How Video Surveillance Aids Incident Response

Smart cameras and analytics can pinpoint suspicious behavior and deter crime.

Surveillance cameras equipped with software that can sift benign details from potential threats are turning up in many states and localities. As the Boston Marathon bombing investigation demonstrated, footage from public cameras combined with smart analytics can provide a goldmine of data.

Tim Banting, principal analyst for Current Analysis, says Cisco Systems' Video Surveillance Manager and cameras offer a comprehensive approach. Other popular solutions, such as the D-Link Securicam and Mindtree SecureMind Surveillance Manager, may include features such as fingerprint recognition.

Computers Learn to Distinguish Behavior

Safety and security drive the San Francisco Municipal Travel Authority's rollout of 450 IP cameras in stations and tunnels, says Project Manager Ha Nguyen. "Someone might think twice before doing something because they know it is being recorded," Nguyen says.

In addition to deterring crime, the SFMTA deployment aims to improve safety. Over time, the behavior recognition software learns what is normal and what is not. "In the tunnel, the only thing that should be moving is the train on the track, but let's say someone pushes a shopping cart onto the track," Nguyen says. The software would immediately alert a central systems operator and display a view of the object on the track, allowing that person to halt the train before it crashed into the cart.

Heat-detecting features on the cameras will also help SFMTA operators know when a homeless person dwelling in the tunnels is present. A rat would also give off body heat, but would occupy only a few pixels of space in the camera's eye. A human being would take up many more. When the camera locates a person, the transit authority's security officers are alerted to get the person out of an extremely dangerous spot.

$51 million

Funding earmarked by the New York City Housing Authority to equip its properties with video surveillance cameras

SOURCE: New York City Housing Authority

Building Security Into Expansion Plans

TriMet, the public transit authority of Portland, Ore., is adding smart cameras to the forthcoming Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project slated to open in 2015. Spokeswoman Angela Murphy says the line has cameras on the existing platforms and can review footage after an incident to identify participants or pinpoint mechanical problems.

The new cameras will be used in tandem with analytics software, though no decisions have been made about which products to use, Murphy says.

Like TriMet, SFMTA also has existing cameras pointed at spots on stations and tracks, but they are 20-year-old analog cameras. Nguyen says the smart cameras are being installed in the middle of the night during a three-hour window when no trains are running.

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Jan 13 2014