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Putting video to work in new ways

Tyco Security Products

A video surveillance system can be a multi-tasker, especially when deployed within a factory or production environment. From shipping and logistics, where it provides control support and documentation, to operations, where it can assist with deploying personnel, video has the ability to go well beyond its usual security and safety functions.

Companies can harness their video surveillance system to show current or potential clients how different processes work within their organization. If quality control within a distribution facility is the focus, video systems can be tapped to show the progress of an order from the time it is placed, through the automated or manual picking process and ending with the completed order. Without having to be in the room or on site, a customer can receive assurance about the integrity of the order fulfillment process just by viewing it live through the video surveillance system.

A CCTV system can also benefit the logistics operations of a manufacturer. Cameras can help dispatch personnel by determining which loading bay is empty and ready to receive a shipment for off-loading, or indicate the dock to which a truck can be sent to be loaded with product for distribution.

A manufacturershipping product to the United States, for example, needs to document the contents of each container or truck to meet the country’s anti-terrorism import measures, also known as C-TPAT. Having evidence of the packing and shipping operations on video can aid in compliance with these regulations, which ensures easier passage through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Additionally, the camera system provides visibility regarding the movement of pallets or goods throughout different areas of the warehouse, providing an additional layer of quality control for warehousing operations.

Cameras focused on conveyor systems for security purposes can also make important information on product flow available, especially when analytics are used to count product or monitor productivity. Identifying areas where bottlenecks occur can translate into money and time savings for the company.

Surveillance cameras have even helped car dealers show off their inventory to customers when conditions aren’t ideal, such as during a snowstorm or when it is raining. The same system that can identify potential thieves is also capable of offering virtual tours to eager buyers.

By thinking about video in new ways, users can build on their investment in surveillance and achieve new levels of functionality, efficiency and cost savings.

Why not think about how video can do double duty within your operations?

Video test and verify: When spec sheets aren’t enough

As a nation we have become a bit obsessed with numbers. More specifically, we are fixated by those digits that translate to the concept of “bigger is better”.

We’ve seen it over the years with vehicles, as people transitioned from sub-compacts and compacts to SUVs. Why settle for a small car when a bigger one can give you more length, more width and more seats? Of course, people often forget about the downside of “bigger”, which means higher cost and lower gas mileage.

The same phenomena that has swept through the automobile industry has been seen in american dynamics, video security, tyco security productselectronics with people wanting higher resolution TVs, computers with more processing power and phones with better, faster connections.

In the security industry, the “bigger is better” mantra is often used in the camera arena with spec sheets touting cameras with 3, 5 and even 8 megapixels. Although the bulk of installed cameras are still in the 2 megapixel range, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the siren song of more megapixels. If 2 megapixels are good, wouldn’t 8 be better?

Although the car dealer wants dearly to sell you that more expensive, more expansive SUV, you’re not likely to make the decision without getting into the vehicle and giving it a test drive. You may find upon driving it that there are trade offs you’re not willing to make, like seeing the gas gauge move quickly into the E position.

Similarly, anyone looking to replace or add cameras to their surveillance system, or integrators looking to expand or update their product line, should test the cameras as well. Relying solely on the specifications provided on a product spec sheet is like buying the SUV by just reading the sticker on the door and never getting behind the wheel. A camera may have looked great on paper, but until you see how it works in real-life situations, it’s hard to be certain.

This is especially difficult because the industry as it stands now doesn’t have standards for specifications, so there could very well be variances among manufacturers. One company’s measurement of low-light performance or Wide Dynamic Range can be vastly different than another’s. Can you really trust the numbers?

Putting a camera through its paces will allow you to see if it is the right one for a specific situation and more importantly, if it lives up to its hype. Many high-resolution cameras offering more than 3 megapixels, are still equipped with lenses that aren’t rated above 3 megapixels. For example, when bubble covers are added over the lens what is the optical performance of the bubble material? Can it transmit the high resolution?

