At the Edge Analytics

Analytics for Special Events

More Sophisticated Analytics

Customized Analytics

Analytics & Alarm Monitoring

Analytics and Business Intelligence

Analytics & Mobility

More Standardization

Big Data & Analytics

The video analytics drums are beating louder these days. But now may finally be the time when technology advances, security-and-beyond enterprise-centric applications, IT’s big data notion and smarter systems integration are trending to real, cost-effective benefits.

The bottom line: Follow sound business trends, not fashion trends. It is a matter of the security mission and the business goals.

So here are some fad-resistant developments and their business benefits when breaking the bondage of super-hyped technological tyranny.


Trend One: At the Edge Analytics

More things are being built into cameras and encoders connected to cameras.

Video analytics embedded in a network camera represents a growing segment where applications run “at the edge” with minimal software. For video content analysis, there are a couple of interesting solutions, with retail pioneering.

With video synopsis, also known as video summarization, a condensed clip of all the motion for a selected time frame is continuously generated and stored, allowing an “instant review” of a readily available video synopsis. It is possible to summarize a 24-hour period of event-trigger entries in as little as 15 minutes, reducing incident review time by at least 50 percent.

Video analytics offering abnormal scene detection allows the user to set specific object criteria and direction. The scene is analyzed continuously and “abnormal” behavior differing from the majority of the scene content is detected and either annunciated or marked for later review. For example, it can be used to determine when someone steals top-shelf vodka in a retail store or if a car turns onto a train track. One software company even does both flame and smoke detection. By establishing a normalized baseline of information, it can detect these abnormal conditions.

So your video surveillance system actually can be leveraged to serve as accurate indoor secondary detection, permitting safety personnel early notification and the opportunity to investigate. Camera manufacturers are currently looking into actually placing such technology inside the camera itself to run at the edge.

Heat mapping provides real-time images showing how people have moved throughout the camera scene for a fixed duration. Useful in environments where business intelligence (BI) data is needed, this type of video content analysis can help improve safety by analyzing the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow in a facility.

Business Benefits Pros– More intelligence and processing within the camera or encoder means the most important data is captured, sent and/or stored for post-incident retrieval and analysis. In addition, the approach can better manage security video data transmission and ingression challenges through a video management system or at network or cloud storage.

Business Benefits Cons– Cameras equipped with advanced processing capabilities as well as solid state storage are more expensive, though the category cost continues to go down. Individual camera trouble may exacerbate vulnerabilities and liability. Depending on decision-making at-the-edge may not work at all times, or lead to misperceptions.


Trend Two: Analytics for Special Events

Sochi, Russia, is a resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship. It is deploying a complete situation management solution from Nice Systems, including video analytics, which can be used by field agents and police to access live and playback video feed. Sergey Cherepov, director of the situation monitoring center of Sochi, says “The coming years will witness rapid population and economic growth in Sochi, broadening the safety and security challenges as well as increasing the requirements and complexity of everyday city operations.”

Business Benefits Pros– Analytics is a part of a total technology and personnel solution with the aim of real-time situation awareness of large, diverse crowds. Information is easily shared with law enforcement, city and arena security officers.

Business Benefits Cons– A complete situation management solution often makes the most investment sense for operations that cover special events, especially if they can serve the facilities after the events. It also works well for cities where myriad agencies must work together in, say, homeland security assignments. But such designs may not be cost-effective for many operations.


Trend Three: More Sophisticated Analytics

There are numerous advances in cameras, analysis tools and reporting techniques.

Some may be overreaching, at least at this time.

Video Analysis/Analytics: Can We Use It to Detect Criminal Behaviors and Activities?, a report published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service and developed by Nils Krahnstoever of General Electric Global Research, describes the development of a wide range of intelligent video capabilities and analytics relevant to law enforcement and corrections, and describes features of video surveillance that can help to enable early detection and possibly prevention of criminal incidents.

Beyond people-counting and crowd detection, prototype systems are being developed to alert to individual agitation and aggression detection.

