The key to the future of intelligent video is the uses of the technology beyond security.

At the Video Content Analysis conference I co-chaired earlier this year, Hal Weaver, capital implementation and product merchant with The Home Depot, said that video analysis has transformed into a multi-dimensional business tool. “In the past, The Home Depot took a de-centralized approach but now we have standardized (digital security video) in all the stores. We have metrics and exception reporting, too.”

But the biggest change, according to Weaver, was the evolution of intelligent security video to what he called “non-loss prevention functionality.”

While the retail executive said that his firm’s shrink (losses do to shoplifters, insiders, vendors and just mistakes) has been reduced significantly, reduction was even more noticeable since the chain started implementing digital security video in 2003.


While asset protection was an initial purchasing trigger, The Home Depot’s Weaver said that the technology now goes beyond security into areas including marketing, legal, merchandising, operations, labor and crisis management. “Information is the key to success,” said Weaver. “You can improve your company’s efficiency and effectiveness by concentrating on having the security video system aim at actionable intelligence. Our systems recognize people and generate real-time and historical customer count information.”

In his presentation at the IMS Research-sponsored conference in Orlando, Fla., Hal Weaver said that the video content analysis benefits include a more accurate customer count and flow patterns by both time and date; better data to determine optimal staffing models; information regarding customer queue times; and pointers to key merchandising locations.

In addition, using existing security video infrastructure, the retailer created a virtual store tour application in which selected users have access to images while avoiding network congestion associated with streaming video.

While Weaver and The Home Depot may be ahead of the curve in taking intelligent video beyond security applications, Simon Harris, senior research director in the security and fire research group at IMS Research, reported at the conference that video content analysis or what he calls VCA software and devices show strong growth through 2012.

The biggest impact, according to Harris, is the way that VCA transforms into business-centric information. “There is now semi-automated event detection and decision support in which suspicious activities, events and behavior can be detected and customer or visitor behavior analyzed.”

To an audience of end-users and vendors, Harris made a case for five generations of video surveillance technology.


“It started in the 1950s with the first CCTV cameras installed. Then in the 1980s, timelapse recorded security video was introduced. A third generation in the 1990s brought in digital recording and motion detection. Just a few years ago, the fourth generation centered on network video surveillance. Now we are in the age of intelligent video.”

The IMS researcher told the audience that the biggest buyers of security video range from retail and commercial operations to transport, banking and government. “But government, transport and retail are where VCA will be most appreciated.” Also seen is an evolution of technology from custom software to digital signal processing-based analytics embedded into field devices and “at the edge” smart cameras, video services and storage devices.

Viewing VCA from the perspective of systems integration, Harris Corp.'s Jogn Delay told conference attendees that, obviously, security video places increased pressure on existing enterprise networks.

“But when using analytics to succeed, information can be retrieved, with data coming from various systems such as video, access control points and other sensors located within and around a building, airport or specific region of interest.”

For Dr. Arun Hampapur, IBM Distinguished Engineer, chief technology office for physical security for IBM Global Technology Services, the overarching question is: “Can we use analytics for real-time alerts to prevent incidents?”

In a unique presentation on the use of video analytics for urban surveillance, Dr. Hampapur acknowledged the urban surveillance challenges. “Often the perpetrators are authorized or allowed to be in the zone of the incident.” It is a public place. He saw the value of VCA to aid the monitoring process, accelerating investigations and enabling business intelligence. And the technology can alert to a potential incident thanks to camera angles, resolutions, occlusions and dense coverage. But, in reality, the system may see stuff and alert but real person response probably would not be in time.

For the recent Times Square bombing, a cyclist appeared on a surveillance camera just 1.02 minutes before the explosion. In the Oklahoma City bombing years ago, the truck filled with explosives appeared on video at the Murrah building just five minutes before the explosion.