CCTV is fundamental to tunnel safety. And there’s more to it than you might picture.
At first glance, tunnels seem simple enough. But that’s until you notice the wiring on the ceiling and realize they’re furnished with all sorts of hardware.
Did you know it’s all there for the benefit of you and me?
Though tunnels are generally safer than the open-air roads they replace, they present unique safety challenges. If accidents first occur, consequences can be severe. Over the years, we’ve seen both the standout, tragic events—like the 1999 Mont Blanc tunnel fire—but also common, less dramatic incidents that too require countermeasures.
Hence, we now employ sophisticated technology to safeguard commuters, transporters, holidaymakers, and anyone who enters. Even the odd moose.
– We use CCTV cameras of course,
but not in the way most people imagine.
Surveillance plays a vital role in that.
At Lysaker, close to Oslo, a group of surveillance professionals gets to work every day, hatching out solutions that make Norway’s vast tunnel network safer. They’re Hatteland Technology’s Transportation team.
We sat down with them to hear more about who they are, and what it is they do.
What is tunnel surveillance?
CCTV cameras. Network cables. Computers. They might escape one’s attention between the ventilation fans, lamps, and emergency phones, but most tunnels have them.
– There are roughly 1 900 road and rail tunnels in Norway, and probably ten times as many CCTV cameras. You simply can’t know what goes on in there without remote monitoring, says engineer and project manager Mia Skrataas.
With tons of prior experience from both safety- and tunnel engineering, Skrataas knows to a tee what a tunnel setup ought to account for.
In Norway, depending on length and traffic density, tunnels are required to be fitted with some level of surveillance. And while cameras are still fundamental components, the computers they’re connected to are getting more and more important.
– We use CCTV cameras of course, but not in the way most people imagine. The cameras capture digital images, and that data is run through AI-computers that continuously scan for events such as accidents, pedestrians astray, or fires. The system instantly alerts the operators, who can zoom in to confirm, and get right to work resolving the issue, Skrataas explains.
AID—a revelation for tunnel safety and traffic analytics
What she describes is the basis of a concept called AID, or Automatic Incident Detection. It’s a legally required solution for traffic-heavy tunnels.
In AID setups, CCTV cameras can indeed “see”, and do give you windows into the tunnel. But they primarily act as sensors. Mia's colleague, cybernetics engineer Jan Olav Larssen, elaborates:
Above: Safety- and tunnel engineer Mia Skrataas.
– Traditional video surveillance is images to humans. Today’s surveillance is data to computers—then to humans. We still use old-school surveillance, mainly in shorter tunnels, but AID is a big part of most our projects. There are too many tunnels, too many views for anyone to monitor manually. The human operators are still important, but we design systems that give them as much insight and assistance as possible, he says.
–Your camera is now a smoke detector, an anomaly reporter,
a car counter, and a traffic analyst.
Another experienced member of the team, Morten Smestad, has had a front-row seat to the industry’s development over the years. The possibilities now, he states, are almost hard to comprehend.
– You can take any digital CCTV camera, plug it into a computer, run the image stream through the AI solution, and immediately you have the most incredible assistant. Your camera is now a smoke detector, an anomaly reporter, a car counter, and a traffic analyst. And that’s just one camera. Link several of them together, and you unlock all sorts of possibilities, he says.
Intelligent monitoring not only keeps the tunnels safe then and there, but it also gathers insights over time. Ever heard of Smart Cities?
– Employ it across the town, or the country even, and you’ll discover patterns you never knew of, Smestad adds.
Site surveying: A measured approach
The team doesn’t just supply the hardware. They help engineer the solutions.
Step one is the site surveying, which involves physically visiting the tunnel. There, in cooperation with the system integrators and the contractors, they take measurements and evaluate how to achieve the appropriate coverage.
Above/below: Site surveying is an important part of the job
for Mia, Jan Olav, and Morten.
According to Mia, it’s a balancing act. You want to provide the best system possible. At the same time, public infrastructure requires prudence.
– We make sure the surveillance solution solves for everything it should, but take care not to install excessive gear. The art is getting our clients their money’s worth without compromising on what matters most: Functionality and reliability, she says.
– The art is getting our clients their money’s worth
without compromising on what matters most:
Functionality and reliability.
In addition to a competent design, it means you need hardware that’s up to the task. Due to health and safety precautions, you can’t get to the equipment unless you shut down the tunnel. Even if you do it at night, there are significant costs involved.
– Once the equipment is installed, and the tunnel is operational—fingers crossed you avoid unnecessary service calls, Jan Olav says and smiles. – So far, we’ve managed to avoid any serious setbacks. To me, that’s down to the quality of our hardware, and the effort we put in ahead of the installation.
Careful planning, smooth handover
For a surveillance system to function properly, all the components must work in symphony.
When you’re handling dozens of cameras and corresponding network equipment on site, keeping all your ducks in a row can be challenging. But thanks to the preparation team at Lysaker, installation is a breeze.
– Everything we deliver is ready to go and organized when it arrives on site. The production team here does an outstanding job preparing the equipment for our customers. Installers tell me they love receiving pallets from us, because our stuff is always pre-configured, labelled and laid out in the correct order. They’re not used to that, Morten chuckles.
Above: Testing and configuration prior to shipping is an important part of Kai's job.
His experience as a professional photographer comes in handy.
Often, a successful project is predicated on customization. The Transportation team at Hatteland Technology has two things going for them: 1) A capable R&D department, and 2) a supplier network that’s been formed over several decades.
– One of our strengths is the ability to come up with hardware for all those non-typical challenges. It’s a combination of knowing what to do and where to get the parts for it, Mia says.
It helps having a designated team member who makes sure whatever’s on the drawing board materializes into actual hardware.
– My job is to take orders and keep in touch with all the suppliers involved. Changes happen in almost all projects, and we must be able to adapt quickly. I see to it that every piece of equipment is prepared and gets shipped to the right place at the right time, Project and Production planner Mette Janitz says.
A team for complete deliveries
The tunnel team is proud of what they do and, with every role represented, realize they offer something special: Project engineering and design, hardware, testing, prepping, and servicing—all under one roof.
The tunnel crew (from the left):
Kai Fossgård, Jan Olav Larssen, Mia Skrataas, Mette Janitz, and Morten Smestad.
– Infrastructure projects usually involve third-party consultants, but our team has been carefully put together to offer a complete delivery, says Morten. –That isn’t just beneficial to our customers, it’s a big part of why we have so much fun on the job. I think our team approach is wonderful.
The line-up seems to resonate with the market. Thus far the team has delivered solutions for around 100 road- and rail projects across Norway, and their services are in high demand.
Considering what they do for safety and traffic flow, it's certainly a development we can all get behind.
Would you like to learn more about the team, and how they can help you?
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