A Conversation with Stephen Russell

In recent years, advances in facial detection technology have brought prices down<\m>and now the software is everywhere, from CCTV surveillance systems to photo-sharing programs like Picasa. With each new application, many people’s privacy concerns are heightened, while others embrace the technology’s promise. We sat down with Stephen Russell, the chairman and founder of 3VR Security, to find out more about the myths and misconceptions surrounding facial-recognition technology.

Q: Why do companies need intelligent surveillance capabilities?

A: Despite the extensive number of surveillance cameras installed by hotels, retailers and other organizations, for most security personnel, the captured footage--about 250 billion hours of video per year in the United States--is largely useless. The data piles up, and security teams have to sift through hundreds of hours of video when they need to find footage relating to an incident<\m>a very time-consuming and counterproductive task.

Q: How does 3VR help companies better manage their surveillance data?

A: 3VR pioneered Intelligent Surveillance and Search--a faster, more reliable and less expensive way for security and business professionals to fight crime, ensure people’s safety and security, and improve customer service and business efficiency.

The 3VR Intelligent Surveillance Platform is the first solution that makes it possible to find relevant footage in seconds, rather than hours, and get real value from surveillance, using technology that indexes and structures the video, making it searchable, organized and manageable. Our technology makes it possible to organize these vast stores of raw data into rich information that can be quickly, comprehensively and reliably searched and mined.

Q: Tell us more about how 3VR's platform works.

A: 3VR's platform--with its built-in intelligence--filters what’s important from what’s not, transforming raw image data into useful and meaningful information. Selected images and transactions are analyzed and tagged with important details, such as location, direction, speed, face, license plate, color and size, to enrich the information with correlative associations.

The 3VR system is uniquely equipped with content-aware capabilities, meaning more important data can be stored longer and at higher quality. Video, key images, faces, vehicles and more can all be stored according to specific policies, radically reducing the amount of datacenter storage required and rapidly accelerating the speed and relevance of surveillance searches.

The 3VR platform is truly open, integrating with virtually every type of camera system and talking to nearly every business application, customer service system, alarm and access control device, and law enforcement database.

Q: Some people perceive facial recognition as a violation of privacy, but you disagree. Why?

A: Facial recognition technology records pictures of people’s faces. But a picture of someone is not a biometric identifier, which is strictly defined to be an actual biometric measurement tied to an actual identity. Because surveillance video captures images of people and places, and not individualized measurements, and since those images are not each individually identified, they are not technically biometric identifiers.

There’s no denying that the world needs both security and privacy; the trick is to find a balance between the two. Intelligent search allows officials to focus on particular people and make use of privacy protections like access control, encryption and face blurring.

Q: Integrators may be intimidated by facial recognition technology, overlooking it as a hard-to-deploy solution. Is the technology too advanced for the average integrator?

A: Not at all. 3VR has built its Intelligent Surveillance and Search platform to be easy to deploy for all integrators. Not only does it take the IT complexity out of the equation, but it also integrates key functions, such as video management, facial surveillance and license plate recognition.

Also, the platform is based on open standards and can integrate with various manufacturers’ cameras, sensors and other business applications. This makes it less complex from an integration standpoint and easier for end users to navigate its inherent functionality. Plus, the system’s comprehensive health monitoring capabilities alert operators to malfunctioning cameras, failing hard drives or even the improper reception of data, which takes even more pressure off the end user.

Q: People immediately link facial recognition to face matching and alerting, forgetting about its other capabilities. Please remind us about the technology's other features.

A: Beyond face matching and alerting, there's also facial storage and face search.

Face storage captures, catalogs and stores critical video information. The idea is to store higher-quality video evidence for much longer periods of time, while dramatically reducing storage requirements and costs.

With face search, security personnel can search by the date and time of an incident, capture the face of the perpetrator and search for that face throughout video captured from any location on the network. Face searches can even link suspects to known accomplices to aid in investigations.

And there’s also facial verification, which offers a very high accuracy rate--up to 95 percent. The technology matches your face to your face, much like other biometric systems.

Q: What kind of accuracy does 3VR products boast?

A: We have more than four fully independently customer- and partner-funded studies that claim more than 90 percent facial recognition accuracy after 3VR deployments.

For example, the Hilton Americas-Houston is the largest hotel in Houston, but it can guarantee industry-leading guest safety and security thanks to 3VR's cutting-edge surveillance technology. With our sophisticated facial recognition, license plate recognition and advanced motion analytics, the hotel boasts 90 percent accuracy for facial recognition. And the addition of 3VR has helped Union Savings Bank, located in Connecticut, reduce fraud by 90 percent, much lower than typical industry averages.


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