Just as the SUV can be viewed as a gas guzzler vs. its subcompact cousin, high-res cameras can betaxing on bandwidth and storage capacity. Sending more data through the pipeline means using more bandwidth. The tradeoff could be that your current set up can only accommodate a portion of the cameras you had used previously, and that you’ll also need to spend more on networking hardware and storage. Higher resolution cameras do have their place in the overall surveillance system, but the decision point should be determined by the camera’s location and the subject detailneeded in the scene.

As much as we all want the latest and greatest, the biggest and the best, the bottom line is that when it comes to investing in new technology, numbers don’t tell the whole story. With today’s high megapixel cameras, it behooves integrators and security personnel to put them through their paces, seeing how they deliver video in different lighting conditions, various weather scenarios, etc. See how a higher resolution camera performs against a 2 or 3 megapixel camera in the same location. Is the higher resolution camera truly delivering a more effective solution and overcoming the associated tradeoffs?

Ultimately, the proof will be found in the video, not on the spec sheet. If you want to ensure that you make an informed and good decision on a product, make sure real-life testing is an integral part of your decision-making process.

Click here to view a review of the Industry’s HD Static Dome Cameras
http://content.yudu.com/Library/A33r29/BenchmarkOctober2014/resources/8.htm

Providing Storage Security to a Diverse Customer Base

Concern for security and privacy has become part of modern life, both personally and commercially. Whether it’s storage of a hospital’s sensitive medical documents, an individual’s family heirlooms, or a small business’s legal files, everyone wants to be assured that their valuables are kept as safely and securely as possible.

Storage SecurityIn turn, storage businesses are expected to meet every customer’s needs and requirements and to provide broad and specialized levels of security for their stored goods, no matter what the type. It is not uncommon for businesses in the storage industry to face challenges in providing this level of highly individualized and effective storage security, especially with many storage facilities being located in open rural areas and only protected by a chain link fence.

Due to their location, and the contents contained within, storage facilities can be an easy target for thieves. In June, two people were arrested after witnesses saw them stealing tools and a pressure washer from a storage facility in East Gadsden, Ala. Police expect the suspects to be connected to a string of storage unit break-ins in the area.

Even though Kentucky Underground Storage, Inc. is situated in a unique and discrete location, it invested in upgrading its security solution to greatly improve its security coverage and capabilities. KUSI, located near Lexington, Ky., is a family-owned business that has been in operation since the late 1970s.

The company wished to expand their surveillance coverage, and update their cameras to provide varying types of security for their customers. KUSI needed better review capabilities in order to replay surveillance video and zoom in with clarity and detail when needed. The facility also wanted the ability to zoom in and clearly capture the image of a face and/or vehicle, in order to identify and monitor visitors, and sought to improve the security of its parking lot.

To meet their multiple needs and those of their customers, KUSI and integrator, Tyco Integrated Security, chose Illustra HD cameras from Tyco Security Products. The Illustra HD cameras provide high-definition, clear video that can be accessed easily and consistently by KUSI employees.

In addition, KUSI’s system includes remote monitoring, an essential for its security staff. Remote monitoring lets the company’s staff track surveillance from anywhere, via a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. With its new system now in place, KUSI can upgrade cameras as needed, without replacing its entire security system.

Security is not just a necessity for large corporations, hospitals and schools, it is also a necessity for a variety of smaller businesses who need to provide ongoing protection of their assets and those of their customers.

Read more about KUSI’s security upgrade.

 

What questions do you have about HD IP security cameras? Leave me your question in the comments section below.

Security Hardening & Its Importance to Protecting Your Security System

Not a day goes by, it seems, that we are not hearing about some sort of security breach involving a major retail operation or corporation. Hackers seem determined on getting at protected data, such as credit card information or Social Security numbers, by any means possible.

For the security industry, every such attack brings new concerns about the safety of network-based systems. The network is the back door to accessing all kinds of information, whether it is financial, personal or something specific to the security of an operation.

Protecting Your Security SystemFor instance, a cyber criminal may be looking to interfere with a security system by interrupting the video stream, altering camera views so someone can make a physical attack on a location or hijacking the servers to perform illegal functions. Even a camera, if left vulnerable, may be used as an entry point to a larger network.

As a result, it is increasingly important to know what steps a security system provider is taking to ensure that its network-based equipment such as NVRs and video management system software are hardened against cyber attacks.

