Perimeter Outdoor & Nighttime Detection

Perimeter surveillance technology has changed significantly over the last 30 years. The definition of a perimeter has evolved from the physical approach of surrounding a property into incorporating the virtual. While the technology has greatly improved for physical perimeter monitoring and protection, a new component of protecting virtual barriers as personal communications devices (which our society has grown dependent on) has pushed the barriers to protection in a limitless space.

When discussing the approach and technology available during the 1970s, the idea was to monitor borders and the facility’s perimeters. This involved both a day and nighttime approach to security, by creating a watchful eye using guards or through imaging technology, which was not that reliable and was prone to misinterpretations. “Thirty years ago there was barely the beginning of thermal nighttime imaging. In use were line imagers—a linear line that would scan back and forth, not unlike a picture from a radar scan wave,” said Randall Foster, chief executive officer (CEO), Vumii, Atlanta.
The cameras, which required large amounts of voltage and current to operate, also offered poor low-light sensitivity. “Thirty years ago CCTV cameras were built with Vidicon tubes which needed replacement every few years due to ‘burn-ins’ and other failures,” explained John Monti, vice president of Marketing and Business Development, Pixim, Mountain View, Calif. Basically, the imaging could only pick up a scant amount of detail, leaving viewers little to work with.

Perimeter security relied on the use of cameras that, according to Monti, often needed to be operated manually in the field by security guards. “Sometimes the security guard needed to move the camera left or right to get a better view of a suspect.” By placing these large cameras on a relay-controlled pan-tilt mechanism, combined with the eventual availability of a remote focus and iris controls, a solution for these early problems became available. “Outside, these new PTZ systems needed to be large and ruggedized which added to the cost of the units as well as the installation time. The zoom lenses were extremely expensive and large. A 4:1 motorized zoom lens for a one-inch image sensor tube cost more that $1,000. Coupled with the camera, the pan-tilt mechanism, weatherproof camera housing and relay interface box and parts cost more than $4,000, this did not include installation. All of these costs were in 1970s dollars for a black and white camera that had poor light sensitivity of 50 to 100 lux,” Monti explained. By comparison, he said, today’s color cameras are 100 times more sensitive and are significantly less expensive.

While the need was there, the primary user of these cumbersome systems was the government. “The early systems had limited access points. The systems in place at the time were so limited. The approach was more of a best practices theory to perimeter security,” explained Susan Callahan, senior vice president of Business Development and Marketing, Safend, Philadelphia, Pa.

While perimeter security was focused on performing security at the edge of the protected premises, using a series of analog-type sensors, during the 1980s, the sensors, according to Brian Holmes, director of Government and Special Programs, Honeywell, Austin, Texas, began to provide more contact information. “Perimeter security systems were now capable of providing resolution up to 100 meters,” he said. Analytics capability was still limited. “There wasn’t any real big technology available to do anything beyond this.”  The rapid change, he added, came about 15 years ago when processor technology started getting better and had an impact on every aspect of technology; “The more processing power, the more analytics.”

The explosion of change happened in the 1990s as systems allowed users to filter for nuisance and false alarms, a big bonus over earlier counterparts which put those in charge of monitoring in a position of reacting to everything. “In the old days there wasn’t the ability to really figure out if the sensor went off because a bird was landing on the fence or if it was an actual event. The key advantage was processing,” said Holmes.

With the evolution towards more sophisticated sensors, relays, processors and communications, Jerry Larsen, chief executive officer, Pivotal Vision, Minneapolis said, “More on-site information could be sent back to electric control centers. Data regarding opening of circuit breakers and relay data was able to give more exact information about an electrical event at a remote site so that people overseeing the operation could make much more informed decisions.”

Looking to increase assessment, “Attempts have been made to start automation of security surveillance,” according to Larsen. “Devices such as fence shakers can detect intrusions and can be used to give an approximation of where to send a pan-tilt camera to obtain video of the event initiating the trigger.”

There are also virtual boundaries to be aware of which include the use of personal devices loaded with storage and software capable of retrieving corporate information at record speed. Companies need to protect themselves from a different kind of perimeter intrusion according to Susan Callahan. “Because of the mobile workforce corporations need to be aware of all the ways to prevent data leakage,” Callahan explained. With increased mobility, she said, comes increased risk. “It is very easy to put things on the devices we all walk around with today, as each holds massive amounts of storage. So when companies look at protecting their perimeters they must also extend their perimeters to cover mobile devices.”