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Sony and Cisco Systems have teamed up to play Big Brother with the development of IP-based surveillance systems that target the increasingly security-conscious education sector.

The faintly Orwellian partnership, which combines Sony's IP video monitoring cameras, servers, NAS storage and Real Shot management software with Cisco's networking infrastructure products, was yesterday touted by the firms as the answer to "critical challenges" in the education market.

The offering centres on Sony's SNC-RZ30N or SNC-Z20N network cameras and FSV-M5 network attached storage servers running the Japanese firm's Real Shot camera manager application software over Cisco networking kit.

For the network plumbing the system uses Cisco Catalyst 3550 Series switches, Cisco Aironet Access Points, PCMCIA wireless LAN adapters, PIX 500 Series firewalls, VPNs and CiscoSecure ACS for Windows.

Each of the integrated offering's cameras has an embedded-web server with its own IP address, so allowing them all to be managed remotely across the network from PCs, laptops or handheld PDAs. These web servers allow up to 50 simultaneous feeds using 25x optical zoom lenses and 12x digital zooms to be transmitted over the surveillance network.

Steve Steinhilber, vice president for strategic alliances at Cisco, claimed that the camera network will help schools become safer and reduce vandalism, but also reduce security monitoring costs because a single security officer would be able to monitor more areas than is possible with a traditional, analogue-based system.

The two companies say they will continue their IP-surveillance collaboration and are already developing improved systems.

Smoking behind the bike sheds will, presumably, now become a thing of the past. ®

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