Can Video Analytics Be Justified?

Intelligent video might make more financial sense than you think.

So many projects, so little money. That is the often-heard refrain of CFOs. It’s not hard to see why they feel that way, since audits have proven that the majority of corporate investments in system projects do not produce the return their sponsors promised. Still, there are some technologies that are so revolutionary, they beg to be tried. Video analytics is one of them.

The concept of having a computer “watch” your video for you is particularly appealing. We don’t need a bunch of PhDs in behavioral science to tell us that after 15 minutes of staring at the monitor, most operators would not notice Osama in their front lobby. Analytics technology is not cheap, however. How do you explain to your CFO that adding analytics to every camera in your facility could more than double your investment in CCTV? Increasingly, security directors are finding ways.

What Do We Mean by Video Analytics?
So many manufacturers are using the terms “video analytics” and “intelligent video” to cover a variety of concepts, that it is creating some confusion in the marketplace today. For our purposes, video analytics implies more than simple motion sensing. It implies analyzing and recognizing objects (people, cars, trucks, luggage) and applying predefined rules to their behavior. Rule violations such as people approaching each other on a dark street, baggage being left behind, or a truck parked too long in the same place, generate an alert that brings the situation to the operator’s attention. The power of such a system goes well beyond simple motion detection, and it is the first technology to actually deliver event-driven video surveillance, reducing the need for humans staring at screens.

Justifying Security Systems
Justifying any security system to management can be difficult. Most manufacturing or administrative IT systems get purchased by promising either cost savings or cost avoidance (productivity improvements). Security systems often add the third and more difficult factor of risk avoidance. Let’s dig deeper into all three and look at the specifics of video analytics.

The Case for Cost Savings
“You would assume many of these companies would use technology to redeploy more people from monitoring into the field. In reality, many security departments are so skinny anyway that there is nothing left to cut or redeploy. They are down to one guy, and they can’t really cut him,” commented John Szczygiel, president of Mate Intelligent Video, a producer of video analytics. While not everyone is in that situation, Szczygiel’s comments nicely sum up the problem with justifying a system through cost savings; “hard dollars” are not easy to come by. But there are still ways to make your case.

• Manpower reduction. Almost any application that reduces manpower has hard cost savings, of course. If you do have a significant number of operators staring at screens, analytics can pay for itself quickly.

• Overtime. “We are a category three airport, but our traffic peaks at category two levels. We chose to install video analytics because we are trying to automate as many security functions as possible,” said Mason Short, executive director of the Rapid City Regional Airport in South Dakota.

• Replacing guards with cameras. The classic example is the monitoring of airport concourse exit lanes. It is hard to imagine a less rewarding job than sitting on that stool, and yet the TSA has only recently begun to allow its guards to be replaced by analytics. “TSA is starting to shift the cost of exit lane monitoring to the airports. We were able to purchase these systems for all three of the concourses in our new terminal. The payback will be a no-brainer,” said Robert Ball, executive director of the Southwest Florida International Airport.

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