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We have the technology to make society safer – how long can we justify not using it?
We have the technology to make society safer – how long can we justify not using it?

While the application of facial recognition within both public and private spheres continues to draw criticism from those who see it as a threat to civil rights, this technology has become extremely commonplace in the lives of iPhone users. It is so prevalent, in fact, that by 2024 it is predicted that 90% of smartphones will use biometric facial recognition hardware. CCTV surveillance cameras  Similarly, CCTV is a well-established security measure that many of us are familiar with, whether through spotting images displayed on screens in shops, hotels and offices, or noticing cameras on the side of buildings. It is therefore necessary we ask the question of why, when facial recognition is integrated with security surveillance technology, does it become such a source of contention? It is not uncommon for concerns to be voiced against innovation. History has taught us that it is human nature to fear the unknown, especially if it seems that it may change life as we know it. Yet technology is an ever-changing, progressive part of the 21st century and it is important we start to shift the narrative away from privacy threats, to the force for good that LFR (Live Facial Recognition) represents. Live Facial Recognition (LFR) We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition Across recent weeks, we have seen pleas from UK organisations to allow better police access to facial recognition technology in order to fight crime. In the US, there are reports that LAPD is the latest police force to be properly regulating its use of facial recognition to aid criminal investigations, which is certainly a step in the right direction. While it is understandable that society fears technology that they do not yet understand, this lack of knowledge is exactly why the narrative needs to shift. We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition, we respect these anxieties. However, it is time to level the playing field of the facial recognition debate and communicate the plethora of benefits it offers society. Facial recognition technology - A force for good Facial recognition technology has already reached such a level of maturity and sophistication that there are huge opportunities for it to be leveraged as a force for good in real-world scenarios. As well as making society safer and more secure, I would go as far to say that LFR is able to save lives. One usage that could have a dramatic effect on reducing stress in people with mental conditions is the ability for facial recognition to identify those with Alzheimer’s. If an older individual is seemingly confused, lost or distressed, cameras could alert local medical centres or police stations of their identity, condition and where they need to go (a home address or a next of kin contact). Granted, this usage would be one that does incorporate a fair bit of personal data, although this information would only be gathered with consent from each individual. Vulnerable people could volunteer their personal data to local watchlists in order to ensure their safety when out in society, as well as to allow quicker resolutions of typically stressful situations. Tracking and finding missing persons Another possibility for real world positives to be drawn from facial recognition is to leverage the technology to help track or find missing persons, a lost child for instance. The most advanced forms of LFR in the market are now able to recognise individuals even if up to 50% of their face is covered and from challenging or oblique angles. Therefore, there is a significant opportunity not only to return people home safely, more quickly, but also reduce police hours spent on analysing CCTV footage. Rapid scanning of images Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match, as a more reliable and less time-consuming option than the human alternative. Freed-up officers could also then work more proactively on the ground, patrolling their local areas and increasing community safety and security twofold. It is important to understand that these facial recognition solutions should not be applied to every criminal case, and the technology must be used responsibly. However, these opportunities to use LFR as force for good are undeniable.   Debunking the myths One of the central concerns around LFR is the breach of privacy that is associated with ‘watchlists’. There is a common misconception, however, that the data of every individual that passes a camera is processed and then stored. The reality is that watch lists are compiled with focus on known criminals, while the general public can continue life as normal. The very best facial recognition will effectively view a stream of blurred faces, until it detects one that it has been programmed to recognise. For example, an individual that has previously shoplifted from a local supermarket may have their biometric data stored, so when they return to that location the employees are alerted to a risk of further crimes being committed. Considering that the cost of crime prevention to retailers in recent years has been around £1 billion, which therefore impacts consumer prices and employee wages, security measures to tackle this issue are very much in the public interest. Most importantly, the average citizen has no need to fear being ‘followed’ by LFR cameras. If data is stored, it is for a maximum of 0.6 seconds before being deleted. Privacy Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story. It is essential we spend more time and effort communicating exactly why watchlists are made, who they are made for and how they are being used, if we want to de-bunk myths and change the narrative. As science and technology professionals, heading up this exciting innovation, we must put transparency and accountability at the centre of what we do. Tony Porter, former Surveillance Camera Commissioner and current CPO at Corsight AI, has previously worked on developing processes that audit and review watch lists. Such restrictions are imperative in order for AI and LFR to be used legally, as well as ethically and responsibly. Biometrics, mask detection and contactless payments Nevertheless, the risks do not outweigh the benefits. Facial recognition should and can be used for good in so many more ways than listed above, including biometric, contactless payments, detecting whether an individual is wearing a facemask and is therefore, safe to enter a building, identifying a domestic abuse perpetrator returning to the scene of a crime and alerting police. There are even opportunities for good that we have not thought of yet. It is therefore not only a waste not to use this technology where we can, prioritising making society a safer place, it is immoral to stand by and let crimes continue while we have effective, reliable mitigation solutions.  

