skyscrapers
One alternative purpose for a 360-degree
camera is the ability to provide a panoramic
view in a wall-mounted orientation
Surveillance cameras that capture 360-degree images are unique. However, cameras with technology that enables a user to retrospectively track an incident back in time are even more unique. This combination provides customers with total situational awareness—a field of view much larger than the capability of narrow-field, fixed-view cameras. In this article, Richard Pineau, CTO and Executive Vice President at Oncam, explains how 360-degree surveillance technology is enhancing security, particularly in the areas of retail, gaming and public areas.

Traditional security cameras, with a narrow field-of-view and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ), need to be dispersed throughout a location.  This requires much higher infrastructure and installation costs because of the number of cameras needed. Standard PTZ cameras are positioned only to cover key areas (such as doors, passages, sitting areas, counters, tills, etc.), and will only record where the PTZ is pointing, leaving blind spots and an inconclusive evidence trail.

Even though a PTZ can be programmed to respond to an event trigger, recording will start after the event has taken place, and the cameras need to be looking in that direction. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what happened before the alarm?

Cameras with 360-degree views can provide a solution to this surveillance problem. 360-degree security cameras can create a floor-to-ceiling bubble effect around the area of interest. Any event or activity, taking place within this bubble, is visible to the camera, which is providing total situational awareness. This may be replicated by using a number of narrow fields of view, but the use of multiple cameras adds both cost and complexity that a single, multi-megapixel 360-degree view camera removes.

To get the very best 360-degree solution, it is important that the sensor is matched to the lens so that the resolution is maximised

Suitable for both indoor and outdoor surveillance

To get the best possible situational awareness, you must have the camera mounted in an area that is open and away from obstructions. Outdoors, 360-degree security cameras work well when mounted on the corners of buildings using a parapet mount. When placed on an external corner of a building, the camera will give the ability, in effect, of being able to see around corners.  When mounted on a light post in a parking lot, the field of view could be upwards of 300 feet in any direction. When mounted indoors, the ability for a 360-degree camera to show all four directions of a cross hallway, or three directions of a "T" hallway, is superb. 

One alternative purpose for a 360-degree camera is the ability to provide a panoramic view in a wall-mounted orientation. With a panoramic view, two 180-degree views are displayed side by side to show both directions of a street or hallway with just one camera. 

Ceiling-mounted fisheye cameras are strategically positioned in the centre of a scene to maximise the video coverage of large areas. Since the camera sees a complete 360-degree picture, 100% visual coverage with no blind spots is obtained and can provide a conclusive evidence trail.

 Maximising megapixel resolution

To get the very best 360-degree solution, it is important that the sensor is matched to the lens so that the resolution is maximised. For example, cameras using a 5 megapixel sensor which crops it first to 2144 x 1944 and then matching the lens to the diameter of 2144 could give these cameras a true resolution of 3.5 megapixels. Such high true resolution will help provide a clear image and improved situational awareness.

Image resolution and de-warping

360-degree dewarping
Left: Fisheye warped view
Right: Normalised dewarped view
Click here to view larger image

360-degree cameras are developed to provide the best possible match for every customer application or client requirement. Ultimately customers have the choice of de-warping on the camera or on the client application, a decision made to benefit the end-user.

Experience has proven that there is a significant advantage when the de-warping is performed on the client-side application vs. doing the de-warping in the camera.

De-warping on the client side

De-warping on the client side allows for retrospective viewing, which enables the user to go back in time to view the total scene in its original form and then pan, tilt, and/or zoom within the 360-degree image as desired. Leading solution providers approach de-warping using the GPU/OpenGL which significantly reduces the impact on the processing required by the CPU, and gives a seamless user experience with zero latency.

An additional advantage of de-warping on the client side is the ability for multiple clients to view the same image, with different perspectives, concurrently; there is no time slicing required as with traditional PTZ cameras or 360-degree cameras with de-warping on board the camera.

