Thermal cameras have become mainstream over the past few years as the prices have dropped and they have been made available to the consumer market. One of the areas where we’re seeing a large uptake of thermals is in the residential estate environment where these cameras are being used with great success as an additional, and some would say better security solution on the perimeter.
To gain some insight into what thermal cameras are and what they are capable of, we asked a few camera manufacturers with a range of thermals on offer to give us some insight into these devices. Our answers came from:
• Craig Herbst and Gino De Oliveira, business development managers at Sunell.
• Philip Smerkovitz, MD of TeleEye (South Africa).
• Quintin van den Berg, CCTV product manager for Bosch Security Systems SA.
• Rudie Opperman, sales engineer at Axis Communications.
• Yiyuan Li, thermal product manager at Hikvision’s R&D centre.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What function can thermals play in perimeter protection that can’t be handled by conventional solutions?
TeleEye: Thermal cameras offer many advantages over conventional optical cameras when applied to perimeter protection. Due to the heat sensing technology used to capture scenes and generate images, thermal cameras are not affected by lighting conditions that are either required, or hamper the use of conventional cameras. Thermal cameras can operate in the complete absence of light. Thermal cameras are also not blinded by incoming light such as bright sunlight directly into the lens which affects conventional cameras.
Thermal cameras can operate over far longer distances than conventional cameras thus reducing the cost of infrastructure. Our latest range of commercial security fixed value thermal camera boasts a human detection range of over 850 m.
Sunell: Perimeter detection has become your first crime preventer over the last couple of years, it has become vitally important to ensure that your boundary fence is clear and visible in order to identify any sort of threat that may want to gain entry into your estate. The benefits from thermal cameras are tremendous when using perimeter analytics enabling the operator to detect movement in pitch darkness and at long distances. This enables preventative reaction to movement or crossline detection and allowing the operator to track the intruder even if he hides behind thick shrub or bush.
Hikvision: For environments like inclement weather, total darkness or places with hidden objects, conventional perimeter solutions cannot function well. On the other hand, thermal excels in super-long range detection, with thermal sensors you are able to cover hundreds or thousands of metres, while conventional perimeter solutions cannot do this.
Axis: The trick to thermals is that the technology senses heat and not light. This fact is the single most valuable aspect of how thermals outperform conventional optical cameras:
• Most if not all perimeters experience challenging low-light in some areas and optical cameras need light to produce an image. The most popular remedy to this short coming is to add additional light in the form of infrared which is not seen by humans, but insects love it.
• Challenging weather conditions can also play a role in this drama in the form of rain and dense fog. The water particles block the infrared from conventional optical cameras as the light needs to travel through them twice – first from the illuminator to the object and second the reflection from the object back to the camera. In the case of thermal cameras, the heat radiation only travels through the particle once and thus a thermal camera is not as affected.
Bosch: Thermals will provide an image in almost all weather conditions i.e. in complete darkness as well as in conditions involving very dark spots and blinding light. As an example, hiding behind vehicles and vegetation will prove more challenging for intruders with thermals compared to standard video.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What would an estate require to benefit from thermals on the perimeter?
TeleEye: The control room could be located locally or remotely. Generally, thermals are deployed over vast distances and a fibre backbone would be the recommended method of reticulation, however, sometimes due to the remoteness of mounting locations, solar and wireless infrastructure are also used.
Sunell: With fibre to the home fast becoming a standard in estates all over South Africa, it would be simple to piggy back off this and create a secure network for your first line of surveillance protection. Having a manned control room is always an advantage, however, there are some really good software partners out there that can provide you with alarm activations and early warning systems when motion or an unlikely heat source is detected, thus ruling out the possibility of human error.
Normally, the rule for perimeter fibre networks for security is that it is completely separate from the internal estate network. Surveillance systems should have their own network, power and fibre redundancy in case the estate network system fails.