Securing empty premises: Product performance is everything
Securing empty premises: Product performance is everything

Since the start of the pandemic, almost a quarter of UK businesses have been forced to temporarily close, pause trading, or work remotely, with very little notice. Now nearing the 12th month of the crisis, the country is currently enduring its third national lockdown, with an unspecified timeframe. Most workers are being urged to remain at home and only venture out for essential travel. This means a huge number of premises across the board, from recreational venues such as theatres, pubs and leisure centres, to office buildings, and storage facilities, will remain empty. It’s likely that security has been scaled back, so many buildings could be vulnerable to attack for the foreseeable future. Just recently we’ve seen empty pubs in London targeted by opportunistic illegal rave organisers. Physical security strategy Even rural areas aren’t exempt from the problem, as burglars have reportedly targeted beauty salons, etc Even rural areas aren’t exempt from the problem, as burglars have reportedly targeted beauty salons, food stores and vehicle hire premises this winter. Vandalism and burglary remain very real threats, therefore it is vital that facilities managers and property owners ensure the physical security of these empty buildings is maintained to the highest standard to protect property and the assets within. Below we outline key considerations when evaluating a physical security strategy for an empty building. Assess the risk We would urge facilities managers and building owners to carry out regular, thorough checks of the building and the perimeter to assess any obvious factors which would elevate the risk of attack. This includes assessing the location. Is the crime rate high? How visible is the property? Are the contents of the property on show? How secure is the access or perimeter boundary? View the premises from a potential intruder’s perspective, and when you can’t be at the site in person, use photographs, notes and drawings to identify potential weaknesses. For example, there may be high security fencing at the front of the premises, but make sure it is not at risk of being compromised at the back. Conducting regular maintenance Retain and maintain quality Inspecting the fence line may seem obvious and straightforward, but it needs to be a deliberate, scheduled event Conducting regular maintenance is even more essential while premises are left empty, as it is much easier for any issues to appear and escalate undetected. We highly recommend regularly inspecting your fencing for disrepair or damage as this can affect the perimeter’s integrity. Alternatively, choosing high quality galvanised and preferably powder coated steel fencing with a 25-year guarantee will offer longer-lasting protection against rust and corrosion. Inspecting the fence line may seem obvious and straightforward, but it needs to be a deliberate, scheduled event. Take time to check the perimeter on both sides. As you inspect the fencing, keep an eye out for any attempted breaches and note if foliage, weather conditions, or topography changes have affected security integrity. Check all fixtures and fittings are in good working order, look for damage and corrosion, and clear all litter and debris away. Huge security risk Quality investments In a time when businesses are already stretched, it can be tempting to opt for quick, inexpensive fixes. However, poorly executed design or cheap, low quality products can lead to costly, long-term remediation or worse, significant loss to the business. Make wise, informed decisions and specify solutions based on your organisation’s security needs first and foremost. While generic steel palisade is a popular option, owing to its intimidating aesthetic, it is easily compromised. Steel palisade fencing has inherent weaknesses that undermine performance. Its wide pales can obstruct surveillance, while the bolted construction is a huge security risk. Simply removing or breaking the lower fixing on one or two pales would allow them to swing aside to give repeated access to the site without leaving an easily visible sign that the perimeter has been breached. It’s a false economy, as the initial lower price is offset by the costs and inconvenience incurred by regular repairs. Performance classification system The standard works via a performance classification system, and even considers the tools that an intruder may use Specifying a higher quality product that’s fit for purpose makes more sense both in the short and long term, and it adds little to the original cost. Fortunately, there are a number of security accreditations that facilities managers and building owners can refer to when specifying security measures at their site, helping them choose effective solutions to combat the risks the property faces. Proven performance Certifications and approvals, such as The Loss Prevention Certification Board’s (LPCB) LPS 1175 and the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) PAS, prove a product has been thoroughly tested to a specific standard. They prove the strength and durability of the item in multiple different situations. It is worth noting also that investing in effective perimeter protection can actually deliver a positive return by reducing the incidence of burglary and vandalism, and their associated costs. The technical evaluation work carried out by LPCB is extremely thorough. The product is subjected to rigorous quality audit processes, to certify the security products tested by BRE deliver verified levels of protection. All LPS 1175 rated products are vigorously tested before receiving an accreditation. The standard works via a performance classification system, and even considers the tools that an intruder may use. Intrusion detection system Our law enforcement teams are stretched to capacity and coping with reduced workforces due to illness By predicting a likely toolset, specifiers can construct multiple defensive layers to maximise how much time a facility has to respond to an attack. Different levels of security are crucial for the ‘5D defence’ concept, whereby a quintet of security assets work together to prevent access to your site, resulting in a strategy that will: Deter, Detect, Deny, Delay and Defend unwanted access from intruders. 360° security There is no single solution when it comes to securing a building. Every situation must be considered on an individual basis, starting with a full risk assessment. We recommend an integrated approach where appropriate. Along with a secure perimeter, this might also include effective lighting in shaded areas and at doors, gates, and vulnerable windows, Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems (PIDS) and well-placed CCTV. These measures can hinder entry and escape, or increase the chance of discovery and detection. Domestic burglaries While domestic burglaries have become less attractive as many of our homes are now occupied around the clock, commercial properties have become increasingly more vulnerable. Our law enforcement teams are stretched to capacity and coping with reduced workforces due to isolating and illness. Therefore it has never been so important for building owners and facilities managers to assess the properties they’re responsible for to ensure they’re protected effectively in the event of an attack.