De-warping on the camera

De-warping on the camera lets the customer create virtual views or narrow-field windows that create blind spots similar to conventional cameras. The windows may be moved using PTZ commands over the network, and will then have latency similar to what is currently associated with mechanical PTZ cameras. De-warping on the camera does not allow the ability to retrospectively view the 360-degree image, which is one of the biggest advantages of using 360-degree cameras. In addition, and similar to a conventional PTZ camera, all users need to view the same image at the same time or request a time slice to control the camera, severely limiting its usefulness for remote viewing by different clients at the same time.

Applications of 360-degree security cameras

There are really no limits on how 360-degree video surveillance technology, coupled with the best de-warping technology and integrated with the VMS, can add value. With retrospective de-warping and analysis, customers have the best forensic tool available on the market today. That being said, the following customer examples illustrate where customers are installing 360-degree technology to provide added value to their business or operation.

Retail surveillance solutions

360-degree technology can revolutionise the way cityscapes are surveyed by providing situational awareness like never before

This first example demonstrates where a retail group, with more than 10,000 retail franchises, is successfully utilising 360-degree technology to provide additional marketing and business intelligence. Customers are using the technology for two main reasons: first, for situational awareness because 360-degree technology provides the end user with coverage that has no blind spots and retrospectively analyses a scene with speed and accuracy that no number of traditional cameras could accomplish.

Secondly, customers get marketing intelligence; they are no longer limited to counting people as they come through the front door because it can also provide path analysis, queue counting and dwell time. This is all valuable data to anyone efficiently running a retail business and trying to maximise ROI. The ability to put this intelligence into a report that makes sense and is easy to work with is a major advantage of video analytics, and the ability to place “eyes” over an entire store has led global interest to grow exponentially during in the last 12 months.

Gaming security

There are a many national and state regulations in the gaming industry, and to become a critical part of the security solution in a casino requires a thorough understanding of these laws. A 360-degree technology solution can be installed across the gaming floor, integrated right into the VMS and can be used for forensic purposes, it is, as Ted Whiting, Surveillance Director at MGM Resorts International, says "the best forensic tool ever," and has become an integral part of the MGM Aria’s surveillance operations.

As Whiting explains, the cameras replace traditional surveillance methods used by some casinos, in which hundreds of pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras are deployed. “The 360-degree cameras record at four frames per second. That actually works out well. We couple this technology with what I call choke-point cameras [for entrances, exits and other areas],” Whiting says.

He continues: “For us, 360° camera exists for one reason — it’s a chase camera — but chasing someone in the past. The PTZ is a live chase camera. Someone is walking through the casino; you follow them with the PTZ. But let’s say they stole somebody’s iPad yesterday. The 360° allows me to chase them through the casino back in time. At some point when we’re chasing them, they walk through a choke-point camera, and then we get a perfect ID shot of them.” Not only that, the recorded video from the 360-degree camera allows Whiting and his team to track a criminal back in time, enabling identification. The two surveillance cameras work in tandem to achieve the common goal—identification.

City centre surveillance

360 view
With retrospective de-warping and analysis, customers have the best forensic tool available today

360-degree technology can revolutionise the way cityscapes are surveyed by providing situational awareness like never before. With de-warping software integrated into the VMS, users can create as many views, and have as many controllers—live or retrospective—as they need. In other words, they are not limited to the four, six or eight traditional cameras, or to the four virtual cameras you get from on-board de-warping.

Installing 360-degree cameras

A big consideration regarding the mounting and installation of 360-degree security cameras concerns light variations in a given scene with such a large field of view. Extremely bright lights often blow out a scene or create lots of shadows, and many 360-degree cameras cannot pick up information because the image is either too dark or too bright. Leading cameras technology provides wide, dynamic-range (WDR) processing in which the brightest lights as well as the shadows in a given scene are analysed by the camera, and proportioned. WDR processing lowers the brightest of the lights so they do not over-saturate certain parts of the scene. 

