Technology at Lake Meade’s Entrance

Contributed by Webmaster

Bill Chantelau and I arrived at Lake Meade this morning and received a friendly greeting from the gatehouse employee who explained to us how technology is used to facilitate and process all vehicles entering our sister community, Lake Meade. Lake Meade like Lake Heritage is the brain child of the American Realty Company which built upwards of 40 lake communities in the 1960s by means of a dam and spillway. There are many similarities. Lake Meade is slightly larger in size and population and is located near East Berlin.

The entrance road is 30 feet wide (I paced this off) and is divided into two lanes. The right lane is for residents and the left lane which passes next to the gate house is for non-residents.

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Security Employee in the Lake Meade Gatehouse

Most of the residents (but not all) have Passive RFID Vehicle Transponders which open a gate dedicated to residents. The transponder’s signal gets picked up by a receiver and the gate lifts.

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A transponder. It is an RFID device. RFID = radio frequency identification

There is also a display on a monitor in the gatehouse with the resident’s status.

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Monitor which registers residents’ vehicles entering Lake Meade using their transponder.

If a resident moves and does not return a transponder, they get an access denied signal. If a non-resident vehicle enters Lake Meade, they use the left lane and the employee takes information in a way very similar to our own. After writing down the information, he/she then hits a button to open the gate. Both entrances, for residents and non-residents are controlled by barrier gates. Cars exit Lake Meade without any hindrance.

The system has been in place since 1999 and they are looking to replace it. Everything works but Dottie Yost, Lake Meade’s community manager, said that the residents’ barrier gate gets a lot of use and is wearing out. At 17 year of age, it is no longer able to be easily repaired for lack of parts. The non-residents’ gate is newer. They are also looking to replace the entire system, cameras and transponders, more with an eye to modernize how vehicles enter Lake Meade.

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Gate in view is 17 years old and is reaching the end of its life cycle.

The entrance also has all weather cameras which take pictures of vehicles entering the lake both of residents and non-residents. I asked their security chief if she consulted the cameras with any frequency and she said that she did. With two lanes dedicated to entering, it is dangerous for cars in the left lane to cross over into the right lane to make a right turn. Since Lake Meade drivers are human, they sometimes take a prohibited short cut and cross a lane.

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Security cameras are often used to fine non-residents who cross in front of the right lane to make an illegal turn.

When they are reported, the security chief reviews the video which is time stamped, takes a picture of the video and mails them a ticket. The camera system and transponders do not interact with each other. They are two separate systems installed for two separate purposes. Dottie expressed a desire to see them integrated.

A resident who is in the security business (more like a locksmith) is managing a group which is exploring new approaches to control the vehicle entrance.

The gatehouse has an old Dell work horse PC to record the cameras’ production. The recordings are moving pictures, not static jpegs. The PC’s electrical supply is backed up by a large APC battery. The gatehouse employee said that the equipment almost never goes down.

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Old Dell desktop PC used to store moving images created by cameras. Because the hard drive has limited storage capacity, video files have to dumped every two weeks.

Although not related to Technology they did take interesting statistics at the gatehouse. There was no TV on the monitor, only the digital output of the sensors picking up the transponders.

In conversation at the Lake Meade Community Office Dottie explained to us each home gets two “free” transponders. Residents must deposit $30 per extra transponder which the association will return when they are turned in. Many residents persistently enter the non-residents entrance to avoid this $30 deposit. Also, she informed us that before 1999 they did use stickers and that approx. 10% of the residents did not want to put stickers on their vehicles for one reason or another. The transponder can be mounted on the windshield (Dottie admitted that this is against Pennsylvania state regs but is never enforced) or they can pull them out of their pocket or cup holder and wave them in the direction of the receiver. Thus, Lake Meade vehicles have no consistent identifying decals.

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