| 19 August 2013
“The application that is changing the face of security is next generation Analytics software.”
At the most basic level, almost every human being has one thing on their minds: Survival. We are all constantly trying to protect ourselves whether it's locking car doors while driving through an unfamiliar area, applying bug repellant or just not talking to strangers, we anticipate threats and form barriers against the unknown. It's no different from our commercial, government and private interest as well. Fortunately, modern security has come a long way over the years.
Video surveillance cameras played a crucial role in tracking down the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombings, but what if there a was technology that could keep watch without missing a beat and also help prevent tragedies in the first place?
KPRC-TV in Houston, Texas of the United States recently featured some technology in a segment on May 31st that can do exactly that - http://www.click2houston.com/news/preventing-terrorism-with-new-surveillance-camera-technology/-/1735978/20380090/-/wjsfdd/-/index.html. It is also quickly being implemented and used in other major cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego and San Francisco.
Today, we bring to our numerous readers worldwide our interview with one of the leading security experts in the U.S. on behavioral analytics and video surveillance, Ray Cavanagh, Vice President of the New Orleans-based national security firm Crescent Guardian, who in this interview discussed how this new, advanced surveillance technology is helping authorities spot and prevent threats before they actually occur by instantly alerting them of their potential. Think of it as having an all-knowing security guard that never blinks, never gets tired and never misses anything. Happy reading:
Vigilance: How significant is the role played by video surveillance in security?
Mr Ray Cavanagh: Outside of the human element (guards, first responders, emergency personnel, etc.), I believe video is the most significant component of all security applications. It is used as a deterrent, as a forensic tool and as evidence of a crime. It is imperative to have a visual record of any security breaches, as exemplified by many recent tragic events like the Boston Marathon bombings. Most importantly, video, with proper monitoring and quick response, can help to prevent security threats from occurring. It’s Crescent Guardian’s belief that focusing efforts on prevention is key, and enables organizations to shift valuable resources from the time and expense of prosecution.
Vigilance: What are some common mistakes companies make when it comes to integrating video surveillance into their security?
RC: A security system needs to be approached holistically to help ensure the prevention of security breaches and reduction of threats. In today’s environment, we seem more focused on resolving threats (crimes) after they occur. While video is ubiquitous today, there are still many systems that utilize antiquated analog equipment when digital and IP technology is readily available and can be less expensive in the overall cost of ownership. It is important to have all personnel who are affiliated with security to be properly trained on the equipment. Too often video cameras are installed using the least expensive option, with no thought of monitoring the video or training personnel on its usage. Using video as a deterrent with capable and trained personnel as the final security measure is a key to prevention. Additionally, software is readily available today that can instantly alert personnel via handheld devices to any potential breaches. The use of digital cameras and internet capabilities can be leveraged to help with prevention.
Vigilance: What are the kinds of options available today for video surveillance?
RC: Video cameras, software and systems have evolved tremendously over the past several years, and come in a wide variety of configurations, including low light, hazardous environments, microscopic applications, remote PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) options and many more. Options are almost limitless, especially when considering the software applications and video management systems which can offer additional functionality for remote management of the cameras. In addition, more and more intelligence is being driven to the edge, or to the camera itself. These smart cameras handle much of the data processing elements at the source, rather than a centralized server. The movement to IP cameras enables digital images to be captured, processed and sent to security personnel for evaluation and quick response.
Vigilance: You mentioned there is a new “game-changing” video surveillance technology that can actually help prevent crime before it happens. How so?
RC: The application that is changing the face of security is next generation Analytics software. Analytics essentially take the data feeds from individual cameras and evaluates the digitized images exploring for unusual or anomalous behaviors. Think of the TV show Person of Interest, which takes video feeds, digitizes the content and anticipates behavioral patterns. It does so by noting ongoing behavior and reporting things that are out of the ordinary. In the past, a customer would have to program the software by writing rules using Boolean logic for each camera. The amount of rules and the management and deployment could take months and still not capture all events. By enabling the software to do the work based on ongoing behavior takes the onus of anticipating potential security threats off the user. It can be deployed quickly, learns behaviors on an ongoing basis and can send alerts and alarms to any handheld device immediately via the internet.
Vigilance: Can you give some examples?
RC: The Port of Fourchon project in Louisiana in the United States was one of the largest projects we have undertaken in terms of size of facility and number of security points. The sheer amount of money passing through Fourchon's port facilities added to the security challenge—Including the hundreds of millions in equipment that is coming in and out of the port and being laid down for a day or two or three before it gets on a vessel, and patrolling the vast amounts of land.
