Leveraging big data for security

Although the concept of big data analytics, which involves sifting through large amounts of data streams to provide actionable intelligence, is nothing new in the IT world, many are still trying to figure out how the technology can be applied in the realm of physical security. As last week’s investigation into the bombing at the Boston Marathon proved, however, being able to efficiently comb through mountains of data enables authorities to quickly hone in on vital clues and identify potential suspects.

NICE Systems, a provider of VMS, PSIM and video analytic solutions, believes that big data and being able to mine critical information from the myriad of sensors (cameras, intrusion alarms, etc.) deployed by government entities and private organizations will play a pivotal role in the future of security technology.

“We believe that the security market as we know it is really at an inflection point. The reason we believe that it is at an inflection point is that some trends, all of them combined – technologies, operational aspects, behavioral aspects, the need for clear ROI, the business cases – what we see is that people are not interested in more sensors,” Yaron Tchwella, president of NICE Systems’ Security Group told SIW in an interview at the NICE Interactions conference in Orlando on Tuesday. “People add more sensors, but this is not the essence. The essence is how do extract meaningful insight out of them.”

Essentially, Tchwella said that organizations are more focused on getting the “right information” to the “right people” that enables them to make mission critical decisions in a timely manner. “The ability to solve a case in a short period of time means that you can save the lives of additional people,” Tchwella said referring to last week’s terror attack. “You can do that only through technology.”

Tchwella believes that the value of video surveillance and video analytics will only grow in the coming years. “In order to accelerate and expedite the resolution, you need analytics, you need the ability to manage the situation and you need the ability, post-event, to investigate, to learn and to make sure you’re better prepared for the next time,” he said. “We call it owning the decisive moment in security meaning that you need to make sure that you own it before the event, during the event and post-event.”

According to Tchwella, there has been a huge demand for big data outside physical security, but that figures to change as he said he’s seen an ever increasing need for thousands of cameras to be deployed at one time for large projects such as municipal surveillance integrations. Given the greater of number of cameras that will be coming online over the next several years, users will be clamoring for analytic capabilities to derive intelligence from this mass amount of data being gathered.

“A retail chain will record more than one million hours a year worth of video. For me, this is a huge big data problem,” he said. “If you want to use (video) recording for postmortem investigation, then this is not a big data problem. But if you would like to construct meaningful insight from this information that you invested millions or tens of millions of dollars in, then it requires sophisticated solutions and not just post-event investigation. And even for post-event investigation, how can you accelerate or shorten the time it takes to analyze the data? Video on its own is huge, but there are other systems sometimes related to the operations of a customer and they need to correlate information. What we mean when we say physical security big data problem is the ability to analyze, to filter, to raise flags to make sure the right people will be alerted and getting the right information when it is critical. ”  

Eric Hines, vice president of NICE’s security division in the Americas, said that the company sees big data as a “huge opportunity/challenge” in the security industry.

“There are a lot of companies out there that are competing in one (market segment) or the other. Some may do audio, some may do video, some may do text, some may do this but at NICE with Actimize doing all the transactional stuff they do on the financial crime side of things, we come to this sort of this big data crucible if you will because we’ve got customers who are using the same transactional data, the same call center data and then we combine onto that video and, in the case of 911, text to 911,” Hines said. “So for us as an organization, it becomes a big data opportunity because of the assets that we have deployed to these various customers.”

Hines said that one of the keys to bringing the potential of big data analytics to fruition in the security market is through the hiring of subject matter experts that can explain the different businesses cases for the technology across each vertical market.

“NICE is an application solution provider, but we need to continue to invest and we do in people who know the specific industries extremely well and can translate the business needs and opportunities within a healthcare organization or insurance company or public safety situation,” Hines explained. “We’ve hired a lot of experts and we consult with a lot of experts to arrive at businesses cases that would be unique to those different vertical markets.”

Tchwella added that the people who traditionally run security departments are “fairly conservative” and that technology isn’t necessarily the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning or go to bed at night.

“I believe that this event is part of the education we’re doing, trying to go to the market. We bring in customers from all over and we give them an opportunity to present challenges, share, communicate, create networking, and make sure best practices… can help others,” Tchwella said. “Clearly, it is a drop in the ocean, but we look at this event as a part of our ability to share information and establish best practices.”