Dublin City Council City Traffic Monitoring and Management

Dublin City Council is a major user of CCTV systems primarily for traffic monitoring and management both within the city area, along regional and motorway links, dedicated Public Transport Links and the approaches to the Dublin Port Tunnel.

The City Council monitors over 160 CCTV cameras from a 24 hour control centre situated close to the City centre. The video images from these cameras are shared with a number of other agencies within the Greater Dublin area including surrounding local authorities, the police and emergency services and the National Roads authority.

Dublin City Council has installed a high speed Ethernet ring on the motorway and approach roads but has chosen to use digital uncompressed video transmission networks for the CCTV and traffic signals in the city rather than use compressed video. While some installations of CCTV over IP have taken place, the policy is to utilise uncompressed video to provide the images back to the control centre such that as much as possible the images are available for further transmission or conversion as required.

Dublin City Council has also begun to invest in the provision of fibre optic routes throughout the city and along the Motorway network for a variety of reasons:

  1. Cost of leased Telecom lines for CCTV use and the cost of annual fees for Traffic Signal controllers, as well as delays in completing installations.
  2. Development of Quality bus network and the requirement that all QBC routes should have CCTV coverage for monitoring purposes.
  3. Development of the Light rail network and the additional requirements of tram priority at 40 locations.
  4. Building of the Dublin Port Tunnel and the requirements for Heavy Goods Vehicle Management.

What type of transmission system is required for good CCTV management?

An analogue system similar to that in operation in the city centre for some years was first assessed, however this involved using a large number of cores and the distance even for single mode units was at the limit of the optical bandwidth.

While this type of system had been in operation since the late eighties, it was not a managed transmission system and it offered no resilience in terms of equipment failure. As such it was felt that it could not meet the requirements of motorway monitoring and the 24/7 requirements which arise from this type of operation. The other important consideration of this type of system was that it offered no serial or Ethernet ports.

Types of equipment to be supported by this system

  1. CCTV capable of expanding up to 200 cameras
  2. Links to other control centres
  3. Traffic signal controllers up to 750
  4. Video detection systems
  5. HGV counters
  6. Variable Message signs both motorway and Urban
  7. Bus priority measures
  8. Other ITS systems as required

Ethernet Solution

One solution for this diverse range of applications would be to use an Ethernet network solution particularly for the motorway and regional link roads. For the majority of ITS applications to be supported an IP network was installed on the M50 motorway with Cisco switches connected in a dual redundant ring. The GBIC interfaces for the switches provided a 1 Gigabyte backbone while providing 16 10/100 ports at each interchange. This network was extended to the M1 and to approach roads to the M50 by the use of Wireless IP switches. The schematic in figure 1 shows the variety of servers, switches and dedicated firewalls that are necessary in order to set up this type of system. This network provides the links to other agencies and to the Web services as well as providing the necessary routing to the engineering and control centre workstations.

However, in the course of this design a fundamental decision that had to be taken was to decide if the traffic cameras should use this network.

It was clear that a digital transmission system was the only system that would provide the necessary drop and insert capability. This allows for the regeneration of any signals and so overcomes problems with distances.

Two options were looked at:

  • Use an IP network with video compression
  • Digital uncompressed video over separate drop and insert circuits

Network CCTV

The development of video compression technology and the resulting reduction of the bandwidth required for transmission, has made possible the use of Ethernet or ATM networks for CCTV transmission. However this type of system does have a number of drawbacks which must be realistically assessed when determining the type of system to implement.

For CCTV monitoring the basic requirements could be summed up as follows:

  1. Always on CCTV with no switch delay during camera selection.
  2. Multiple operators and agencies require access without degradation of the images.
  3. As close as possible to zero latency when operating the Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) controls.
  4. Allows the use of video analysis software. 5. Operator fatigue if images are not high quality.

A traffic application, particularly a motorway one, means that there is constant motion within the video image. The operator must be able to zoom in on a problem area and this will mean that whatever compression technique is utilised it must be able to deal with a large amount of pixel changes from one image to another.

During the compression process, some information within the video signal is discarded and equally clearly this information cannot be retrieved if off line analysis is required. This in effect means that the demands of the compression methodology and any bandwidth limitations have more bearing on the received video than any inherent Video requirements.