While the U.S. Federal Information Security Act mandates a specific level of compliance, it is critical to work with a supplier that understands what is involved in the compliance process, and is invested in taking a lead on this critical issue.

Here are some questions to ask a security system supplier:

  • How often are updates provided for the product and how are security vulnerabilities handled?  More frequent updates to the product means more opportunity to remove vulnerabilities. Also, by monitoring new vulnerabilities found through international databases a supplier can release a patch quickly to address a critical vulnerability.
  • Is the company undergoing third-party assessments of its products? Having an independent, third-party undertake penetration testing will point out what vulnerabilities exist and allow the company to take the proper action to harden the system against cyber attacks.
  • How often does the vulnerability testing take place? Each time the software within a product or system is altered, there should be a new test so the development team can address any new software issues before the product is released.
  • Has the company documented what it is doing? Knowing what the vulnerabilities are and how they have addressed them can go a long way toward ensuring your comfort level with a product. Ask if the company has prepared a white paper or some other document on its products and processes.

Cyber criminals continue to develop new methods for gaining access to information and systems. Knowing how a supplier is safeguarding its products is a good first line of defense.

 

What questions do you have about security hardening? Please leave it in the comments section below.

Physical Security: An Important Tool for School Safety

Over the past decade, installers and integrators have experienced a steady increase in inquiries for security products, including video surveillance, alarm systems, access control, and integrated security management systems, in schools and campuses across the country.

School SafetyIt’s no surprise that administrators, faculty, and parents are questioning andaddressing the level of security in their schools as shootings and campus violence continue to make headlines. In 1999, the year of the Columbine shootings, electronic security was not much of a discussion topic for schools, or even college campuses for that matter.

In the past, schools with physical security were usually equipped with a few access control points and emergency notification systems. One year after the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007, the Campus Safety and Security Project conducted a national survey of colleges and universities, which revealed that approximately 50% of higher education respondents had perimeter access cards for their residence hall facilities. Far fewer facilities had monitored cameras or surveillance systems.

Today, an increasing number of campuses, high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools are implementing integrated video surveillance, analytics, and security management systems.A recent study from IHS, expects the market for school security system integration to rise by more than 80% from 2012 to 2017. The report called “Vertical Insights: Video Surveillance & Security in Education,” projects the market for security systems integration in educational institutions to grow from under $3 billion in 2012 to $4.9 billion by 2017.

For many schools, physical security is an ongoing process of redefining needs and staying vigilant. It was 15 years ago when the superintendent of the Cherokee County School District (CCSD) in Georgia, Dr. Frank Petruzielo, created the district’s public safety department. Back then, the district, which now comprises 47 schools and centers, had no intrusion detection, unmonitored fire alarms, and a handful of unmonitored, individual cameras purchased by individual schools.

Today, Cherokee County School District has entered the world of IP physical security with a hybrid IP surveillance solution and a unified security management system that features victor unified management system, VideoEdge hybrid recorders and American Dynamics’ Illustra IP cameras,allowing security staff and administrators access to live video and events throughout the school system. What started as a project for the district’s high schools and building perimeters, has grown to include surveillance in target areas at middle schools and other facilities.

CCSD is just one of countless campuses, schools, and districts that has found value in installing or upgrading its existing security to offer a safe environment for employees and students. Emergency notification systems, fire alarms, alarm systems, access control, video surveillance, and integrated security management systems are working together to allow schools to keep the pulse on their facilities and the people inside of them.

Read more about the Cherokee County School District and its journey to a hybrid IP surveillance solution.

 

What do you think are a school system’s biggest challenges to upgrading school safety?Please leave me a comment below.

I Can See Clearly Now: Fisheye Cameras and Dewarping

There’s much to like about 360-degree fisheye cameras.

Their ability to capture images that could be missed by a traditional fixed camera or even a pan-tilt-zoom only model makes them critical for security applications where sweeping views are required. For example, 360-cameras excel within settings like an open concept retail store where a single camera can be observing all directions at the same time. The cameras have also proven useful beyond the retail setting in college lecture halls, casinos, office lobbies, hallway intersections and enclosed parking garages, to note a few.

