In the physical security space, video analytics have historically over-promised and under-delivered, often leaving end users sceptical about their capabilities. However, increased integration with security solutions and other business systems, as well as developments in deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI), have given video analytics a significant boost in recent years. Here, we take a look at the key trends putting video analytics in the spotlight, and how this opens up new opportunities for increased security and business intelligence.

Deep learning and AI will enhance video analytics capabilities

At the start of 2018, our security industry experts commented on how deep learning technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) would extend to the video surveillance industry, allowing security professionals to gain very specific insights into human behaviour. Our experts predicted that this would permit organisations to reduce risk, enable efficiencies, reduce costs, ensure compliance and provide faster access to stored video. With AI-enables video systems, video analytics are set to perform more complex applications at a higher level of accuracy.

Image processing developments allow intelligent analytics 

Ambarella predicts chip technology and neural network approach will revolutionise video analytics

According to Ambarella’s Chris Day, advancing chip technology combined with the neural network approach to computer vision is game changing for video analytics. Since the problem of higher resolution has already been solved, the key differentior for video surveillance systems will be the ability to add computer vision in parallel with image processing and high-resolution encoding – ideally in a chip that is low-power.

Integration with security systems increases video analytics value

Video analytics produce actionable business intelligence in retail and other markets

Video systems produce an immense amount of data that is often wasted, says Bosch Security Systems’ Sean Murphy. When video analytics alerts are integrated with other security systems, video events can trigger responses from other parts of the security solution. For example, cameras with video analytics can initiate intrusion detection system events initiate intrusion detection system events, prompting the panel to take action by alerting the central station or sending video to security personnel.  

Video analytics add value with actionable business intelligence

By overlaying intelligent operational sensors with intelligent video, it’s now possible to automate lighting levels based on motion detection

Adding network video to the current generation of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provides actional value beyond situational intelligence for security purposes. With increasingly intelligent sensors, interactions between business systems are becoming more sophisticated, providing a value greater than the sum of the parts. Organisations can use smart applications to reduce energy consumption, allocate workspace, and reduce operating costs. In a retail environment, analytics are now capable of assessing a scene for occupancy and crowd control, even generating reports of trends over time.

Video analytics detect abnormalities to predict incidents

Access control data combined with people-counting may indicate that the number of people assembled exceeds the number of card swipes

Camera-based video analytics can go beyond assessing a current scene to predicting potential risks before they occur, explains Pelco’s Jonathan Lewitt. Based on predetermined factors or analysis of prior events, systems can collect all available information to determine the level of severity of a situation and whether an action needs to be taken. At the same time, systems can correlate data from video and other sources to help analyse similar occurrences in the future.

Video analytics increasingly supplemented with audio analytics

Audio analytics are ideal for predicting workplace violence and mitigating school shootings

Audio analytics are often overlooked, notes Hanwha Techwin’s Paul Kong, perhaps due to differing privacy laws from video surveillance. However, audio analytics processed in a camera can help provide a secondary layer of verification for events, as well as identifying gunshots, screams, or other sounds indicating an incident is taking place. This makes audio analytics ideal for dealing with active shooter events at schools and campuses. As Louroe Electronics’ Richard Brent explains, audio analytics software can detect rising levels of human aggression, as well as recognising firearm discharge. This can trigger alerts to ensure incidents are dealt with swiftly.

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Can microchip implants replace plastic cards in modern access control?
Can microchip implants replace plastic cards in modern access control?

A futuristic alternative to plastic cards for access control and other applications is being considered by some corporate users in Sweden and the United Kingdom. The idea involves using a microchip device implanted into a user’s hand. About the size of a grain of rice and provided by Swedish company Biohax, the tiny device employs passive near field communication (NFC) to interface with a user’s digital environment. Access control is just one application for the device, which can be deployed in lieu of a smart card in numerous uses. Biohax says more than 4,000 individuals have implanted the device. Using the device for corporate employees Every user is given plenty of information to make an informed decision whether they want to use the deviceCurrently Biohax is having dialogue with curious corporate customers about using the device for their employees. “It’s a dialogue, not Big Brother planning to chip every employee they have,” says Jowan Österlund, CEO at Biohax. Every user is given plenty of information to make an informed decision whether they want to use the device. Data capture form to appear here! “Proof of concept” demonstrations have been conducted at several companies, including Tui, a travel company in Sweden that uses the device for access management, ID management, printing, gym access and self-checkout in the cafeteria. Biohax is also having dialogue with some big companies in the United Kingdom, including legal and financial firms. Österlund aims to have a full working system in place in the next year or so. A Swedish rail company accepts the implanted chip in lieu of a paper train ticket. They accept existing implants but are not offering to implant the chips. Österlund says his company currently has no plans to enter the U.S. market. The device is large enough to locate easily and extract if needed, and small enough to be unobtrusive Access control credential The device is inserted/injected below the skin between the index finger and the thumb. The circuitry has a 10-year lifespan. The device is large enough to locate easily and extract if needed, and small enough to be unobtrusive. The only risk is the possibility of infection, which is true anytime the skin is pierced, and the risk is mitigated by employing health professionals to inject the chip. Use of the device as an access control credential or any other function is offered as a voluntary option; any requirement by an employer to inject the device would be illegal, says Österlund. It’s a convenient choice that is made “based on a well-informed decision by the customer.” Aversion to needles, for example, would make some users squeamish to implant the device. More education of users helps to allay any concerns: Some 10% of employees typically would agree quickly to the system, but a larger group of 50% to 60% are likely to agree over time as they get more comfortable with the idea and understand the convenience, says Österlund. Protection of information The passive device does not actively send out any signals as you walk. It is only powered up by a reader if a user has access rightsIn terms of privacy concerns, information contained on the device is in physical form and is protected. The passive device does not actively send out any signals as you walk. There is no battery. It is only powered up by a reader if a user has access rights. With use of the device being discussed in the United Kingdom, there has been some backlash. For example, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has said: “Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers.” A big misconception is that the chip is a tracking device, says Österlund. It isn’t. “We love people to get informed,” says Österlund. “If they’re scared or apprehensive, they can just read up. It’s not used to control you – it’s used to give you control.”