Safety in smart cities: How video surveillance keeps security front and centre
Safety in smart cities: How video surveillance keeps security front and centre

Urban populations are expanding rapidly around the globe, with an expected growth of 1.56 billion by 2040. As the number of people living and working in cities continues to grow, the ability to keep everyone safe is an increasing challenge. However, technology companies are developing products and solutions with these futuristic cities in mind, as the reality is closer than you may think. Solutions that can help to watch over public places and share data insights with city workers and officials are increasingly enabling smart cities to improve the experience and safety of the people who reside there. Rising scope of 5G, AI, IoT and the Cloud The main foundations that underpin smart cities are 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Cloud. Each is equally important, and together, these technologies enable city officials to gather and analyse more detailed insights than ever before. For public safety in particular, having IoT and cloud systems in place will be one of the biggest factors to improving the quality of life for citizens. Smart cities have come a long way in the last few decades, but to truly make a smart city safe, real-time situational awareness and cross-agency collaboration are key areas which must be developed as a priority. Innovative surveillance cameras with integrated IoT Public places need to be safe, whether that is an open park, shopping centre, or the main roads through towns Public places need to be safe, whether that is an open park, shopping centre, or the main roads through towns. From dangerous drivers to terrorist attacks, petty crime on the streets to high profile bank robberies, innovative surveillance cameras with integrated IoT and cloud technologies can go some way to helping respond quickly to, and in some cases even prevent, the most serious incidents. Many existing safety systems in cities rely on aging and in some places legacy technology, such as video surveillance cameras. Many of these also use on-premises systems rather than utilising the benefits of the cloud. Smart programming to deliver greater insights These issues, though not creating a major problem today, do make it more challenging for governments and councils to update their security. Changing every camera in a city is a huge undertaking, but in turn, doing so would enable all cameras to be connected to the cloud, and provide more detailed information which can be analysed by smart programming to deliver greater insights. The physical technologies that are currently present in most urban areas lack the intelligent connectivity, interoperability and integration interfaces that smart cities need. Adopting digital technologies isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. Smart surveillance systems It enables teams to gather data from multiple sources throughout the city in real-time, and be alerted to incidents as soon as they occur. Increased connectivity and collaboration ensures that all teams that need to be aware of a situation are informed instantly. For example, a smart surveillance system can identify when a road accident has occurred. It can not only alert the nearest ambulance to attend the scene, but also the local police force to dispatch officers. An advanced system that can implement road diversions could also close roads around the incident immediately and divert traffic to other routes, keeping everyone moving and avoiding a build-up of vehicles. This is just one example: without digital systems, analysing patterns of vehicle movements to address congestion issues could be compromised, as would the ability to build real-time crime maps and deploy data analytics which make predictive policing and more effective crowd management possible. Cloud-based technologies Cloud-based technologies provide the interoperability, scalability and automation Cloud-based technologies provide the interoperability, scalability and automation that is needed to overcome the limitations of traditional security systems. Using these, smart cities can develop a fully open systems architecture that delivers interoperation with both local and other remote open systems. The intelligence of cloud systems can not only continue to allow for greater insights as technology develops over time, but it can do so with minimal additional infrastructure investment. Smart surveillance in the real world Mexico City has a population of almost 9 million people, but if you include the whole metropolitan area, this number rises sharply to over 21 million in total, making it one of the largest cities on the planet. Seven years ago, the city first introduced its Safe City initiative, and ever since has been developing newer and smarter ways to keep its citizens safe. In particular, its cloud-based security initiative is making a huge impact. Over the past three years, Mexico City has installed 58,000 new video surveillance cameras throughout the city, in public spaces and on transport, all of which are connected to the City’s C5 (Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Citizen Contact) facility. Smart Cities operations The solution enables officers as well as the general public to upload videos via a mobile app to share information quickly, fixed, body-worn and vehicle cameras can also be integrated to provide exceptional insight into the city’s operations. The cloud-based platform can easily be upgraded to include the latest technology innovations such as licence plate reading, behavioural analysis software, video analytics and facial recognition software, which will all continue to bring down crime rates and boost response times to incidents. The right cloud approach Making the shift to cloud-based systems enables smart cities to eliminate dependence on fibre-optic connectivity and take advantage of a variety of Internet and wireless connectivity options that can significantly reduce application and communication infrastructure costs. Smart cities need to be effective in years to come, not just in the present day, or else officials have missed one of the key aspects of a truly smart city. System designers must build technology foundations now that can be easily adapted in the future to support new infrastructure as it becomes available. Open system architecture An open system architecture will also be vital for smart cities to enhance their operations For example, this could include opting for a true cloud application that can support cloud-managed local devices and automate their management. An open system architecture will also be vital for smart cities to enhance their operations and deliver additional value-add services to citizens as greater capabilities become possible in the years to come. The advances today in cloud and IoT technologies are rapid, and city officials and authorities have more options now to develop their smart cities than ever before and crucially, to use these innovations to improve public safety. New safety features Though implementing these cloud-based systems now requires investment, as new safety features are designed, there will be lower costs and challenges associated with introducing these because the basic infrastructure will already exist. Whether that’s gunshot detection or enabling the sharing of video infrastructure and data across multiple agencies in real time, smart video surveillance on cloud-based systems can bring a wealth of the new opportunities.