Fisheyes are also touted for their wide dynamic range, as well as savings on bandwidth and storage usage while still capturing full resolution images.

The image produced isn’t a typical, flat one, but rather is round and distorted, the result of capturing an ultra-wide field of view. To make the images usable, they need to be flattened out, or dewarped. In most cases, the dewarping process takes place at the client, such as the NVR, PC, or server depending on where the client software that handles the dewarping of the images resides.

Fisheye Cameras DewarpingA few manufacturers offer cameras that can natively dewarp the images. Thus, the video can be viewed in the more traditional format, but with the benefit of getting all the detail that a 360-degree view provides. Having the camera perform the dewarping process relieves the burden and reliance for this action from the recorder and client, bypassing the step of having to dewarp the recorded view separately.

In dewarped or flattened images, security personnel can hone in on details that are important to the situation, while also having the option of looking at the larger picture. If you think about a 360-degree image as four quadrants — north, south, east and west — consider that when an event occurs, you have the option of retrieving an image that shows action in the north quadrant only, where you believe the suspect activity occurred.  There may be something that took place elsewhere that you now want to check out, and so you can playback images that capture activity in the south, east and west quadrants as well.  For this reason, fisheye cameras are a cost savings as they can take the place of four cameras when placed at the intersection of hallways.

Having quick access to a normalized view of a situation, especially when an event is occurring, makes dewarping at the camera level a convenient tool for seeing everything the video has to offer.

 

In what ways are you using Fisheye Cameras? Please leave me a comment below.

To 4K or not to 4K video?

4K VideoOur industry’s seemingly insatiable appetite for more and more resolution has now produced a wave of interest in 4K cameras that promise exceptional clarity and sharpness, akin to the big screen, Ultra HD television sets found in consumer electronics stores and an increasing number of North American homes.

The jury is still out on whether there is an immediate need for the resolution that can overcome the downsides of increased storage and bandwidth required for running 4K cameras in a surveillance

operation. Like so many things, if the cost of the camera, cost of the supporting system infrastructure and components were of no concern, this new format would likely be a more viable and attractive option for many security applications.

Here are four things to consider before making the leap to investing in and deploying 4K video:

1. What will I get with 4K that is not possible at lower resolution?
There’s no doubt that 4K technology is light years ahead of analog quality, but the reality is that the increased clarity and sharpness provided by that level of resolution is often over and beyond what is required and able to be managed by a typical security operation. For many reasons, full HD/1080P is the most commonly used resolution for new systems. The majority of security systems in use for live monitoring situation do not really benefit from such a resolution, as the human eye is well served with the details of a 1080P picture. Higher resolutions pay out when more details are required in forensic investigations.

2. Double the resolution, double the processing requirements
Users typically want to see more than one camera on one monitor, and only  occasionally switch to full screen modes. With 4K, the clarity of that multi camera view would be no clearer than what would be viewed from a lower resolution camera. In addition, delivering streams from multiple 4K cameras presents some technical challenges. The client PC and graphics card must handle a significant flow of data. The best approach is to have the live view limited to only enough resolution for the video size and screen resolution of the display.

Today a typical approach to balance PC power requirements and quality uses lower resolution streams for live view, while recording in the highest resolutions. 4K resolution taxes the workload on the network because recording the highest resolution means the full stream content moves from the camera to the NVR.

3. Limitations on form factors, lenses
The availability of affordable high resolution optics is just not there yet, and a dome style camera with a typical curved dome bubble cannot transmit the 4K resolution. In addition, a true 8MP resolution lens with appropriate coverage for the 4K sensor is quite large, which would render a 4K version of the compact dome camera (the market’s favorite form factor) essentially not possible.  The dome camera would get physically bigger which, for many customers, is a negative.

4.  Bandwidth and storage requirements
From a cost perspective, quadrupling the resolution from full HD to 4K won’t quite double the camera price. However, on the recording side it will most definitely demand more than double the storage requirements when operating under the same conditions.