This video surveillance application not only required identification of all video sources and cameras, but also had to ensure that first responders in Port Fourchon, including Harbor Police, Sheriff’s Office, and Fire Central, are receiving alerts identified by the surveillance system and can coordinate their response in real time. This level of data sharing and interoperability is unprecedented and will support lowered response times and overall situational awareness during real-time events. This surveillance system is being integrated with the port’s Maritime Domain Awareness System, or GLPC-C4. The US Department of Defense supported Port Fourchon's efforts by sharing the DoD-developed capabilities of the Knowledge Display and Aggregation System (KDAS) to serve as the basis for the Port's incident command and control system. The use of KDAS provides Port Fourchon with the unique ability to network its system with DoD in the event of an incident requiring information sharing. In addition, San Francisco’s MUNI transit system has deployed Analytics technology security cameras in Muni “portals”, where trains go above/below ground.
Vigilance: What kinds of entities are currently using this technology?
RC: There are many municipalities that have deployed the software and other “smart” camera systems in transportation applications, water source protection, energy management, and commercial facilities throughout the world. In general, due to the security nature of the deployments, many of these organizations cannot disclose specifics about their installations. However, it is safe to say that there are thousands of installations of this type of technology.
Vigilance: Why would someone trust this technology over a security guard monitoring cameras?
RC: First, we would never advocate using this technology instead of guard monitoring, but rather in conjunction with monitoring. In any security environment, human response is essential. Having said that, technology never blinks. Studies have shown that a person can only monitor for 20 minutes before beginning to fatigue. The analytics technology can work with guard monitoring, by enabling a guard to only need to view those clips that are unusual or capture anomalous behavior. This keeps the guard sharp and allows them to drill down and look at the entire video scene or call up the live feed to determine next steps. Use of both technology and human intervention is the solution; technology to anticipate or report threats, and personnel to respond and react.
Vigilance: In light of the recent spying scandal involving the National Security Agency of the United States, the term "Big Brother" has taken on new life and is big news. What role does this technology play in modern surveillance?
RC: Security professionals across the world face an unending wave of criminals and terrorists looking to exploit any and every loophole or gap in protection. Some bad guys take a high-tech approach while others go basic; meaning the number of potential threats is infinite and methods of attack always changing. Video is ubiquitous today. It is on every smart phone and posted on social media sites. Professional security firms utilize video and analytics technologies to try and PREVENT security threats from occurring. The use of video technologies for remediation, forensics, and anticipation of heinous acts can be beneficial to our safety and security. Using technology to only evaluate unusual or anomalous behavior reduces the video that is monitored and focuses on those items that may cause concern. With that in mind, toeing the line between security and liberty can be very difficult for everyone involved. People struggle with balancing protection and privacy because if a 9/11-like event or even smaller scale were to occur, people would want to know why it wasn't prevented and why the authorities missed it; yet people also want their privacy and civil liberties not encroached upon. While I understand the concern of a “Big Brother” environment, we believe that the proper tools, used in the proper hands can help us build a safer environment.
Vigilance: Some people may worry that this technology infringes on their privacy and rights. How would you respond to that?
RC: Technology is a tool and used properly can help to avoid security threats and prevent crime. We are more concerned about acts of terrorism which infringe on our right to a free society. The use of video and analytics technologies can help in prevention of these acts and the safety of the public.
Vigilance: Security cameras played a major role in helping apprehend the recent Boston Marathon bombers. How could this technology have helped there?
RC: Fortunately, there were cameras in use that helped to identify and bring the culprits of this terrorist act to justice. There is no way of knowing if security cameras with analytics technology may have been able to send an alert in time to help prevent an attack like this. However, the technology has been shown to identify behavior such as leaving an item behind and walking away. If the images are captured and processed and there is enough time to react and respond, then future acts such as this may be preventable.
Vigilance: Do you have any overall tips for businesses that may be looking to enhance or strengthen their security?
RC: It is important to take a look at your overall security system and ensure it is fully integrated and working as one. Many organizations hire companies that do not have any security background to install their cameras. We pride ourselves on fully integrating security services (guards, remote monitoring, etc.) with video surveillance products and technology, including software solutions that are integrated with access control and other systems.
If your system grew by adding components piecemeal, I would suggest having a professional, full service organization perform an evaluation and recommend and integrated, holistic solution.
About Ray Cavanagh
Ray is a board member of the ASIS (American Society For Industrial Security) Physical Security Council, who spoke at the ASIS conference in Philadelphia last September on the convergence of physical and IT Security and also as an expert on a panel for the AAPA's (American Association of Port Authorities) spring seminar on The Role of Technology in Physical Security. He also holds CVI Certification (Chemical-terrorism Vulnerability Information) from the Department of Homeland Security.