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People, processes and potential

Martin Roberts of NICE Systems discusses current and future security challenges of processes, people and technology.

The political, social, business and technological environment is changing the mandate of the modern Security Manager.  Recent events have placed security firmly in the spotlight and are forcing everyone from the board down to ask the following questions: Do we have the security processes, people and technology in place to meet current and future challenges?  And how can we improve?

With the barriers between IT and security coming down, and as organisations recognise the cost savings and broader business benefits that can be made by merging security and IT onto a single network, it is clear that IT has a part to play in the ‘solution', but that too has an impact on the people and the way they do things.

Camera chaos and managing the information overload

The fundamental obstacle that needs to be addressed, as camera installations increase, is dealing with the torrent of visual data bombarding the control room.

Most of the time the majority of these cameras are not being efficiently monitored.  At any given time only a small proportion of locations can be seen in a typical control room, which limits the probability of an event being detected.  This is not to discredit the operator, as human perception has evolved to ignore small changes.  As such, a briefcase left in a busy concourse of a rail station could easily go unnoticed amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowd.

Training does help, but lots of busy images are distracting and many events will inevitably be missed.  In the same way everyone staring on the ‘magic eye' posters and concentrating on an image that would not reveal itself, even the most highly motivated operator will miss the majority of activity after only 20 minutes on duty.

So if we know that manned monitoring is flawed by our very human nature, perhaps we should look at whether elements of the event detection process could be automated.

Tomorrow's technology today - What processes can be automated?

Whilst television programmes and Hollywood films such as Spooks and James Bond glamorise the surveillance technology of the future, real break-throughs are being made today that are having a major impact in the control rooms of shopping centres, airports, warehouses, correctional facilities, casinos and mass transport systems.

Whether you realise it or not, it is likely that you are already building the technology foundation for the future with your Digital Video Recorder.  In the last year DVR sales overtook that of analogue VCRs for the first time, and there is no looking back.  These, combined with new integrated smart digital video and audio capture and content analytics solutions, are enabling the automation of tedious detection processes, a term often referred to as ‘smart monitoring'.

Smart monitoring

To offer an example of how smart monitoring of such monotonous processes can work in an everyday situation, consider the perimeter road of any airport.  It is a highly vulnerable location that requires constant surveillance and can be a mind-numbing activity for any skilled CCTV operator.  But if the operator can rely on this technology to raise an alert should a vehicle or person enter a restricted zone, allowing them to playback the course of events running up to the incident (whilst monitoring the live situation), it would enable a quick decision to be made and the appropriate course of action to be taken (whether it be to send a guard to deal with the incident, to continue to assess the event, or to dismiss the alert) whilst empowering the operator to complete other important tasks.

Likewise, the same smart monitoring can be used for access control.  Any access point with heavy throughput (such as a tube station turnstile at rush hour) means the sheer number of people passing through makes manually identifying a security breach almost impossible.  Even at relatively quiet locations, asking a security guard to identify and verify a potential incident relies on them looking at the right monitor at the right time.

In today's security conscious climate, luck is a luxury that no one can afford.  Using the same technology to automatically detect tailgating, someone jumping over a barrier or loitering on a platform could prove invaluable.

Using ‘smart monitoring' processes, human resources can be refocused to enable the team to play to its strengths.  Humans may not be conditioned to concentrate on monitors, however they are adept at making decisions based on the information presented to them, and this is a trait that technology will not soon replace.  Using ‘smart monitoring' to delegate this process to a team on the ground enables more resources to be deployed from the control room to the ground and takes pressure off of the CCTV operator and thereby improves overall responsiveness.

A vision of the near future

To illustrate how the effectiveness of this process can have a direct impact on a typical daily occurrence for the security team, imagine an increased presence of uniformed guards operating in the same busy concourse of the rail station mentioned earlier.  The cameras are in place and are monitoring every vulnerable location; both are providing a visible deterrent.  The system automatically identifies the briefcase as ‘unattended' and sends an alert to the team on their handheld PDA devices.  The team immediately plays back the camera footage to see a man leaving the briefcase and walking off.   An assessment of the potential threat risk is made and the best course of action, whether it is to evacuate the area, safely removes the briefcase or tracks the movements of the man (or perhaps all three).

Post incident investigation

Until now we have focused on real-time detection, and yet a considerable amount of resources are taken up by trawling footage for post incident investigation and evidence collation.  As DVRs continue to replace analogue VCRs incident investigation processes can be improved dramatically.  Trying to find the 10 seconds of critical footage amongst a mass of unstructured visual data captured by hundreds, or even thousands, of cameras can be like hunting for a needle in a haystack.  The same smart digital video and audio capture and content analytics that are being used for real-time can also provide a searchable library.  For example, if the Police ask for the movements of a suspect from point A to B the operator can quickly search, retrieve and review all the relevant footage and send for evidence purposes.

Caesars Entertainment Vice President of Corporate Compliance and Security James Darcy commented on a recent implementation of ‘smart monitoring' technology, "Digitising our gaming surveillance to match the digital surveillance we currently use in security operations will enable us to work more effectively as a department."  He added that the system would, "...provide us with instant access to surveillance video at the touch of a finger, instead of requiring us to sort through stacks of analogue tapes, as we have for so many years."

Bridging the skills gap

It is important to note that as this technology continues to advance, so too must the skill sets of the team.  Of course every security guard will be familiar with 2-way radio and the use of VCRs.  However, PDAs, DVRs and content analytics will require a new level of re-skilling.  Whilst it is not important to know how the technology works, the security guard will be expected to be able to use it and this proficiency will have an impact on the staffing and recruitment of the security team.  

As well as ensuring the ground team is equipped and skilled, there is inevitably going to be a knowledge gap at management level that will need to be addressed, as two historically disparate functions converge.  Security Managers will need to interact closely with the IT Manager, who will need to start planning for unfamiliar applications, such as live security video and access control on their network.

The security team needs to act as an adaptable, responsive and proactive unit.  The core objectives of creating a safe and secure environment are the same as ever, but using technology can help to instil and enforce security processes, making them smarter.  Using digital video networking, recording and analysis, maximises information availability and reduces information overload.  It equips the security team to face new challenges requiring faster, better-informed decision-making and action.

Martin Roberts
Vice President, Marketing & Business Development
NICE Systems, EMEA

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