Intelligence in motion - the benefits of CCTV - Bapco Journal

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Intelligence in motion - the benefits of CCTV

25 July, 2007

Since its origin some 50+ years ago, CCTV has proven itself to be a valuable commodity within the fight against crime. The technology has been evolving at a significant pace and with the growing proliferation of fixed and mobile CCTV solutions, Dawn Davison-Read discusses, with a wide selection of suppliers, exactly what benefits CCTV can bring to civil contingency responders and if we are in danger of too much CCTV footage, creating a data overload situation...

It is widely understood the benefits that the use of CCTV brings to crime reduction and as a source of evidence. In fact, recent statistics suggest that there are in the region of 75million CCTV cameras across the UK - one of the highest amounts any where in the world. Using CCTV has evolved from being a traditional security system to assisting in many aspects of emergency management and response. Perhaps even more so, with the recent evidential CCTV footage of the attempted terrorist attacks in helping convict the perpetrators. Yet one of the limitations of traditional fixed CCTV cameras is the amount and necessity of cabling required. Furthermore, traditional CCTV systems were originally designed as point-to-point transmission of video from a camera to a recorder on the same site. This meant that tapes required frequent changing, storage and the recording monitored, creating a huge task for the CCTV operatives.

Furthermore, the escalation of criminal activity coupled with the ever resurgent threat of terrorism means that modern surveillance techniques are becoming increasingly beneficial.

The Business Crime Index reports that business crime claims increased by 6% in the last quarter of 2006 with arson and violent crime claims having also doubled during that period. Additionally there have been recent acts of terrorism in Glasgow and London in which international business and consumers were threatened. Commenting, Charlie Sherlock, CEO, Cinario, said, “Considering the enormity of threats across all business sectors, it is essential for security systems to manage risks in real time. Often, systems are retrospective at best and do not allow effective co-ordination of security internally, as well as with local authorities. The successful evolution of CCTV requires adopting a more intelligent approach.

“Security solutions like CCTV are a strategic tool in catching or thwarting would be criminals. But a fast response to risk is impossible without first having a system that can properly assess threat levels and evaluate where defences need to be strengthened. Data that is gathered and evaluated from intelligent systems can determine whether the need protection exists."

The benefits of IP CCTV

Many organisations are now looking toward IP CCTV solutions, as pointed out by Matt McCloskey, Senior Product manager, ntl:Telewest. In a paper presented by McCloskey he pointed out that as well as providing significant cost savings, IP CCTV also aids the convergence of data, communications and security onto a single network as well as resulting from easier maintenance and the ease of centralising control, IP CCTV adds flexibility and increased functionality to CCTV. As a direct consequence, cameras can also be positioned to address specific problem areas and tackle a wide range of crimes.

In full agreement, Simon Nash, European Project Manager, Sony Europe’s Network Video Monitoring and CCTV Division, added “The changes we have seen over the last year or so within the CCTV industry have been very dramatic with the rapid growth of IP cameras and the uptake of intelligent messaging. Furthermore wireless solutions are ideally suited to the emergency services.”

David Green, Head of Strategy and Marketing, Public Safety, Arqiva, added, “Essentially we have seen two areas that have evolved bringing significant benefits to the public safety sector, which are the capturing and processing of images and the transport over IP. Both areas afford increased quality, lower costs and perhaps even more importantly easier distribution of the footage.”

In addition, as pointed out by Green, the analysis of the images has evolved immensely with the ability to distinguish intelligent processing of information, recognition of movement (or lack of it - for instance a bag or parcel left unattended sends an instant alert to a control centre). The ability to detect motion and intelligently analysis is extremely useful in video footage/data analysis. “ANPR is another area that is seeing the widespread benefits of intelligent analysis and recognition from both fixed and mobile applications. For instance traffic patrols can recognise every number plate and automatically run a check, plus even more beneficial is the ability to identify known vehicles and track the movement.”

Discussing the ability to integrate CCTV footage with ANPR, Green said, “I’ve not seen it done, but the technology is possible to link ANPR solutions however, CCTV systems tend to be installed, say in Town Centres, for other purposes.”

Sharing video footage

The use of IP CCTV and the intelligent analysis systems used enables sharing of video footage. “Already special events such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Tour De France etc, multi agency activity for crowd control etc as well as crime and incident spotting. Satellite links can stream the footage to forward command vehicles as well as other wireless technologies,” added Green.

Nicholas Hyam, Product Manager, Wireless Solutions, Arqiva added, “There are a number of mobile applications that can bring additional benefits to the intelligent use of CCTV footage streamed to patrol officers, command vehicles and so forth. But the bandwidth of the carrier is going to determine how good the quality of the image is. However, since there are systems such as MPEG that only transmit a minimum amount of data in an algorithm it is possible to stream live footage over a variety of platforms.”

