Surf's Up for VMS and Analytics

CoastalCOMS deploys VMS and custom-built VCA for real-time water risk management

"Coastal customers we've spoken with over the past few years who have overlapping responsibility for watershed management or emergency services in watershed environments have been looking for ways to visually confirm data from existing in-situation sensors," said Tim Chandler, president and CEO of CoastalCOMS. "Video water leveling is not new science, but it is challenging to get this form of video analytics to work broadly. Many of the emergency management organizations we know work within response frameworks that mandate some form of visual confirmations on sensor data when rapid rises or falls in water levels are detected," he said. "We are announcing the addition of video-derived water leveling to aid planners and risk managers concerned with rising or falling water levels in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries or wetlands and in-land waterways. We expect general availability of that processing in third quarter 2011 and a customer pilot program is currently under way."

Extending the company's abilities to monitor and alert on dynamic environmental risk variables throughout drainage basins and catchments, CoastalCOMS is working to service customer requests in line with their existing portfolio of VCA (video content analytics) offerings for water managers and safety organizations around the world.

Unique analytics integration

"Using XProtect software we were able to turn a network of hundreds of cameras into a single manageable asset," explained Steve Hromyko, COO at CoastalCOMS. "Once in place we could then focus on optimizing our service offerings. Using Milestone's SDK and tapping into their data stores we were able to build a fully automated service to process and analyze video. We use Milestone rules and time profiles to manipulate cameras and extract video that we then feed into our digital asset management system for processing," he said. "We've built an engine into which we are able to feed and efficiently process video without the need for human manipulation and the Milestone software has made this possible. The result has been a reduction in processing run times from hours to minutes," Hromyko said.

With the XProtect API, CoastalCOMS-enabled cameras also have the ability to automatically re-position themselves based on alerts from existing external sensors or data feeds, such as a status change in a pressure sensor, a Weather Service warning or alert, or a measured change that happens in front of the camera.

"By integrating external sensors and data feeds into our core platform, we can fully automate and drive cameras based on environmental change," added Chandler. "This is a step beyond many more traditional content analytics offerings that provide CoastalCOMS customers with an unprecedented ability to gather information and images to better understand conditions and coordinate responses in the event of emergency. Recorded information also supports review and training and inspires confidence in the measurements," he said.

Chandler said systems integrators can leverage CoastalCOMS' expertise, experience and video analysis services to augment Milestone surveillance systems being installed in beach or water environments, giving partners the ability to service their customers in ways no one else can, which makes a difference in winning projects.

"For example, security industry systems integrators may be working with a city, state or national government body to plan a surveillance installation for a port or harbor, where adding CoastalCOMS analytics and cloud-hosted technology lifts the end-results up to a far higher level of safety and response capabilities. A key parameter is using software with open platform capabilities: Milestone XProtect lets us leverage the interoperability of our analytics with our efficient cloud approach that's ideal for physically widespread or other milieu challenges in such implementations," said Hromyko.

Chandler said he is seeing a growing demand for specialized content analytics. "The strong and lasting relationships that are possible when you're truly addressing a specific need can be very gratifying, both from a personal and a business standpoint. It's good to see the space growing," he confirmed. "That said, the proliferation of analysis systems also introduces a challenge in that the accuracy of content analytics outputs can vary greatly. Some users we encounter seem to operate with an unquantifiable 'acceptable level of failure' expected from the system. Our staff continually reminds me that analytics systems are only as good as the time we take to calibrate them and then they can still be less than perfect given changing conditions. We are addressing the need to avoid accuracy issues by offering a new, configurable output to our users that is an honest assessment of each measurement and alarm we generate," Chandler explained.

Watching the earth via the clouds