Video Analytic Applications

Surveillance is all about analytics, at least if a system is to be smart with regards to what constitutes to recording an alarm and what doesn’t. That’s the kind of intelligence required for these devices to work to their highest capacity. Here’s what integration experts had to say about the topic of video analytics.

What are some of the new and emerging applications you are taking part in with regards to video analytics?
Matt Bischoff, director of Sales, Nuvico, Englewood, N.J.: We are currently in development of scene analysis modules which allow a DVR or NVR to create alarm or e-mail event notifications when a camera is moved, obscured or tampered with.
Dave Fowler, senior vice president, Marketing and Development, VidSys, Marlborough, Mass.: More and more customers are combining video analytics with other physical security resources to create applications that help them manage their physical security environment. We also see video analytics moving to the edge into “smart cameras” that are better able to analyze the view and screen out false alarms before sending alerts into command and control centers.  
Clifford F. Franklin, president, Sabre Integrated Security Systems, New York: We specialize in video IP solutions.We use a basic basket of video--these video analytics solutions are currently an added convenience rather than salable feature. An analytic called Activity Controlled Framerate (ACF) is a powerful feature, unique to this particular brand. The video data can constantly monitor the amount of motion between the frames. When there is no motion in the scene, the frame rate is reduced to one frame per second. This can reduce data rates by up to 50-fold, which, in turn, drastically reduces the amount of hard drive storage required.
Eric Fullerton, chief sales and marketing officer, Milestone Systems, Denmark: Integrating video analytics with true open platform video management systems gives a flexible choice of hardware and software that greatly expands the potential for video analytics and increases the value of archived video. A true open platform solution simplifies system operation by integrating a wide variety of video analytics products under one easy-to-manage user interface.
Jeffrey A. Lecuit, CSPM, lead consultant, US Security Consulting, New York: We have taken part in applications such as energy and utility site installations, airport installations, railway installations and port installations.
Gadi Piran, president and CTO, OnSSI, Pearl River, N.Y.: Due to increasingly larger systems, today’s video surveillance systems produce more content than ever before. In many cases, the manned monitoring model has become impractical or cost-prohibitive. This calls for an entirely new set of tools that enable extracting critical information for various kinds of content analysis.

How has video analytics changed over the last two years or so?

Bischoff: In my professional career, I’ve worked not only for several large CCTV manufacturers, but I’ve owned and operated my own installation company as well. I’ve been on both sides, and I’ve got to say, perspective from both ends is that analytics hasn’t changed at all in the last two years. 
Fowler: Expectations have changed – they’ve become more realistic as customers have come to realize there are no magic bullets. The analytics are becoming more specialized to fit specific applications like motion detection, facial recognition, bag left behind and people counting. Consequently, video analytics are being deployed with other systems in ways that more closely meet customer expectations. We also see it being combined with information from other security and business inputs to provide a higher level of analytics. 
Franklin: I believe that it is not the function of analytics that has changed drastically, but rather the price point. As with everything that has been on the market for a tried and tested amount of time, prices are coming down.
Fullerton: Over the past two years we have seen new video analytics vendors come into the market with many and varied new analytics tools. The effect this is currently having on users seems to be confusion about which is the best tool for their applications. Video analytics isn’t new any longer. What’s new is the high level of accuracy with which it can perform and the increasing number of tasks it can accomplish for security and business/organizational processes.
Lecuit: One change is looking at video analytics systems architecture and based on several factors, seeing a shift in analytics running on a “server” based architecture versus analytics embedded on encoders “at the edge.” While both architectures have their advantages and disadvantages, I think we’ll see both systems stick around for a while, with the embedded solution becoming the more widely accepted architecture in the long run.
Piran: Analytics science has evolved over the last two years to include more sophisticated detection algorithms, reducing the false detection rate and increasing detection accuracy. As a result there has been a significant reduction in the number of false alerts. Other new developments include highly configurable rules to identify specific security breaches, along with integration for interoperability with all types of access control systems.

How easy/hard is it to sell end-users on analytics?

Bischoff: To be honest, I’ve always told my customers to let everyone else out there use their customers as guinea pigs and let the manufacturers work out the bugs… in other words, give it time. My other stance is, if you have many months of preparation for a job, and you’ve built plenty of labor into it, go with analytics.
Fowler: In general I don’t think you sell a user on analytics but rather show them how analytics, in conjunction with their existing systems, can improve their business or safety operations.
Franklin: Once the price of sophisticated analytics reduces then we will see a greater return on investment and will be able to pass this along to our customers.
Fullerton: One challenge in video analytics today is integrating user interfaces when video analytics solutions are used with a video surveillance system. This is particularly true if you are deploying several video analytics products (or plan to add new ones in the future). You don’t want to overburden your staff with learning several different interfaces.
Lecuit: It would seem that analytics almost sells itself, but how easy or hard the sale is depends on how well you as an integrator are familiar with the product, and if you and the supplier can successfully demo the system to the client, preferably at their sight and integrated with their hardware. There is no substitute for properly planning and design of the system.
Piran: It depends on the individual user. For many companies, return on investment (ROI) is an important point of consideration when evaluating any purchase.

What should other integrators know as far as what sells analytics—i.e., better overall management; lower overall system cost over the life; easier upgrades; price coming down, etc?

Bischoff: Expected return on the end-user’s investment, or ‘ROI,’ that is what sells this stuff!  Here and now, analytics cost. What is the best way to gauge an analytics system? Bring the manufacturer in, do a side-by-side comparison; then ask to see a pre-existing installation of this system in action, or to speak with a customer who is already an existing video analytics user.
Fowler: In the end, it’s about the business/safety problem you are solving.  When used the right way video analytics enables faster and smarter responses while lowering costs, improving response times and potentially saving lives.
Franklin: Knowledge and the ability to convey that knowledge is what sells analytics. Integrators have to ensure their sales personnel fully understand how an analytics function works. The old adage of salespeople over promising can be easily avoided through proper training programs.
Fullerton: One of the frequent questions we get from end-users is: Server-based or on-camera (edge) analytics? Which is better? A truly future-proof solution is one that enables some part of video analytics at both points – server and edge. This is partly because some types of video content analysis will always require the greater processing power and speed of a central server and also because we will see more and more edge products with the capability of performing some video content analysis.
Lecuit: Well here you need to be careful of a few things when selling. First, don’t promise something that video analytics can’t deliver. Take a little time to “De-Hollywoodize” what they can and can’t do. To be sure, most of those fancy functions seen in movies are not ready for the real world. You must understand exactly what behavior it is the customer is looking to catch and the physical environment the system will be deployed in.
Piran: What sells analytics effectively is the reliable functioning of the software, along with overall ease of use and ROI justification. Reliability is a big challenge for any analytics software platform on the market.