Bandwidth consumption is related to processor power available on the camera. For example, the average full HD cameras deliver about 6Mbps at 30 ips. On the bright side, some manufacturers are offering full HD models with advanced compression capabilities that can reduce bandwidth consumption to about 3Mbps, with the next iteration to handle 4K video at full HD bandwidth consumption levels. Additionally new compression standards such as H.265 HVEC (High Efficiency Video Encoding) will make higher resolution bandwidth more practical for surveillance.

So where does this leave you, 4K today or not just yet? For some customers a bigger number is frequently perceived as a better solution but surveillance installations should focus on the reason the system investment is being made in the first place; protection of personnel and protection of assets. It is far from a one size fits all decision and resolution is an important tool in the system solution.

 

Are you using 4k video cameras with your security system, if so, how has your experience been? Please leave me a comment below.

Data overload, or information you can use? | Enter Data Visualization

Security and video surveillance systems can tell us a lot about our business – when the highest number of employees come through the front door, which way they go after they enter the building, or how many times each day a specific door is opened.

The good news is that all of this information and much more – from access control and event reports, video surveillance footage, and associated analytics data – can be captured by various edge devicesand stored within the system. This wealth of data is ready to be analyzed and turned into actionable intelligence that can help to detect and prevent issues in operations, equipment, or policies.

The bad news is…well, it’s the same. Without a means to make sense of it all, this wealth of data can be overwhelming and unusable.

Retailers, for example, are now able to capture minute-by-minute video of people in their stores — moving through the aisles, standing in front of displays, and making purchases at the register. But all of this can just be more video in the recording system if it isn’t put to use.

A data visualization tool can take the vast pools of information — security’s Big Data, if you will — now at the disposal of security personnel and management and turn it into more comprehensible data such as graphs and charts that correspond to particular video clips or POS data.

Perhaps your goal as a security manager is to determine whether you need additional guard coverage within a medical facility. Even though you have a card-based access control system that tells you who is entering the building and when, you now want to look more closely at which areas of the building they are accessing so you can beef up patrols in the more highly trafficked areas.

By deploying people-counting analytics tied to your video system, you can target specific doors or hallways that are covered by cameras and record video each time someone uses that door or enters a hallway.

Data visualization can then take you to the next step, which is putting all those video clips into usable charts. You can sort the data by day, for instance, creating charts that show you days when the traffic patterns are the heaviest. But you can even drill down further, looking at the time of day when particular doors and hallways are most heavily used and chart that information as well. Once you have the data set you want, you can look at the corresponding videos to see the actual activity.

Data Visualization

The result may be that you see the area outside a newly relocated lab is generating a lot of traffic outside of regular business hours. That area may require additional checks by a security officer to monitor the activity.

Retail can definitely benefit from the conversion of information into data visualization. Not only can retailers monitor traffic, just as the security officer did in the previous scenario, but by adding in the POS data, store operators can look at how people movement corresponds with sales.

Using data visualizer technology, it’s possible to create a data set that shows how many people walk by a handbag display, how long they looked at the products, and then how many actually made a purchase. All this is possible just by dragging and dropping the results into the data visualization software — sales from POS, plus those who lingered at the display for more than 10 seconds. Based on the results, it may influence the store owner to add sales staff at certain times of day or maybe relocate a display to a more highly traveled section of the store.

Put simply, data visualization is all about recognizing patterns and trends. Once you’re able to start thinking about all that data in those terms, it is less overwhelming and much more useful. And that really is the good news.

 

Are you already using Data Visualization software with your security footage? If so, in what ways? If not, any thoughts on how it could benefit your business? Please leave your response in the comments section below.

Keeping Eyes on Home with Video Surveillance System

Busy professionals are always trying to keep up with activities at home. As one of the U.K.’s premier broadcasters, Gabby Logan’s job has taken her to Poland, Ukraine, South Africa and back again.

The former gymnast turned sports presenter began her broadcast career in 1992 as a radio personality, and then quickly expanded into television with Sky Sports, ITV and BBC. Gabby has covered the London Olympics for BBC and England’s football team in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2012. Gabby also served a short stint in Brazil covering England’s football team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, making a quick return to the UK to present from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland beginning in late July.

