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Smart thermal cameras emerging as cost-effective outdoor security solution

Combining better thermal images with video analytics drives new levels of cost-effectiveness
Thermal cameras with video analytics detect with great accuracy in bright sun,
fog, rain and other conditions

Smart thermal cameras are rapidly becoming the intruder detection solution of choice for securing outdoor assets. Whether for smaller-range applications like protecting entranceways or gates, or securing large perimeters around energy, utility, chemical, or transportation assets, thermal cameras paired with video analytics offer an accurate detection solution that provides instant notifications in real time.

Thermal video incites speedy response

A number of automated detection technologies including coax and fibre fence sensors, microwave, seismic sensors and radar can provide a level of intruder detection. However, smart thermal cameras combined with video analytics provide substantial advantages over these alternatives. One advantage is speed, which is so important when trying to stop an intruder. Only video provides the detail to display and record the “what and where” of an alert without need for additional verification systems. Knowing the size, location and nature of an event as it unfolds is the best way to mobilise a fast response.

Thermal solutions reduce nuisance alerts

Another advantage for thermal solutions is accuracy. When an intruder strikes, triggered alerts must be believable and actionable. Nuisance alerts completely undermine your security system. This is where smart thermal cameras excel. Thermal cameras are a perfect “human detector” for the outdoors because they sense the heat of objects within their field of view, while ignoring the lighting challenges that cause nuisance alerts for visible detection cameras (like headlights or reflections off water).

Exceptional day/night surveillance

While thermal cameras have long been known for “seeing in the dark,” today’s more advanced thermal cameras also show tremendous advantages during daylight applications, which had once been a real challenge. For example, during the day, a person can be cooler than the background, as pavement, buildings and other infrastructure absorb heat from the sun. When the scene background temperature becomes uniform in a given area, the result for older generation thermal cameras was an image with large areas that look “whited out” and undefined, leaving intruders to go undetected.

Now, through advancements in thermal imager sensitivity, along with a greatly increased level of onboard video processing, thermal cameras with video analytics can detect with great accuracy in bright sun, fog, rain and other conditions. These capabilities have expanded the usefulness of thermal cameras from their traditional role as “night vision” cameras to 24-hour intruder detection solutions.

Fewer cameras are needed to protect the same location, reducing the infrastructure and thereby lowering overall project costs
Smart thermal cameras can differentiate the heat from moving humans and animals
from the changes of heat and light in the environment, resulting in fewer
‘nuisance’ alarms

Smart detection and analytics

Smart thermal cameras also provide an excellent option for applications which require “detect and assess” functionality. Some smart thermal cameras can automatically control a PTZ camera to zoom onto a detected target, giving an up close view of the alarm so it can be quickly classified. By combing thermal detection with automatically steered PTZs, you gain complete situational awareness over the entire perimeter.

Combining better thermal images with video analytics drives new levels of cost-effectiveness as well. The same image processing used to create better thermal images during the day can also provide more information for making video analytics more reliable. Today’s smart thermal solutions can provide reliable intruder detection regardless of wind, weather or the movement of small animals, trees or blowing trash. Such a system delivers the necessary “security awareness” around the perimeter and internal site assets needed for even the highest level of security reliability.

Cost-effective perimeter security

While perimeter protection is essential to critical infrastructure security, it’s obviously more expensive to protect an entire perimeter than a smaller section. As a result, many sites which are unable to secure funding for a comprehensive perimeter detection system will often stick with whatever system they have in place, regardless of how susceptible it may be to nuisance alarms or how limited its ability to provide reliable detection.

Given this reality, in situations where budgetary limitations simply won’t allow for systems that protect the entire perimeter, an emerging approach focuses on securing the most vulnerable areas within the perimeter using accurate thermal detection solutions first, and then expanding to cover more of the perimeter as budgets allow.  Such a strategy limits detection to specific, vulnerable areas. Rather than the entire perimeter, often consisting of miles of fencing, you can start with defined areas where the most critical incidents may occur. For example, you can start by protecting main gates or entranceways first, solving their most important outdoor security problems quickly and affordably.

This is where recent innovations play a big role. Today, a single smart thermal camera can detect intruders with great accuracy over huge areas covering hundreds of square metres. In this way, sites can immediately address their security challenges with great effectiveness for the cost of a few cameras. Fewer cameras are needed to protect the same location, reducing the infrastructure like poles, power and communications otherwise needed, lowering overall project costs accordingly.

Providing cost-effective outdoor security is a common need among security professionals tasked with protecting critical assets. Thermal cameras can see more, detect more and operate 24-hours per day, providing clearer images and more accurate alerts for trusted situational awareness. Rounding out the benefits, lower costs open up new opportunities to improve protection of critical assets in any environmental condition.

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