Streaming live video

“MESH networks, for instance when deploying cameras around an incident (for example a major fire) footage can be relayed to control, these are locally deployed but bring vast benefits to the command in dealing with an incident.”

Discussing the use of TETRA, Hyam believes as it was not designed for real time video it probably wasn’t the best solutions, however it remained an option since you can still transmit high quality stills, albeit not actual moving video.

Raising the issue with Airwave, The BAPCO Journal was advised, “As it currently stands, Airwave would not propose TETRA as able to transmit or stream live CCTV at a suitably high enough quality to be useful to operational officers. Airwave has spent the last 12 months investigating and evaluating the emerging video technology to understand the bearer and bandwidth requirements for their use within policing environments. Mobile video is clearly one of the most challenging applications due to its bandwidth and latency demands.”

In raising the issue of how Airwave will cope with the increased need for higher bandwidth, the response identified that Airwave sees the security, resilience and availability benefits of TETRA being complemented with other bearers in future public safety solutions. Some of the emerging wireless technologies offer higher bandwidth that would make them more suitable to carrying video, although they may lack some of the advantages of TETRA. Invariably, where a public safety organisation utilises a mixture of bearers, it will be important that usability, security, integrity and cost-effectiveness is achieved.

The Airwave Service was intended from the outset to be a Voice AND Data network, and indeed many of Airwave's customers have performed successful mobile data trials using TETRA, and some are currently rolling out TETRA-based mobile data solutions, which include picture downloads over TETRA. For video, it is not just bandwidth, but also the quality of the compression codecs and latency in the systems that determine how effective a mobile video system is, and this is what makes it a challenge. Airwave does see video as having lots of applications and uses within the public safety environment.

Hyam also suggested that municiple wireless networks was another area that could provide not only a more cost effective method but systems supporting applications such as Wi-Fi brought many benefits by using a single host. Hyam said, “A single host means we can ensure the network is sized and scoped to meet the demand for bandwith, resilience and ensure potential interference is minimised.”

Wi-Fi is a major benefit for temporary installations and in deed 3G is another viable platform to enable live video streaming. Discussing the use of both Wi-Fi and 3G networks for streaming video, David Gilbertson, Managing Director, WCCTV said, “Utilising the mobile phone network provides total flexibility although the limiting factor is the bandwidth however using 3G technology we are now seeing video transmitted at up to 14 frames per section.”

Commenting further Gilbertson added that his company was working closely with T-Mobile to use HSDPA, a much faster version of 3G bringing immense benefits to the public safety sector. “In essence the use of wireless CCTV solutions mean that it is mobile at both ends, enabling public safety organisations to bring CCTV applications into areas previously believed impossible. This in turn brings huge benefits to the fight against terrorism, and vast flexibility for major events such as Notting Hill Carnival, the recent Tour De France etc.” WCCTV’s aim is to increase to 25 frames per second from mobile to mobile applications, and is currently developing smaller devices to enable live video to be streamed to PDAs where, for instance six officers in six locations could dial into one camera and view the footage. All of which would be encrypted, password protected and secure, but provide a huge benefit to emergency service and partner agencies in dealing with incidents.

Duncan Ellison, Sales and Marketing Director, Sarian Systems agrees with the use of 3G and suggests that by the end of the year each of the municiple networks (Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile, and O2) will all have HSDPA offering speeds for real time streaming, high quality video data transmission. “The technology has been designed for Mobile TV,” said Ellison, “However what is important to note is that it is suited to CCTV applications.”

Commenting further he said, “Traditional mobile networks simply do not have the bandwidth or quality assurance to handle live video feeds, meaning that images are either grainy or a series of static photos. To get live CCTV feeds it has therefore been necessary to link cameras to a fixed network, but this is of little use when surveillance is needed at a remote crime hotspot, at a festival or on a march. However, the recent development in new mobile technology known as High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), at last enables high-quality real-time video feeds to be transmitted from any location, at low cost, and without the need for lengthy installation.

“HSDPA is essentially an extension of mobile operators' existing 3G technology, it is highly available and enables data and video to be sent back to base at broadband-like speeds, critical in major incident scenarios. All major UK operators are in the process of rolling out the new technology, which means that all an organisation needs is a portable video camera and an HSDPA router, in order to start sharing live feeds from mobile CCTV systems back to HQ.”

An organisation currently benefiting from this technology is Manchester City Council, which is using it to deploy cameras wirelessly in order to control fly-tipping.

In MLL Telecom’s experience of providing networks for the emergency services and local government, the company has found that the ingress of CCTV in today’s society has come with its challenges. The time to service, cost of implementation and, more importantly, the quality and reliability of traditional cable connectivity has caused some users major troubles.