To balance full time careers and life at home, Gabby and her husband Kenny, an ex Scotland International Rugby star, realized that they needed to implement some type of system that would allow her to keep an eye on things at home while she took care of business on road. Whether gone for the day, or away on a trip thousands of miles from England, a home security system that incorporated video surveillance was the solution Gabby needed to stay connected to her family when Kenny was back at home in charge of the family and property.

Working with Vindex Systems in West Sussex, a specialist integrator of CCTV, access control and automatic number plate recognition solutions that works with both public and private sector clients, the Logans selected a system from Tyco Security Products’ American Dynamics range that incorporated the VideoEdge Network Video Recorder (NVR) and Illustra 600 indoor/outdoor IP Mini-Dome cameras.

Using a monitor at home, Gabby and Kenny can actively watch the video from the cameras on the grounds, or view recorded video with the VideoEdge NVR. The system even allows the Logans to save snapshots of specific video images.

Video Surveillance SystemBut the real selling point of the system was the ability, through an iPhone application, to watch live and recorded video from her home surveillance system from anywhere she may be. Now, Gabby has the ability while on the road to check on her home, her family, and any situations that may occur through the VideoEdge Go app.

VideoEdge Go is a full-featured video surveillance viewer that delivers added value to the system and enhances the day-to-day experience by facilitating remote monitoring and forensic investigating from anywhere.

The free, downloadable app works with Logan’s iPhone or other Apple iOS device. And because the video is streamed via a wifi, 3G or 4G connection in H.264 rather than MJPEG, it takes up less space on whatever device she is using.

While England was competing in the World Cup in June, Gabby was onsite with the team, but also in touch with home through her surveillance system and the VideoEdge Go app.

Download the Gabby Logan case study for more details.

Turning up the heat on video analytics

For the average person watching people come and go from a retail store, a sporting event or even a hotel lobby, the movements can seem random, with no apparent pattern behind them.

But for those who are deploying the latest in video analytics, those same travels within a defined space can be tracked and analyzed to allow store operators, arena owners and hoteliers to make key business decisions related to merchandising, personnel positioning and, of course, security.

Heat mapping — one of the newest analytic tools available — provides a visual interpretation of traffic patterns. The movements of those people who appear to be merely walking through the store are now captured and analyzed, and the resulting data can be looked at more closely.

video analytics heat mappingThis becomes important in a retail setting as stores look to maximize the effectiveness of their displays and increase overall store performance. A promotion may seem successful on paper, but if no one can find the display within the store, or they don’t stop to really look at it, then sales will suffer. Heat mapping can show retailers the traffic patterns within the store and help them determine where the items should be placed.

Beyond displays, stores and venues can also use heat mapping to help them determine where to place permanent items such as ATMs. It may seem logical to put the machine at the entrance, but if the goal is to get people into the building, and heat mapping shows that people use the machine but then turn away, it may be better to place it within the facility.

Closely aligned with heat mapping is another analytics tool that helps make sense of the traffic analytics. Once it’s established where and how people are moving within a retail venue, the next move is to see how long they dwell or linger within the area, checking out the products on display.

Looking at the retail example, once the display is in its optimal location, the goal is to get shoppers to look at the products being sold and make a purchase. Dwell data tells us how long someone is stationary; linger does the same, but the person is usually milling about, rather than standing in one spot.

By integrating dwell and linger information with Point Of Sale data, it is possible to determine how many people stopped in front of the display for several seconds, or moved within the general area, are converted to buyers.

Dwell and linger data can also be used to determine how to assign personnel within an area. If analytics show that people are milling in a specific spot within a store, it may be necessary to send over a salesperson to offer assistance or, in the case of hotel, an additional desk clerk. Analytics that show a group gathering for a pre-determined period of time could also be a sign that security needs to check out what is going on as it could indicate suspicious behavior, such as a shelf sweep.

Of course, all this information won’t be of much good if it isn’t easy for the system’s user to retrieve and analyze the data. While security personnel are familiar with analytics, it may be new to those on the operations side. But today’s analytics are tailored in such as way that the information is accessible to everyone, no matter their IT expertise and no matter the size of the operation.

 

Do you have any questions about Heat Mapping? Please ask in the comments section below.