Defense initiatives technology

From Combat to Commercial

Exploring innovations that evolved from defense initiatives into daily life

There is no question that advancements in video are continually revolutionizing the security industry. New capabilities emerge and, subsequently, the scope of what is possible grows. The implications of this trend can be seen in surveillance, reconnaissance, identity verification, information management and data dissemination.

Current system implementations provide security operators with a multitude of information about their respective environments, but effective solutions for processing this information are still few and far between. With a one-to-one camera-to-monitor ratio, operators must analyze vast walls of individual screens that project narrow fields of view to detect possible threats. These stand-alone systems allow users to view their facility or areas in segments, not as a whole, creating information overload and limiting their ability to put critical video information in context.

Traditionally, the commercial marketplace has been more prudent than its government or military counterparts, in that it is comfortable with the tried-and-true methods and less apt to adopt progressive new technologies.

In times of national crisis, however, it is the military and government sectors that are utilizing cutting-edge innovations to create more effective solutions, meeting war-time needs that over time also meet everyday commercial needs. Many of the technology advancements we see today began with the requirement to fulfill the military's need to protect its warfighters. Take, for example, GPS. This technology, using satellites to locate, map and guide drivers, originated from the military's need to travel effectively in hostile and unfamiliar environments.

Advancing Technologies

As defense-oriented technologies develop, they gain traction in commercial spaces because they fulfill increasingly rigorous yet similar needs. In the security industry, distinct parallels can be drawn between the needs of a military unit deployed overseas in a forward operating base and a sensitive facility such as a nuclear power plant on national soil.

In both markets, the need for persistent surveillance is paramount to mitigate threats, protect critical assets and ensure the safety of human life. Technology has evolved to meet this need. For example, capabilities for enhanced ground and aerial surveillance, object tracking, wide-area change detection and sensor networking are being used in military operations and becoming more prevalent in commercial security spaces.

Persistent surveillance products are transitioning from a high-tech commodity to a necessity for security operators. The ability to not only detect potential threats but to track their movement across a large area gives these operators an increased advantage— providing early warning that allows for more effective decision making. Likewise, geolocation technologies that assign coordinates to every pixel of an image in real time were developed to give soldiers increased awareness of their location and surroundings. In the commercial market, this capability allows users to employ video to track vehicles, locate personnel or dispatch security teams to precise locations if a threat is detected.

Biometrics is another technology that originated from defense needs and is transitioning into the commercial market. In hostile environments, the need for absolute identification is vital—verifying who is entering a military base or crossing a border helps keep these sensitive installments secure. Biometric technologies, such as iris recognition, solve this issue by offering accurate identification for access control and security operations. From a commercial perspective, this type of security could be used to protect a wide variety of areas—airports, critical infrastructures, iconic monuments and large entertainment or sports venues. As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see a more widespread adoption of it in our daily lives.

The Role of Video Surveillance

The ability to exploit video has been a signifi- cant advantage in the defense industry. With mountains of video to sort through, understanding the information becomes a tiresome and complicated, if not impossible, task.

Video exploitation solutions like Sarnoff's TerraSight™ product suite created better ways to not only process vast amounts of data but to put it into context. Forensics, surveillance and security markets also depend on video to solve problems, answer questions and react to events quickly. Advancements in video exploitation have enabled users in both markets to make better use of the data they collect by putting seemingly disparate video imagery into a single, comprehensive view. The result is information that makes sense and allows users to be proactive rather than reactive using real-time monitoring, threat detection and rapid response.

In addition to exploiting video, capabilities for video enhancement also have transitioned from the defense industry into commercial security. Technological advancements for perimeter surveillance, such as night vision, infrared, stabilization and fusion, allow sensors to function more intelligently. When this technology is embedded into the sensor, it reduces workload for the camera operator.

Defense-oriented innovations have created smart "systems on a chip" that allow the sensor and camera systems to intelligently collect and transmit surveillance data while managing bandwidth congestion—all without overloading the operator. Given that information overload and user fatigue are common issues for commercial security, this type of technology will become more prevalent and streamline the way operators capture video and generate useable information from it.

Making the Most of Information

For any security application—military or commercial—quickly getting to the right information is the most critical asset. Without it, users make decisions in a vacuum and are unable to do their jobs effectively or on time. On the other hand, too much information can be just as detrimental. Too many cameras transmitting to too many monitors can cause essential information to get lost, and the risk of a security breach increases.

Military installments are impacted with this problem when conducting surveillance and reconnaissance missions—amassing tremendous amounts of video from manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, cameras on towers and ground stations. Tower-mounted sensors and air assets also are key to security services, such as law enforcement, infrastructure protection and border patrol. However, many of these sensors are stand-alone systems, unable to cross-cue footage or track suspicious objects on the move.

The need for information networking has never been greater and, once again, technology has evolved to meet this need. Software solutions like TerraSight are able to network multiple sensors, combining the imagery to form one common picture of an entire area, draped over a 3-D image map and terrain. Commercially, this technology is already beginning to transition from its military origins into urban and metropolitan markets and will likely become a pervasive capability for users in these areas within the next five years.

Storing and cataloging data for retrieval and dissemination also is a key challenge. Most everyone has some type of camera device today. YouTube is a good commercial example of how to publish and retrieve content from a massive database, which can be a challenge for both military and commercial security operators.

There are examples of successful technology transitions nearly everywhere, and nowhere is this more evident than in the security industry. Whether for military missions or civilian day-to-day life, technologies that may seem disparate wind up combining and evolving to become incredibly effective solutions. The sheer number of sensors and their vast array of different capabilities (e.g., motion detection, temperature, acoustic, unmanned or biometric) suggest that system networking and integration is the key to the future of security systems.


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