Site Surveys for Intelligent Video

Oct. 27, 2008
A project builder application can ensure the end-user is satisfied with video analytics

Site surveys for traditional video applications can differ from those for Intelligent Video Solutions. The key to successful installations of video analytics systems begins with managing end-user expectations. To effectively manage end-user expectations, security professionals must understand what the end-user is trying to achieve with their “Intelligent Video” solution.

This process begins with the premise that every camera is mounted for a purpose; every field of view is trying to “capture” an event of significance to the security environment. For example, is the end-user concerned about loitering people, unauthorized entry into restricted areas, abandoned bags in public areas or illegally parked vehicles in emergency zones? Video analytics-based systems are designed to detect when these events take place, alert personnel in real-time and record these events to the video platform. It is vital to the success of the installation that every camera’s purpose is discussed and understood by the end-user and the integrator before the installation takes place.
The major difference with video analytics compared to standard digital video has to do with camera placement for specific applications. All too often, video analytics installations are approached as standard video installations during the site survey and not until after the cameras are installed are the specific applications discussed with the end-user. When this happens, the success of the system delivering on the end-user’s expectations is significantly challenged.
Few disagree that Intelligent Video is a powerful enhancement to the concept of video security. It has changed the way we think about CCTV from a tool that is reactive in nature (records evidence in case something of significance happens) to a tool that is very proactive in nature (detects and alerts when something of significance happens). For the first time, video security gives a proactive response just as we have come to expect from virtually every product category in the physical security world. However, as the technology has continued to evolve, so have misconceptions about the capability of these systems along the way.

There is no question that video analytics can accurately detect and alert many significant security events, but it is not a “magic wand” that removes the human element from the video security equation. Intelligent video or “Active Video Security” simply helps personnel be more effective at their security tasks. The best way to be successful at managing and exceeding end-user expectations is to play an active role in setting the end-user’s expectations. With video analytics, the best time to do this is in the site survey and both integrator and manufacturer can play fundamental roles at ensuring the end-user is satisfied with the end-result.

Project Building Tools
Arteco recently implemented an IVS-Project Builder to help its integrator partners conduct site surveys for video analytics-based projects. Since many security professionals are learning how camera placement and environmental factors can affect the accuracy of video analytics, this tool helps them design effective solutions during the site survey phase and quote the best solution for the job. More importantly, the project-builder serves as a catalyst to help integrators open a dialogue with their end-users about what they are trying to achieve with the IVS installation. This is the phase when integrators who are successfully installing video analytics understand what type of intelligent applications the end-user is interested in deploying.

The project builder asks a series of system-related and channel-specific questions that help determine the scope of the software licensing for the IVS as well as vital component information that will impact the performance of the overall system. For example, will the end-user require megapixel cameras, and if so, how many? Will the system be strictly an IP-based camera infrastructure or are there legacy analog cameras that need to be incorporated into a hybrid system? How many user accounts will need concurrent access to the system?

Answering these questions at the onset of the site survey will play an important role in understanding the needs of the end-user and ensuring that the proper equipment to support their system needs is selected in the proposal stage. For example, megapixel cameras require more processing power for systems and will carry a substantially different load when analytics are involved. Understanding what the end-user is expecting from the system at the onset of the process will help integrators meet and even exceed expectations.

From a channel-specific standpoint, the project builder offers all the same information you would get on a digital video site survey — such as required resolution and frames-per-second for each camera. For video analytics, it also takes into account whether the camera is in an interior or exterior environment in addition to the type of intelligent application the channel will be running — such as abandoned/removed object, counting, speed detection, loitering, vehicle detection or violated area.

Since the best IVS hardware systems are segmented by intelligent application capability instead of one-size-fits-all, having the understanding of what video analytics the end-user intends to run will help integrators ensure that they are getting the best available price for their end-users. The project builder even allows integrators to upload jpeg images of the estimated field of view for each camera. The estimated field of view image also indicates any potential issues with camera placement as it pertains to the particular analytics application intended for the camera. For example, if an end-user is interested in counting or speed threshold detection, the camera angle will play a major role in the success of this application. Subtle changes in camera placement compared to what may be perfectly acceptable in standard video security installations can make even the most basic video analytics applications more accurate.
The project builder not only helps the training process and builds confidence for integrators in selling IVS but it also can help ensure the end-user gets the solution that fits their needs — which often translates into cost savings. All of this information is sent to project managers on the manufacturer side, who analyze the information and give manufacturer-recommended product proposals to meet the criteria set forth by the end-user. This information is then copied and pasted directly into the integrator’s project proposal and presented to the end-user. The role of the integrator is to help ensure the correct equipment is selected; but with new technology, true manufacturers work with integrators through this process.

Uncovering “Red Flags” in Expectations
Understanding what the end-user’s goals for each channel in the system helps set expectations and uncovers potentially damaging “unrealistic” expectations for video analytics. Increased accuracy and ease-of-use, along with more reasonable price structures have made intelligent video more readily available for a wider group of end-users; however, there is still much confusion over what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to real-world applications of the technology.

Integrators and manufacturers must work together to clearly educate their end-users on the true capabilities of video analytics and correct any misunderstood concepts prior to the installation. For example, if the end-user expects to detect abandoned objects in low-light situations, or extreme foot-traffic environments, or even in some cases completely obscured locations in the field of view — this end-user is going to be very disappointed after they have installed the system and come to find out that these goals are not realistic, and in most cases, impossible. Using a project builder helps uncover these potential red-flags and in most cases, enables the integrator and manufacturer to open a dialogue with the end-user to truly understand the security concern and convert the goal of the analytics into a realistic expectation.
In most situations, the technology can achieve the same goal for the end-user through different applications that deliver significantly more accurate results.

Stephen Birkmeier is the Vice President of Sales Operations for Arteco Intelligent Video Solutions based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at