Tomorrow’s technology today

Since 9/11, security cameras have become ever more ubiquitous and, with time, more sophisticated. The Boston Marathon bombings’ investigation revealed the critical value video surveillance brings to the world. Going forward, it will be imperative for security professionals to create a surveillance solution comprising a real-time, 360-degree view combined with de-warping software that will provide the best opportunity for forensic analysis.  Retrospective viewing will be mandatory. This is what the world will require, and this is what leading 360-degree technology companies are bringing to the marketplace today. 

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

Author profile

Richard Pineau CTO & Executive Vice President, Oncam

  • Related companies
  • Oncam
  • View all news from
  • Oncam

In case you missed it

Thermal cameras and smart cities: Preventing COVID-19 in public places
Thermal cameras and smart cities: Preventing COVID-19 in public places

With the pandemic still in full swing and no certainty as to when exactly it will come to an end, the world has been battling anxiety for months now. And with each day, circumstances change quickly and almost make it impossible to predict what will happen next, how events will unfold, and what actions to take in light of a new situation. But one thing is certain: the world has been shut down and paralysed for way too long, and the eventual reopening is unavoidable – in fact, it’s well under way. In this situation, what is possible to control is how the world will continue reopening – and specifically, how to ensure the safest possible reopening that will ensure the return of some degree of normalcy to people’s lives and business operations, while also managing the risk of COVID’s spread in the most efficient way. Our highly digitised, technologically advanced world This is when the power of technology comes to rescue the day: what truly sets the global crisis we face today apart from other calamities that humanity has encountered over year is the fact that it has developed in a highly digitised, technologically advanced world where each day brings about innovations with a sole purpose to make daily life and operations easier and more streamlined. And among these, the star of the past decade has been artificial intelligence. The world has been shut down and paralysed for way too long, and the eventual reopening is unavoidable – in fact, it’s well under way While AI has many avenues of introducing efficiency and fast problem-solving, there is one specific application that will further fuel the reopening of the world and successfully keep the spread of the virus abate. This “collaborative security” application includes a synthesis of smart video analytics, facial recognition, object identification/detection, and thermal cameras that can support the reopening of businesses globally when installed within those facilities frequented by customers. With such a level of sophistication that can ensure uninterrupted monitoring and analysis of large public spaces, these AI technologies can ideally operate best as cloud solutions to ensure a collaborative network with maximum scalability and widespread implementation. As these technologies increase in ubiquity and find their way into daily operations of businesses globally, the cost of the smart solutions will decrease proportionally to the growth of their reach. There are some highly specific ways to create this collaborative network of interconnected safety tools in the current climate. Here are some applications that have been successful to date and will increase in usability in the foreseeable future, creating “smart cities” working together towards a safer, more secure world. Maintaining social distancing practices The most important step everyone around the world has taken to contribute to the effort of slowing the spread of the virus has been social distancing. A six-foot-distance has become a new social norm that has quickly been adopted globally and become a habit to people who are naturally used to being close to others and socialising without giving distance a second thought. The star of the past decade has been artificial intelligence So, it is natural that such distancing measures take time to get accustomed to – and it is also natural that individuals may forget about them from time to time. To help maintain the six-foot distance between people at all times and give them slight nudges to keep the rule top