Columbia Bank Overhauls Video Surveillance Across the Northwest


Columbia Bank, a Northwest community bank headquartered in Tacoma, Washington, sought to upgrade their video surveillance solution to improve image quality and retention time. They also wanted to maximize field of view to deliver a more forceful and expansive—yet less intrusive—solution.

Working with Cook Security Group, Inc., Ross Armstrong, vice president of physical security at Columbia Bank, chose to overhaul video surveillance in their 150-plus branches across the Northwest, many of which included older analog cameras. They chose to install a mix of Hanwha Techwin models including Wisenet P series PNM-9000VQ multi-sensor/multi-directional outdoor vandal-proof dome cameras with 5 megapixel lens modules and Wisenet X series XND-8020F 5 megapixel indoor flush mount dome cameras.

Columbia Bank is in the process of the multi-phase upgrade that converts their existing branches to Hanwha Techwin video surveillance cameras managed by Genetec’s Security Center Omnicast Video Management System (VMS). The project, which started in June of 2018, has already deployed over 1,200 Hanwha Techwin cameras across 80 locations. They will complete another 60 sites in 2019, and 30 more in 2020. The video cameras serve as part of an overall physical security plan and are positioned to provide expansive coverage of bank interiors including teller lines, exteriors including parking lots and surrounding areas and ATM machines.

Hanwha Techwin offered the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ with included analytics like loitering detection

Armstrong said that Columbia Bank tested out a of variety of models before deciding on Hanwha Techwin.

“I didn’t know which camera vendors would give us the biggest bang for the buck,” he said. “But I settled on Hanwha Techwin for a couple of reasons. One, is the price competitiveness and, two, the fact that the cameras come bundled with so many analytics that many companies want to charge extra for those licenses.”

One of the analytics features the Columbia Bank security team uses with regularity is the loitering feature, specifically at their ATM machines.

“If an individual is loitering around one of our ATMs beyond the set time limit, then we have it programmed into Genetec’s Security Center to send an alert. Omnicast snaps a photo of the loiterer and emails it to everyone designated on our security team. We then can take a quick look at that photo and quickly determine whether or not somebody is utilizing the ATM as a customer or if they’re doing something they’re not supposed to, such as trying to break into the ATM or installing a skimmer.”

Unrivaled performance: Almost 100% uptime, H.265 compression and WiseStream

Armstrong noted that as he tested cameras from other vendors, he noticed a consistent drop rate which he was concerned would get worse.

“Security Center provides health monitoring of the cameras, and what I looked for was if the availability started dropping below 98 percent. Even though 98 percent availability seems acceptable, any downtime creates a risk of missing critical events. One camera model we were testing was experiencing regular outages, where we would lose 30 seconds off and on throughout the day. These short loses added up quickly and we were seeing availability times dropping somewhere around 93 to 94 percent. That wasn’t acceptable. When I reviewed the data on the Hanwha Techwin model, the average availability was consistently above 99 percent, which was so impressive. It might just be a two percent difference, but it’s inevitable that the one time you need it is the one time that camera is not working as expected. Columbia Bank was unwilling to accept the risk of utilizing equipment that failed to meet our standards, and decided to partner with Hanwha Techwin, who provided a much more reliable end user experience.”

Impact on network infrastructure and bandwidth were also determining factors for Columbia Bank as they chose to upgrade their video surveillance system. Armstrong said he was disappointed to find many camera manufacturers were not quickly integrating usage of H.265 compression technology into their products. He said he is impressed that Hanwha Techwin utilizes H.265 in so many of its camera models, as well as the fact that Hanwha has incorporated its own WiseStream technology into its cameras, making them even more efficient.

Hanwha Techwin Wisenet P and X series cameras use H.265/H.264/MJPEG with Hanwha’s exclusive WiseStream II compression technology. WiseStream dynamically controls encoding, balancing quality and compression according to movement in the image. Combined with H.265 compression, the bandwidth efficiency can be improved by up to 75 percent compared to current H.264 technology.

Customers enjoy powerful—yet non-intrusive—security

Community banks are charged with keeping employees, customers and assets safe, but also need to present a warm and inviting environment since they are often a hub of civic activity. In-your-face video surveillance cameras in a bank can be threatening to any would-be criminal, but they are also off-putting to customers that visit banks on a day-to-day basis.

When Armstrong and his team were evaluating camera solutions across the bank’s branches, they wanted to find a way to let customers know they were providing the latest in video security without the potentially intrusive analog cameras that often can be found just inches away from customers during transactions at the teller counter.

“It’s a balance—you want customers to feel secure, but you don’t want them to feel like they are in a prison or a fishbowl,” said Armstrong.

He said they removed the older analog cameras on the teller line and replaced them with the higher resolution 5 megapixel Hanwha Techwin models, which were placed off the teller line.

“This allows us to get higher quality images—and a wider field of view—while not intruding into people’s personal space,” he said.

Appliances like decoders can simplify operations and save money

One way to convey that Columbia Bank is all business when it comes to security was with an innovative decoder offered by Hanwha Techwin. Armstrong said they wanted to have video monitors showing surveillance camera feeds in certain higher-risk locations so that customers would know they are being recorded, and that would serve as a deterrent to any would be criminals. However, with the change in hardware, they were unable to connect monitors directly to a DVR. Armstrong said Hanwha’s SPD-150 49 Channel Decoder has allowed them to connect analog, HDMI and VGA.

“Being able to put one Hanwha decoder unit in a branch and run three monitors off of it—as well as the ability to hook monitors up to some cameras directly—has saved us tremendous amounts of money while adding a visual security feature.”

A security solution that gives back to the community

Columbia Bank has long emphasized that they are a community bank that’s community-minded. When Armstrong and his team decided to upgrade their video surveillance solution, they made the decision to add video surveillance cameras to the exterior of all bank locations not only to protect their customers as they come and go, but also to assist the community and law enforcement when incidents occur in areas surrounding their branches.

“We look at it as the opportunity to give back to the community and provide assistance in a variety of ways,” said Armstrong. So far, Columbia Bank has provided video evidence to help law enforcement investigate a variety of incidents, including drive-by shootings, traffic accidents and arson.

A partnership for today and the future

Columbia Bank has been well served by the Hanwha Techwin-Genetec security solution and Armstrong said they are very satisfied with the performance of the system.

“Hanwha Techwin has been a phenomenal partner for us,” he said. “And that’s what I look for in a security provider – a long-term partnership. We’re very pleased with the solution from Cook Security Group, Hanwha Techwin, and Genetec and we look forward to completing all phases of the project.”