Video Continues to Enhance Its Security Image

Clearer pictures, higher intelligence, more intuitive interfaces, expanding applications, descending costs – these are just some of many compelling factors propelling video surveillance forward. A dozen top technology providers encapsulate where the market stands for 2011.

Analytics Allow for Smarter Alerts
As the number of cameras and surveillance systems continues to grow and proliferate at an unprecedented pace, it is becoming more apparent that steps must be taken to better organize, analyze and evaluate all the captured video data. Humans are ill-equipped to monitor so much information on their own. Fortunately, programmers have been busy creating advanced algorithms to make sense of all this video “noise” in the form of video analytics.

“Video analytics is a form of machine vision or computer vision that evolved from being able to look at or pick out objects and still images to the ability to do it with video that is rapidly moving images going through the machine,” says Craig Chambers , CEO of Cernium. “We tend to think of video analytics as higher end functionality that really allows you to do a full assessment of what the objects are in a scene and what they’re up to.”

The prospect of and potential of video analytics has captured the imagination of the security industry and general populace alike. However, it’s only very recently that the technology has been refined to where the performance is approaching the hype. This is now hastening its widespread dissemination and usage.

“Within just a year or two, you’ll see it in pretty much every DVR and most IP cameras that are on the market,” adds Chambers. “The technology has really gotten a lot more sophisticated and diverse now. It’s everything from line crossing, and in some cases facial recognition, to object classification.”

The ability to deliver facial recognition performance, something that had traditionally been an expensive proposition with limited application and accuracy, is particularly noteworthy. Bill Taylor, president of Panasonic System Networks Co. of America, is among those enamored with this breakthrough. “New NVRs on the market today have embedded face matching capability that eliminates the use and added expense of external software,” he says. “In real-time they match registered face images with a face displayed on a live camera feed. When a match occurs, alarm notification is sent.”

Video analytics offers several benefits beyond making life easier for security personnel, or increasingly making some of them expendable altogether. Many of these are powerful selling points as they deliver end users a compelling return on the investment.

“In terms of being able to provide capabilities that couldn’t be provided before to their customers, everyone should be interested,” says Chambers. “For instance, you can radically reduce the amount of storage necessary to keep relevant video since all the unimportant information is filtered out. Plus you can direct only relevant information to people through the network to mobile phones, PCs or wherever they happen to be.”

Taylor cites some specific types of prospects likely to show keen interest in the virtues of analytics. “There are many niche applications that will add further revenue generation possibilities for integrators and dealers,” he says. “Examples include the banking and financial markets for identity verification, retail and supermarkets to alert of suspected/known shoplifters, and corporate facilities for visitor management applications and notification of restricted personnel.”

Night Vision Not Afraid of Dark
The military has long used technologies such as thermal and infrared (IR) imaging to be able to pick up people or objects in the dark. These devices or systems were quite sophisticated and were generally steeply priced, which made them cost prohibitive for most civilian security applications.

[IMAGE]11930[/IMAGE]“There are two prevalent types of night vision technology,” says Andy Teich, president of the commercial systems division at FLIR. “In addition to thermal, there is what is commonly called infrared, which runs at shorter wavelengths than thermal and requires some sort of lighting. You can buy an IR camera with an illuminator for a few hundred dollars. The least expensive thermal cameras are around $3,000, but they will approach $2,000 in 2011.”

Everything radiates some level of heat and thermal imaging captures those signatures regardless of day or night conditions. One of the features that makes thermal so unique is its ability to not only render surveillance footage in total darkness but also the fact that it overcomes visual obstructions.

“Thermal cameras offer true 24/7 capability,” says Teich. “The ancillary factors are, not only can you see at night, but if somebody were to set off a smoke bomb or if there was a fire, you could see through the smoke just perfectly. You can also see through other light obscurances such as fog, snow and rain.”

Night vision-capable cameras lend themselves to a diverse and unique range of surveillance applications that are only being scratched by the security industry. As the prices continue to drop, this figures to be an area of significant growth for enterprising providers.

“This is a very exciting time because the technology has really been catching on in the security sector the past 18 months or so,” says Teich. “If you’re up on emergent technologies like thermal imaging and [FLIR’s proprietary] color night vision, and you bring that as a solution to your customers, you now have a differentiated offering that can solve problems other integrators likely can’t.”

Video Verification Validates Alarms
While the bulk of video surveillance innovations relate to networked systems, there is another area with perhaps even greater immediacy for most providers — particularly alarm dealers and monitoring firms. That is video verification of intrusion alarms. Technology is now available to help dealers minimize false police dispatches.

“Cordless, wireless video alarms — I’ll call them standalone video alarm systems, or even standalone video intrusion alarms — are becoming increasingly valuable because law enforcement is giving higher priority response to alarms that are verified because they are treating them like a crime in progress,” says Keith Jentoft, president of RSI-Videofied. “These systems are inexpensive; they compete with a standard system.”

There is an increasing body of deployments of this technology that has not only decreased false alarms but also helped put more perpetrators behind bars. Suitable for indoors or outdoors, this particular solution combines a compact camera and a PIR motion sensor so when activity is detected, surveillance footage is captured.

“When an intruder trips it, the PIR is the switch for the camera and it takes a 10-second video clip of what caused the alarm,” says Jentoft. “The alarm and video clip of what caused it are sent to the central station over the cell network, so the monitoring person can see why they had an
alarm and dispatch differently. What happens is you have a virtual eyewitness to a crime in progress, so of course, cops come faster.”

With the price point dropping in the past 18 months to where this video verification is now applicable to residential as well as commercial/industrial customers, Jentoft sees a great opportunity for dealers.

“I would look at upselling verification to your existing customers,” he says. “We have an upgrade kit that you can provide both video and a cell upgrade to an existing system. So as people are getting rid of their phone lines, the dealers are having attrition issues because if you get rid of your phone lines, your system doesn’t work. Now you can get rid of your phone line and upgrade your system to video with cell backup using the cell network.”

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