Structured Data Make Surveillance Searchable

Oct. 27, 2008
The last bastion of unstructured data finally surrenders.
Every day, security professionals endure a host of organizational, financial and technical challenges as they struggle to protect our nation's businesses and critical assets. The combination of an expanding security mission and the onslaught of data generated by modern security operations has left professionals overwhelmed and, perhaps worse, reactive—not always able to confront threats before it's too late.

Traditional surveillance and monitoring approaches can exacerbate this problem. As more cameras, more megapixels, more video storage, and even more analytic systems are deployed to address looming threats, the resulting complexity and additional workload can render organizations even more reactive than before. The same technologies required to address the diverse threats we face today become a lead weight, drowning everyone in a flood of data.

But there is good news for security's information warriors. The technologies developed in Silicon Valley to find viruses among trillions of bits of network data and search billions of Internet Web pages in an instant can also help address their problems through a platform called Intelligent Video Management.

Structured and Searchable Data

Intelligent Video Management Systems (IVMS) empower security personnel to take a more proactive role in preempting incidents and rapidly resolving investigations. New IVMS advances can convert the unstructured video content captured by surveillance systems into a powerful base of structured information—a central source of security information that can be readily accessed, analyzed and used to meet today's security needs.

After all, data is the primary asset of today's enterprise. It is this current of information that leads a company to thrive, that provides it with competitive advantages, and that protects it from both external and internal threats. The key to success is having that data readily available, and this concept has been understood and implemented across the board, except in the area of video. Video is the last bastion of unstructured data in the enterprise, but an IVMS platform can transform it into a tool that directly impacts the success of a business and empowers security personnel.

The New Knowledge Workers

Once video has been structured in a meaningful way, it can deliver huge benefits to an enterprise by serving as a catalyst to evolve security workers into knowledge workers of sorts. This shift becomes even more deeply felt as the worlds of physical and IT security continue to converge, giving security professionals more strategic impact in areas traditionally considered to be outside of their influence, such as implementing an enterprise-wide knowledge-sharing system, or enhancing the productivity and effectiveness of the organization by enabling the company to accomplish more with less.

In addition to expanding the strategic role of the security professional, the IVMS enables personnel to gain tighter control of their environment. When data is structured, it can be housed in one searchable, system-wide database that allows users to share information, integrate multiple layers of object and motion analytics and biometrics, and easily scale them across the enterprise.

The Best of Video, Search and Database Technology

IVMSs include sophisticated video, search and database technologies that enable systems to translate the raw video from security cameras into metadata, or images and information that are most representative of the event. Using a visual dashboard, the security manager can quickly see whether the motion that occurred on camera 45 at 3:34pm on February 3, 2006 for 34 seconds was caused by an authorized employee or an unidentified person, and he can analyze that data even further to isolate more specifics. Each event is tied to the video captured around that time and place and entered into a unified management system that can be searched in a matter of seconds, “Google-style.”

Let's say an unauthorized person enters a restricted area. The IVMS immediately alerts the security manager to a perimeter violation. He notifies the guard nearest to that location, who quickly apprehends the suspect and prevents the theft of company property. Using the images of the suspect's face that were captured by the surveillance cameras, the security manager rapidly runs a mug shot search to determine whether that person has been onsite previously, within the last three weeks.

The watch list information for the entire corporation is shared system-wide, so the search for the suspect quickly reveals he has visited other parts of the corporate campus prior to this event, and each time he has been seen speaking to the same contract employee. The manager sets an alert to notify security when that contractor returns.

Strategic and Secure

Video data structured within searchable, highly integrated solutions—such as the latest IVMS platforms—make it possible for security officers to take proactive measures to detect and preempt threats through automated security policy enforcement, pinpoint security events, and conduct faster and more comprehensive investigations via real-time analysis of video surveillance data.

Stephen Russell, co-founder and CEO of 3VR Security Inc., has built and sold several companies in the streaming media and distributed systems space. He was most recently the vice president and general manager of Inktomi, where he ran their Edge Caching Division, which optimized the distribution of high-volume data over the Internet. Mr. Russell previously held senior executive roles at USWeb/CKS and eScene Networks.