According to the report, “We have developed an approach to agitation and aggression detection from video. The approach is based on tracking a set of salient points in the foreground of the scene and to perform aggression/non-aggression classification based on features extracted from these tracks. The approach uses a heuristic to determine high-textured points but is extremely fast compared to other approaches. To obtain trajectories for the detected points, developed was a data association-based point feature tracker. After the tracking step, every trajectory is analyzed with regards to a range of motion attributes and the attributes are accumulated in local ‘decision blocks,’ according to a learned agitation model.”

The aggression/agitation detection process can operate in real-time.

On a more realistic level, for example, hemispheric cameras, which can capture an entire room with no blind spots, can integrate with video analysis tools. Employing a tool for process optimization or marketing purposes, the approach can be used in retail stores as well as in public buildings such as museums or airports to receive important information. Analytics makes it possible to reliably capture and evaluate the movement of people or objects in the live image. The most frequented areas are highlighted in color on a heat map in a predefined area. The areas with the most movement are often displayed in red, and those with little movement in blue. The analytics tool also allows for counting people and objects, such as how many people pass by a specific entrance in an hour or a day. The results of the video motion analysis can be saved as daily, weekly or monthly reports in a table and exported via various interfaces.

Business Benefit Pros – Installations can work across many types of enterprises and inside where there is less concern over false alarms. The technology investment can leverage across myriad business operations beyond security but also provide security with ongoing information on traffic patterns.

Business Benefits Cons– Greater investment in unique cameras, which may be offset by the need for fewer total cameras, and cost of analytics software including reporting capabilities.


Trend Four: Customized Analytics

There are numerous ways to package video analytics to serve, for example, a combination of public and private needs.

No beach bum, Tim Chandler, with the help of security video gear, analytics and the cloud, sees a wealth of information that can help coastal towns, environmental and government agencies, and beach goers make more informed decisions for their individual needs. Chandler is with CoastalCOMS, Laguna Niguel, Calif.

“Today’s technology has advanced to a point where we are able to provide our customers with unprecedented abilities to gather real-time information and images to better understand conditions, coordinate responses and make decisions in changing water environments,” Chandler says.

Thinking outside the box, the company uses cloud-hosted networks of public and privately owned remote surveillance cameras and employs a set of sophisticated in-house video analytics and complex event processors developed for beach risk assessment and information gathering.

“These aren’t just surveillance cameras [that we offer]; they are the foundation of a comprehensive system of monitoring and analysis that gives real-time information on beach conditions as well as the ability to monitor changes and risks over time and plan accordingly,” says Chris Lane, also of CoastalCOMS.

Century Link Center, the convention center and arena, and TD Ameritrade Park, the sports stadium, outdoor entertainment venue, and home of the annual NCAA Baseball World Series, are both are in Omaha and next to one another.

The security video design includes analytics in addition to megapixel cameras that cover vast areas.                        

On the analytics side, a virtual tripwire protects the center’s parking lot from intrusion from a public river walkway. And, when it comes to access, about 90 percent of the controls are in the back of the house.

Business Benefits Pros– Combining diverse stakeholders and their needs beyond security allows the project participants to buy into the effort as well as share initial costs and maintenance. Access to images and event data gets and keeps everyone onboard.

Business Benefits Cons– It is challenging to bring together public and privately owned cameras and the various infrastructures.


Trend Five: Analytics Tied to Alarm Monitoring

Video analytics can provide additional help in reducing false alarms by providing assistance in distinguishing legitimate threats from benign activity such as blowing foliage, waves and animals on premises. With user-defined rules, pattern recognition and self-calibrating analytics that enable the system to adapt to the environment and “learn” to disregard some non-events, video analytic solutions can help filter out non-threatening activity before an alert signal is sent.

Business Benefit Pros– Less time/cost responding to false alarms. Fewer false alarm fines. Increased confidence by staff in filtered alarms and more confidence by responding law enforcement and life safety.

Business Benefit Cons– This technology is better suited to challenging environments such as ports and remote utility sites that are susceptible to extreme conditions. There is greater investment in technology and monitoring services, which have themselves invested in enhanced call verification, for instance.


Trend Six: Business Intelligence and Analytics

When asked about security technologies that enable business intelligence, PSA Security Network’s Bill Bozeman says, “Analytics, storage, access control databases and other security control devices provide a gold mine of data for providing business intelligence.

