Lighting the Path to Safer Smart Cities

With large cities continuing to grow, there’s a clear need for enhanced video surveillance and analytics to improve daily operations, traffic flow, and overall public safety. Video solutions continue to advance these initiatives but their effectiveness, specifically in low-light applications, is often called into question.

The most common pitfall is often inadequate lighting, resulting in dark, grainy footage that is unusable for security personnel. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and video analytics, image clarity is more important than ever before, making it imperative not to overlook the lighting solutions that enable these advanced technologies.

Harnessing the Power of LED & IR Lighting

While obvious to some, darkness greatly diminishes a camera’s ability to perform, and as a result, assets are left vulnerable to attacks. While placing cameras near street or emergency lights is common, these sources do not provide enough lighting for optimal image capture. This makes specialty external lighting a must. Most lights fall into two categories: white light (LED) illumination and infrared (IR) illumination, each coming with their own set of benefits depending on the deployment.

  • White light illuminators harness visible light to brighten an area in full color, which both deters crime and enhances video for human identification.
  • For more covert surveillance applications, IR illuminators have a longer range and are completely invisible to the human eye.
  • LED is most often used for illuminators, having 80-90 percent efficiency, as compared to the 10-20 percent for incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent. On average, the efficiency of LED lighting saves end users over $700 per year per bulb, while delivering superior illumination quality without blind spots.

Safer, Smarter Cities

When thinking of all the “smart” technologies that go into safe cities, it’s important to note illumination’s role in making it all possible.  External illumination enables advanced functions like facial recognition, people counting, or license plate recognition, allowing these capabilities to work together and perform at their best.

Take for example facial recognition, a technology that has had a major impact on the security industry. These analytics can be easily integrated with existing cameras but cannot function properly in low-light scenarios without additional lighting. The cameras can better identify intruders and send more accurate alerts to law enforcement before a situation can escalate further.

Not only do video analytics help ensure that blacklisted individuals do not enter facilities (hospitals, airports, casinos, etc.), but they also aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles. In the U.S., a vehicle is stolen every 45 seconds, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By strategically placing LPR enabled cameras paired with powerful external illuminators around a city, law enforcement can track the whereabouts of stolen vehicles by flagging them within the system, making criminals easier to catch.

Companies that are victims of vandalism understand the disruption it can cause, notably the interruption of daily operations, decreased property values, and financial losses. Believe it or not, some lighting can encourage criminal activity. Dim yellow lighting not only hinders video surveillance performance, but also makes people feel uneasy. However, bright white light illumination does the opposite, filling dark areas with inviting light affording everyone improved situational awareness.

Best Practices for Integration

Having the right illumination for security needs is not a simple task. For optimal results, always assess the environment and select the right light for the specific deployment. Generally speaking, white light illuminators are most effective for deterring crime and capturing evidentiary class video, while IR lighting is ideally used in applications where covert monitoring is needed.

Knowing the types of cameras being paired with the illuminators is another key factor. As a rule of thumb, it is best to match the angle of illumination with the required field of view for optimal results.

Many people are still in the dark when it comes to pairing external lighting and surveillance solutions. Without ample light, video capture is impossible, and all advanced analytic functions are rendered useless. With the growth of smart cities, the video market will only expand its capabilities, opening new doors for security technologies.

By Eddie Reynolds, President & CEO of Iluminar, Inc., a long-time Milestone Technology Partner