Video Surveillance: More is Good, But Smarter is Better

A recent poll indicates that New Yorkers support the increased use of security cameras throughout the city. This begs the question: Is having more cameras better?

While having more cameras is certainly a good start, using smarter video surveillance is an even better approach. So how can cities achieve this?

Add intelligence to video with analytics

By themselves, video cameras don’t see anything; they provide a mechanism for human eyes to detect what’s going on. The problem is human beings aren’t wired to sit and stare at video screens for hours on end. Fatigue, boredom, distraction and sensory overload quickly set in, impairing an operator’s ability to detect something awry.

One way to make a video surveillance system smarter is to add analytics. Video analytics can process thousands of live video feeds simultaneously and pick out meaningful information that might otherwise go undetected: a license plate of a suspicious vehicle, a gathering crowd, a security breach, an unattended bag.

Expand surveillance reach

Large cities have video surveillance networks with thousands of cameras. But there are many more thousands of cameras outside retail businesses and critical infrastructure, such as on campuses, roadways, and subways, that are not part of the city video surveillance network. What’s typically missing is the ability to link these surveillance assets so that when something bad happens the operator in the command center can have access to all essential videos – for example, video from a storefront camera.

Many cities are now forming video sharing arrangements with private entities in order to enhance their situational awareness and response capabilities when incidents do occur, and conduct quicker investigations after-the-fact. Through the aid of technology these different camera systems can be viewed on one map-based interface and immediately accessed in the city command center.

Understand that smart video is not just about video

There are many different sensors that cities use which can be integrated with video for richer situational awareness. By feeding these sensors into the command center, a city can create a tighter security net. Take gunshot detection for example. A gunshot detection sensor can automatically trigger video from near-by cameras to pop up on an operator’s display, giving the operator information about where the gunshot went off and offering a live view of the scene. Other sensors might include: radiological sensors on a transit system, the access control system at a nuclear power plant, a perimeter protection system for a city water supply, a university’s campus emergency notification system. If there’s a terrorist incident, a campus shooting, or a breach at a critical facility, the city control center now has the immediate real-time situational awareness needed to respond.

Get video to the right people at the right time

Video is only useful if you can put it in the hands of the right people at the right time. Public Safety broadband holds the promise of putting new information sources, such as surveillance video, within the reach of PSAPs and other public safety agencies. This means that in the future multiple agencies might be able to share the same real-time video views while collaborating on an incident. Similarly, through the power of broadband and PSIM integration, a 9-1-1 call could bring up video from the 9-1-1 caller’s location. This would allow the 9-1-1 dispatcher to not only hear what’s happening, but also see what’s happening and be able to relay this information to first responders, or better yet, push the video directly to first responders.

Leverage video for smarter investigations

Another big challenge that cities have is piecing together forensic evidence in the aftermath of an incident. Here I’m not just talking about surveillance video, I’m referring to police in-car video and cell phone video too. Today, again, through the aid of specialized technology, it’s possible to take all of these different types of video and combine them into one seamless incident timeline, along with first responder and 9-1-1 voice recordings and other multimedia. When assembled together as part of a complete picture, this information can provide extraordinary insight for investigators.

So now, back to the original question – is more video good? If the results of a recent study by IMS Research (now part of HIS Inc.) are any indication, the trend certainly points in that direction. The research predicts that the city surveillance market will more than double by 2017. But given those statistics, is smarter video even better? For all of the reasons outlined above, my opinion is most definitely ‘yes.’ I’d be interested hear your viewpoint on this subject.

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