The Realities of Video Analytics: An ISC West 2007 Report

Vendors and integrators at ISC West 2007 speak candidly about the challenges of this emerging technology

Can you tell a customer "No" the right way? If so, you may not want to get involved in video analytics yet. That was one of many points that a number of vendors touting video analytics solutions made today as I bounced between product demonstrations, a Verint panel on analytics and press conferences.

It's tough to pin down video analytics -- that at least is a fact of life. It's a technology that really was "future talk" three years ago as far as most of us were concerned. Now, in March 2007, in the middle of the ISC West security tradeshow, it's clear the technology has come quite a ways. You can mark the recent Honeywell acquisition of ActivEye as a key indicator, since it's been a truism in the security industry that consolidation doesn't usually begin to occur until technologies are starting to mature and leave the "bleeding edge" environment.

I spent a good bit of my day chasing down this video analytics trend, speaking with those on the front edge of the deployment and integration of this technology. That led me to the likes of Carolyn Ramsey, director of program management with Honeywell's Automation and Control Solutions group; Roni Kass, CEO, ioimage; Chris Milite, manager of security and privacy technologies for IBM; Steven Russo, director of security and privacy technologies for IBM; Chris Taylor of Verint; and Melkon Babigian, CEO of IK Systems.

By and far, this group of individuals, which mixes integrators, vendors, and engineers, is seriously excited about what analytics means for the security industry. There were, I believe, some universal points that all of these thought leaders shared as they demoed their video analytics systems for me on day one of ISC West 2007, and I have tried to distill some of their tips, tactics and trends as we all try to get our hands around this paradigm shift in how to use video.

Tips, Tactics, Truisms and Trends of Video Analytics:

1. It's not just for security. This was THE universal point that all agreed upon. Analytics may be wonderful for setting up perimeter security, but don't neglect the applications that are core to business operations like tracking how customers move through a store or counting customers.

2. You can't set up cameras the same way you always did. You're probably not going to have much luck trying to count customers unless your cameras are directly overhead. Similarly, in applications like perimeter security, you may need to rethink camera placement as well.

3. Be ready to tell customers "No, it can't happen." There is a lot of hype about analytics and a lot of over promising. End-users may be coming into this area thinking some analytics are possible and ready today. Most who I spoke with agreed that they could do almost anything, but that end-users need to be educated on the difference between what can be offered off-the-shelf, and what would require a team of algorithm engineers to spend a month developing.

4. Analytics could use a bit of benchmarking. This was a point I actually raised to industry analyst Steve Hunt (formerly of 4A). Steve is thinking along the same lines, and I'm also hearing from many vendors that they're ready for it, and that it would assist both themselves and their customers separate the pros from the "all talk" vendors.

5. You can sell the efficiency, not just the security. ROI has been a big part of the analytics sales drive, whether that's creating efficiencies by moving guard staffs from staring at monitors to being able to respond to events, or simply being able to use event triggers to manage bandwidth needs.

6. There's a place for both analytics-at-the-edge and analytics-at-the server. What do I mean? If you want to lighten the hardware load and the centralized processing required, analytics embedded in cameras and encoders is a great solution. But don't forget that analytics can also be applied to existing forensic video during investigations.

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