Ethical consumption: should you buy security products ‘Made in China’?
Ethical consumption: should you buy security products ‘Made in China’?

Should ‘Made in China’ be seen as a negative in security systems and products? It’s an important and complex issue that merits a more detailed response than my recent comment in the Expert Panel Roundtable. For me, there are two sides of the answer to this question: Buying products that have certain negative attributes that are not in alignment with some part of a belief system or company mandate. Buying products that do not perform as advertised or do something that is unacceptable. For integrators and end users making the buying decisions, the drive to purchase products may not be based on either aspect and instead on the product that can do the best job for their business. But for others, a greater emphasis on the ethical implications of purchasing decisions drives decision-making. What is ethical consumption? Ethical consumption is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favouredEthical consumption — often called ethical consumerism — is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favoured, and products that are ethically questionable may be met with a ‘moral boycott’. This can be as simple as only buying organic produce or as complex as boycotting products made in a totalitarian regime that doesn't offer its citizens the same freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. Consider the goals of the Boston Tea Party or the National Consumers League (NCL), which was formed to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. Some examples of considerations behind ethical consumption include fair trade, treatment of workers, genetic modification, locally made and processed goods, union-made products and services, humane animal treatment, and in general, labour issues and manufacturing practices that take these factors into account. Increase in ethical consumption The numbers show that ethical consumption is on the rise. In a 2017 study by Unilever, 33 percent of consumers reported choosing to buy and support brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good. In the same study, 53 percent of shoppers in the United Kingdom and 78 percent in the United States said they feel better when they buy products that are ‘sustainably’ produced. There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities Though the aforementioned question that sparked this conversation centres around concerns with products made in China, there are many other countries where, for example, governments/dictators are extremely repressive to all or parts of their populations, whose products, such as oil, diamonds, minerals, etc., we happily consume. There are also a number of countries that are a threat in terms of cybersecurity. It may be naive and simplistic to single out Chinese manufacturers. Impact on physical security products Product buying decisions based on factors other than product functionality, quality and price are also starting to permeate the security marketplace. While this hasn't been a large focus area from the business-to-business consumption side, it's something that should be considered for commercial security products for a variety of reasons. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating" There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Last fall, 30 U.S. companies, including Apple and Amazon, were potentially compromised when it was discovered that a tiny microchip in the motherboard of servers built in China that weren't a part of the original specification. According to a Bloomberg report, “This attack was something graver than the software-based incidents the world has grown accustomed to seeing. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating, promising the kind of long-term, stealth access that spy agencies are willing to invest millions of dollars and many years to get.” This, along with many other incidents, are changing the considerations behind purchasing decisions even in the physical security industry. Given that physical security products in general have been lax on cybersecurity, this is a welcome change. Combating tech-specific threats In early January, members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors and ensure U.S. technological supremacy by improving interagency coordination across the U.S. government. The bill creates the Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House, an indication that this issue is of critical importance to a number of players across the tech sector. Members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors To address a significant number of concerns around ethical production, there are certifications such as ISO 26000 which provides guidance on social responsibility by addressing accountability, transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for rule of law, respect for international norms of behaviour and respect for human rights. While still emerging within physical security, companies that adhere to these and other standards do exist in the marketplace. Not buying products vulnerable to cyberattacks It may be counter-productive, even irresponsible, to brand all products from an entire country as unfit for purchasing. Some manufacturers’ products may be ethically questionable, or more vulnerable to cyberattacks than others; so not buying products made by those companies would make sense. The physical security industry might be playing a bit of catch up on this front, but I think we're beginning to see a shift toward this kind of responsible buying behaviour.