of their minds, AI video technology can be trained to estimate the distance between individuals in public and commercial areas and identify the cases in which people get too close to each other. By notifying local merchants or authorities about such cases, the system can help ensure the safety of everyone in the area at all times while positively reinforcing the public to gradually get more accustomed to maintaining the distance and thus helping stop the spread of the virus. Detecting the virus through facial recognition Perhaps the straightforward application of such high-level technology is using video surveillance to identify persons of interest who have tested positive for the virus. Modern AI has the ability to identify facial features and characteristics with a unique level of granularity, making it possible to identify individuals whose records show they have antibodies from those who can be potential carriers of the virus. After the initial differentiation and identification, the system can then notify the employers and employees of the facility about the results of the conducted analysis and the pursuant results, allowing them to be more vigilant and take action where necessary to ensure a safe experience for everyone. PPE reinforcement Wearing a mask or some sort of face coverage in public spaces and especially within facilities (such as stores, for instance) has been - and will continue to be - a requirement for maintaining a safe and healthy environment for people to continue with their day-to-day lives and businesses to resume regular operations. To this extent, the object detection and identification abilities of smart cameras can further reinforce this requirement and ensure that the absence of protective equipment doesn’t go unnoticed.  Essentially, these cameras can easily identify if an individual has coverage at any given point of time or not, notifying the local authorities about any risks immediately and helping them maintain necessary safety measures without having to interrupt their workflow or worry about missing a visitor without a mask. Detecting high temperature One of the key (and the most widespread) symptoms of COVID-19 is a high fever - a certain indicator of whether an individual may have been infected with the virus or not. While identifying fever with a regular human eye is nearly impossible, AI can do so at a fraction of time by quickly scanning body temperatures of any incoming individuals and determine whether it’s above CDC’s recommended temperature of 100.4F in order to determine the risk factor and notify the local authorities to take action. Modern AI has the ability to identify facial features and characteristics with a unique level of granularity This technology is a good tactic to objectively assess potential risks that come with elevated temperatures - and sometimes, the people themselves might not realise they might (unconsciously) be carriers of the virus and thus endanger the safety of others in their vicinity. The technology is yet another step towards ensuring a safer reopening of the global economy and a more streamlined way of getting back on track while minimising the risk of spreading the virus further. It’s not all about the theory  We have tested the described approaches in our own R&D campus in Europe. The latest release of the IREX cloud enables remote fever detection and monitoring of social isolation and mask policies with AI. We have integrated thermal cameras to detect people with elevated temperature and CCTV cameras for identification and notifying those who potentially ill. In case of any health threat, the venue manager gets an instant message with a picture and exact location. These preventive steps helped our employees return to the office months earlier than it's happening in other countries. Moreover, personnel coming back to the office by their own wish as now they feel a virus-free environment in the campus - even safer than in their own homes. Now we are launching a pilot project for a well-known pharmacy chain in Florida, USA. With the help of a Computer Vision platform, staff will be able to divide customer traffic into those with normal body temperature and those who come in with elevated temperatures, as well as effectively monitor social distance norms. The goal of our potential client is to maximise the safety of customers in the post-pandemic period. Also, IREX is already deployed across hundreds of locations in the UK and will add health monitoring capability soon.

