Getting the Dealer to Buy In

Water district uses video analytics to create a virtual perimeter

For many security industry professionals, one of two things often comes to mind when they hear the term, “video analytics.” One: high-tech, critical-infrastructure protection in applications such as airport security.

Two: Is anyone actually using it yet?

A few years ago, video analytics was viewed in some circles as the next big thing because of its ability to intelligently track movement using analytic algorithms, which can make security staff responsible for simultaneously viewing dozens of camera feeds more effective in identifying suspicious behavior. But people moved cautiously and chose to wait and see how others were adopting the technology before being ready to sign purchase orders of their own.

Thus began the long line of questioning about when video analytics would be widely adopted. Fast forward to today: Video analytics has been deployed by specific vertical markets such as critical infrastructure and gaming, but more practical uses are starting to emerge that can perhaps speed up overall adoption.

One specific example is in the area of perimeter protection, where some traditional technologies can sometimes be too expensive to implement. For instance, the expense of running wire underground to connect cameras and sensors is costly, especially when dealing with a large or remote perimeter. This is one case where advanced technology such as video analytics actually becomes more practical than deploying traditional perimeter protection systems.

An organization that recently illustrated this trend is the Rowland Water District. The district is located in the foothills of Los Angeles County, Calif., and borders a wildlife refuge. Its remote and isolated location has been attractive to thieves looking to steal vehicle batteries, scrap metal, tools and fuel. To stop these intrusions, the district worked with Irvine, Calif.-based Secure Site Solutions Inc. to upgrade its existing disparate security system to a new, fully integrated system. The system uses high resolution day/night cameras with video analytics embedded inside Honeywell’s Rapid Eye HD Active Alert DVR to construct a virtual perimeter around the facility.

To establish a fully integrated security system, Secure Site Solutions tied the DVR into Honeywell’s WIN-PAK access control platform and Honeywell’s Vista intrusion system. The combined system works together using virtual detectors to create an outdoor perimeter detection system. One of the benefits of the fully integrated system is its ease of use. The district’s staff is able to arm and disarm the entire system using their existing access cards, which eliminated the need for additional training or procedures.

“We found intruders were cutting through the fence around the service yard that surrounded the wildlife refuge, and trying to detect people in that area isn’t easy,” said Ken Deck, general manager at Rowland Water District. “The challenge we faced to secure the perimeter was finding a solution that was easy to use, affordable and required few adjustments to our day-to-day procedures.”

The district’s main site is located on nine acres of land containing a service yard, where vehicles and equipment are stored outside, office buildings and a maintenance garage. The section of the property adjoining the wildlife refuge is approximately 1,000 feet long, a sizeable area to monitor. The organization’s previous security system supported access control, intrusion and video surveillance, but each of those systems worked independently of each other. There was no collaboration between the intrusion and video surveillance to monitor events, or proactive notification to alert law enforcement an event was taking place.

Because of these disparate systems, the district’s staff couldn’t be immediately notified if a break-in and theft occurred in the service yard. The only areas protected with alarm notification were the primary buildings, which left the service yard vulnerable to theft. That meant staff had to review camera footage— after the fact—if items were discovered missing or property was damaged.

“There were instances when we wouldn’t know if equipment had been damaged or stolen from the service yard for a couple of days,” Deck said. “There was no real-time notification when intrusions were occurring in the yard, so there was no way for us to know to look for missing items. When you finally discover it days later, going back and actually finding video footage of the theft is extremely difficult.”

Another drawback was not having video verification of alarm events. Without being able to confirm to the responding law enforcement agency that a theft was in progress, the priority of the call was lowered. This increased the response time from law enforcement and, in some cases, required district staff to verify if an alarm event was real or false.

To eliminate the safety risk of having staff verify alarm events in person, Secure Site Solutions put video verification near the top of the list for the system upgrade.

“It gives us the ability to know in real-time if an alarm is real or false, and is a significant safety benefit,” Deck said.

Even with a video verification system, the district’s location made it difficult for securing the perimeter while reducing false alarms.

