bank security

More than Meets the Eye

There is more to video than facial recognition

Everyone knows that banks use video systems. From an integrator viewpoint, banks can be major customers. For instance, 4,000 high-resolution color cameras protect the branches of Caixa Economica Federal in Brazil, the largest public bank in Latin America. They also provide a video surveillance security solution for more than 50 branches of the Banco de Guayaquil, one of the largest private banking institutions in Ecuador.

From the end user's vantage, there is more to a video system than being able to capture a thief's face after a heist. It is not unusual for a bank to integrate its DVRs and video management system into a central station package, allowing the bank to monitor and respond to alarms, whether generated from a standard burglary or fire panel or through the card access system, in a single interface. Such a system lets security and fire alarms be monitored at a single central station.

The video surveillance integration provides the bank with instant access to any associated video information and enables officials to quickly e-mail high-quality images to the proper authorities to aid in the apprehension of criminals.

Since cameras are always recording, especially at entrances, authorities can determine who entered and when. By checking the recordings, they can identify people prior to an incident. In fact, administrators can visually identify people entering and exiting by doors that are synchronized to the second. In researching an incident, they can check badge activity reports and pull the exact times from the DVR.

If they are not using a central monitoring system, IP surveillance allows for remote monitoring of live and archived video footage from any computer with an Internet connection and access to the network.

How Banks Use Video Systems

Obviously, banks want to stop robberies. It is one of the reasons banks are not interested in covert video systems. The fact that the surveillance system is visible helps deter thieves from targeting a bank in the first place, but if a robber is not deterred, recorded images can be used to track down and identify the suspect.

With digital technology, storage and management of surveillance images is faster, easier and more efficient. Advanced search techniques isolate specific incidents and identify suspects quickly.

For instance, it is not uncommon for people to allege that money from their ATM account has been stolen. ATM fraud is a financial institution's hot button. With a video system, financial institution personnel can instantly access and view live or recorded video from any networked ATM using any computer on the network. They can quickly search for video by ATM transaction sequence numbers, account numbers, withdrawal or deposit dates or time, locations or other ATM receipt text to minimize and resolve ATM fraud and transaction disputes.

Searches can be performed directly from the combination DVR/multiplexer or remotely to resolve disputes and irregularities quickly.

The video system also helps protect the bank from check fraud. By using advanced video analytics, banks can capture images and check deposit transaction data, link them, identify the thief and protect customer checking accounts.

Analytics, similar to those used at airports, also can be used to detect motion in areas where there should be no motion, such as in the vault at night. Behavior recognition software, used in tandem with the video surveillance system, can denote aberrant behavior both outside and within the bank.

What Are Banks Using for Video Systems?

Banks are selecting cameras and systems that deliver results. For example, the Ecuadorian banks are predominantly using day/night cameras. Some cameras have an advanced high-resolution security camera that can capture detailed images under extremely low-light conditions. They use a 1/3-inch Super HAD CCD with a maximum resolution of 540 TV lines. Besides day/night operation, the camera also provides noiseless clarity by using auto gain control and low-speed shutter functions of 0.0009 lux at 15 IRE Sens-Up x128 minimum illumination sensitivity.

The day/night function automatically switches to color mode during the day and black-and-white mode at night, which makes it ideal for 24/7 surveillance. Digital noise reduction provides clear images and reduces the amount of video storage required.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for cameras is lighting. This is particularly an issue for banks and their variety of indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. With traditional cameras, outdoor details can be overpowered by bright light, and glare from outside doors can obscure what is going on just inside a bank's entrance.

However, new technology exposes each pixel in a digital image separately, offering a clear image in places where it was formerly impossible. These new cameras display perfect picture quality equal to the human eye. For example, motion adaptive DNR, such as that used by the cameras at the Ecuadorian bank, takes typically dark gray images and makes them clear. Digital image stabilization removes the blurs of motion, providing a crisp still image.

The cameras also can incorporate a low-light noise reduction and color suppression function. In addition, the extended dynamic range feature corrects the problems of darkness and brightness, which render images unreadable. Wide dynamic range provides clear images even under backlight circumstances, removing problems of glare.

Such technology increases exposure in shadowed areas and decreases exposure in bright areas, delivering a light-corrected image that shows crucial details clearly. It even adjusts for different lighting conditions within the same image.

While ordinary surveillance cameras are affected by glare, refl ections, backlighting and shadows that obscure important details, new camera technologies let users see everything. When installed in a bank lobby, they can see clear images of people's faces as they enter the facility, even if the afternoon sun or bright refl ections shine directly into the camera. In addition, bank management can view the cars and objects in the parking lot and beyond. These wide dynamic range cameras all especially ideal for capturing facial features.

However, capturing facial features and other detailed information, such as the amount of money a cashier hands to a customer, or viewing the details and signature of a loan guarantee, are beyond the capabilities of some analog cameras in spite of correcting lighting problems. That is why many banks are selecting megapixel cameras instead of analog PTZ or even standard digital IP PTZ cameras. The picture quality advantages of megapixel network cameras benefit banks in several ways.

In some applications, such as watching over the vault or a teller, a megapixel network camera can cover the same area as other cameras but with improved picture quality. In other applications, such as watching the street in front of the bank, megapixel cameras cover a much wider area than standard CCTV cameras. One megapixel network camera can cover more than four times the area of a CCTV camera with the same resolution. This means a bank can choose a megapixel camera with four times the resolution of a standard camera or even a 3.1 megapixel camera with 10 times the resolution of a standard camera.

Banks are embracing the power and efficiency of megapixel cameras. First of all, to cover wide areas, they cost less. Although an individual megapixel camera costs more than a single analog camera, it costs less than the two or more analog cameras needed to cover the same area. Secondly, captured information that cannot be seen clearly is useless. Megapixel cameras often provide that extra resolution that stands up in court.

Configuring Video Systems at Banks

Banks challenge integrators with the multiple types of sites that need close monitoring, from the ATM to the back alley. To determine what needs to be done, a bank should take a video surveillance audit:

  • What kinds of security does the bank already have?
  • Do they have armed guards or other security staff ?
  • Are the tellers behind windows or out in the open?
  • Are bank officers behind doors or on the fl oor?
  • What is the bank's history of robberies and criminal attempts?
  • Are there 24-hour ATMs, where are they kept and have there been crimes affiliated with them?
  • What surrounds the bank parking lots and alleys—a busy street, or a side street?
  • What does the bank do for security during off-hours?

With the completion of a security audit, a physical survey and a discussion of security goals, the bank should be ready to start implementing a system. In most cases, a bank will place cameras at all entrances and exits and at ATMs to record clear images. ATM video images should be tied into ATM transaction reports. Teller areas, the vault and the bank lobby also will be monitored. For those wanting to take the next step, a review of the various advanced video analytics on the market would be helpful.

Any bank looking to upgrade its surveillance system needs to do its homework first. There are many new surveillance tools available to choose from. Talk to a vendor who understands banks and visit some banks that have upgraded, to learn from their successes and their mistakes.

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