Why cloud-enabled physical security must be part of your long-term digital strategy
Why cloud-enabled physical security must be part of your long-term digital strategy

COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown saw an unprecedented demand for cloud-enabled technologies across Europe. Such services enabled people to stay connected and allowed some businesses to relocate personnel and continue to operate successfully. With enterprise-focused video conferencing mobile app downloads showing a weekly 90% increase in comparison to pre-COVID-19 figures, it’s clear that cloud services have proven invaluable in these challenging times. Now, as the benefits to business of cloud technology become apparent, and the grip of COVID-19 begins to loosen, senior decision makers must consider the learnings from the past few months and look to apply them to boost productivity, streamline costs or become more agile in the long term. Digital transformation presents some enticing advantages for those companies that have been slow to adapt. The physical security industry, traditionally video surveillance cameras (CCTV) and access control, will have witnessed how cloud infrastructure is not only cost effective and safe, but is a force multiplier for connecting platforms, services and people with potent business benefits. The future is VSaaS and ACaaS In today’s modern, connected world, dated technologies are giving way to their cloud-enabled successors, video surveillance as-a-service (VSaaS) and access control as-a-service (ACaaS). In this context, cameras and readers are added to a network as IoT devices that bring security systems up to date and represent a vital component in any modern, cyber-secure digital strategy. Frictionless access control has meant touch free access to buildings But better security is just one benefit of a much greater system that can bring real value. Built in analytics, for example, that utilise the data from network video cameras and smart access control devices, produce valuable business insights that help to inform and automate decision making. In the recent pandemic, frictionless access control has meant touch free access to buildings; while occupancy tools have helped retailers adhere to strict government guidelines on social distancing. And as more security equipment becomes connected to the wider IT network, the advantages have not been lost on the IT industry that is expressing more than a passing interest in the adoption and management of such systems. Morphean recently conducted a survey of 1000 IT decision makers across the UK and Europe, with the purpose of providing clarity around their security purchasing intent in the 2020s. Findings revealed that as many as 84% of IT managers are currently using or considering VSaaS or ACaaS systems, pointing to an appreciation of the convergence of physical security and IT security, and a willingness to embrace systems when integrated with IT in the cloud. An adaptable business model with recurring revenues Of course, it is not just the IT industry that is changing mindsets towards hosted physical security. As a result of COVID-19, end customers are demanding it too and found it easier to scale at speed when business circumstances changed. Rather than being tied to fixed IT infrastructure on premises, a hosted solution offered greater dexterity as operational challenges around the pandemic arose. Businesses were able to customise and scale quickly to meet ongoing need without the need for large upfront capital investment, instead, paying for the convenience as-a-service out of operational expenditure as a monthly cost. This is the proven business model of cloud, yet the security industry has been slow to adopt it. One key challenge is the way in which the prevalent business models in the sector operate. VSaaS is still alien to installers and integrators used to selling hardware on narrow margins, reliant on existing financial arrangements with distributors to fund new equipment. Transitioning to sales cycles based on monthly licences rather than up-front purchases won’t be easy, but the security channel must learn how if it is to remain competitive and drive new business opportunities. This recurring revenue model will be interesting for the physical security industry who will have witnessed uncertainty and, in some cases, a downturn in revenues as decisions around capital expenditure were put on hold during the crisis. Instead, convenient and recurring monthly payments will have put the installer on a firmer footing and guaranteed ongoing vendor support backed by the latest software updates and firmware upgrades to ensure delivery of a high quality service that’s always up to date and online. What is driving your digital strategy? VSaaS and ACaaS provide a flexible and fluid security and business solution Cloud is here to stay. Its resilience and ability to connect the world during the COVID-19 pandemic has proved its worth, even to the uninitiated who have now witnessed first-hand the value of connected systems. VSaaS and ACaaS provide a flexible and fluid security and business solution to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving industry, where the changing threat landscape means investing in the cloud is an investment towards success. CEOs and CIOs within the physical security reseller industry must learn the lessons and apply the learnings to drive their businesses forward in the ‘new normal’ where hosted security solutions must surely play a major part to expand their offering to a wiser customer base. Cloud-enabled physical security solutions represent an investment into improving security and operations, and a chance to forge new business relationships to face the challenges of an ever changing world.

Facial recognition: Contactless solutions for a safe, post-pandemic world
Facial recognition: Contactless solutions for a safe, post-pandemic world

