Can Video Analytics Be Justified?

Intelligent video might make more financial sense than you think.

• Unattended applications. Think about other applications that could go “unattended”—monitoring unoccupied buildings, after-hours construction sites, or evening campus security. This technology can help reduce your second- and third-shift staffing requirements for many sites, while actually increasing the probability of detecting a human where he is not supposed to be.

• Investigations. Think about investigators as well as operators. In an environment with a high rate of incidents, you have an incentive to put in more cameras to increase coverage, catch the events, and record them. However, a higher number of cameras produces a larger database of video, making it harder to find the clip you need. Without video analytics to help search the database, your ability to provide video clips of an incident may actually be reduced by the installation of more cameras, or translate directly into overtime.

• Reduce existing costs. Shift your thinking from lowering security costs to reducing other existing costs. For example, no one questions the probability of retail theft loss. It is not a question of “if,” but rather “how much.” In that environment, using analytics to monitor the movement of high-value assets and alerting the operator to review each transaction will dramatically lower losses and provide a clear ROI.

Retail loss is not the only example here. “Take the case of Drexel University in urban Philadelphia. They had a problem with vandals jumping the fence and tearing up the logo and surface of the football field. By adding analytics to their video system, they were able to consistently generate alarms when anyone jumps the fence,” said Szczygiel.

Cost Avoidance
While hard dollar savings carry the most weight, cost avoidance can also be a convincing argument if there is agreement that a problem exists that must be solved. Some examples might be:

• Avoiding bringing other technologies to bear. Let’s suppose we have an existing fenced perimeter, and that barrier is being breached consistently by the local vandals. What are the options? An additional buffer fence, a buried line or fence seismic sensor, or a microwave motion detection system would all involve trenching or construction costs. Adding analytics to an existing video system is likely to provide significant savings.

• Circumventing the need to add resources. The Canadian Navy has added video analytics to an existing video surveillance system to monitor unauthorized vessels through the Straight of Juan de Fuca in British Columbia. By upgrading from a dysfunctional motion detection system to video analytics, they were able to reduce false alarming by a factor of 10. “The new system not only cut the paperwork associated with those false alarms, but it improved effectiveness and allowed them to reduce their marine patrols by 50 percent,” said Bob Burkholder, security systems executive for Siemens Building Technologies.

• Making better use of the resources you already have. “Ordinary CCTV forces you to assign a dedicated (and ineffective) person to monitor video. With analytics, you have the choice of multitasking; work with paperwork, work on dispatching and know that if an event of interest occurs, it will be brought to your attention,” said Craig Chambers, president and CEO of Cernium Corporation.

Risk Reduction
Risk reduction may be the most difficult case one can make. It is problematic largely because corporate management is often not used to thinking in terms of probabilities. You can easily estimate the realistic cost of the impact of an incident. The real issue is that management often doesn’t believe the incident will ever happen to them. Let’s look at some of the key factors that would justify a video analytics system in this environment.

• What are the odds of an incident? While this has little to do with video technology selection, it has everything to do with getting a technology purchase approved. Is this a problem that the management team believes needs to be solved? The solution lies in hard numbers: your company’s prior experience, a survey of incidents of your peers, or industry statistics if you can get them.