Video Analytics: Ready For Prime Time?

The often-maligned technology is making strides

In 2007, the SecurityNet testers reached a few conclusions about video analytics. One was that the quality of the camera image is very important, with high resolutions and good optics critical for intelligent analysis. That is probably still true for license plate or facial recognition applications, but there is a company I visited recently that uses very low-resolution sensors for its analytics. You cannot really see a person’s face, but the folks there said, you only need to be able to distinguish the shape of a blob of pixels as being a human being. Since megapixel cameras provide far more data than the analytics can handle, that extra resolution is going to waste — as least as far as identifying basic alarm events.

Almost two years ago, we decided that camera placement was critical, and an end-user should expect to use more cameras installed in unusual locations to optimize video analytics. That is still true.

Also, we concluded that because of lighting and other environmental factors, outdoor analytic applications were more difficult to set up than indoor ones. That is still true, too.

So, analytics are getting closer to mass-market adoption. But most security directors still have to be convinced that the technology does more than wake up his guards to look at the monitor. They want to know if analytics will enable them to employ fewer guards. Will they be able to do things without guards that they could not do before?

Especially in the current economic situation, budgets do not have the extra money for special software, proprietary boxes or high-tech cameras.

But as the prices for analytic solutions continue to drop, it will be possible to make a case for a real return on investment. Then analytics will become a must-have.

In any case, let’s see what Moore’s Law and another 18 to 24 months bring us.

Jim Coleman is president of Operational Security Systems of Atlanta. Coleman is also a past president of SecurityNet, a 24-member group of independent system integrators dedicated to providing a single source of electronic security for government and corporate installations.