Enterprise security leaders, especially serving large retail operations, and their integrators report a paradigm shift in the application of security technologies. While security video will necessarily continue to be used in preventing and solving crimes, a strong trend point to applications in a non-traditional sense to help businesses save money and operate their businesses more efficiently.

For example, security video and analytics combine to eyeball and alert to what is happening on car wash waiting lines, according to Rob Meng of AutoMotion Management, Raleigh, N.C., the regional car wash chain.

The system – through analytics – keeps track of cars about to enter the car wash tunnel. If there is a long line of cars, a text message is sent to the manager to take appropriate action, says Meng. There is real-time and historic reporting, the latter to analyze traffic by day and time, among other criteria. A camera in the front of the car wash captures information and software-as-a-service provides a gateway to analysis of the information collected. The system also provides a certain level of security, too, while collecting information on a diversity of cars.

Such queue management is example of how video analytics can be used for gathering business intelligence and then applying the results to improve a firm’s bottom line. Queuing applications can be configured to store statistical data about average wait times and number of people in the queues. This data later can be displayed in chart and tabular formats, and analyzed to determine personnel/staffing requirements based on average wait times at different hours of the day and for different days of the week, with a view to providing optimal service for customers while minimizing costs.

For best accuracy, overhead cameras are used in order to minimize occlusions. If you are developing a system that tracks objects (people, cars, etc.) then occlusion can occur if an object you are tracking is hidden (occluded) by another object: like two people walking past each other, or a car that drives under a bridge.

At times, overhead cameras can minimize occlusions. If required, some video analytics solutions can be configured to send out real-time alerts whenever queue wait times exceed a user-defined threshold, allowing for an immediate response in such a

Business Benefits Pros– Using or sharing security video, analytics and storage and retrieval as a business intelligence tool brings enterprise security leaders closer to the core of the business as well as share investment and maintenance of the system.

Business Benefits Cons– It’s a territory thing as IT, operations, business management and merchandizing may tend to sometimes overshadow security unless everything strikes a collaborative stance.


Trend Seven: Analytics and Mobility

It started with laptops used by enterprise security leaders to remotely look into facility camera views or to receive video clips of alarms triggered, often, by motion detection or other analytics. Then came smartphones, followed by larger-screened tablets.

Such mobile distribution advances, driven by gadget-loving consumers, received a boost with more recent development of applications and high availability bandwidth to support a growing appetite for data. Sophisticated video management systems and Web-enabled solutions have led to live dashboards and real-time event reporting, including mobile devices. The latter are not necessarily meant for constant image monitoring but rather for bursts of separate images or short video clips.

The overall approach also melds effectively with Trend Six – Business Intelligence and Analytics. BI data, for instance, inherently is meant to be shared, so if security uses a Web-based solution, they can view, review, export and share data on any browser-enabled device, review it, export it and share it quickly. Authors Andrew Borg, research director, enterprise communications and mobility, and David White, senior research analyst, business intelligence, Aberdeen Group, define mobile business intelligence as, “The capabilities and technologies that allow access to reports and charts while away from the desk, out of the office or in the field.”

The report also states that “on average, managers in organizations that use mobile BI are able to make decisions in almost one-third of the time that it takes managers who don’t use mobile BI.”

How is this dramatic difference possible? “Robust mobile analytics implementations put information at the fingertips of front-line personnel – anytime, anyplace, anywhere. In the otherwise lost minutes, between meeting and appointment – or even furtive moments snatched during them – managers are able to make operational decisions that keep the organization running smoothly, without stalling. In contrast, decision-makers that only have access to conventional ‘deskbound’ security and BI-centric video data do not have this freedom. They are restricted in the time windows available to them to make decisions. If these decisions are collaborative in nature or involve a chain of command, this problem of information and decision latency is further compounded and is likely to ultimately slow down the entire decision-making process,” Borg and White describe.

Business Benefits Pros– There is an anytime, anywhere viewing for convenience, speed, sharing and more accurate response.

Business Benefits Cons– There is need for investment in software that permits Web-enabled security video and connection with mobile devices. Some approaches limit receipt to emails containing a clip and, in some cases, video is less than high quality. Smartphones are not known for their big-screen displays. Corporate IT may have security rules restricting use of smartphones and tablets to connect into enterprise data.


