Calgary’s Open Video Platform Enables Smart City Data

Nearly 1.2 million citizens make Calgary Canada’s third-largest municipality, and its high quality of life ranked it as the fourth most livable city in the world by The Economist in 2018.

Wondering why?

Much of that livability can be attributed to the fact that technology plays an integral part for Calgary city management. With a large ‘smart city’ portfolio of tools, officials build on an innovative tech and data foundation to provide efficiency, safety and security in their services.

Legacy Changes for Data ROI

Early on, Calgary city managers decided to replace and upgrade their legacy video systems, which had 1,800 cameras with 300 NVRs in many locations. That system was not connecting to centralized security operations. They needed a unified, proactive solution for dealing with incidents in multiple sites.

Focusing on city operations, the Security Tech Ops team defined how they intend to use their video system over time. Beyond needing to capture and share high-quality, reliable, live and recorded video data, they wanted to integrate with other technologies including access control, video analytics and building management systems.

“Return on investment (ROI) for a city isn’t always just based on money — ROI can be data related,” said Alex Lee, City of Calgary, Security Advisor of Technical Operations. “Information is key, so one of our most important missions was to deploy a software solution to collect data for solving city issues.”

Open Platform Provides Options

After a year-long evaluation with a competitive and fair selection process, Calgary began deploying XProtect Corporate open platform video management software (VMS) from Milestone Systems as the core of its citywide, enterprise-class monitoring system.

“Selecting the video management software was a big decision that impacts current and future performance. To deeply integrate third-party systems was a critical requirement,” said Mark Sheahan, Convergint Technologies Account Manager for the project. “Calgary needed an open platform where any camera or device could be installed, and where we can integrate with other data systems. Milestone was certainly the right choice.”

“Our upper management did a great job of explaining how video can provide information to smart cities and how to apply that data,” said Lee. “We can talk about audio or gunshot detection, temperature sensors, water level and humidity sensors — all good data, but when you tie all that data together, you really have an effective system.”

With the Milestone open platform, systems integration via Application Program Interfaces (APIs) shares data between other components for an efficient, unified solution. It also scales from one to thousands of devices as needed, so installations can be done in stages. As a training-certified Milestone Partner, Convergint knows how to leverage this flexible and scalable technology.

How to Protect Road Pickle?

Calgary first installed the new video system to monitor public utilities, recreation facilities, electrical substations, parks, critical infrastructure sites, and operational work centers which include storage lots.

“The Transportation Infrastructure storage compounds are extremely large, and we often have people breaking in stealing copper, fiber, and road supplies such as road pickle – a rock and salt mixture for icy roads,” said Lee. “The same kind of protection is needed for parks and warehouses with valuable tools, heavy equipment, and industrial supplies to be watched 24/7.”

The team standardized on IP cameras from Axis Communications, including high-resolution, multi-sensor, PTZ and thermal, including bi-spectral network devices for both short and long-distance surveillance, day and night.

Integrating AXIS network radar detectors and AXIS Perimeter Defender video analytics with the Milestone VMS allows the city to create a virtual “fence” around designated areas. This automatically detects and alerts when people or vehicles are intruding on a property.

Interactive Maps with Multiple Data Sources

Calgary has also incorporated Live Earth, an Internet of Things (IoT) visualization platform that seamlessly synchronizes data from multiple sources and combines live data feeds into an interactive map. The Live Earth solution contains real-time, Graphic Information System overlays that update automatically, to help staff understand scenarios quickly.

“We are extremely impressed with the Live Earth-Milestone integration and its capabilities,” said Sheehan. “It has a great user interface, amazing data, and any mayor or city council member can immediately understand how it can be used in a smart city situation.”

The team is mapping out most areas of the city: all roadways and transportation systems, as well as operational concerns such as sewer and electrical systems. The Rules Engine in XProtect will further integrate a range of data systems and sensors.

“When a fire alarm goes off, we want a notification to instantly see the location on the map as well as responders nearby,” said Lee. “The Live Earth system can automatically bring up surrounding camera views in Milestone for visual verification of the incident, for us to begin an appropriate response.”

A deeper integration with Lenel OnGuard Access Control, covering some 3,600 readers throughout the city, is also in the works.

“We need our team to concentrate on monitoring a single management software, not a dozen different systems; this is a crucial goal for us,” said Lee.

The full article is available in the October 2019 issue of SP&T News.

Live Earth – homepage at

Live Earth-Milestone integration – partner page at