of each camera.

Please use the following guidelines when programming the bus name or camera name within the DVR:

1.  Please use only Alphanumeric characters when naming each bus.

2.  No symbols, signs or blank spaces should be used when naming the bus.

Correct Examples of Bus Names:

Incorrect Examples of Bus Names:
Bus 1 (there should not be a space)
Bus_1 (the underscore character should not be used)
Bus 20-07 (there should not be a space nor should the dash be used)

Correct Examples of Camera Names:

Incorrect Examples of Camera Names:
Cam 1 (no space should be used)
Front_View (no underscore or any other character should be used)
Camera #1 (no space should be used nor should the # character be used)

Following these guidelines will keep all of the on screen display names of your fleet consistent and can help prevent issues with your video data.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Teaching Drivers to Observe the Event Marker Box

Is there any more frustrating feeling in this entire industry than needing a piece of video or a view from a particular camera, only to find a camera out or a problem with your DVR?  We have all had it happen to us.  Most times, the cause is very simple the DVR was unplugged, etc.  Teaching your drivers to observe the lights on the Event Marker box can be a key component in your preventive maintenance program and getting problems with your video system fixed before you lose a critical piece of video.

The event marker is two components rolled into one.  Since many of your DVRs may be mounted in a bin compartment or installed in such a way that the driver is unable to simply see the status lights on the front of the unit, the Event Marker box also contains status lights that will give you the most basic information on the status of your DVR in addition to having the Event Marker itself so that a driver can flag an incident on their bus.  The event marker has the button itself that marks a clip of video on the hard drive and also has three lights that your drivers need to be aware of.  Those three lights are Power, Recording and Video Lost.

Soon after turning the key to the “on” position, the DVR will recognize the ignition input and turn the DVR on.  At that time, the power light on the Event Marker box should be illuminated a solid green color.   As the DVR continues through the boot sequence, the DVR will begin recording.  Once it has booted up and has started recording video footage to the hard drive, the green power light will stay on and then amber Recording light will also come on and stay on. 

In normal operation mode, the green light and the amber light should both be illuminated.

The third indicator on the DVR is the video lost light.  When the DVR does not see video from one or more cameras, then the video lost light will flash in red.  It is possible that the power light will be on, the recording light will be on AND the red video lost light will be flashing all at the same time.  That is an indicator that the DVR has power, has booted up and is recording, but it is looking for video from a camera that for some reason it cannot see.

It is important to teach your drivers to observe the event marker box upon start up of the bus as part of their pre-trip routine.  If your drivers notice anything on the Event Marker Box other than the green power light constantly on and the amber recording light constantly on after the DVR has had a chance to boot up and go into Record Mode, then that needs to be reported to a technician in your bus shop for advanced troubleshooting.  The technician can then plug into the DVR using their laptop and the provided crossover cable to see what the problem could be.

For advanced troubleshooting or technical support, contact 247 Security at 866-693-7492.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Am Interested in Going Wireless, But What Do I Do With The Equipment I Already Have?

Touchdown, the wireless video and fleet data management solution offered by 247 Security Inc, has generated a lot of interest across the country.  For some, the implementation of this system has been simple, as they are first time users of 247 Security’s line of products and simply install all new DVRs, cameras and related equipment on their buses at the time that they implement Touchdown.  However, as a 247 Security Inc customer, you have already made the investment in our DVRs and cameras, maybe even a considerable time ago.  Those existing customers continually ask us if it would be necessary to buy all new vehicle equipment in order to implement the Touchdown wireless solution.  The answer is quite simple:  No, you do not have to replace your existing 247 Security Inc equipment to implement the Touchdown solution.

There are two simple ways that units that you have previously purchased can be upgraded to work with the wireless solution:

1.        Some customers may have purchased units that are already “wireless ready.”  Wireless ready means that they have a radio modem installed inside the DVR and  that unit just need to be reprogrammed (and possibly the firmware or other software upgraded) and add a external wireless antenna.

2.       Other units without the built in wifi modem, even dating back to the original mDVR400 units, can be simply upgraded to work with the wireless solution by adding a wireless bridge and some basic reprogramming.

