What Lies Beneath: the New Power of Video

The obvious power of a video camera – and the software behind that controls it – lies in security. Cameras are installed in shopping centres, airports, public transport, warehouses and practically everywhere that requires security of goods and protection of the public.

In Sydney, it is estimated that there are approximately 12.35 security cameras for every 1000 people, according to a Comparitech survey. In Auckland, that figure is 3.35 cameras per 1000 people.

That is a lot of video material, and a whole lot of computing power as well. Top-line cameras now have computing chips inbuilt, to perform high-level tasks such as self-learning video analytics and data from advanced multiple sensors.

Harnessing this power, camera software can learn what to expect in a certain field of view, and sound an alarm if something compromises that territory; or automatically pan, tilt and zoom to focus on a moving object; or automatically adjust to provide clear images in low light conditions.

Essentially, cameras are no longer passive recording devices, but have attained a much higher level of functionality.

Safer, Smarter, Working Harder for ROI

That computing power can be harnessed to enhance the productivity of security solutions, but there is also a vast scope for adding new functions, which can make life not only safer, but also smarter. There are also opportunities to make existing security hardware work harder, providing extended value to the organisation that owns it, and offering ways to monetise security infrastructure.

By extending the innate value of a security ecosystem, there is a fundamental shift in planning and development perception. What was once treated as a capital expenditure by default, a new security set-up can now be viewed as an OPEX model, whereby the hardware starts to pay for itself.

If a camera is set up in a shopping centre purely to provide video footage of a certain field of view, it is a passive asset. It performs that function but nothing beyond the most basic task it was designed for. Extend the use of that piece of hardware to surpass that potential moves it from being a passive asset, to being an active one.

Suppose the camera was linked to an open software platform that not only manages its performance and daily tasks in a network of other cameras but could also integrate with video data analytics. Then it becomes a camera that can count the amount of foot traffic in its field of view, analyse what times of day are busiest and where, which direction people are moving, how fast they move.

Let the camera make basic observations, feed that data into an analysis system, and suddenly the system can provide pedestrian heat-mapping reports, time-of-day reports, foot-traffic reports. It has become an asset that gives back much more than the intrinsic value for which it was bought and extends far beyond the basic purpose for which it was designed.

Open Platform for Video Analytics

Using open-platform video management software (VMS), the same camera may be integrated with licence plate recognition (LPR) technology to observe and recognise cars entering a carpark – lifting the barrier ahead of time for ‘known’ vehicles, stopping those that are not recognised. It may be advanced enough – linked to the right software – to detect that a licence plate is not on the correct make and model of a vehicle and send an alert to authorities that a vehicle may have been stolen.

From observing water levels in a dam to analysing the operational efficiency of solar installations, video can play a much larger part in the daily business operations of a huge array of industries.

Facial recognition software integrated with the VMS can automatically identify employees who are trained and certified to be in a dangerous area such as a blast site and admit them, while excluding those who do not have the requisite credentials. This helps the organisation maintain compliance, keeps individuals away from danger, and reduces the burden on administrative staff from manually having to watch a particular area of the operation.

Video has come a long way and is now more functional and capable than ever before. The limit to what can be achieved with new technologies and the power of an open platform management software is only limited by the imagination.

This is excerpted from an article by Jordan Cullis, Milestone Systems APAC Director, which ran on the SecurityBrief website in May 2020.