Making metadata work for you

Imagine walking into a library in search of a particular book, but not having access to a card catalog — actual or virtual — to search for that specific volume.  You could spend hours looking for the manuscript.

But if you have access to a card catalog, you can search by author, title or subject and then, via the Dewey Decimal System tag associated with that book, find it in a matter of minutes.

metadata in security systemsMetadata, which is often defined as data about data, or data about content, is what allows you to find that specific information. The book has been categorized on many levels, from more general author and title information to the number of pages, the publisher and the date it was published.

Video recordings also have the advantage of exploiting metadata. When video is recorded, there is a general file — a video that was recorded at XYZ Corp. That’s the data.  Breaking that down further through the metadata embedded in the image files can help those who are looking to retrieve specific video moments within that larger file.

The video is associated with a text-based database, making it searchable by words such as date, time or activity: Find the “blue car” “exiting” the “parking lot” in the video from “November 8.”

All the information that is part of the metadata can be applied to a video analytics system, making it easier, faster, and more accurate to search existing video or, more importantly, set up the analytics so it can respond proactively.

By specifying certain activities related to the metadata — always show when a vehicle enters the parking lot after business hours, or send an alert when someone opens a fire exit — the user experience is enhanced. No one has to spend time looking at live video, nor do they have to scan through hours of recorded images to find a key incident.

Through the use of metadata, whether employing cameras, DVRs or NVRs, searches are faster than ever as the systems pull from a database of information and can pinpoint the specific event. No longer is there the question of if you have downloaded enough of the video, or if you have missed part of the action.

Just like cataloging in the library, the proper use of metadata in a video surveillance and analytics system will allow easier searching by proper criteria, as well as distinguish dissimilar items and provide accurate location information. And that should give you more time to go to the library and pick up that new best-seller.


What are some of the unique things that you search for in your video footage, using your video management system? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.


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