Integrators key to success of intelligent video

Guest commentary
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Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Intelligent video surveillance is arguably the most exciting technology trend in the security industry today. It promises to increase the efficiency of security staff, reduce operational costs, and most importantly, make video a tool for preventing incidents. There is, however, quite a bit of confusion in the marketplace about this emerging technology and the realities of its capabilities.
Intelligent video is a catchall marketing term for video analytics, or the ability to use software to analyze and apply structure to video data. Despite the catchy term, there are no all-in-one intelligent video solutions today. The success or failure of an intelligent video deployment depends on a keen understanding of the organization's security policy and the strengths and weaknesses of the technology under consideration.
The market landscape for intelligent video is fragmented and entirely application-specific. For instance, some vendor technologies are quite good at wide-area analytics, detecting and classifying objects outdoors at long ranges, while others are designed for close-up scenes more suited to interior environments. Using the latter for a perimeter security application is possible, but not smart from a cost or effectiveness standpoint.
There are also a number of analytic sets for scenarios, such as an object left behind, a stopped car, or people converging or loitering. While these are all neat features, understanding the security profile of the organization is the first step in deciding if they are useful. An airport lounge might consider detecting an unattended bag as a priority, but it's probably not much use to a parking garage.
Walk the floor at nearly any security industry tradeshow and you'll find it hard to keep track of the number of vendors with video demos showing off intelligent video with little red boxes around objects. More choice is a good thing for customers, but with more choice comes more considerations. A host of variables come into play depending on the application. To quote one example, some analytics don't work well in maritime environments where whitecaps or sunlight shimmering off waves can cause problems with detection.
The goal here is not to call out any vendor on their specific technology but to point out that there are a lot of factors to consider when deploying intelligent video. This means there is a tremendous opportunity for security integrators to help end users navigate a complex market.
In the earliest stages, integrators can offer more value-add by conducting vulnerability assessments to help the customer develop sound policies and procedures. Once that is accomplished, the integrator and customer can select the right mix of technologies to aid enforcement of those policies.
A well thought-out camera design is another area where integrators can add value. In the old CCTV world, camera layouts and designs were pretty basic. Intelligent video requires much more thought about camera location, selection, and myriad other factors. A skilled integrator that understands how to design with intelligent video can win projects and save the customer money by reducing camera counts and infrastructure costs.
When and if the choice is made to implement intelligent video, the integrator plays the major role in building it into the larger framework of the secure enterprise. Critical to this effort is integrating intelligent video with other systems, such as access control or the existing camera infrastructure. Intelligent video is another wrench in the toolbox, and the integrator that brings IT integration skills is well positioned.
The intelligent video market is maturing and the technology will continue to improve. We should be cautious, however, not to hype intelligent video as a silver bullet. We can't pick the terrorist's face out of the crowd and it's unlikely that we'll get there anytime soon. By communicating the real value of intelligent video and delivering it within a solutions-driven framework, the security integrator will play the most important role in making intelligent video a success.

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Glenn McGonnigle is chairman and chief executive officer of VistaScape Security Systems. He can be reached at gmcgonnigle@vistascape.com.