Professional Development: Video Analytics
By Dvir Doron
From the January 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As security systems have evolved over time, they have provided facility managers with an opportunity to expand the scope of their duties and capabilities. Facility managers have come to rely on the sensors and camera systems associated with security setups to alert them to key operational situations on their sites.
The problem historically has been, however, that these surveillance systems are only as good as the technology behind them. And it soon becomes evident that traditional sensors are prone to false alarms, and that basic CCTV systems require constant monitoring. This can result in events being missed completely, because it can be difficult for security personnel to concentrate on a video monitor for long periods of time or because they might not discover a problem has occurred until long after the fact.
Studies have shown that after 20 minutes, security operators monitoring video can miss up to 90% of incidents. The brain just isn’t programmed to work as a simple detector; it’s much better suited to process filtered information in making decisions.
Fortunately, today’s facility managers have access to systems that employ video analytics that can do this work for them. This use of intelligent video—which began as a tool for military and other government surveillance activities—pinpoints potential situations based on computer vision that sees objects in three dimensions and understands their patterns of behavior. Unlike its traditional video counterpart, analytics significantly minimizes false alarms while providing early warning and video verification of events.
Because security is such a key issue for today’s facilities managers, having an up to date tool with which to work is essential. And while security has been, and continues to be, the main thrust for the use of video analytics, there are day-to-day applications that can impact the facility manager’s non-security related tasks as well.
By employing the automated intelligence of analytics, organizations are able to monitor all aspects of their facilities—from activity on the manufacturing floor to people in the lobby of a high rise to the vehicles moving in and out of the parking lot. And because the systems can be set up to monitor and alert personnel based on the specific needs of the user, the person monitoring the video is not forced to watch every frame or react to dozens of false alarms.
The potential applications for video analytics outside of the traditional security realm can help security, facility management, and IT directors to make the case to top management for the technology. It becomes a value proposition for an enterprise when all of these functions can tap into the same system for different uses. Even within a retail setting, analytics offers the possibility of tracking traffic in and out of the store, time spent in front of displays, and related information gathering for those who undertake the marketing and sales duties.
Although there is an initial investment in this technology, end users are finding that there is a quick and definitive payback. In terms of the security aspects, employing analytics means that fewer guards are required to patrol a facility around the clock, which results in savings on personnel and increased coverage. The remaining personnel can then be refocused on those areas that are most difficult to oversee, making for more efficient and productive staff allocation.
By switching to a video analytics system, users can cover more ground with fewer sensors, thus saving money on both equipment and maintenance. For example, a car dealership in the United Kingdom installed four intelligent video cameras to replace several dozen PIR (passive infrared) sensors and reduced its losses due to car thefts and damage in the process.
In another instance, when a transport vehicle manufacturer installed 25 cameras to protect its 25-acre perimeter, it was able to reduce staff expenses by 30% and save more than $100,000 in scrap metal theft and damage to manufacturing instruments. Other common security uses for video analytics include tracking loiterers, detecting vandalism from graffiti, and alerting personnel to suspicious packages.
Ultimately, the ability to detect potential theft and vandalism in time to prevent loss and damage provides for clear bottom line savings. It is no secret that facility managers are protective of their buildings and the people and contents within. By monitoring areas such as the perimeter of a building, parking lots, storage areas, and loading docks and receiving immediate alerts to events that are outside the norm, facilities can expect savings due to reduced shrinkage, property damage, or subpar productivity.
While video analytics is a relatively advanced technology, the current systems are user friendly. There is a clear shift towards simple installation and out of the box operation. Where analytics were initially software based or involved cumbersome hybrid architectures, some of today’s leading systems are fully hardware based. Rather than investing in standalone PCs to run video analytics software, users can now plug analytics edge devices into analog or IP networks and transform existing cameras into proactive, intelligent detectors. Another option is to go with analytics straight at the IPcamera.
Intelligent video appliances, or edge devices, offer facilities the opportunity to transform an existing surveillance system into an active one, with greater ease of installation and broader utilization.
Facilities managers will find they are able to perform the installation and setup themselves with a minimal amount of required skills or training. This focus on ease of use is making analytics more accessible to all tiers of end users. The technology should no longer be viewed as just a system for high end applicants who can employ experienced installers, but rather as a solution that can benefit the mass market by enhancing security and operations in general.
Nearly every type of facility has the potential to benefit from videoanalytics. Warehouses, construction sites, educational campuses, power and chemical plants, pipelines, transportation facilities, large scale farms, government and public infrastructure, and even some high-end residential users have all employed intelligent video systems to create a safer, more productive space.
Doron is vice president of marketing for ioimage, which has offices in Herzliya, Israel, and Denton, TX. He has more than 13 years of experience in the security industry, having directed marketing for NICE Systems’ video security division, as well as for RADVISION’s telecom video communications unit.