Ushering in a New Era
Consumers are more concerned with how their activities are being tracked
- By Neil Huntingdon
- Oct 01, 2019
Privacy issues continue to dominate headlines as
the world’s biggest companies are being challenged
on the ways they collect and use people’s
data. Consumers are growing more concerned
about how their activities are being tracked across
the web as companies sell information to advertisers for a profit.
At the same time, the public is worried about how different
types of technologies are tracking them offline. Facial recognition
technology, powered by artificial intelligence to match images
against various databases, has become particularly controversial.
While consumers are fine with some implementations of facial
recognition technology, such as unlocking their smartphone or
tagging their friends in photo albums, the bigger concern is how
it could be used for surveillance.
In May, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition
technology by city agencies, as legislators argued that the technology
infringes on people’s privacy. Other cities are also considering
regulating facial recognition technology as the debate around it
continues to heat up. As businesses look to upgrade their security
systems, privacy concerns will increasingly be a key factor in purchasing
decisions. So what alternatives do businesses have as they
work to keep people safe and protect their assets?
The Next Generation of Security
Lidar technology promises to usher in a new era of anonymized
security. While lidar is best known for enabling cars to autonomously
navigate, lidar is ideal for a wide range of use cases including
security, industrial, IoT, mapping and transport applications.
Lidar works by using lasers to calculate the distance between
itself and other objects. This creates a point cloud with a threedimensional
representation of people and objects in an area.
With its high-resolution imaging, lidar offers a number of advantages
over both traditional security systems and modern facial
recognition systems. However, the biggest differentiator is that
lidar enables robust surveillance while still protecting people’s
privacy. With the ability to detect, track and classify objects, lidar
systems can be configured to only highlight potential threats,
guaranteeing the anonymity of people or objects not deemed a
threat. While lidar does not show facial features, the imaging data
is high resolution and 3D, providing valuable information about
an object’s location, velocity and size.
Compared to current technologies where everyone’s biometric
data is captured and stored, regardless of whether they are involved
in a security incident, lidar is a considerable step forward
for anonymized surveillance.
Security Pain Points
Currently, some of the most commonly deployed technologies in
security systems are radar, cameras (including thermal cameras)
and microwave sensors. While they each have a number of advantages,
none can form a complete and robust system alone, as each
technology has its own shortcomings, including:
- Low accuracy: Radar, for example, is not able to deliver resolution
high enough to accurately identify potential threats.
- Constrained operating environment: Most cameras require
good lighting conditions to collect high resolution data. Thermal
cameras can see in the dark but will struggle with situations
where the thermal signature of the target object matches
with that of its surroundings. Microwave sensors are affected
by moisture, so security systems using that technology tend to
have poorer performance in bad weather.
- Only 2D imaging: While the human eye can identify 3D perspectives
of an object, camera image analytics is still struggling
with that. And without reference points, even the human
eye cannot perceive the size of an object accurately.
Other 3D information that is critical for security applications,
such as location and velocity, is difficult to determine
in 2D imaging.
- Interference: Electromagnetic interference is a problem for
technologies like radar and microwave sensors, so they cannot
be used for critical infrastructure with a lot of steelwork.
- Data storage and transmission: The data capacity from camera-
based systems is extremely large, which poses a challenge
to store, transmit and process the data for immediate perception
Advantages of Lidar Technology
Lidar enables security systems to automatically detect many
different types of threats, such as when a perimeter has been
breached, and classify objects, such as a person or a car. Companies
can also classify alarms for different types of situations. With
lidar systems that integrate the sensor with perception software,
companies can immediately identify threats and respond to a situation
to resolve the issue. Lidar also reduces the number of false
positives with its advanced object detection capabilities, enabling
security teams to more efficiently use their resources.
Lidar produces high resolution three-dimensional point cloud
data, providing an extremely accurate map of an area. This data
can be supplemented with information from other data sources
for an even more detailed scan of an environment. Additionally,
lidar technology can see in the day and at night, providing companies
with reliable 24/7 surveillance.
Another benefit of lidar is it has a high tolerance to interference,
making it difficult to hack. While someone with a special
device and custom clothing might be able to trick thermal cameras,
it’s much tougher to fool lidar technology. Radar and other
microwave sensing technologies are also subject to interference
with metal, whereas lidar works fine even in environments with a
lot of steelwork.
While traditional lidar systems were expensive, lidar has become
much more affordable over the past few years. Factoring
in the number of lidar units needed for a particular environment
and the cost per unit—taking into consideration a lidar sensor’s
range, angle and resolution—the overall cost of a lidar surveillance
system is quite competitive compared to other security solutions.
As lidar starts to be produced at scale for autonomous cars
and other smart machines, the costs will be driven down further.
Setting up Lidar Systems
Lidar technology helps to fill the gaps of other security solutions
and can be integrated into systems that use cameras, radar and
other types of sensors. For long range detection, radar technology
is useful for triggering an initial response or alarm. For medium
range detection – up to 150 to 300 meters, depending on
the sensor – lidar can detect and classify threats and trigger a
secondary response or alarm.
Lidar sensors can be set up in combination with edge computing
devices to process information directly at the edge—or
“locally”—to use less computing power than traditional security
solutions. Processing information at the edge also helps security
systems analyze information faster. If an intruder is entering a
secured area, for example, it’s critical that security systems can
immediately detect the threat so companies can handle the situation
before it becomes dangerous. Additionally, lidar transmits
only a fraction of the information a video would and uses far
less data storage and network bandwidth. This enables lidar to be
used for more mobile installations, such as sensors set up along
the perimeter of a remote field.
Use Cases for Lidar Technology
Enabling high-resolution 3D perception at an affordable price,
lidar-based solutions will be ideal for airports, corporate campuses,
government facilities, ports, schools, retail, tourist and recreational
sites and transport infrastructure. Because lidar can be
integrated with cameras, radar and other types of sensors, it can
be used in a wide variety of security applications.
In areas where there is a risk for crime, such as a parking lot
where break-ins might happen, lidar can help owners keep their
property safe even with limited security personnel. Critical infrastructure
and facilities can also benefit from lidar technology,
even for vast areas of land where a large number of security systems
need to be deployed. Lidar can be used in crowded stadiums,
theme parks and arenas to monitor crowd flow, or airports and
train stations where security systems need to identify suspicious
incidents like someone leaving unattended baggage behind.
Most importantly, lidar protects the public’s privacy, so people
who are not involved in security incidents can remain anonymous.
As companies upgrade their security
systems from traditional setups to modern solutions,
lidar will help deliver on the promise
of smarter and more connected cities that also
respect people’s privacy.
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Security Today.