New Paradigm with Surveillance Getting More out of Cameras

San Diego airport among many turning to video analytics to use CCTV more efficiently


Businesses, universities and others are getting more out of security cameras with computer software that can monitor video feeds and alert guards to suspicious behavior.

Video analytics software, as it is called, can detect a range of behaviors and events that have been deemed unusual: someone falling down, abandoning a package or walking the wrong way in a one-way zone, for instance. The software alerts a security guard to out-of-the-ordinary actions by either activating a visual and audible alarm on the computer or sending a clip of the suspicious video to a cell phone.

"Rather than have a security operations office scanning a multiplex of video looking for a needle in a haystack, they don't have to do that now," said Mark Denari, director of aviation security and public safety at San Diego's Lindbergh Field. "The software will identify any anomalies and alert the operations office."

Denari helped pioneer the use of video analytics at airports when he headed security at San Francisco International Airport. When he came to work at Lindbergh Field in 2003, he began a trial test of the technology.

As the airport prepares to embark on a $15 million to $20 million program to improve security, video analytics software will be part of it, Denari said. Like most security managers, he won't disclose specifically how Lindbergh Field will use the technology. But, in general, he said the software is useful in detecting passengers who have abandoned luggage or a package in or around an airport, people who sneak through a security door opened by an employee or large trucks in secure areas.

"I think there's tremendous promise in the technology," Denari said.

Generally, such a software system costs tens of thousands of dollars. Advocates say it saves organizations the expense of adding extra security guards to monitor video.

"It pays for itself," said David Reed, vice president of business development for Electro Specialty Systems, a San Diego security company that has installed video analytics systems at SeaWorld and Solar Turbines, among other business facilities. "It allows you to reduce the number of staff you need to watch videos, and it offers something that a lot of systems don't offer: the ability to really use the video you get."

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, facilities around the country bolstered security by adding more video cameras. Problem is, suspicious activities sometimes go unnoticed by guards busy looking at other cameras or running errands. Experiments have shown that after 22 minutes, operators miss up to 95 percent of activity displayed on a monitor, according to IMS Research, based in England. Often, video from security cameras is used not to stop a crime in progress but to identify the culprits after a crime has already occurred.

"You have to go back in time to figure out when it happened, and review all of the video," Reed said.

A market study released last fall by IMS Research predicts that video analytics software will explode worldwide over the next five years, growing from a $67.7 million market in 2004 to $839.2 million by 2009.

In the United States, there are about a half-dozen major makers of video analytics software and two dozen smaller companies in the business, said Jason Halverson, an industry manager at Frost and Sullivan research firm in San Antonio.

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