“Decreases in the cost of technology as a result of commoditisation, coupled with lower data charges and the aggressive roll out of a superior fibre network infrastructure, is creating opportunity for enhanced network video surveillance within South Africa’s public transport sector,” says Roy Alves, business development manager, MEA, Axis Communications.
While certain segments of the South African public transport sector, such as local and international airports, make use of cutting edge surveillance technology in the day-to-day management of safety and security, the same does not hold true across South Africa’s commuter bus and rail network.
The global picture, however, is somewhat different. A recent survey by Axis and UITP, the international organisation for public transport authorities and operators, indicated more than 67% of international public transport organisations make use of IP surveillance. “The benefits are huge,” says Alves. A safe and secure transport system with real-time access to live and recorded images in HDTV quality leads to less violence and greater control of the commuter environment, essential to the safety and security of all commuters.”
However, the vast majority of local public transport organisations currently make use of video only, purely for retrieval of information. The result? A very reactive environment. While South Africa might not have to deal with high terror alerts, our public transport network remains plagued by crime – from assaults through to theft and vandalism.
“Effective security and surveillance should be focused on prevention. It’s about detecting suspicious behaviour or a vulnerable situation before a crime is committed.”
Analytics is providing users of IP surveillance technology with the ability to respond proactively, based on real-time footage. Examples range from the early detection of smoke or heat, potentially concealed firearms (bulges in clothes) and luggage left unattended for longer than acceptable, through to loitering or other suspicious behaviour. “Enhanced analytics allows for ‘intelligent camera application’, the automatic prompting of alerts to the relevant control point, at the exact moment any of these incidences occur.”
Enhanced analytics is also able to detect changes in crowd or individual behaviour, from a mass exodus in times of emergency through to tail gating. In emergency situations, analytics is able to trigger a command for the immediate opening of exits and doors, thereby preventing a potential stampede. With tailgating, it ‘looks out’ for individuals walking too closely together.
Other elements of IP surveillance technology that Alves deems essential, particularly within a local context, include:
• Aggression detection (aka sound intelligence): Microphones, embedded within cameras, examine acoustics and are able to detect any changes in audio. This could be something as seemingly minor as a change in pitch. It would be immediately picked up, prompting control to pay closer attention.
• Facial recognition: Based on specially developed software, facial recognition technology analyses video streams from network cameras allowing for the matching of faces against those stored in a database.
• Tamper alarm: Any human interference with a camera is automatically picked up. This could range from spray painting over the lens through to changing the direction it is facing, thereby altering its intended view. In these instances, another camera will notify control. Once again, this allows suspicious behaviour or vulnerable situations to be detected, and investigated, well before any crime is committed.
Due to constantly changing light conditions, buses and trains are probably two of the most difficult environments in which to place cameras. Yet, significant improvements in the area of video quality is leading to excellent output with no risk of over or under exposure. “The exact same quality we are witnessing in consumer electronics, such as TVs or video games, is available across IP video surveillance. Further, certification for use on-board a bus or train, ensures this technology is able to withstand a moving or shaking environment, while still producing stable and clear images.
Superior image quality, combined with enhanced analytics leads to fewer false alarms. “Those in control need to be vigilant, responding quickly to any alarm in the interest of early detection. However, it is only human that too many false alarms could result in the desensitisation of security personnel,” cautions Alves.
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