Think About the Future
Surveillance used to protect people, places and assets
It has now been over 20 years since the first IP Camera was released
by Axis Communications back in 1996. Axis originally
developed the system to monitor the sea for oil spills. It saved
their customers from having to take two flights a day. Today, this
method of video delivery is the norm; digital cameras are an everyday
part of life, delivering daily cat videos to Facebook as well as
monitoring our businesses and homes for security.
Video is a natural choice for security because as humans, we use
our eyes more than any of our other senses. We see CCTV cameras
everywhere, so why are the majority of alarm systems not videoenabled?
If video is so natural, why is it not being used more in the
alarm monitoring industry? Most cameras you see around a building
are connected to a NVR/DVR within the building itself, or just recording
without anyone watching.
Protect Your Assets
Businesses that use video surveillance to protect their assets, such as
car lots, can find it quite valuable, but it’s not realistic in most cases
for someone to watch the feed 24/7. Video surveillance is often combined
with other detection methods, such as a perimeter breach or
motion detectors, which raise an alarm within automation software.
The alarm is brought to an operator, and they decide what to do
based on what they observe. The problem with this approach is that it
can be error-prone—from detecting the breach, having the operator
make a judgement call about what they see, how long they continue
to watch, and how far they go back and watch.
The big disruptor to this problem is video analytics. Video analytics
is becoming commonplace for showing changes that may be
happening within a picture to enhance and help an operator see
movement. The current challenge with analytics is building context
around the potential intrusion: is the movement a human or just a
stray dog or cat? Is someone taking a short cut or are they loitering
with intent? As analytics become more powerful, the decision about
whether to raise an alarm for a human to see or not can be made by
the software. This removes error-prone human decision-making, and
begins to make this kind of technology more useable in a traditional
central station. Potentially, it could even replace traditional movement
One company that has gone further than any other with providing
video in the traditional central station is I-View Now. I-View Now
provides both live video and event based clips to show the operator
what happened. The event based clips have pre-alarm which provides
video from prior to a security event, the event itself, and immediately
post-event. A typical clip is 15 seconds in length, which gives the
operator a very focused view of what is happening, making it much
easier for them to decide whether to progress the alarm or not. The
I-View Now system uses traditional methods of security system signals,
such as a PIR, and video analytics signals to generate alarms.
“Soon all video systems will have video analytics behind them,”
I-View Now’s founder, Larry Folsom said. “It’s the future of our
This move to analytics is becoming possible because the processing
power of equipment like cameras and servers is growing
exponentially. This allows more processing power on the “Edge.”
Edge computing is a method of optimizing cloud computing systems
by performing data processing at the edge of the network, near the
source of the data. Conversely, the advent of cloud computing is allowing
complex analytics to take place in the cloud, effectively bringing
huge power to even the dumbest device in the field.
False alarms continue to be the biggest issue facing the alarm
monitoring industry right now. They are primarily caused by motion
detectors (PIRS), but also human error, low batteries, unsecured
doors and windows, pets, rodents, insects and even poor installations.
But if video analytics can distinguish a human from a pet, it can distinguish
a child’s balloon floating around, and other non-threatening
types of movement. Low batteries don’t affect its performance the
same way they affect motion detectors. So, shouldn’t this be the natural
way forward for the security industry?
The biggest objection is privacy. How do you feel about cameras
watching your every move? How do you feel about those images being
streamed into the cloud? It’s unnerving in a domestic environment.
In a commercial environment, there are other privacy issues,
such as commercial secrecy.
Maybe it’s time for a new type of detector. Let’s call it an “Optical
Analytical Sensor.” Now, as far as I am aware, this device does not yet
exist. However, it could work on the “Edge” and receive new, updated
analytics as they change, but not be able to transmit video. It would
have no video storage; all it could do is pass events to a monitoring
system. These events would include a description, such as “Human,
identified as ‘Rod Coles,’ 98 percent confidence level,” but no video.
The nice thing about this approach is the bandwidth requirements,
often still an issue with video, would not exist.
Now, let’s take it further. We could calibrate these devices to recognize
family members and friends. User awareness is a critical part
of taking smart home systems to the next level. By recognizing who is
in a home or business, the system can begin to make smart decisions.
For example, why would we need to enter a code to disarm an alarm
system if the Optical Analytical Sensor recognized that it was a valid
user of the system and automatically did it for us?
What about a commercial application? If you needed a fully secure
environment, you could have a permanently armed system. The
Optical Analytical Sensor would just ignore the individuals who are
allowed and generate an alarm for anyone who wasn’t. You could easily
create areas that were off limits to certain people. You could link
the system to access or door control and integrate one more technology
into the mix. A more traditional approach could be implemented
which armed the system “AWAY” if it didn’t detect anyone moving
around for a set period, or even better, the system could track when
users leave and then arm.
It is easy to see how video surveillance with video analytics could
improve security applications, but related industries such as PERS
and health and safety could also have huge changes as analytics become
more powerful. Additionally, retail organizations can benefit
from being able to monitor the flow of people in and out of their
stores, where they go and what their demographics
are. Ultimately, good analytics will enable
video surveillance to become more widespread
within the Alarm Monitoring space. It’s only going
to get better as more intelligence is built into
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Security Today.