Using Video Analytics at Industrial Sites

Oct. 23, 2006
How changing threats, compliance issues and intrinsic site challenges are furthering the need for automatic video solutions

There is little dispute that intelligent video has found a place at the round-table of well-funded high-security installations. Yet simultaneously, a perception has permeated the security industry that intelligent video is only for the heavyweights of security: the core infrastructure of ports, airports, transit stations, and nuclear power sites.

Early intelligent video developers are partly to blame for this out-of-reach perception because they spent more time on functionality rather than worrying about delivering a usable and simple to install solution for the masses. Early costs of these systems were also well beyond the budgetary reach of many businesses which relied upon private funding rather than federal grants.

Today there are commercially available intelligent video systems that are high-performing and proven, yet designed for simplicity of installation and operation. Despite this, corporate security directors for industrial sites have plodded along traditional routes using timeworn security programs only to be blind-sided by new trends in crime and added responsibilities of security compliance issues.

Popular criminal trends have cropped up, such as scrap metal theft, industrial-plant theft, and frivolous injury claims. On the industrial security front, administrators found their facilities exposed with too many holes because security components deployed for industrial security were not designed for such wide-area detection nor for the added dimension of anti-terrorism.

With limited budgets and a tendency to stay away from complicated solutions, industrial security was without a viable solution for protecting wide-open areas. Faced often with expansive and sometimes labyrinthine sites, not tidy office buildings with easily identified access points, etc. industrial security specialists often relied upon the standard solutions of gates, guards, fences, and when they could, cameras.

New threats arose that targeted materials that previously would not have been considered high-plausibility targets. A good example of this is the problem of scrap metal thieves that cart away everything from railcars, steel rolls, and copper wiring to guard rails and street signs.

But even more threats have become challenges in recent years - industrial security now needs to secure against threats not previously believed to be security issues, including theft of toxic chemicals, biomedical waste, and flammable materials. Such materials in industrial areas are often inhospitable for guard patrols, yet remain accessible to determined intruders. Because of these changing threats, even high-voltage areas and hazmat facilities (once thought to almost be self-protecting by their inherent danger) now need protection.

Despite the obvious problems of traditional security measures, the new demands of industrial security, and the benefits of intelligent video to fill this void, security installers lag behind in offering these more effective systems over the traditional devices they know and love. What lays in the future for security installers is greater demand for intelligent video solutions, especially in the industrial security market where the benefits of intelligent video and the return on investment are substantial.

Cutting Security Costs

The benefits of intelligent video are clear. It watches over areas that are too dangerous for security guards to patrol. It provides the ability to monitor wide areas and detect not just short-range movements, such as an infrared motion detector, but true intruder behavior scenarios. It can differentiate people from small animals, outperforming other sensors that typically cannot tell the difference between the two.

Additionally, new intelligent video edge devices have become available and provide a plug-and-play approach for remote and stand-alone deployment, for example, locations where a dedicated network processing computer or an onsite security guard is not cost effective or logistically possible.

Additionally, intelligent video's core value lies in the fact that security guards cannot be everywhere at once. All too often, they discover a problem only after the damage is done and after the thieves have already fled with valuables. With automatic intelligent video monitoring, security officers are tipped-off rather than having to discover events for themselves during scheduled patrols. Because everything is being watched with nonstop vigilance and accelerated detection, it relieves the burden of roving patrols and allows for efficient use of personnel with a system that's easy to operate. For example, technology today enables security guards to use portable monitors, such as PDAs, that provide alarm video and camera control from the field thus adding mobility and reducing unwatched monitoring.

In the past, improving security at industrial facilities often meant adding more cameras and the correlated monitors and watch staff needed for the additional surveillance. With complicated sites requiring a high number of cameras, the personnel costs for real-time monitoring could grow beyond the security director's budget. Thanks to intelligent video and its ability to automatically detect someone entering a perimeter, security guards only need to view and respond to actual alarm events rather than watching hours of motionless video. Because intelligent video applications are designed as stand-alone solutions, even if no one sees the video, deterrent actions can automatically be initiated, such as playing audible warnings to vacate.

