Converting Analytics’ Cool Factor Into Cash

The human eye, while an amazing sensory organ, doesn’t see all on its own. Sight only happens when visual information from the retina travels from the eye and is interpreted by the brain. A parallel can be drawn with a modern-day video surveillance system, where the camera is the eye and video content analytics the semblance of a brain.

While no substitute for human intelligence, video analytics can do something mere mortals cannot. With its processing power and predefined algorithms, video analytics can process thousands of live video feeds, simultaneously, and pick out tidbits of information that would otherwise go undetected by the human eye.

So what are the applications for video content analytics in the real world? And where is video content analytics making a measurable difference? To uncover those answers and many more, SSI interviewed John Jackson, a 15-year software industry veteran, video content analytics expert and solutions engineer for Rutherford, N.J.-based NICE Systems, Americas.

What are some of the security applications where video content analytics are being deployed today?

John Jackson: That really depends on the vertical market. In the transportation sector, the prime application we’re seeing for content analytics is perimeter protection. It might be used, for example, to make sure no one hops over an airport fence or onto a railroad or subway track. Perimeter protection is also frequently deployed to protect critical infrastructures, like utilities and banks.

Content analytics can be used alone or in conjunction with physical boundaries for perimeter protection. It’s what we sell the most of, what we see most frequently deployed, and by far the most effective application overall. The rule is very simple. If an object or person is on one side of a perimeter and ends up on the other, the perimeter has been breached, and an alert is triggered.

Another popular application is counter-flow, which can detect people moving in the wrong direction into restricted areas. This is typically used in airports.

What about beyond security applications; what else is the technology being used for?

Jackson: There are two areas that come to mind. One is table game management for casinos, which uses analytics to track playing cards, player decisions, ID cards and game outcomes. This helps the casino not only identify cheaters and collusion, but comp players more effectively.

Casinos, banks and other retail facilities also use video analytics for people counting. They want to know how many customers they have, when and where, so they can staff accordingly.

It’s amazing how much businesses don’t know about their customer dynamics. But when you add in people counting using video analytics, you’re able to get real-time alerts and trend data.

Those are interesting uses of video analytics. Have you been involved with any other creative analytics applications?

Jackson: There are a couple of other boutique applications. We have an asset protection application we’ve deployed at a museum. If somebody picks a painting off the wall, an alarm will sound. This is actually based on analytics we use for other applications to detect objects — for example, vehicle detection.

An example would be the airport curbside where you’re not allowed to park. Just as the system would detect an object being removed from a particular spot, as in the latter example, in this case, it would detect a vehicle parked in an unauthorized location.

When a customer says they want to implement content analytics in their operation, where does an integrator start?

Jackson: Often, the customer is aware of the types of analytics that are out there and they’ll ask for something specific. I encourage integrators to ask their customers to take a step back by asking, ‘What are your challenges? What are your problems? What are the things that cause you headaches? Let’s forget the technology for a second and talk about the real world. What do you really want to do?’

Usually, that opens up a conversation where in the final analysis the integrator’s conclusion might be, ‘We have technology to help with that’ or ‘The technology isn’t there yet for that.’ Sometimes it’s a matter of looking for something simpler to answer the question.

After the integrator figures out what the customer wants to accomplish, what’s next?

Jackson: Next, you need to determine what physically needs to be done. The effectiveness of the analytics is highly dependent on the camera positions. So a very early step in the process involves going in and doing a site survey. Walk the perimeter. Walk the hallways. Walk wherever they want to put the cameras to see what’s physically there.

Through the years I’ve learned that a map is no substitute for walking the actual site. If you look at a map, it’s flat. It’s not going to tell you that there’s a flagpole in the way. It’s not going to tell you there’s a hill. Even plumes of smoke from a smokestack can cause shadows that can get in the way of the video analytics. So it’s very important to take account of the real world.

There are always compromises based upon budget and based upon the physical infrastructure, so that’s part of the process too.

When you get to the point where the analytics solution is installed, is there a test or calibration period?

Jackson: There is. It’s less so for indoor applications. But for outdoor applications, of course, a big aspect is going to be weather. And you can’t plan on a week and hope to get every possible weather phenomenon. So there’s always an initial install and a leave-behind where you let the analytics run for a while.

I know of one recent installation where the initial deployment was done and it was working great. Then the customer put up some flags that interfered with the analytics. This required going back and doing a little bit of tuning based upon that. That’s pretty standard.

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About the Author

Contact:

Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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