Command and control for shopping centres
April 2008, Integrated Solutions
Soaring general crime and the increasing audacity of armed robbers, muggers and hijackers constitute a growing threat to shopping centres in terms of their vulnerability to criminal acts, both opportunistic and well planned.
Crime is becoming better organised and more sophisticated and is often executed in a manner that indicates contempt for the law enforcement agencies. However, image technology is also advancing rapidly, offering sophisticated, proactive security systems that can be effectively implemented in large complexes like shopping malls with underground and open-air parking.
The ability to integrate all visual surveillance and detection sensors into a central user management command and control platform offers shopping centre owners and management the means with which to proactively control and manage potential or actual incidents or occurrences.
Keeping a close watch
High definition CCTV cameras rated at 1600 x 1200 pixels are capable of capturing much greater detail than PAL standard cameras rated at 720 x 576 pixels (which in reality is typically 520 x 520). The new HD cameras, video displays and graphics enhance the capability of management and security staff to maintain as safe an environment as possible for the shopping public.
The solutions available to shopping centres can integrate the parking access control systems applied to the underground or paid parking areas, the video surveillance systems covering open parking outside the centre, the interior public areas of the centre and individual shop interiors, the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, bulk goods delivery, cash collection from and delivery to banks operating in the centres and street surveillance systems covering public roads that provide access to and egress from the centre.
HD television is generally accepted as the standard today and the older display systems are therefore becoming redundant. Today's visual security systems have to be capable of dealing with HD images and full conversion can be expensive. With the Argus command and control system both old and new can be integrated and while there will be certain areas in shopping centres where HD is essential, other areas can continue to be monitored by PAL standard and a gradual upgrading can be implemented to spread cost over a longer period.
Today's integrated systems can accommodate large numbers of cameras and offer high quality visuals over the entire complex, parking areas and surrounds as well as giving operators the capability to zoom into any specific area where there is an incident or abnormal activity. While one operator is monitoring an incident, other operators are able to scan and zoom into other areas and detect, for example, a likely getaway car. All of this information can be quickly co-ordinated and conveyed to patrolling security guards or to police.
The technology has also moved into automation of image sensors which can be used in integrated surveillance. Today's integrated system will have sophisticated motion detection, image stabilisation, smoke detection, object tracking, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), facial recognition and behavioural recognition which detects unusual human behaviour such as running, loitering, lying down, crowd gathering and so on.
For example, a camera may be monitoring a car consistently kerb-crawling the streets surrounding a shopping centre. With ANPR capability and a command and control platform, it is possible to check the vehicle's number plate against the police list of stolen vehicles. If a matching registration comes up on the stolen list the scenario changes from one of suspicious behaviour to a serious red flag that will require proactive response.
In shopping centres, a system that provides behavioural recognition and motion detection ensures that operators receive early warning of incidents or potential incidents. It is not normal for people to run in shopping centres, lie down on the floor or lean against a column for more than 15 minutes. Perimeter cameras will also pick up cars that kerb crawl or wait next to an exit, both indicate a possible incident.
Object recognition is also valuable to defend against bomb threats. People entering a shopping centre carrying a box or case can be monitored to check that they do not leave it unattended and if such an object does happen to be left somewhere unobserved, object recognition will pick it and highlight it for the control room operators. Similarly smoke detection gives early warning, bringing up a large screen showing the area of detection, thereby immediately alerting operators so that appropriate action can be taken.
Dr Bennie Coetzer is the managing director of Protoclea Advanced Image Engineering.