Latest Vicon Industries news

Vicon Industries announces Valerus version 20.2 including mobile video streaming and live location monitoring
Vicon Industries announces Valerus version 20.2 including mobile video streaming and live location monitoring

Vicon Industries, Inc., designer and manufacturer of video surveillance and access control software, hardware and components, announced the availability of Valerus version 20.2, which brings improved cybersecurity and streamlined maintenance to the forefront. This latest release offers features including mobile video streaming, geo mapping, snapshot, robust health dashboard, audit log, and a thick client solution. Valerus’ addition of mobile video streaming allows users to send live or recorded footage directly from their Android or iOS smart devices into Valerus. This helps operators better document patrols or events outside the range of traditional cameras. Strategically monitoring geographical locations The geo mapping feature allows operators to strategically monitor geographical locations with a live geo map. Users simply enter a physical address or coordinates to access the true location, add cameras and create an easy-to-understand live map of their facility. Another exciting update we further developed is our robust health dashboard. This update not only provides an improved user experience, but also new business-critical features to help operators diagnose potential problems before they become catastrophic. New features include remote RAM and CPU resource monitors for both App Servers and NVR, an NVR latency monitor to troubleshoot potential network issues and a new cybersecurity dashboard that monitors potential threats like duplicate logins to better protect the system. Save and store images Valerus 20.2 also now offers a Thick-Client solution for operators that prefer not to use browsers Another new feature is the snapshot tool that allows users to quickly save and store images from live or recorded playback video. This is especially helpful when trying to document suspects or incidents. Valerus 20.2 also now offers a Thick-Client solution for operators that prefer not to use browsers or require a program startup with preconfigured settings or screens. This is a key feature for instances when operator control is limited. Presets allow for easy restoring all previously programmed settings, saving time and allowing you to focus on what’s important. Lastly, the improved new audit log allows designated users to monitor activities within the system so administrators can keep track of who logs in and out of the system, what they view and what actions they have taken. If a failure or critical setting is changed, not only can one reverse the action but also see who made it. Free Valerus Enterprise licence To take advantage of this new release introduction, Vicon has launched a promotional campaign that allows one to experience this version firsthand. Replace one’s old competing VMS for Valerus and receive a free Valerus Enterprise licence. And if one doesn’t already have a VMS, Vicon is giving out free Valerus starter software, so one can experience what everyone loves about Valerus. “Vicon’s Valerus VMS platform has proven to be widely embraced in enterprise applications, and we anticipate that the features we are introducing with Valerus version 20.2 will do much to further that trend,” said Bret McGowan, Senior V.P. of Sales and Marketing.

