Tech Bytes

March 11, 2008
Thinking About Surveillance

The Advanced Technologies for Airport Security (ATAS) conference dealt a lot with the whys and hows of the latest in airport security technology. But what, exactly, can this new technology accomplish? Some insights ...

One technology that stirred some buzz was video analytics.

“We need to have proactive security that can look forward of events, rather than being used for forensics,” says Brooks McChesney, founder and chief client executive at Vidient, a video analytics and appliances company.

McChesney says current closed-circuit television systems (CCTV) take “too many cameras, too many screens and not enough people to watch them.” He notes that studies have found guards can effectively watch security cameras for only 20 minutes at a time.

Video analytics use software algorithms that can detect things like unattended baggage and vehicles parked in the wrong place. When something is spotted by the technology, McChesney explains, the system alerts guards of specifics on the monitor, via email or through messages to a PDA or cell phone.

“That would free your guards,” McChesney says.

With video analytics, he says, “the cameras are always monitored, your resisting infrastructure is always leveraged.

“It integrates all the sensors, has a security policy engine that’s configured to the needs of the airport, displays it either in its own interface, or integrates with other systems like Proximex, and enables access to the system anywhere on the network.”

Thermal imaging
Another technology that dovetails well with video analytics and is not commonly understood is thermal imaging.

“Even though you may have interfaced with thermal imaging before, or you’ve seen it on TV, a lot of people actually don’t realize what thermal imaging is,” says Matt Bretoi, business development manager for FLIR systems, a thermal imaging and broadcast camera systems company.

Bretoi says it is commonly confused with night vision, but actually doesn’t rely on visuals at all. Thermal imaging senses heat to create a picture of what’s going on outside, rather than intensifying the light, as in the case of night vision.

“All objects emit heat,” Bretoi says. “That heat is very similar to visible light.” As such, Bretoi says thermal imaging is a passive technology, making it low power and low maintenance.

Bretoi says thermal imaging is also applicable to more situations than some people know. It can ‘see’ — not only in the dark, but through smoke and brush during daylight, and other applications.

“The people out there are not sitting under a lamp,” Bretoi says. “They’re also not sitting out in the open. They’re trying to hide themselves.

“Thermal’s changing role is to full-time, all-condition situation awareness.”

Bretoi notes that it is also no longer a stand-alone technology. “We’re integrating into some of the common technologies you use today.”

For any kind of CCTV security system, Dennis Charlebois, director of product management and marketing for Cisco Systems, says video and digital data management is another area to consider.

“Video management is really there to capture the video, to digitize it if it’s not already digitized, and then to gather that video and dump it onto the network that makes sense,” Charlebois says. “It’s there to unify the video information in a way so that other applications can use it in a way that’s productive, whether it’s analytics or command and control.”

Charlebois notes that the heart of the video management is usually a less proprietary media server, along with a user interface, usually customized to the specific airport.

“It can be productively used for live or forensic analysis.”