3D security comes to ASIS 2010

This seems to be the year where three-dimensional (3D) technology is starting to take hold in the security industry. Coming up next week at ASIS, two companies have let SecurityInfoWatch.com know that they will be showcasing 3D technology. The first is DVTel and the second is Feeling Software. SecurityInfoWatch.com had a chance to speak with both firms, and this is the report.

DVTel's AVT-3D technology

Pop over to booth 2851 at the ASIS tradeshow in Dallas (Oct. 12-14, 2010), and you'll find DVTel exhibiting 3D video surveillance technology. This company is probably best known for producing a line of video surveillance cameras and the associated Latitude Network Video Management System for managing a video surveillance installation.

What's new for the firm is their AVT-3D solution. AVT stands for Adaptive Visual Technology, and according to DVTel's Chief Technology Officer Ed Thompson, the AVT-3D system is built upon DVTel's SceneTracker system. The SceneTracker was a DVTel VMS solution that allowed "stitching" together of different camera views into a holistic view.

The 3D aspect of their technology is that DVTel's AVT-3D solution can tie together standard, high-definition cameras in pairs to register images into 3D. To understand this, it's best to explain what traditional 3D video is.

Three-dimensional video is typically created by what are called stereoscopic cameras (see an image of a stereoscopic camera). Basically, these are two cameras positioned close to each other (much like human eyes) and registered together so they are viewing the same scene. By having some separation between the two sensors, you're capturing two different perspectives, which when taken together can actually provide a way to determine the depth of an object in the field of view.

But since our industry uses standard surveillance cameras and not stereoscopic cameras, DVTel uses server technology to register the views of two separate HD surveillance cameras.

"SceneTracker technology allows pixel-by-pixel registration of the two images to get a very natural experience," explains Thompson. "That is the tough part of 3D if you don't have a purpose built 3D camera."

Thompson says the model is to take two standard or HD cameras co-located any distance apart (2 cm to a meter or more), and allow DVTel's technology to create an overlay instead of stitching them together. For the show, DVTel is planning to show 3D using 1080 HD cameras at 30 fps pushed to a 52-inch monitor with a 120hz update rate for viewing the scene. Glasses will be used, though Thompson notes that some monitor manufacturers are getting closer to being able to allow 3D viewing on monitors without the need for special 3D glasses.

"The closer you put the images together, the less depth perception you get," adds Thompson in explaining how the technology is set up. "If your eyes were wider apart, you could actually see things further away when you first notice they're moving, but too far apart and you would get a double image."

"I don't know that we've found all the killer apps yet [for this AVT-3D technology], but we see interesting things possible in places like airports, like concourses where there are lots of people. It really brings out the information about people standing there and separating them out of the scene."

Thompson says that video analytics could benefit tremendously from this technology. "Analytics could benefit from the 3D perspective because it can tell how big something is. In our ioimage product line [ioimage was acquired by DVTel], we have a 3D calibration which goes through to teach the camera what the 3D landscape looks like. You do two or three of these calibrations, and that helps the camera know the difference between human, small animal and a truck. In analytics, 3D could add a tremendous capability in driving false alarms down and easing deployment."

Thompson says that part of the reason the company is exhibiting the technology (which is available as a plug-in to its v6.1 Latitude NVMS) is to show what the future can look like. He says that monitors which don't need special 3D glasses would be a huge help to adoption of this technology. Another benefit would be the introduction of stereoscopic cameras for video surveillance. That at least is one area where DVTel can help move the industry forward; Thompson says the firm is already working on those cameras.

Feeling Software's Omnipresence 3D

Three dimensions is applicable in more than just video surveillance to help people or objects "pop out" of the image, and Canadian technology firm Feeling Software has a solution that will show just such a thing, and they're demonstrating it at ASIS 2010 booth 753.

Feeling Software has been around for five years and initially started as a technology company developing 3D simulators for training purposes. By 3D, they mean virtual environments not unlike what you might see in a modern video game. Skilled at 3D technology, Feeling Software decided to apply its 3D modeling and 3D perspective virtual environments to the security industry.

The company's core 3D technology is its Omnipresence 3D Central Command software. Using a virtual 3D environment of the campus, facility or even a city, the software ties in data feeds from a variety of third party security systems, including video surveillance systems like Pelco Endura and OnSSI, access control systems, intrusion detection systems and fire and life safety systems. According to Feeling Software's Director of Marketing Joshua Koopferstock, the company has a number of specific integration partners listed on its website, but the company's engineering team can integrate data from other security and safety systems using those systems' APIs.

With all of those data systems tied into this visual framework of Omnipresence 3D Central Command, the user gets a 3D environment for managing the security at their facility.

"It's a tool to gain situational awareness," says Koopferstock, "and it provides one interface to be used as a decisions making platform in an operation center."

The system can change the view depending on what is needed on screen at the operations center. It can switch quickly from a bird's eye view where you fly over the facility or campus, seeing the shapes of buildings change in a 3D manner as your perspective changes. Zoom in on a particular camera to watch live video, and then drag the mouse as you track a suspect and you can be automatically switched to the next camera. The cameras are geo-located to be positioned accurately inside the 3D environment.

Koopferstock admits that it can be difficult to explain the value of 3D without seeing it live or seeing a demo (watch a demo on their website), but he says that customers in critical infrastructure are the ones who find the most value. It's the type of system, he says, that's more likely to be found being used in an airport, a transit system, at a university or for a city-wide municipal surveillance project. Right now, he notes, their technology is actively being placed into the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, a university in Montreal. The school is anticipated to have more than 400 cameras tied into the Omnipresence 3D central command software.

"It's not a stereoscopic system," says Koopferstock. "You don't have to wear funny glasses to understand it. It's more comparable to a 3D flight simulator or a 3D video game. It gives you an intuitively visual environment, and in that 3D environment, your mind can understand the situation better. We find that when someone experiences our system, they can understand the full environment."

In addition to the Omnipresence 3D Central Command system, Feeling Software also offers its 3D Pro Design software. Using 3D models of a facility, the video surveillance installation designer can place cameras at specific locations in the buildings, and the technology will demonstrate where camera views overlap, what the field of view would be and where blind spots might exist. The plan, says Koopferstock, is to eventually allow this modeling software to offer support for designing access control systems, fire detection and other safety systems into a facility.

Both the Omnipresence system and the Pro Design software take advantage of 3D models, floorplans and autoCAD drawings that exist for most modern buildings. That data is placed into Feeling Software's programs to create the 3D environments that they then use for security command centers.

In Conclusion

If both Koopferstock and Thompson are correct, the advantage of 3D isn't that you'll wow your organization's administrators by having the latest security technologies in place. It also won't be that you have lots of strange glasses to wear when you're staring at your security monitors. It seems that both believe that 3D -- whether stereoscopic in nature like DVTel's AVT-3D or simulated like Feeling Software's Omnipresence -- is a technology which shines largely because the human mind operates natively in three dimensions.

As humans, we perceive depth and have an uncanny knack for being able to visually separate a person or an object in our field of vision from the background. Much like a basic PTZ camera, we can swivel our heads and focus in with our eyes, but we operate our minds in 3D because, unlike that PTZ camera, we can walk around the corner and see if someone is in the room, under the bed, or hiding in the closet. That is the nature of how our mind works, and it's why DVTel CTO Ed Thompson says he receives this reaction after giving a 3D security demo: "Once they see 3D, and you turn it off, they miss it."