Mining for data gems

April 2011 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Retail (Industry)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions discusses video analytics with people who know.

Video analytics was a bit of a downer last year. It was supposed to change the world and ended up doing a few interesting things, but nothing mind blowing. So where are we in the analytics world? What can we expect in the coming year?

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Has video analytics met expectations? If not, why not?

Bernard Senekal, Sentronics: Video analytics has not met the expectations set. This is partly due to over-hyping of the technology and the fact that every man and his mouse has jumped the bandwagon claiming they are able to run analytics. Companies developing analytics as part of their core offering have also been learning about the technology as they develop it. Generally, they ran into unforeseen challenges and in most instances have had to go back to the drawing board.

Bernard Senekal, Sentronics
Bernard Senekal, Sentronics

As with any new technology, analytics is constantly evolving. Challenges such as low-resolution cameras, a lack of understanding of camera positioning and lighting considerations have posed additional problems. With the world of HD/megapixel cameras becoming a standard and an increased understanding of the prerequisites to successfully deploy analytics, we can expect to see more success in future analytics applications.

Brendon Cowley, C3: Firstly, installers need to understand users’ expectations before implementing video analytics. Many companies over promise and under deliver. This type of technology takes specialised training and many years of experience in order for it to be deployed successfully. Many fly by night companies install video analytics and do not get the desired results, not necessarily because of the software, but because of the lack of expertise from the installers.

Brendon Cowley, C3
Brendon Cowley, C3

You cannot rely on the software to do all the work for you, it takes extensive training to understand the practical capabilities of the software coupled with the correct installation. It is imperative to understand the application required and to have correct integration and positioning. Of course, you also need a very reliable video analytics product, as some of the analytics products on the market have shortcomings which installers are not always aware of.

Video analytics is successful and will work if installed correctly.

Rob Anderson, consultant: Video Analytics is a technology that is used to analyse video for specific information. That would imply that it should always start with a good picture. It is often a bigger challenge, particularly in the outdoor scenario, than getting the analytics to work.

Rob Anderson, consultant
Rob Anderson, consultant

Analytics is divided into three options:

* Available, deployable and working.

* Theoretically possible, will be available some time soon.

* Not soon, Star Wars stuff.

It seems that the following is working well:

* Motion detection.

* Camera tampering.

* Number plate recognition.

We have seen fairly good results in areas such as:

* Tripwire (virtual line).

* Direction analysis.

* Leaving/entering.

* Loitering.

* Object speed.

* Stationary object.

A good analytics system requires:

* A realistic understanding of what can be achieved.

* Well planned camera positions.

* Properly calibrated system.

* Sufficient processing power to do the job.

* High quality analytics.

The rule is that if it sounds unbelievable, then it probably is.

Christian Bohn, Milestone Systems: Milestone has seen a definite increase in interest about analytics and also in deployment during 2010. However, we still project that there’s a long way to go before analytics solutions take off in broader market implementation.

Christian Bohn
Christian Bohn

HSS: What can we expect in the analytics market this year?

Bernard Senekal, Sentronics: The core focus seems to be delivering video content analysis with data mining abilities. Simply stated, analytics will be a reporting tool that can be used real-time or post mortem to strengthen security protocols and procedures for increased risk mitigation and situation management.

Another area is the focus on analytics particular to specific vertical markets, such as retail environments, perimeter security (specifically used with thermal technologies). The success of this will be determined by market demand and how strategically the providers of analytical platforms will position themselves with key system providers that own market share in order to give them the ability to fast track analytics to the broader market.

Brendon Cowley, C3: I think we can expect enhanced detection and improved recognition capabilities. Like any software, it is constantly evolving and progressing. However, I need to reiterate that correct installation is imperative to the success of the product. You will no doubt get soggy promises if the analytics are not deployed correctly.

Rob Anderson, consultant: Improved algorithms and a better-educated client base. We also expect edge storage and processing will grow in popularity.

Christian Bohn, Milestone Systems: We do not expect fireworks this year. The focus of the analytics providers is to deliver on promises. Milestone expects to see a continued growing interest in customers looking at analytics, but not a parallel interest in deployments. We expect the analytics vendors to set more realistic expectations after over-promising for years. The hype is past, now we will begin to see video analytics deployed in those areas where it will be most helpful.

HSS: How do you sell analytics? What are the business benefits and value adds of adding analytics to your surveillance infrastructure?

Bernard Senekal, Sentronics: Analytics has to be considered from the very start when designing a system. We have seen designs where clients do not consider the option of using analytics initially and then try to slap it on later. This is almost always a disaster.

Analytics is sold as a value added technology that presents the ability to reduce total cost of ownership of a system and increases the rate for return on investment. It allows for pro-active security management and post mortem reporting that strengthens security and risk mitigation strategies. When one focuses on specific vertical market requirements, such as retail, then analytics becomes so much more than just an extension of security, it becomes a tool that can be used to analyse consumer behaviour and demographic profiling. The key to selling analytics is not to sell it as a silver bullet that will make or break the system, but rather a technology that increases efficiency and the ability to act on the data it provides.

Tanli Lundgren, C3: Security operators cannot effectively monitor multiple surveillance cameras and sensors and it is a well-known statistic that after just 22 minutes an operator misses 95% of scene activity. Video analytics enhances the effectiveness of surveillance by automating the day-to-day and time critical task of monitoring video and detecting events. Video analytics helps to lower costs with advantages over traditional security fences, motion sensors, burglar alarms, CCTV systems and recorders. Intelligent video performs indoor and outdoor detection for various security and safety scenarios, such as intrusion detection, unattended baggage detection, stopped vehicle detection, and object removal detection, as well as provides the security automation feature of autonomous person/vehicle tracking with a pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera.

Rob Anderson, consultant: The prime objective must be to add value to the CCTV investment and improve security.

HSS: Which companies are leading the analytics market?

Bernard Senekal, Sentronics: Many companies exist, but to separate the marketing fluff from companies that provide working analytics, one has to look at:

1. It has to be the core focus of the company, not just a feature of their video management system, and

2. The level of integration and adoption of the technology by third party video management systems that own key market share.

Brendon Cowley, C3: What does a customer need to look for? The simple answer to that is previously successful projects involving analytics. Ask your installer about their experience with analytics. Where have they installed systems before and to what scale. Ask them if you can visit sites where they have done an installation and talk to the various end users to find out if they are happy with the installation and service they received. Is the analytics performing to their expectations? Stay away from fly by night companies that have little experience and use inferior products.

Rob Anderson, consultant: A very difficult one. I have just seen tests on cheap cameras with analytics that looked better than what I have seen on a market-leading product. I think it is the same as buying a car. Read the specifications and then ask for a live demonstration to prove the specifications under your conditions. The rule is always to try to break the system. You then understand its limits.

Christian Bohn, Milestone Systems: There is no one leader in the analytics market from a technology standpoint. The architecture of the analytics can vary widely, designed for operation on a camera or other device (edge-based), server, database, etc. Different companies target various customer needs in multiple ways, and the solutions differ from simple to highly advanced. Some companies focus on retail sector needs like people counting; others on transportation industry demands such as left objects or crowd management issues; still others on LPR/ANPR for traffic control or general solutions for perimeter controls. Military installations can have even more sophisticated requirements.





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