Hikvision: For a complete thermal surveillance solution on the perimeter, we also need to think about transmission/storage/decoding/display. For transmission, we need to use fibre cable and an optical fibre transceiver. For storage, we can choose Hikvision NVRs and network storage devices. For decoding/display there should also be a proper decoder and LCD/LED.
Axis: A manned control room is always a good investment but the human element should play a lesser role here and only react to exceptions created by the thermal cameras and smart analytics. In a perfect world, every exception should be a valid intrusion condition and the control room should then respond by whatever means necessary to deter the threat.
When protecting the perimeter, always remember, you detect early and respond early. IP horn speakers and white light flood lights are good early response methods to let the criminal element know you are on to them.
Bosch: Intelligent video management software, Bosch Video Management Software (BVMS) monitors and analyses information captured by the thermal cameras, triggering alarms via Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA). After 20 minutes a camera operator can miss 90% of the activity on a screen, BVMS and the intelligent video analytics adds sense and structure using metadata.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How hard would it be for them to avoid thermal perimeter protection?
TeleEye: Thermal cameras detect heat. The intruder would need to mask heat completely which would be a near impossible task. All objects on this earth emit heat energy above zero degrees Kelvin or absolute zero, and thermal cameras are sensitive to this.
Sunell: With the available thermal cameras these days and if the perimeter cameras are situated correctly, it is practically impossible to avoid being detected when approaching a thermal camera security fence. Keeping in mind that all ’blind spots’ need to be covered along the fence-line and each camera covered by the previous camera.
Hikvision: Hikvision thermal cameras support long detection ranges, which means that the criminal will be spotted even miles away. The thermal camera detects thermal radiation, which everything in nature emits to some degree. Incorporated with Hikvision’s high sensitivity algorithm, Hikvision thermal cameras allow no criminal to hide.
Axis: This is so true and therefore the design needs to be solid. A careful inspection of the perimeter together with proper design methods are key to spot possible loopholes and one has to take care not to stretch the distance too far covered by one camera. Generally, the cameras need to overlap each other to cover the dead spots underneath the poles. A well thought out design will go a long way here.
Bosch: With thermals, it is nearly impossible to hide behind objects and move in dark spots as thermals will detect movement regardless. Detection ranges reach up to 5.8 km and identification is probable up to 160 m on the long focal lens version. In light of the aforementioned, thermal protection is ideal for lengthy perimeter fencing.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Thermal images can’t be used in court, so is there any reason to record it?
TeleEye: Recording would be used for further interrogation or analysis of the footage. Not all footage is used in a court of law.
Sunell: Although thermal images cannot be used in court, it is still important to record the video especially with Sunell’s dual optical thermal PTZ (speed dome) that provides you with a thermal image as well as an optical image that should allow you to have a clear image of the object or person that may be trying to gain entry. The thermal camera’s purpose is for detection and confirmation of the threat.
Hikvision: Even though thermal images cannot provide details, it still provides smart functions to record intrusion/line-crossing behaviour, which further provides analyses of the crime. As the resolution of thermal images is quite low compared to optical images, the video transmission and storage is not a burden for the system.
Axis: Surveillance will never replace all other forms of intrusion prevention, but needs to co-exist with other systems. The other systems encompass electric fences, gateways for cars and humans enforcing access control for legal entry. It is therefore a form of verification to have the recording handy to plan and improve the other systems and not only for evidence.
Bosch: From a security perspective, thermals enable an holistic overview of the secured area comprising point of entry in challenging weather and lighting conditions, method of approach, double time and date verification as well as early notification of unauthorised entry. This maximises the opportunity to track, monitor and analyse the scene and in many cases a visual camera may be added to record optical images in aid of evidence in a criminal case.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Do thermal cameras and video analytics work well enough together to identify perimeter breaches, even if the image is small due to the distance covered?
TeleEye: Thermal cameras in combination with video analytics are a highly effective detection method. The analytics offers classification of targets and can identify humans, vehicles, animals etc. and can filter out alerts of unwanted targets which significantly reduces false alarms.
