Edward Troha, Director of Marketing for ObjectVideo, questions the actual intelligence of some video analytics packages.

While roaming the halls of the seemingly endless stream of security and surveillance trade shows, have you ever asked yourself if all of the devices and software and solutions that claim to be "intelligent" really are?  No way.  Perhaps the more important question is "what can you do today to most effectively educate yourself on the fact and fiction of video analytics?"

Let's begin with a definition.  There are three important criteria that will enable you to determine if a system, device or solution is truly intelligent:

First, it must be an application of artificial intelligence; specifically, computer vision.  This is important because computer vision, the science of teaching a computer to see, is the basis for all truly intelligent vision-based systems.

Second, the software must be capable of accurately separating foreground from background objects, and create a stream of metadata that reflects a 24/7 analysis of the view.  This is important because a truly intelligent system is one that can interpret and report on actual events, rather than just react to movement.

Third, the system must be able to provide the user with relevant real-time information about these events.  This is important because the human user must be able to easily and intelligently interact with the system in order to make the critical decisions that can mean the difference between proactively catching the bad guy or not.

So, which technologies are being touted today as intelligent?  Here are two of them – one old, one new.

The newer one is the biometric technology facial recognition, which has a close relative in automated number plate recognition (ANPR).  Although both of these are vision-based, and do analyse what they are seeing, they are probability-based.  That is, they rely on the relative quality of the view to do their jobs and then can only compare what they have with what they've already got in the database. 

So unless you think a relational database application is "intelligent", facial recognition and ANPR are not intelligent in the way computer vision-based video analytics are.  And at the same time these technologies are being touted as intelligent, they are rarely thin, meaning users can expect to make a relatively heavy investment in back-end servers and enterprise software to be able to run them.

The other technology that even more frequently is pitched as intelligent is video motion detection, or VMD.  New flavours and permutations of this dinosaur seem to come out all the time, but don't be fooled by VMD – it's definitely not intelligent.

Why not?  VMD does not analyse; it reacts to motion.  It does not interpret events; it reacts to motion.  It does not classify objects; it reacts to motion.  So VMD is aptly named  – in its basic form, any movement of any pixel at any time will cause an alarm.  How many times must the wind blow tree branches within the view, or a couple of birds fly though the scene for you to turn it off for all the false alarms? 

Users need to beware of "intelligent edge devices" that consist of VMD-enabled cameras and filtering software on the back-end.  The filters must be configured for object size and a variety of other parameters in order to reduce false alarms to a tolerable level.  And, despite the filtering software, the VMD on the camera is still merely reacting to movement.  In fact, calling VMD solutions "intelligent" is a contradiction in terms that only adds to the confusion that reigns in this market.

Software companies, device manufacturers, end-to-end solution providers – they're all claiming intelligence for one reason: money.

Slapping VMD into a device that previously didn't have it, then calling it 'intelligent' and adding as much as a 30% price premium won't get the end-user the truly intelligent capabilities they require.  These companies are late to the game and are frantically trying to catch up.  They attempt to do so by creating noise and confusion in the market, rather than by creating products that have real video analytics embedded on them.

The smart manufacturers, like Verint, Tyco Fire & Security and March Networks, are the ones teaming up with the technology providers who have been doing it for quite awhile, like ObjectVideo, because these manufacturers know that they'll never be able to support the huge amounts of R&D time and money that it takes to bring a commercially viable video analytic capability to market.  Really big names like GE, Siemens, Honeywell and IBM have either acquired smaller analytics companies and consequently their intellectual property or just given up.

Advice: Ask pointed questions of providers who claim intelligent products according to the three criteria above.  And insist that the analytics you acquire within the solution have comprehensive functionality (not just a few analytic capabilities), are very easy to integrate into any existing infrastructure and are consistent with a video analytics strategy that supports the fulfilment of your security mission.

