Analytics In The Dark
Thermal security cameras with analytics—superior perimeter protection
- By Ron Grinfeld
- Jul 05, 2016
The adoption of thermal cameras in mainstream security has increased
considerably over the last decade, and Oregon-based FLIR
Systems has been a leading innovator in the industry. FLIR is recognized
as having the broadest range of thermal security cameras—
from affordable consumer-oriented cameras to military-grade imagers
used for border security and force protection.
Now, with the emergence of advanced video analytics, FLIR is proving that
thermal’s inherent image quality makes it an ideal match. Thermal cameras with
analytics have been field-proven to provide more efficient operation, fewer false
and nuisance alarms, and easier alarm assessment than any other technology in
Whether used to monitor nuclear power plants, bridges and tunnels, remote
substations, or even car dealerships, FLIR thermal cameras represent a true 24-
hour surveillance solution. And when combined with additional visible-light security
cameras, and versatile video management systems, thermal cameras represent
a game-changing technology for protecting perimeters and critical infrastructure.
What makes thermal security cameras so effective is that they peer into a realm
that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Rather than detect visible light, thermal
cameras “see” infrared radiation that anything warmer than absolute zero emits or
reflects. Thermal cameras detect minute differences in temperature to create high
contrast video that displays heat signatures of both animate and inanimate objects.
Because thermal cameras ignore visible light, they produce consistent image
contrast, regardless of the amount of light available. Thermal cameras aren’t affected
by conditions that can cause visible light cameras fits, such as sun glare,
rain, light fog, and light reflecting off wet pavement. As long as there is the tiniest
bit of temperature contrast between objects and their surroundings, a thermal
camera will create a useful image. Thermal cameras are the best tools available for
automated detection and full situational awareness.
In addition to the emergence of more affordable thermal technology, video analytics
have become ubiquitous for perimeter and critical infrastructure protection. In
the context of security, the purpose of analytics is to automatically detect events
that pose a potential security risk, such as when a person approaches or crosses a
perimeter. To function best, video analytics need to be able to distinguish objects
from their surroundings, which is where thermal contrast proves so reliable.
For example, the FLIR FC-Series ID thermal security camera has built-in
analytics that can be customized to set to trigger alarms for any combination of human, vehicular, or non-human objects. The benefit is that by specifying
given targets, the camera can ignore benign movement—such as blowing vegetation
or roaming animals—thus reducing the potential for false alarms. The
FC-Series ID includes custom Automatic Gain Control (AGC), which applies
even greater contrast to the normal thermal image, further improving the performance
of the analytics.
VISIBLE-LIGHT CAMERAS, TOO
Analytics aren’t for thermal cameras alone, of course. FLIR’s fixed ioi HD Bullet camera,
for instance, combines built-in video analytics optimized for perimeter protection
with high quality Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) capabilities. The addition of PTZ
tracking allows operators to following a target once it has crossed the perimeter and is
already inside the facility, beyond the reach of the cameras monitoring the perimeter.
For cameras without embedded analytics, FLIR offers the TRK 101, a separate
box that receives a video stream from the camera—either from an analog or IP
connection—and applies analytics to it. In addition, FLIR offers thermal cameras
that are fully integrated with third-party analytics, to ensure maximal flexibility
and adaptability to project needs.
Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards Stadium, in Provo, Utah, is a good
example of using thermal analytics in a location with constantly changing variables.
Since 2003, the stadium has undergone a series of renovations, including an
updated natural grass field and luxury seating. After determining that a mixture of
thermal security cameras would provide the right imaging quality and range performance,
the university integrated the FLIR cameras into their existing security
network, tying everything together with a video analytics package.
The analytics allow operators to set up pre-determined alarm areas that are
active at different times of day. For instance, during daylight hours, the perimeter,
stands, and field are open to maintenance crews. Later in the afternoon, the stands
remain open, but access to the field is closed and the field is alarmed. When school
officials close the stadium for the day, they activate the automated surveillance and
alarm system, which encompasses the entire facility.
In addition to cameras and analytics, the third component to a complete solution
for perimeter protection is video management. Top-of-the-line security cameras
with analytics should have an equally robust video management system for gathering,
controlling and storing video content.
FLIR recently worked with a major North American energy company that supplies
electric and natural gas power to homes and businesses across a significant
part of the United States. As such, it maintains operations in many different geographical
areas, with facilities ranging from massive power generation plants to
local billing offices.
The company sought a state-of-the-art, unified security system that would provide
more than just central monitoring for surveillance cameras. Senior management
wanted to know immediately when a threat arose so they could notify other facilities
and send assistance, if needed. This new system would require the ability to monitor
and report on all security incidents, so that the company could streamline its security
operations and ensure that proper standards were being maintained at each and
every location. FLIR’s Latitude network video management system (NVMS) now
serves as the utility’s integration hub linking multiple layers of video surveillance,
access control, and other detection systems into a single, unified video platform.
Security operations at headquarters use Latitude to monitor and manage security
operations at all facilities from a single command-and-control center. Each facility
uses FLIR visible light and thermal imaging cameras, linked to access control and
audio sensors, to provide real-time threat identification and visual verification to eliminate
FLIR’s security solution uses IPbased
network infrastructure to deliver
HD quality video, even during difficult
lighting conditions or adverse weather.
Fixed, dome and PTZ cameras can
be configured and managed remotely,
lessening the need to send staff into
the field for minor operational issues.
FLIR’s ioi analytics provide early audible
alerts of potential intruders in the
vicinity of a boundary fence.
The power company now leverages
its video surveillance, access control,
and other physical security sensors to
trigger alerts, automate device actions,
and present real-time, actionable video
to internal clients. In addition, it uses
the FLIR system to maintain close collaboration
and open communications
between various departments. Legacy
systems have been enhanced or replaced
with open-systems-compliant upgrades
that work seamlessly with each other,
and with the FLIR management infrastructure.
can be deployed quickly, without extensive
THE BEST SECURITY SOLUTION
So, what should you look for in perimeter
protection? At the very least,
it should be able to detect potential
intruders, provide adaptive alarming,
and notify appropriate personnel, even
when they’re away from the facility.
The choice of whether to employ
thermal cameras with analytics exclusively
or in combination with visible
light cameras is a matter of application.
Is the primary concern being able to detect
intrusion? In that case, thermal will
suffice. If it’s necessary to identify alleged
suspects for future prosecution, gather a
higher level of details, or continuously
track intruders while they are already inside
the perimeter, fixed and PTZ driven
visible-light cameras will be needed.
Fixed-site thermal security cameras
offer high-performance thermal
imaging in all-weather enclosures that
are easy to install, simple to integrate,
and compatible with a wide variety of
third-party accessories. When eliminating
other needs for protecting critical
infrastructure, and focusing on the perimeter
itself, thermal cameras, in most
cases, are the most reliable perimeter
intrusion detection devices available.
Because they make images from tiny
differences in heat, thermal cameras
provide a naturally high-contrast video
signal that can achieve significantly
higher detection distances, and in addition
is immune from camouflage, sun
glare, total darkness, and most inclement
Thermal security cameras can be inexpensive
and easily networked. They
work better with video analytics packages
than other “lowlight” imaging
solutions, and they don’t require any
auxiliary lighting infrastructure. They
are more affordable than ever, and cost
very little to operate; thermal cameras
offer the full package of affordability,
capability and return on investment.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Security Today.