Sunell: With the available analytics from multiple VMS partners, it is possible to detect images and distinguish between a human and animal. Detection and recognition are the terms used here. Say you have a 500 m detection thermal camera. It is good to understand that detection is done at 500 m and the software will set of an alarm and track the object while it is still in the field of view. Only at 350 m will the system be able to distinguish that it’s a human or animal or even a vehicle. Certain analytic software systems are able to detect what objects they are over longer distances when using the same camera. It all depends on what analytic software you are using.
Hikvision: Hikvision thermal cameras support smart detection (line crossing/intrusion detection/region entrance/region exiting) for perimeter protection. Alarms would be triggered when there is something entering the defined zone so operators don’t have to watch their screens all the time. Moreover, Hikvision thermal cameras can even detect objects down to 1.5 pixels.
Axis: Absolutely. Thermal cameras with proper object based video analytics, when implemented correctly, will be enough to alert the operator and therefore prompt them to respond. A lower false alarm count makes this solution very effective.
Bosch: Thermals work great with VCA due to the binary visual where a person or object detection is perfectly visible. Depending on lens size, field of view and distance differentiation between animal and human objects is achievable. Bosch utilises a table to calculate the required lens per individual situation and whether detection, recognition or identification is required:
• Detection: Ability to distinguish an object from the background.
• Recognition: Ability to classify the object class (animal, human, vehicle, boat etc.).
• Identification: Ability to describe the object in details (a man with a hat, a deer, a vehicle …).
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What do you offer in terms of thermal cameras?
TeleEye: FLIR recently launched the FC-ID series of thermal cameras which offer the best in its class of on-board video analytics. The cameras feature a wide range of lens options covering distances up to 850 m per camera. They also feature a lower F-Stop and therefore increased image quality and contrast in low contrast environments, such as a human in a heated environment. FC-ID features FLIR’s DDE (Digital Detail Enhancement) which provides crisp high contrast imagery in challenging environments. This greatly enhances the accuracy of video analytics and enhances image quality.
Sunell: We now provide a PTZ with dual optics as well as temperature detection and display, we find these sorts of cameras are most commonly used in cases where over heating on transformers or threat of wild forest fires are a problem. We can now detect a heat source and send an alarm if it exceeds a certain temperature.
Hikvision: Right now, Hikvision can provide a total thermal solution for our customer: a thermal camera, NVR, and the iVMS-5200 or iVMS-4200 management platform.
The Hikvision thermal range includes:
• Single-lens bullet camera for near-area surveillance (such as warehouses).
• Dual-lens bullet/PTZ/positioning system camera for perimeter solutions (thermal lens for detection and optical lens for detail checking), and
• Handheld thermal camera for onsite checking and patrol.
Axis: Axis has a perimeter protection solution made up of Axis Camera Station video management software and Axis Perimeter Defender analytics, together with thermal cameras and conventional optical cameras. When adding our IP video intercom for remote entry management and adding early response technology like IP Horn speakers, this becomes a formidable problem solving system.
Storage management: Recording management can be controlled by the Bosch Video Recording Manager (VRM) or the camera can use iSCSI targets directly without any recording software.
Data security: Special measures have been put in place to ensure the highest level of security for device access and data transport. The three-level password protection with security recommendations allows users to customise device access. The on-board Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) support, guarantee superior protection from malicious attacks. The 802.1x network authentication with EAP/TLS, supports TLS 1.2 with updated cipher suites including AES 256 encryption.
Viewing software: There are many ways to access the camera’s features including using a web browser, with the Bosch Video Management System, with the free-of-charge Bosch Video Client or Video Security Client, with the video security mobile app, or via third-party software.
For more information, contact:
Axis Communications: www.axis.com
Bosch Security Systems SA: http://africa.boschsecurity.com
TeleEye (South Africa): www.teleeye.com
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