“It is easy to understand then, why the use of point-to-point wireless is experiencing massive growth. These links offer a very high bandwidth, can be installed rapidly, are secure and are incredibly cost effective. Wireless is immune from ‘JCB induced loss of service’ and as a final bonus, the discrete antennas, although permanently mounted, can be easily used in a mobile environment for incident management. Next generation wireless networks will even support such applications as in-helmet CCTV, relaying live pictures back to incident rooms.

“Why should our 21st century emergency services be forced to rely on 19th century copper connectivity? Wireless connectivity is rapidly becoming the choice for the future of CCTV.”

Too much data?

The growing number of intelligent analysis applications and, as detailed earlier in this article, the use of intelligent cameras will ensure that data overload shouldn’t become an issue. As pointed out by Craig Pumfrey, Nice Systems, “Video content analysis and the automated detection of threats aid the reduction in the fear of data overload.”

“Alerting the operator via an automated threat detection system that something is amiss, helps operator efficiency and with incident verification solutions and incident replay the ability to pull together all relevant footage and re-construct a scenario offers wide and varied benefits to the control,” he added.

Nash agreed that there could potentially be an issue with data overload, however he explained, “This is where intelligent motion detection, meta-tagging data and intelligent retrieval comes into the fore.”

“We have developed a camera that enables intelligent motion detection - this can dramatically reduce false alarms. For instance the camera is designed to recognise movement and not send an alert for trees moving on a windy day, but should someone climb a tree, a person or vehicle appear in an area that they shouldn’t be etc, then an alarm at the control centre would be triggered. In addition the recording would be tagged dramatically reducing search and replay time if required.”

Although Nash pointed out that Sony’s cameras have had intelligent motion embedded into them for the last 18+ months, he believes this is likely to become a pre-requisite since it can dramatically reduce false alarms equating to vast time and cost savings.

Sherlock also believes that not only intelligent analysis at the CCTV ‘end’ is important to reduce the effects of potential data overload. “I believe the biggest evolution within CCTV of late has been the ability to filter what you know and want from the footage. At the camera end the technology has evolved to enable intelligent capture and analysis, but also at the back end, where intelligence alerts controllers that something has happened enables a more efficient management of incidents. For example an incident in a Tube station, could send an alert to a PDA or guard on the platform, the intelligent routing of that captured information brings the ability to action quickly. Although set protocols would be in process, ie if the incident wasn’t actioned locally then it would be escalated to control.”

In essence, Sherlock believes that intelligent routing is just as important as intelligent monitoring since it automates workflow helping increase the efficiency and response of the service.

“There is a danger that with the advances in CCTV technology you create more items to view, which is applicable to both mobile, temporary and fixed applications however automated back end intelligence ensures that details are provided on a ‘need to know/incident basis.”

The intelligent back end system is also a very powerful tool in the fight against terrorism explained Sherlock. “Whilst the ability to link information into IT systems to co-ordinate incident responses the ability to remotely view, mitigate, control and manage a major situation is very powerful. In addition the ability to aid post-incident analysis from CCTV analysis is a huge step in fighting both crime and terrorism.”

And to the future

As the need for efficient methods in gathering evidence and assistance for reducing crime continue, it is very likely that we are likely to see even more wireless and remote wireless applications be introduced. Body worn video devices are a key element (see our cover story pages 6-7), in-vehicle cameras etc. And as pointed out by Nash, “Co-ordination of the different video recording sources is relatively easy to achieve, and as more cameras are added (particularly those of the body-worn variety) each person in essence becomes a ‘node’ on the network, which provides a very exciting proposition for the entire emergency service sector and partner agencies in dealing with, responding to and averting many potential and occurring incidents.”

Nash also believes that there will be an increasing acceptance of intelligent CCTV cameras with facial recognition being developed further. In addition to which, as pointed out by Sherlock, there is also a huge interoperability challenge in pulling together all the different CCTV technologies, “As time moves forward the barriers will come down however, in the meantime it is up to us, the industry, to bridge the gap and ensure the ability to share data and interoperate with CCTV applications is a reality.”

“The future development in CCTV communication technology is evolving rapidly, with exciting potential developments, with some current pilot project taking place already in the transfer of CCTV data." Commented Sharon Wright, Sevenoaks District Local Authority CCTV Control. "One future objective is for Kent Police to access live real time images from all the cameras from Local Authority Control Rooms across Kent, then the ability to transfer the images possibly via the Airwave network to police units on patrol.”

All in all the future developments in CCTV and its communication technology is evolving rapidly. As pointed out by Kent Police, one of its objectives is to access live real time images from all the cameras within the Local Authority Control Rooms across Kent, then the ability to transfer the images to police units on patrol. And with many wide and varied applications across the UK, it is easy to see just how effective the technology is in the public safety arena, plus with the advent of mobile CCTV applications the future is certainly promising.

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