Trend Eight: More Standardization

As video analytics evolves, so does industry-wide standardization efforts, which better ensure reliability and interoperability among components of a total video system as well as setting a higher level of comfort for enterprise security buyers.

The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA), a global consortium of physical security providers focused on promoting the interoperability of IP-enabled devices, has a video analytics specification. Based in part on ObjectVideo’s OV Ready protocol, it enables video analytics to more easily and consistently integrate with video management systems and physical security software platforms through standard interfaces.

The specification – crafted through collaborative input from multiple analytic, IP camera, VMS and platform vendors that participate in the Video Analytics Working Group – defines a standard way to share video analytics capabilities supported by an intelligent device and output, receive, store and use various video analytic events. The open interface addresses event output including security alerts, counting events and analytics system health messages. The interface also supports the streaming of object metadata output, which includes foundational analytic output regarding all objects tracked by the analytics, including object classification, bounding box data and velocities.

The Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF), another leading standardization initiative for IP-based physical security products, has an ONVIF Core Specification, which covers video storage devices and video analytics engines, in addition to cameras and encoders. The release defines standardized interfaces also for network video recording, display and video analytics devices, covering configuration of dedicated video analytics units, among other issues.

More generally, Underwriters Laboratories has been working on UL 2802, the industry’s first digital video security camera standard, as reported by SDM Magazine, a sister publication to Security.“It will be the first of many we’ll have in this digital space,” says Robert Jamieson, general manager, life safety and security industry, at UL. Related standards in the future could include things such as video analytics and video signal transmission, among others.

It looks at the performance characteristics of digital video cameras – with a first step being the capture of information at the source.

Some of the performance characteristics include: image sharpness, field-of-view, signal-to-noise ratio, TV distortion, relative illumination, color fidelity, dynamic range, maximum frame rate, gray level, sensitivity, bad (defective) pixel, veiling glare and several other things such as housing, tamper protection and markings.

Business Benefits Pros– Standards and independent testing lead to purchasing decision-making that can better ensure return-on-investment and smoother integration of components and software into a total system approach.

Business Benefits Cons– Industry-centric standardization efforts sometimes represent a select group of vendors, which can limit equipment choices and pricing.


Trend Nine: Big Data Tied to Stored Video Analytics

Video is the largest unstructured data that any enterprise has to deal with. Until today, it has been a huge cost shouldered by the security department because they store it and others couldn’t use it. But now there is a shift to getting better information from video so more in an enterprise can act on powerful information from video through analytics.

This approach also combats one of the criticisms of BI: too much data. For example, 40 percent of all respondents to an Enterprise Management Associates’ survey say they are overwhelmed with the monitoring data they already collect. Seventy-three percent indicated they would collect even more security data, if they could make use of it. That is the challenge for the security industry – making the data mean something to the business and others.

In one example, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission of Louisiana completed implementation of a video analytics application to accompany its next-generation video surveillance system. This allows first responders in Port Fourchon to receive “as they happen” alerts identified automatically by the surveillance system and coordinate their response in real-time. This level of data sharing and interoperability will aid in lowering response times and overall situational awareness during real-time events.

The Port Fourchon Maritime Domain Awareness System allows local, state and federal agencies to collaborate effectively and become more proactive. To do this, the port’s director of information technology, April Danos, wanted to find a way to take all technologies and disparate data and bring them into one common operating picture that would allow these several agencies to work collaboratively within the same situational awareness platform over multiple networks.

Another more finely focused way to start: Analytics that are very fixed on selected but large pieces of data, rather than getting caught up on sheer amount of data and the surplus of information it can provide.

Business Benefits Pros– Video analytics integrated with other data – or by itself – identify issues that can make an impact on the enterprise’s overall bottom line. Integrating security video and video analytics into a total resource brings myriad people and departments together and makes security a more essential playmaker.

Business Benefits Cons– There is the possibility of losing yourself by diving into the big data pool. Expect security to move to IT for sophisticated software, computer appliance and infrastructure needs.

This article was originally published in the print magazine as "Nine Shades of Analytics, Anything But Grey."