“Being located right next to a wildlife refuge posed a significant challenge for preventing false alarms at the perimeter,” said Michael Cowell, president at Secure Site Solutions. “Animals both large and small in this area are going to find their way into the service yard and play havoc with traditional perimeter protection like outdoor motion detection and photo beams.”

And this is where video analytics became very practical. Cowell’s team knew upfront a traditional perimeter system would be expensive to install and susceptible to trips from local wildlife. Video analytics, on the other hand, provided a unique solution to the district’s challenge of securing a large perimeter at an affordable price while reducing false alarms.

Digital Eyes Monitor District’s Perimeter

By using video analytics, Secure Site Solutions created a virtual perimeter around the district. The video surveillance system uses eight, high-resolution, day/night fixed analog cameras for analytic functions, and an additional eight cameras for video verification. The cameras are connected to Rapid Eye Hybrid HD Active Alert, which provides the embedded analytics capabilities with integration to the Vista intrusion control panel for analytic alarm signal reporting.

In configuring the system, Secure Site Solutions selected fixed cameras to ensure they were always watching their assigned fields of view to keep events from going undetected.

“With PTZ cameras there is always a chance the camera will not be parked when it’s needed and it misses an event,” Cowell said.

Each of the eight cameras conducting the analytical analysis of the perimeter is set with ideal focal lengths to accommodate their assigned viewing areas. On average, the target area for the district’s cameras is 100 to 150 feet in length, 60 to 80 feet wide and 20 feet high.

“To configure the analytics system to distinguish the difference between a person, foliage blowing in the wind and animals, we calibrated the analytic rule inside Rapid Eye,” Cowell said. “This requires programming the system to self-evaluate an object’s mass and distinguishing characteristics.”

The installation and configuration of the district’s video analytics solution took Secure Site Solutions one month to complete.

“We found the installation to be quick and straightforward,” Cowell said. “The piece that normally takes the longest is configuring the analytical rule, but Honeywell offers great support which makes this process easy.”

Beyond the video surveillance capabilities, the broader system also includes access control and intrusion detection. To bring all three security systems together, Secure Site Solutions installed Honeywell’s WIN-PAK integrated security system. By consolidating the multiple systems onto a single platform, they now work seamlessly together and are managed through a single user interface, increasing operational efficiency.

“It has made everything a lot easier,” Deck said. “We can arm the entire security system at once by using our access cards, instead of having to arm each of them individually. This allows our off-hours service personnel to enter the yard while the perimeter protection system is armed without triggering a false alarm.”

Secure Site Solutions’ central station monitors the district’s security system and helps to verify all alarm events when reporting incidents to law enforcement.

Video Analytics as a Cost Saver

In the past, one stereotype of video analytics was that it was largely seen as an expensive proposition. Rowland Water District found otherwise.

“By using video analytics we were able to secure the district’s full perimeter with only a few cameras,” Cowell said. “Compared to a traditional perimeter protection system, we would have had to install dozens of sensors, trench for and install underground conduit and run wire. The money the district saved by choosing video analytics was significant.”

Additionally, the district has been able to greatly reduce the number of false alarms for their overall operation and improve law enforcement response times by knowing immediately when an intrusion occurs and if it’s real or false. Video verification of events has also eliminated the need for district staff to verify alarm events in person, increasing personal safety.

Given the overall success the district has seen with the installation of the new integrated security system with video analytics, the organization is working with Secure Site Solutions to deploy WIN-PAK controllers with access control and video surveillance to its dozens of pump stations and reservoir sites.

“Having access control at all of our remote sites would give us better control of who has access to these facilities and eliminate the cost of rekeying locks when keys are lost,” Deck said. “Right now, these facilities are secured by lock and key. Additionally, we are working with Secure Site Solutions to add analytic video surveillance to protect against weekend parties and graffiti at our reservoir sites.”

And much like video analytics, solutions like remote access control—such as the kind Rowland is seeking to deploy—signify just how far advanced security technologies have come. Whether that means a technology like video analytics will finally go mainstream remains to be seen. At the very least, however, it should spur a new wave of examples showing just how practical these technologies can actually be.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Security Today.

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