Bringing Credibility to Video Analytics

Sept. 17, 2009
Overhype or unrealistic expectations? Perhaps a little bit of both.

If you say that video analytics don’t work, are racked with false alarms, and are quirky and unmanageable—then read on, because the integrators in this story beg to differ.

Like any other technology, video analytics has to be suited to the application, environment and the nuances of the protected premises and its occupants. To be most effective, it has to be proactively managed and fine-tuned to the environment. It’s not just a piece of hardware that you install and forget. Much of the discontent has centered on unrealistic expectations for the technology and again, that all boils down to the fact that it has to be managed by the end-user and fit the protected premises. When those parameters are fulfilled, video analytics is the next generation in remote and virtual video monitoring and a solid solution with a bright future.

Real world, real solutions

Brent C. Brown is the chairman and chief executive officer of Chesley Brown Companies Inc. in Smyrna, Ga. His company has been offering analytics since 2006, when others might have just been reading about it. Chesley Brown Companies is a security management firm that provides customized security solutions that include consulting, on-site management and interactive remote monitoring.

In 2006, with Brown at the helm, the company launched the InCommand Worldwide LLC monitoring center. Through customized technology, which includes analytics, systems are designed to detect motion and activate an alert to Chesley Brown’s Security and Command Center when a security event occurs. Trained officers then review the situation in progress and notify the proper authorities—in real time.

“We’re using video analytics for a variety of clients, from fuel farms and industrial customers to major product distribution hubs, food service facilities and retail clients,” said Brown. “Chesley Brown’s InCommand is the first of its type in the U.S. and takes typical passive uses of CCTV and electronic security and creates a more valued asset with much greater ROI for our customers,” continued Brown. “We developed InCommand Worldwide specifically for remote monitoring and video analytics,” he said.

Brown said the applications for video analytics are limitless, but some who deploy it “assume there’s not a need for boots on the ground,” he said. “The mistake people make is they think video analytics is a replacement for people and guards but it’s not always the case. Just like any type of security, you have to actively management it and analyze the video.”

He said he sees that many in the industry are simply selling product, and not necessarily the entire solution. “Analytics is an electronic version of a guard force. It allows you to dispatch on a real event. It makes a passive system an active system based on intrusion, and it all centers on service. Some say you only deploy analytics in environments where there’s nothing going on, but that’s not true. We’ve covered 18 city blocks 300 cameras and ground traffic with analytics in one deployment and the analytics helped us determine how to use our people more efficiently.”

Where do analytics fit?

Asked where he has had the most success deploying analytics and Chris Newhouse, president of LANOptic Video Solutions, Burlington, Ontario, stated a resounding “everywhere.”

“All my systems are successful because of video analytics,” explained Newhouse. “It’s like comparing a bicycle to an automobile. There are few things that can be accomplished better with a bicycle than a car or truck. I actually find it difficult to consider a comparison between video surveillance with and without analytics. LANOptic Video Solutions feels so strongly about this that we have managed to move all our existing clients of video surveillance from conventional ‘always on and basic motion detection’ systems to analytics environments. Once the clients have experienced the benefits of video analytics, they are very happy to pay the cost of upgrading.”

Newhouse said deploying video with analytics requires situation awareness and understanding of what the objective is. “It isn’t as simple as putting up a bunch of cameras, turning it on and expecting results,” he said. “There really needs to be a consideration for what the client wants to achieve. Designing an effective video system involves balancing needs, budget, goals, existing infrastructure, personnel and realistic expectations. Our engineering team places a huge emphasis on the process of establishing criteria and design that delivers the intended result. A sound design methodology combined with reliable analytic technology is the key to leveraging the power of digital video.”

He advised integrators who want to get involved in video analytics to understand that success in any field requires passion. “If you have passion, you have the strength to gain an in-depth understanding of the industry, its advantages as well as its limitations.”

Manage your solution for success

Systems Engineer II Jacob Loghry of Adesta LLC in Omaha, Neb., said the company has had a lot of very different projects involving video analytics. “Most of our deployments revolve around some kind of infrastructure; port, utility, etc. all with very challenging environments and widely varying threats. Adesta has managed to be successful in each of these deployment areas. We are most successful deploying analytics when we have a very clear understanding of the design requirements, or at least an understanding of the customer’s vision. Too often a customer comes to us and states they want to deploy analytics across their entire facility without ever thinking about each specific camera location or threat. It is true that analytics do offer a very flexible tool for surveillance and detection; however it must be designed very carefully for each specific application and location.”

According to Loghry, once you know what your customer wants and needs you must establish reasonable expectations with what they can actually do with analytics.

Here’s what Loghry said integrators should consider when selecting and deploying analytics:

  1. What is the customer’s vision and how do they intend on using the system?
  2. What are the performance requirements?
  3. What is the budget?
  4. Is the system going indoors or outdoors?
  5. What kind of environmental variables could cause problems?
  6. Do you have good lighting? How much money would it cost to improve the lighting?

No one single product can do it all in security. It all goes back to a well-rounded, full-service solution, designed from the ground up with the premises and its occupants in mind. If you don’t take this consultative approach, especially with regards to video and analytics then it’s probably time to rethink your business.


The Truth About Analytics

Manufacturers of analytics systems and software have been hard at work educating the integrator on the proper use of analytics.

“It’s all about using analytics to make video more effective,” said Craig Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Cernium, based in Reston, Va. “You can’t make all of the ‘noise’ of analytics go away, but you can use to it to find out what’s happening and where and pick out what you need to respond to. The big advantage ot analytics is the real time capability,” he continued.

Cernium, developer of video analytics-enabled products, recently announced that Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions selected and deployed their Perceptrak system at the Baltimore campus.

“Perceptrak makes it possible for Johns Hopkins security to focus on the visual information they need the most to protect people and critical assets,” said Stephen Graham, president and general manager of Cernium’s Systems Division.

According to Matthew Krebs, executive vice president of Sales for SureView Systems in Tampa, Fla, it’s extremely important for the integrator to become familiar with the manufacturer’s offering and how it works.

“Like any technology, you have to set realistic expectations. Unfortunately, there’s been misapplication of the technology and broader expectations than have been realistic. First and foremost, like any security deployment, you have to always put the right product with the right application.” SureView Systems is a security software developer providing a video based automated alarm management platform.

“You have to be very familiar with the environment,” he continued, “and whether it’s hostile weather, what the lighting conditions are and whether it’s an interior or exterior space. Than you have to determine what you want to detect: marine traffic, autos, pedestrians, etc. Once you get those variables nailed down you go to the manufacturers to see what’s best suited for those particular parameters.”

Krebs said the integrator community must decide what the right applications are for the product and how to deploy it properly. “The industry has to create applications that fit the technology and learn those applications so it can be used to solve the end-user’s problems. Integrators should always sell solutions, not technology.”