For multi-site locations, the network capabilities of intelligent video appliances allows a centralized dispatcher to handled thousands of cameras from a remote location rather than stationing persons at each location. This includes two-way communication, commanding dry contacts and controlling cameras. Also, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras with intelligent video can provide hands-free tracking that releases guards from manually operating joystick controls.

Analytics and Security Automation

Consider some common analytics that can be applied to an industrial security setting: Intelligent video detection can distinguish between vehicles and people and even limit detection to a specific direction, so when a scrap-metal thief climbs over a fence it will be detected, but an employee car leaving the facility would be ignored. Automatic detection of object removal can be used to limit detection to items that are of interest, whether it is the taking of a warehouse computer or a pallet of copper piping from a storage yard. Automatic detection of unattended objects can reveal when a box of product is tossed over the fence by an employee for post-work retrieval or alarm when a suspicious package is placed next to liquid propane tanks. Automatic detection of stopped cars can notify security when a vehicle stops for too long of a period in a prohibited area. Autonomous pan-tilt-zoom tracking, unlike stationary cameras, can provide automatic close-ups of a moving target for better recognition or real-time tracking of a camouflaged intruder's whereabouts.

Many of today's industrial facilities have seen more automation. The valve that was once turned by hand is now an electric valve that is remotely controlled from the operations center. It's part of a process that requires less labor for hazardous locations at industrial sites, as safety and insurance concerns have dictated the operations landscape. At the same time, integrated electronic systems are creating the same automation possibilities for security systems.

There is considerable flexibility in intelligent video security solution, for example, with intelligent video interfacing and event engines, lights can be turned on, barriers raised, doors locked, and warnings announced automatically on an alarm event. Additionally, intelligent video supports scheduling of different detection types, such as for late night or shift change scenarios. PTZ camera tours offer a different detection mode on each preset scene and the advanced synchronized handoff of moving intruders from stationary camera detection to autonomous PTZ cameras provides autonomous robot-like tracking.

Finding More Benefits

Beyond cutting labor costs and providing cost-saving security alternatives, intelligent video offers significant returns that make deployment more than worthwhile.

It makes security personnel accountable for all alarms, offers notification, recording and deterrent messages/actions for prohibited entry into controlled or hazardous areas and helps meet security conformance, avoiding non-compliance citations and negative publicity. Intelligent video solutions also can increases scene safety for responders, providing remote analysis capabilities and PTZ tracking for informed response and constant visuals on intruders.

The list of benefits of intelligent video continues. Pre-alarm recording functions show the moments before an incident for identification of who left suspicious objects or who parked the vehicle in an unauthorized location. The systems also provide ancillary detection benefits such as for smoke, fire, visible gas leaks and leaking containers--taking video's capabilities well beyond simply recording video for criminal prosecution or recouping damages.

Industrial security professionals will find it profitable to take a hard look at intelligent video and its benefits. It is no longer a security solution reserved for large enterprise installations or specialized security applications, but a solution for any size security installation, industrial or otherwise that wants to effectively widen security coverage, enhance vigilance, automate surveillance, and trim costs. In summary, intelligent video gives industrial security the boost it needs to overcome modern security challenges as well as traditional site-intrinsic challenges.

About the author: Roni Kass is the founder and CEO of ioimage, an intelligent video and camera firm from Israel which was founded in 2000. From Dreamteam Ltd., a company Kass founded in 1995, he leveraged his video image processing and analysis development knowledge to spearhead development of visionary intelligent video technology. Before founding Dreamteam Ltd. and later ioimage Ltd., Roni also founded and managed a successful Los Angeles-based software company, A2i Inc., (est. 1992) which was later acquired by SAP.