Combining Outdoor Video Surveillance With Security

SightLogix President and CEO John Romanowich explains why combining intrusion detection and video surveillance can provide comprehensive awareness to your customers’ operations.

When people talk about “security” and “surveillance” for outdoor premises, they often use the two terms interchangeably. While both have their place in protecting people, property and assets, the fact is that security and surveillance are very different from one another. Understanding how they differ becomes even more important when your goal for a customer is to help stop crime.

Video security is about detecting intruders as soon as they enter a secured area, while video surveillance generally means passively recording events for future use. The key is intrusion detection, which drives your awareness to look at the video and determine if there is activity that should be stopped. Without detection your clients would never know when someone has entered their site, leaving them ample opportunity to steal, vandalize or disrupt their operations.

Combine Smarts of Man & Machine

If you only relied on surveillance cameras, your installations would greatly reduce the chances of stopping crime from occurring. Trying to “catch” an intruder in the act by watching video monitors at the exact moment a break-in occurs is highly unlikely for a number of reasons. The most prevalent is that people, even with the best of intentions, quickly tire staring at monitors. On the other hand, when your customers are alerted to an event that has been detected by a smart camera, they can quickly see and understand the situation in real-time, and react as needed. This approach combines the strengths of machines and people to do what they each do best. Machines – in the form of smart cameras – never tire, and people, when alerted, can make the right decisions about how to respond.

Surprisingly, most commercial outdoor security systems today are using surveillance cameras that lack intrusion detection.

Imagine replacing the intrusion detection sensors in your customers’ home alarm systems with surveillance cameras. Thieves could break in while they were gone, and they would never know because no alarm would trigger. Afterwards they would be left with video recordings long after anything could be done. Surprisingly, this is the approach used by most commercial outdoor security systems today; they’re using surveillance cameras that lack detection.

Until recently, video security cameras could not be counted on for detection outdoors, because too many nuisance alerts and misdetects limited their usefulness. But a lot has changed with smart camera alarm accuracy over the past few years. Smart cameras have benefited from the same technology trends that have made computers and mobile devices so powerful. As a result, they can now detect intruders very reliably, even in the presence of small animals, blowing trees, wind and weather, and provide accurate alarms even in the most difficult outdoor conditions. Essentially, smart cameras are extending burglar alarms from the inside of a building to the outside, bringing the same level of security we have come to expect for our homes and offices to outdoor areas.

Smart Thermal Cameras Best of Both Worlds

Conventional wisdom suggests that high-definition (HD) cameras combined with video analytics would be useful for intruder detection, but in reality these cameras are challenged by the extreme conditions common in the outdoors. Imagine trying to distinguish a person while you are blinded by sunlight or in total darkness, or looking through snow and rain, and you start to understand the problem. These not only decrease visibility but provide a distraction from other movement that may represent a security threat. This is compounded in dark environments as car headlights sweep through the scene, causing endless nuisance alerts for a visible light camera employed for intruder detection.

Smart thermal cameras “see” heat instead of light, and have always been the ideal option for outdoor intruder detection because they are unaffected by reflections and moving headlights, and are able to detect people 24/7 in complete darkness and bright sun. Now that thermal cameras have come down so much in price, this approach has become a practical choice for a wide range of crime prevention applications. Thermal cameras typically now also provide high-quality video images, making them useful for seeing the cause of the alert. Security professionals have three concerns regarding intrusions: They don’t know when they’re happening, where they’re happening, or what is happening. Combining detection with surveillance can provide comprehensive awareness to your customers’ operations, ensuring “eyes on until hands on” capability for their entire organization.


John Romanowich is President and CEO of SightLogix, makers of smart thermal camera systems. He is also a board member of the Security
Industry Association (SIA).


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