Edward Troha
Director of Marketing
ObjectVideo

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Managing security during unprecedented times of home working
Managing security during unprecedented times of home working

Companies are following government guidance and getting as many people as possible working from home. Some companies will have resisted home working in the past, but I’m certain that the sceptics will find that people can be productive with the right tools no matter where they are. A temporary solution will become permanent. But getting it right means managing risk. Access is king In a typical office with an on-premise data centre, the IT department has complete control over network access, internal networks, data, and applications. The remote worker, on the other hand, is mobile. He or she can work from anywhere using a VPN. Until just recently this will have been from somewhere like a local coffee shop, possibly using a wireless network to access the company network and essential applications. CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, and collaborative communication toolsBut as we know, CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, applications and collaborative communication tools that they do on a regular basis from the office or on the train. Indeed, the new generation of video conferencing technologies come very close to providing an “almost there” feeling. Hackers lie in wait Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical servers. Less than a month ago, we emerged from a period of chaos. For months hackers had been exploiting a vulnerability in VPN products from Pulse Secure, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and Citrix. Patches were provided by vendors, and either companies applied the patch or withdrew remote access. As a result, the problem of attacks died back.  But as companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on. That’s because remote desktop protocol (RDP) has been for the most part of 2019, and continues to be, the most important attack vector for ransomware. Managing a ransomware attack on top of everything else would certainly give you sleepless nights. As companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical serversExposing new services makes them also susceptible to denial of service attacks. Such attacks create large volumes of fake traffic to saturate the available capacity of the internet connection. They can also be used to attack the intricacies of the VPN protocol. A flow as little as 1Mbps can perturbate the VPN service and knock it offline. CIOs, therefore, need to acknowledge that introducing or extending home working broadens the attack surface. So now more than ever it’s vital to adapt risk models. You can’t roll out new services with an emphasis on access and usability and not consider security. You simply won’t survive otherwise. Social engineering Aside from securing VPNs, what else should CIO and CTOs be doing to ensure security? The first thing to do is to look at employee behaviour, starting with passwords. It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposed. Best practice would be to get all employees to reset their passwords as they connect remotely and force them to choose a new password that complies with strong password complexity guidelines.  As we know, people have a habit of reusing their passwords for one or more online services – services that might have fallen victim to a breach. Hackers will happily It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposedleverage these breaches because it is such easy and rich pickings. Secondly, the inherent fear of the virus makes for perfect conditions for hackers. Sadly, a lot of phishing campaigns are already luring people in with the promise of important or breaking information on COVID-19. In the UK alone, coronavirus scams cost victims over £800,000 in February 2020. A staggering number that can only go up. That’s why CIOs need to remind everyone in the company of the risks of clickbait and comment spamming - the most popular and obvious bot techniques for infiltrating a network. Notorious hacking attempts And as any security specialist will tell you, some people have no ethics and will exploit the horrendous repercussions of CV-19. In January we saw just how unscrupulous hackers are when they started leveraging public fear of the virus to spread the notorious Emotet malware. Emotet, first detected in 2014, is a banking trojan that primarily spreads through ‘malspam’ and attempts to sneak into computers to steal sensitive and private information. In addition, in early February the Maze ransomware crippled more than 230 workstations of the New Jersey Medical Diagnostics Lab and when they refused to pay, the vicious attackers leaked 9.5GB or research data in an attempt to force negotiations. And in March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHO and healthcare organisations in general since the pandemic broke. We’ll see lots more opportunist attacks like this in the coming months.   More speed less haste In March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHOFinally, we also have bots to contend with. We’ve yet to see reports of fake news content generated by machines, but we know there’s a high probability it will happen. Spambots are already creating pharmaceutical spam campaigns thriving on the buying behaviour of people in times of fear from infection. Using comment spamming – where comments are tactically placed in the comments following an update or news story - the bots take advantage of the popularity of the Google search term ‘Coronavirus’ to increase the visibility and ranking of sites and products in search results. There is clearly much for CIOs to think about, but it is possible to secure a network by applying some well thought through tactics. I believe it comes down to having a ‘more speed, less haste’ approach to rolling out, scaling up and integrating technologies for home working, but above all, it should be mixed with an employee education programme. As in reality, great technology and a coherent security strategy will never work if it is undermined by the poor practices of employees.

How does audio enhance security system performance?
How does audio enhance security system performance?

Video is widely embraced as an essential element of physical security systems. However, surveillance footage is often recorded without sound, even though many cameras are capable of capturing audio as well as video. Beyond the capabilities of cameras, there is a range of other audio products on the market that can improve system performance and/or expand capabilities (e.g., gunshot detection.) We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How does audio enhance the performance of security and/or video systems? 

How have standards changed the security market?
How have standards changed the security market?

A standard is a document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes, and/or practices. Standards surround every aspect of our business. For example, the physical security marketplace is impacted by industry standards, national and international standards, quality standards, building codes and even environmental standards, to name just a few. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How have standards changed the security market as we know it?