The New Reality

Examining whether good enough will actually do the job

Technology marches ever forward, lockstep with ‘Moore’s Law.’ However, the influx of technological change affects different industries in different ways. Some industries try to balance on the bleeding edge, seeking out competitive advantage and greater profits. Other industries find that good enough beats best if good enough gets the job done just fine. Until the job changes.

Then, what is “good enough” changes into something new. The corrections/detention industry is undergoing this change. For decades, the constraints on security and surveillance in correctional facilities was essentially how many camera feeds can you fit into one screen and how many people does it take to watch all of the feeds. Based partly on technological constraints (analog CCTV, low resolution, fixed cameras and high cost) and partly on “how it’s always been done” video surveillance was primarily a human scale endeavor.

Those days are ending. Video surveillance technology is leaping forward with real time frames per second (15 to 30 fps), HD resolutions, auto-follow cameras, motion detection and tracking, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based machine learning, among many other intriguing technologies. This technological tidal wave is multiplied by increasing federal and state regulatory requirements impacting surveillance coverage, retention times, video analysis and even legal challenges.

Technology x Regulations = New Realities

The challenges of security and surveillance in the correctional industry are daunting. Instead of dozens of simple fixed cameras that can easily be monitored by a crew of security guards, correctional facilities now have many hundreds, or thousands, of high resolution, motion detecting, automated cameras and drones feeding millions of frames per minute. Those millions of frames must not only be recorded and analyzed, they also have to be retained for a year or more with zero frame loss.

These rapidly changing technologies combined with the weight of the regulatory environment are presenting not only new challenges, but more importantly new opportunities. These opportunities bring an entirely new level of intelligence, service and safety to security and surveillance in corrections facilities. “Good enough” video surveillance is no longer enough. Implementing an intelligent video surveillance system that meets regulatory requirements as well as delivers advanced functionality for today and builds in scalability and improvement for the future is critical. What is needed is an intelligently designed and implemented system that solves problems efficiently and effectively, while leaving room for growth and improvements, and an empowered and well trained staff is essential to successfully take advantage of the tremendous opportunities an intelligent surveillance system delivers.

Here are four keys to successfully implementing intelligent surveillance in the new security reality.

Human Analytics

Assume that all of your video surveillance will move to human analyzable levels (20-plus fps, HD resolution and full spectrum audio).

Humans are amazing pattern-recognition machines and are remarkably good at discerning patterns from complex visual and auditory input. They have the ability to recognize a large array of different types of patterns and then transform these “recursive probabilistic fractals” into concrete, actionable steps based on what they learn.

As video surveillance in correctional facilities moves from watching for major events, towards ensuring security and safety, the requirements for human analyzable video surveillance is driving a massive movement towards higher frame rates (20-plus fps), and HD or higher resolutions. To fully take advantage of human analytics in video surveillance requires that the incoming video is tuned to human movement and perception.

“It is no longer good enough to see that someone is walking down the hallway carrying something,” said a security professional in a large correctional facility. “Real security demands that we can quickly identify who is walking and what they are carrying. Whether it is happening right now, or during last week’s cafeteria service. We need to know, not just see.”

That’s just one of many reasons why the demands of video surveillance are exploding.

Challenges. The challenges of humans analyzing video surveillance are higher frame rates, resolutions and camera counts result in exponential growth in storage and analysis requirements, human security officers cannot watch all the video streams equally and more than 90 percent of all surveillance video is never watched or analyzed.

Opportunities. There are multiple opportunities, however, which include using motion detection, alerts and AI/machine learning to augment staff to respond more quickly and effectively, technology and system design to get maximum video quality and data while keeping requirements within reason and more staff to monitor, analyze and investigate with video surveillance can improve safety and job satisfaction.

Acknowledge that advances in AI will continue to eliminate the need for human perception.

Video Analytics

All your video belongs to the AI. Based on decades of investment and research, AI based, machine learning video analytic engines are evolving into fully deployable products, with user-friendly interfaces and scenario-focused solutions.

According to artificial intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil, “All learning results from massive, hierarchical and recursive processes taking place in the brain.” AI and video analytics will continue to bring substantial benefits to video surveillance.

“A lot of R&D now goes into making features in the VMS to help human operators understand what is happening and what has already happened,” said Tim Palmquist, vice president American, Milestone Systems. “AI will likely be the ultimate delivery on the traditional video analytics promise. The innovations underway in this area are very significant and ultimately game changing. Smarter software will ultimately render a lot of present-day actions obsolete.”