Either way, if you already have 247 Security Inc equipment mounted on your fleet of vehicles, you would not have to replace that equipment and start all over.  Obviously, that would dramatically reduce the costs of the Touchdown system to your school district.

Existing customers would still need to purchase the wireless infrastructure (access points, computer/software that controls Touchdown) and would need to purchase any of the wireless bridges for units that are not wireless ready, but you wouldn’t have to replace the equipment that you already own.

For more information, contact your sales representative for a more detailed presentation of what Touchdown offers and for customized pricing of upgrading your existing equipment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Preventive Maintenance a Key to Reliability & Longevity

Throughout the pupil transportation industry, one of the most important aspects of keeping buses safe, reliable and able to be in service for as long as it is possible to do so is a good preventive maintenance program.  Each state has its own manner and method of completing these services, but the most common is having a bus inspected by qualified shop technicians once per month.  In many states, there are checklists or inspection sheets that must be completed with detailed information of what needs to be checked.   However, the best fleets, those recognized for the superior bus fleets all have one thing in common, and that is that they go above and beyond what is required to be inspected.

Why is it, then, that most of us within the industry don’t add one piece of equipment to the monthly inspection and preventive maintenance and it is one of the pieces of equipment that the school districts rely on for the safety and security of their students:  the video system installed on your buses?

Even at a time where every bus shop across the country is having to do more work with less time and resources, adding a preventive maintenance check of your video systems doesn’t add that much time, and the minimal time that it does require has been shown to increase the reliability of the video systems.  The following are some simple tips that you can incorporate into your monthly school bus maintenance program that will only add about 5 minutes per bus, but could save you hours of work down the road, thousands of dollars and an untold number of headaches.

Each month when a technician is checking a school bus, he should plug the laptop into the DVR and check for the following:

1.        Are the time and date set correctly?  If no, then a one touch synchronization button will match your time and date so that incidents can be investigated and resolved much more quickly.

2.       Do you have clear video and audio on all cameras?  The technicians can see the view from each camera and even hear the audio while the unit is connected to a laptop computer.

3.       Are all cameras aligned to provide maximum coverage for what your cameras are placed to see and record?  Students are notorious, and quite frankly pretty ingenious, when it comes to finding was to obscure what the camera sees.  While inspecting the unit and watching the live view of what the cameras are seeing, adjustments can be made to camera alignment to make sure you are seeing that view that helps keep our students safe aboard the buses.

4.       Are all of the settings set according to the original configuration as specified by the Director of Transportation to see everything that they need to see?

A physical inspection also needs to be performed each month once you have checked all of the items above.

5.       Inspect all visible wires and connections to the back of the unit for cuts, frays and any signs of tampering.  Loose connections are probably the number one source of lost video.

6.       Inspect and CLEAN the fan filter (if equipped on your unit).  A 15 second removing of the fan cover, cleaning of the filter and reinstallation is critical in keeping your DVR systems working and extending their life span.  If the filter is clogged, then the fan has no way of cooling itself and protecting the unit from overheating.  If there is only time for one thing to be done to the DVR, this is quite possibly the number one process that needs to be completed.

7.       Inspect for broken mounting screws and broken shock absorbing springs isolating the DVR unit from the mounting bracket.  Let’s face it, we are asking a computer system to operate in one of the harshest environments out there in the mobile electronics industry. 

You have to remember what your DVR is, it is a computer mounted inside a school bus, riding down the road each day.  Everyone needs to have or implement a system of monthly checks of these complex digital video solutions to make sure that it is working properly and protecting your students, your drivers, your department and your school system.

Just as you made the investment of resources to update your video systems by going digital, we must invest a little time and effort each month to make sure that your video systems are working for you.

Preventive maintenance is the key!

New Blog Entries - Coming Soon!

Coming soon, we will be adding many more articles and tips to Rick's corner.  We hope that you will continue to follow us as we attempt to provide you with some hints and tips that you will find useful in the administration of your fleet's video management program.

Stay tuned to Rick's Corner!