Vicon Industries introduces VTR-3000 and VTR-6000 series thermal sensor surveillance for perimeter protection
Vicon Industries introduces VTR-3000 and VTR-6000 series thermal sensor surveillance for perimeter protection

Vicon Industries, Inc., designer and manufacturer of video surveillance, access control software and hardware and cameras, released its highly anticipated updated Thermal Sensor models. The innovative Thermal Sensor series is a 360-degree surveillance solution that combines powerful high-end thermal technology with high-resolution PTZs for unparalleled perimeter protection in wide-open spaces like power stations, airports, construction sites and other facilities. The VTR-3000 series is a cutting-edge, cost-effective model designed for small to medium sized facilities with a range of up to 250 metres. This series ideal for private airports and parking lots, ensuring nothing goes unnoticed. The VTR-6000 series covers vast areas up to 500 metres and is ideal for larger applications such as construction sites, large commercial airports and more. Enhanced analytics for fire detection Both series can be used day or night and are rich with upgraded features such as enhanced analytics for fire detection and equipment temperature monitoring. Just one thermal sensor can replace up to 8 traditional cameras, and with the newly built-in TRIA, provides many cost-effective options to its users. This series also features exceptional improvements made to image clarity and detection, reducing false positives so time and energy is well spent. Lastly, an improved exterior design reduces the amount of moving parts, reducing the potential for replacing parts. “The line of upgraded Thermal Sensor models is a highly anticipated addition to our camera portfolio so we’re thrilled to incorporate this cost-effective and robust solution to our product offering,” said Bret McGowan, Senior V.P., Sales and Marketing.

Vicon announces Valerus VMS with interactive mapping, event query engine
Vicon announces Valerus VMS with interactive mapping, event query engine

Vicon Industries, Inc., designer and manufacturer of video surveillance and access control software, hardware and components, announced the availability of Valerus version 20, which adds features designed to expand its overall capabilities while maintaining its core value as an easy VMS on the market. This latest release offers features that include: interactive mapping, an event query engine and bookmarking functionality. Valerus’ new interactive mapping feature provides the ability to create detailed maps from PNG or JPEG image files. Users can then overlay resource icons on to these maps, with the flexibility to control the location and view of the resource; for added ease of functionality, maps can be linked to other maps. The mapping functionality presents a wealth of information in a very efficient and understandable manner and is extremely useful for local law enforcement and security teams. Motion detection, digital input search queries The addition of a dedicated events database provides the ability to store all events that occur in Valerus, including both internal and external events, allowing the user to look back historically. This offers a new search capability, where users can create queries based on parameters such as motion detection, digital input, external events and analytics services. The event search feature enhances the way users interact with systems, dramatically improving event response times and helping make event issues more actionable. Another new feature available in version 20 is bookmarking, which adds the ability for the user to create a bookmark related to a specific video feed and allows entering notes so users can easily share information. The bookmark is accessible on the playback video and will be stored in the events database, so it can be queried. Bookmarking helps keep track of noteworthy events while users are building a case or trying to gain a better understanding of concerning incidents. Advanced log report for troubleshooting  In keeping with the Valerus commitment to delivering “advanced simplicity,” Valerus 20 has enhanced many user functions for ease-of-use. There is the ability to enforce a complex password for increased security. The numeric ID of a device can now be edited directly on its resource properties page as well the dedicated numeric ID page. The Excel report shows added information, including the MAC address, numeric ID and Gateway server, to better serve the user. There is a dynamic link from an error on the dashboard directly to that resource’s configuration page. An advanced log report was added to aid in troubleshooting any problems that might arise. To encourage users to take advantage of this new release introduction, Vicon has launched two promotional campaigns. The offers are targeted at new VMS installs and VMS replacement projects, offering free licences for Valerus 20. “Vicon’s Valerus VMS platform has proven to be widely embraced in enterprise applications, and we anticipate that the features we are introducing with Valerus version 20 will do much to further that trend,” said Bret McGowan, Senior V.P. of Sales and Marketing.

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