Video Compression

In order to transmit CCTV images over a network some form of compression is needed, as an uncompressed video signal requires 130Mb Compression in order to be able to use the IP Ethernet network on the motorway.

Compression can bring the bandwidth requirements down to between 25Mbit/s to 64Kbit/s depending on the video requirements and the bandwidth available. The various types of video compression available include:

  • MPEG 2
  • Wavelet
  • MPEG 4
  • H263
  • MJPEG 2000
  • H264

Video compression attempts to discard any information which is not necessary for the viewing of the final image, and typically the compression algorithm would be looking at changes within a frame and also from frame to frame. As the scene content increases, as in the case of a high speed motorway monitoring, then the bandwidth requirements increase and this can be further increased if there is to be very low latency for the use of PTZ controls.


The use of CCTV for urban and motorway control provides the following:

  • Speedy response to any incidents
  • Monitoring and adjustment of operation of traffic signals
  • Bus lane monitoring
  • Roadworks Control
  • Vehicle tracking
  • Driver information systems

The more active the monitoring of a motorway and the more an operator uses a camera then the more the bandwidth increases. The more operators or agencies that require access to the images, then this will in general, increase the overall network bandwidth which needs to be taken up by the CCTV transmission.

These traditional limitations of CCTV over IP are well documented, however, specifically for wide area monitoring of CCTV, there are several other limitations which need to be taken into account.

If the delay between using a control and seeing the camera image respond is in excess of 250 ms it makes a system extremely difficult for an operator to use over an extended period. Using compression can result in latencies in excess of this figure at a time when it is needed least i.e. when there is an incident.

Network Design

The design of a network topology is crucial to how reliant the system is, however this is not a trivial task and certainly for the number of cameras needed in Dublin it requires far greater expertise than a conventional network.

An IP network has to be maintained and again this is an overhead that has to be taken into account. A very important factor is that the use of a distributed network over a long distance, as in the case of a motorway, throws up issues of security for the main network. The network must provide segmentation using VLANS, considerations such as the speed of recovery of nodes for redundancy must be carefully assessed. However, it is the requirement to have a highly skilled design and maintenance support for these systems which can cause the most problems, as traffic networks are by their nature 24 hour 7 day a week operations and a failure of the system can occur at any time.

The use of third-party analysis software is a major factor for a traffic management system, video detection systems require high quality images to analyse and these will not work properly on a compressed video stream. This in turn means that the video detection system must be located beside the cameras in the field thus requiring additional hardware and and maintenance overheads.

Uncompressed Video Transmission networks

Digital uncompressed video transmission using drop and insert circuits has the benefits of standard network capabilities. It does not compromise the video quality in any way.

A drop and insert circuit is simply a daisy chain of transmission nodes where each unit is connected typically by 1-2 fibres. At each node a number of video channels can be inserted, this can vary from a single channel upwards making it particularly useful for traffic monitoring.

The use of this technology means that a transmission ring can be put in place which provides redundancy but does not require any network skills.

In the event of a failure of a node the ring can “self-heal” ensuring that the other CCTV inputs are unaffected. The repair of the node is a simple replacement and configuration of the channel numbers. This type of equipment also offered a network channel and serial ports, this means that it is possible to connect traffic controllers and IP devices on to these devices thus maximising the use of the transmission equipment.

Public Transport

CCTV has a vital role to play in the operation of the Light Rail System in Dublin, both from a traffic management aspect as well as the important role of public safety.

All of the Light Rail Stops in Dublin are monitored by CCTV. On Quality Bus Routes the extensive CCTV coverage along the routes are shared with the Police in order to increase public safety.

The Digital Uncompressed Video Transmission System on QBC routes is now planned to be extended to enable the provision of Real Time Passenger Information at bus stops. This will make use of the Ethernet capability of these units, as well as providing the existing journey time information collected using number plate.


When considering CCTV systems for applications such as urban and motorway working it is important to ensure that the transmission system used does not have adverse consequences for the future. If the incorrect medium is chosen then this could seriously limit the quality of CCTV images displayed as well as the use of any scene analysis software which may need to be deployed in the future.

Dublin City Council experience has been to date that it is better to ensure that whatever network is chosen can deliver as high a quality video image back to a control centre, from there it may be converted to network video and stored or distributed as required.