Artificial intelligence-based video analytics is poised to drive entirely new security and surveillance solutions that deliver impressive results at lower costs.

Challenges. The challenges of AI and machine learning are leading edge technologies that require deep understanding and skill to implement successfully. To truly leverage the power of AI, video surveillance systems must have the higher FPS and HD resolutions that also make them human readable.

Opportunities. While AI and video analytics are remarkably good at recognizing objects, events and patterns in video they require skilled analysts and investigators to interpret those results. Build your security and surveillance systems with both long term storage and long term analytics in mind. Design for the future.

Accept that new capture points like drones, robots, body cams and other systems will add complexity.

IoT Devices

The proliferation of edge capture devices is expanding at breakneck speed. Ground-based drones, flying drones, body cams and in-car cameras for prisoner transport are driving new security processes and adding complexity. Without a proactive plan, these new devices can overwhelm a video surveillance system. Add in the explosion of personal smart phones and myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices and a 500-camera system can easily grow by hundreds of inputs. Be aware of both the physical security and cyber security implications of these new devices.

“The issue of cybersecurity and protecting network surveillance systems will be at the center of every discussion with vendors and existing and new end-user customers to assess and combat the vulnerabilities of IoT devices,” said Jennifer Hackenburg, senior product marketing manager at Dahua Technology USA.

Challenges. As if managing video from hundreds of fixed IP cameras wasn’t hard enough, now the cameras fly, walk, drive and run around. All IP connected devices present inherent security risks, newer IoT drives even more so, cybersecurity risks are exploding.

Opportunities. IoT does present some opportunities such as empowering the staff to develop new skills utilizing these new mobile and smart security devices while also improving officer and inmate safety and security. Work with IT to implement facility wide BYOB and IoT cybersecurity polices that serve and protect in balance. Assert your plan for continuous growth in storage and analytics requirements.

Video Surveillance

By 2020, video surveillance is expected to generate more than 859 Petabytes of new video every day. A 1080P HD resolution camera in a typical corrections setting generates up to 10 GB of video every day. With the number of cameras increasing rapidly and mandated retention times stretching into years, these baseline requirements can quickly consume Petabytes of storage. It’s not a question of whether your storage and data protection needs will increase, it is only a matter of how much will they grow: 2x, 4x or 10x over the next two to five years?

To successfully solve these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, an intelligent storage system is essential. Modern video surveillance has insatiable read/write performance demands and long-term retention and analysis requirements. Desktop level solutions are no longer good enough.

To meet these requirements, ensure your storage server vendor is using Enterprise class SAS drives with MTBF’s of no less than 2M hours and optimized for 4k block sizes. To accommodate the higher camera counts and resolutions, a solution that decouples the video storage and protection from the video management is crucial to enable ‘pay as you grow’ scalability and open standards, COTS (Common off the Shelf) flexibility. Stick with a system that delivers double drive failure protection and if needed on and off-site data protection to ensure archived video is available to meet investigations and regulations requirements.

Be proactive with your security and surveillance system. Actively plan with the certainty that legally mandated retention times will increase, resolutions and frame rates will continue to go up and that video analytics and other AI functions will deliver even more value from your video surveillance data.

Challenges. Increasing analytics requirements are driving exponential growth in storage and intelligent systems. The algebra of increasing FPS by resolution and cameras equals exponential storage growth. Scalability is crucial, but budget constraints demand pay as you scale approaches.

Opportunities. Assume requirements will increase dramatically and build in scalability and open standards flexibility. Leverage newer technologies such as Software Defined Storage and intelligent appliances to provide storage over iSCSI/Ethernet and file-sharing NAS. Use technology advances to bring new opportunities to staff for advanced learning and skills development.

Intelligence + Technology + Skilled Staff = New Security Reality

The future of video surveillance in corrections is thousands of cameras running at megapixel resolutions and 20 fps and higher. Increased human and machine intelligence and analytics both at the edge and in the core will drive new, exciting opportunities and solutions. Conventional IT-centric problems such as disaster recovery, backup, cybersecurity, and on and offsite data protection are moving into video surveillance systems in corrections and beyond.

The two most critical pieces of any video surveillance system are the video management system and the data storage platform.

Smart organizations are building in intelligence and scalability into both of these crucial systems. Storage and processing demands will continue exponential growth. Instead of trying to bet against the tsunami of technological advances, pro-actively leverage these advances to deliver new capabilities, improved safety and security and lower operational costs. Take a layered approach when optimizing your security and surveillance system by leveraging both human and video analytics. That is a truly intelligent surveillance system backed by intelligent people.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Security Today.

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