Tim Compston, Features Editor at Security News Desk and SecurityMiddleEast.com, discovers how, after a number of false dawns, video analytics or VCA (Video Content Analysis) is coming of age.
Thankfully, the signs are that video analytics really has turned a corner as a growing proportion of video surveillance deployments now feature these intelligent solutions, as integral security, safety, and management tools, to deliver the sort of capabilities and accuracy levels that just weren’t possible before. So, in this new era of fit-for-purpose video analytics, we take a closer look at some of the solutions which are coming more into the frame.
Why analytics adds-up
Talking to Gary Mercer, UK Sales Manager at VCA Technology, for his take on why video analytics is more widely deployed today, he feels that a number of elements are converging: “First and foremost the cost per channel has reduced drastically to around a tenth of what it was eight to 10 years ago. So the cost of having analytics, either edge-based or server [centrally-based] per camera, is not too dissimilar to the cost of an upper end passive detector,” says Mercer.
Asked about whether VCA Technology has any preference in terms of where the analytics sits, Mercer responds that the vendor can do either, however, from a wider market perspective, he reckons that there are more people offering a centralised solution now: “I think that they have gained some traction over the edge-based simply because installers simply see it as an NVR with analytics on it. They have got to install an NVR anyway so they are going to plump for something with these capabilities.” He adds that while the perception in the past was that it was ‘a bit tricky’ to set a camera up for analytics the reality is that whichever path you take - centrally or edge-based analytics - there is still a camera at the end of the channel. Mercer also believes that the other driver for the renewed interest in video analytics is that the manufacturers and re-sellers of analytics have matured: “There is less likelihood of overselling the product which was a real negative in the early days,” reflects Mercer.
Tag and track
Pressed on the specific innovations that UK-headquartered Ipsotek is rolling out to push the envelope on video analytics, Technical Director, Dr Boghos Boghossian singles out a capability that he refers to as multi-camera tracking or ‘Tag and Track’ which, in his view, has tremendous potential across a wide array of public space and transportation applications: “This allows a CCTV operator to basically ‘tag’ something virtually which means that on screen they either click on an object, a vehicle, or a person, and the analytics will automatically track them across the whole of the surveillance network.” Boghossian says the beauty of ‘Tag and Track’ is that even if an individual leaves the field of view of one camera, and appears in another, the system continues tracking them and, crucially, this process can happen across multiple cameras. He claims that this is an ideal fit for CCTV operations rooms.
In terms of the Middle East region, Boghossian confirms that Ipsotek has secured two airport contracts where ‘Tag and Track’ is a requirement: “One, a VIP airport has been completed and deployed and it has 50 channels of Tag and Track and then the other one - which we have got the letter of intent for - we are going to start deploying it in the latter half of this year . This is 1,000 channels of Tag and Track.”
For his part, Dr Rustom Kanga, CEO at iOmniscient, believes that the footprint of high-end video analytics is likely to expand on the back of a strong focus on smart surveillance applications for urban, highly populated, areas: “There is a growing trend towards ‘smart cities’ where an entire city decides that it wants to have a fully integrated security system. The point is that it is not just about putting in thousands of cameras and saying they are ‘smart’. The key is video analysis and video analysis that works in a crowded scene. Somebody could leave a bag at a bus stop. If it is nice and empty you can pick it up with very simple video analysis however let’s say it is a very crowded area with thousands of people walking in front, that is where you need more advanced video analysis.”
On the question of how video analytics is being re-invented to cope with crowds, Kanga responds that at the ‘high-end’ it requires more than a single element: “Traditional video analysis is built around motion detection, comparing one image with the next, and then if something like a person moves you can say right they have entered the scene. If you have thousands of people then you can’t use motion detection, as everything is moving and every image is different. We have some very unique, intelligent algorithms.” To underline the complexity of the task Kanga reveals that iOmniscient employs about 26 different technologies. One aspect he is happy to offer more detail on is referred to as ‘non-motion detection’: “If a bag is left and everyone is walking around we look at things that stop moving rather than are moving.”
Another landmark development, according to Kanga, relates to trying to build things in a more connected and integrated way: “When an operator looks at a bag you need a way for the system to automatically – with one click – highlight who brought it in and then to do a face recognition on that person. It is what we call convergent technologies where you are combining the detection capabilities, the behaviour analysis – someone leaving a bag – along with recognition technology.”