Facial recognition technology has come a long way since it first came to market several years ago. Initially plagued with technical challenges and widely viewed as a futuristic solution, facial recognition is now firmly implanted in numerous consumer and business products and applications. New advancement in software, specifically in the areas of algorithms, neural networks and deep learning and/or artificial intelligence (AI), have all dramatically improved both the performance and accuracy of facial recognition, further expanding its use for an increasing number of applications. From a purely business perspective, facial recognition’s powerful identification and authentication capabilities make it ideal for two primary applications: first as a security tool, and second as a workforce management solution. The touchless, accurate credential solution Facial recognition readers meet the new emerging need to limit physical exposure to germs and viruses Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the touchless nature of facial recognition as an access credential was gaining traction with physical and cyber security professionals. By using an individual’s face as an access control credential, facial recognition eliminates the need and expense of physical cards and proximity devices, or the need to physically enter PIN codes. In addition, facial recognition readers meet the new emerging need to limit physical exposure to germs and viruses by offering a highly accurate touchless access control credentialing solution. As a workforce management tool, facial recognition helps preserve the health of employees checking into work, while providing management with an infallible means of documenting employee time and attendance while providing a detailed history of overall workforce activity and individual personnel tracking. Both of which have been longstanding challenges due to easily compromised time tracking systems and practices. Now, nothing is left to question based on hard data. With the growing popularity of facial recognition technology, there are many choices already available with more undoubtedly on the way. Selecting the right solution for your specific access control and/or workforce management application is dependent on a very wide range of variables. But there are a few core characteristics that you should look for when evaluating facial recognition readers. Wide and near-angle LEDs Most facial recognition terminals employ some form of IR (Infrared) technology to help ensure high visibility by the unit’s image sensor. This often limits where the unit can be installed such as outdoors or near windows due to strong ambient light. More advanced facial recognition readers employ as many as 80 wide-angle near infrared LEDs and 60 narrow-angle near infrared LEDs, allowing the unit to recognise faces even in full daylight and brightly lit environments (not direct sun). This enables installation at indoor locations near windows, lobbies and building entries. 3D pixel intensity distribution analysis Another facial recognition reader advancement to look for involves three-dimensional pixel intensity analysis. Ambient lighting contains ultraviolet rays which can negate near infrared LED lighting, and can also cast shadows making it difficult for a facial recognition reader to pinpoint the facial recognition points required for identification and authentication. Three-dimensional pixel intensity distribution analysis minimises the effects of ambient light when acquiring facial images by minimising lighting contrasts. As a result, it is easier for the algorithm to recognise the shape of the face, enabling it to extract more facial features and create higher quality face templates, which are critical for accurate facial recognition. Functional ergonomics This results in a faster, more comfortable, and convenient user experience The angle and position of a facial recognition reader directly impact the performance of the unit. Facial recognition readers with different viewing angles for built-in visual and infrared cameras allows users to stand at positions that are most suitable for facial recognition with little or no effort of contortions. This results in a faster, more comfortable, and convenient user experience. High performance processing Like any intelligent edge device, the performance of a facial recognition solution is directly reliant on its processing power. New advanced facial recognition readers deliver exceptional performance by employing enhanced face template extraction technology combined with powerful processor. For example, a facial recognition reader with a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor can perform up to 3,000 facial database matches (1:N) within one second. More advanced solutions also feature Group Matching functionality capable of executing up to 30,000 matches within one second. Live face detection It is most important that the facial recognition readers you evaluate are capable of analysing faces in real time to maintain fluid entry/egress even during high volumes of employee traffic. Hardware-dependent live face detection systems employing technologies such as facial thermogram recognition and facial vein recognition require expensive hardware components, provide less accurate matches and slower authentication performance, which is counterintuitive for mainstream access control and workforce management applications. Dual authentication for added security Although the use of an advanced facial recognition reader provides the convenience, health benefits and cost-savings of touchless identification and authentication, there are many applications where more than one credential may be necessary to ensure the highest levels of security. Advanced facial recognition readers with multimodal, multifactor credentialing capabilities provide this added security benefit. For example, facial recognition readers that support multiple RFID proximity devices supporting 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz provide varying degrees of protection and greater implementation versatility. Videophone or intercom capabilities Facial recognition readers with multifunctionality can solve several challenges with one solution Facial recognition readers with multifunctionality can solve several challenges with one solution. A perfect example includes devices with SIP (session initiation protocol) videophone capabilities which effectively eliminate the need and associated expense of  installing separate intercom devices while adding another layer of security to one’s facility. The COVID-19 pandemic, and hopefully soon to follow post-pandemic world, have surely accelerated the need for highly accurate, cost-efficient, and reliable facial recognition technologies to help get people back to work safely. Selecting the right facial recognition solution for your specific access control and/or workforce management is now more important than ever before, making a little extra due diligence during the evaluation process a smart decision.