A User's Guide to Digital Video Surveillance

Welcome to the Future


Large enterprises have made significant investments in their video surveillance infrastructure consisting of hundreds of cameras, recorders, storage devices, and video monitors. Yet, with all this state of the art infrastructure, analysis of real-time or recorded video is bounded to the limitations of humans who are often required to monitor multiple monitors to detect security threats.

No matter how highly trained or how dedicated a human observer, it is impossible to provide full attention to more than one or two things at a time; and even then, only for a few minutes at a time. A Harvard University study concluded that humans are surprisingly unaware of the details of their environment, and often do not detect large changes to objects or scenes (‘change blindness’). Furthermore, without attention, humans may not even perceive objects (‘unintentional blindness’). The Harvard experiment results showed that 50% of people counting the passes made between two basketball teams will not notice a gorilla walk into the middle of the viewing area, beat its chest, and walk out. In another study, military experiments demonstrated that after 12 minutes of continuous viewing of 2 or more sequencing monitors, an operator will miss up to 45% of all scene activity. After approximately 22 minutes, an operator will miss up to 95% of scene activity. The conclusion is clear - humans do not reliably detect security threats, whether watching live video or reviewing archived data, resulting in false conclusions that nothing occurred when, in fact, something did (referred to as ‘false negatives’).

Prior to the technological advancements that have made computer vision based solutions commercially viable, many manufacturers of cameras and digital video recorders introduced Video Motion Detection (VMD). VMD technology essentially looks for pixels that are different than the current background model in the same region of the scene. Unfortunately, these systems end up causing high number of false alarms in environments where there is a lot of irrelevant motion – such as weather, clouds, shadows, changes in lighting, etc. In fact, this caused so many false alarms (referred to as ‘false positives’) that distracted the monitoring process, and the end user simply turned off the VMD feature.

Today incredible improvements have been made in the burgeoning field of “intelligent video.” It’s no longer a matter of detecting motion or a basic smart search to locate a missing item. Advanced analytical software offers some significant features:

  • Unattended Baggage and Object Detection
  • Exit Lane and Wrong Direction Monitoring
  • Perimeter Intrusion Detection
  • Loitering
  • Vehicle Detection and Parking Violations
  • Anti-Tailgating and Piggybacking
  • People Counting and Crowd Detection
  • Secure Area Monitoring
  • License Plate Recognition
  • Slip and Fall Protections
  • Unusual Behavior Analysis
  • Card Counting Identification
  • Advantaged Play Detection
  • Facial Recognition
There is even the capability to identify objects, vehicles or humans by height, clothing worn, etc.
In addition to software analytics, intelligent cameras have arrived on the scene. These cameras can monitor and record in 360° and replace multiple area cameras.  They also have the feature of being a “time machine.” After the fact, you can pan, tilt, and zoom, in all directions optically. Remember, a PTZ even at 26x zoom is only a 1x zoom after it has been recorded and only plays back where it was pointed.

So when the finance and management department say, it’s not a profit center, you can let them know, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is intelligent video for surveillance, but it additionally has tools for marketing.

  • How many people entered the premises at specified times
  • Which direction people enter and exit
  • How many people approached a specific area
  • Identify VIP’s
  • Demographic studies
The potential list of uses is extensive.  Surveillance is entering a new era. Training on the newest technologies is going to be a daunting task. If anything it’s a transitional period that will require re-training and the appointment of personnel that have a cross section of skill sets encompassing IT, surveillance, etc.

While it’s a little intimidating and overwhelming I hope we have taken out a little of the mystery of digital video and provided an insight into what it can do for you.
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