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Putting video content analysis into perspective

Published on 3 September, 2009

Few would argue that the history of Video Content Analysis - also known as Intelligent Video Analytics - has been a smooth one. The reality, in a significant number of cases for the early adopters - such as retailers - has been systems applied incorrectly, not fit-for-purpose, or simply failing to deliver the in-use performance which specifiers and end users had initially hoped for.

Following, what in many ways was a false dawn for Video Content Analysis it is perfectly understandable that there should be a certain reticence when it comes to adopting the latest solutions. Thankfully, time has moved on and today's systems are much more capable and cost effective than before. However, in light of past experience, there is I believe a pressing need to provide clear and effective guidance for organisations who are looking to utilise this key technological development in their CCTV infrastructure, as well as offering specifiers general advice to assess suppliers and their products.

With this in mind, over the past 18 months, the CCTV Section's Technical Committee (TC/10) - which I head-up - has been working intensively to develop an appropriate industry guide to Video Content Analysis. As part of this process we have taken submissions from a number of parties, including vendors and end users. The ultimate aim being to ensure that the right information is at hand, allowing searching questions to be posed to potential providers, so this technology can be applied to best effect on the ground.

The CCTV Section's Technical Committee has been working intensively to develop an appropriate industry guide to Video Content Analysis
The ultimate aim is to ensure that the right information is at hand

Looking in more detail at Video Content Analysis, this is the name commonly given to the automatic analysis of CCTV images to create meaningful information about the content. The scope of VCA is certainly impressive, and expanding all the time, for instance it can now be applied for external and internal intruder detection; the monitoring of plant or buildings for health and safety; people counting; automatic traffic event and incident detection; safety enhancements for public areas; smoke and fire detection and camera failure or sabotage detection. In theory any 'behaviour' that can be seen and accurately defined on a video image can be automatically identified and an alert raised.

There is little doubt, when specified and installed correctly, that VCA can have a positive impact on the effectiveness and return on investment of CCTV systems by adding enhanced or increased capabilities to detect and analyse post-event video. However the sad fact is that with the emerging nature of VCA - it has become a reality only in the last three to five years - the number of producers entering this new and dynamic field, the range of products, and the installation implications, can present an extremely confusing picture for potential buyers.

To help bring some clarity to Video Content Analysis, key areas addressed within the BSIA's new Video Content Analysis document include: the main elements of a VCA system and a description of the two main types of VCA platforms. The document distinguishes between Central or Core based packages that are typically rack mounted for use in CCTV control rooms, with the video sources analysed centrally, and Edge based solutions, where a smaller - occasionally ruggedised - unit is integrated within or placed close to the camera. The term ‘embedded' is also defined as being when VCA software is designed into the camera, DVR or other unit, either as part of a dedicated design or an add-on card.

There is little doubt, when specified and installed correctly, that VCA can have a positive impact on the effectiveness and return on investment of CCTV systems 

In addition, the guide outlines how analysis actually works in practice; the importance of perspective setting - the camera view; the key technology challenges - specifically the Detection Probability and False Alert Rate; the impact and benefits of VCA; what VCA can do; when VCA should be considered; the selection process for systems and cameras and, crucially, presents some detailed questions to ask providers.

So to conclude, the publication of our Video Content Analysis industry guide should, we believe, help to demystify VCA and assist end users to make informed decisions when they are considering the introduction of the latest generation of VCA technology for the purposes of security, safety, people and traffic management or event counting.

A copy of the guide can be downloaded by visiting here.

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