Technology Play in Physical Safety and Security

Date:   Tuesday , April 05, 2011

Today, an alarming increase in crime rate and theft, along with the associated fear of terrorism, is forcing organizations to lay greater emphasis on physical security. As security risks increase, the need to visually monitor and record security events in an organization’s environment is growing in importance and video surveillance is becoming a key component of physical safety and security in sectors like public transport, hospitality, airports, BFSI and education.

Investments in physical security become more effective and can cost less when tied together over an existing IP network and organizations can benefit from early threat detection, faster response, and enhanced collaboration with local law enforcement organizations. Using the network as an open, scalable platform for integrating security helps organizations to increase operational flexibility, improve protection capabilities, and reduce both risk and cost of ownership.

Availability of a comprehensive communication solution, i.e., an integrated response management system enables greater interoperability and better co-ordination between various security agencies and personnel for suitably managing emergencies. Information gathered by each agency is readily available to every other agency involved in an emergency, and each agency can respond accordingly. Since IP-based surveillance provides the ability to access data/ footage from any remote location over the internet, security or other authorized personnel can have faster access to relevant information during emergency.

Compared to traditional CCTV cameras, the digital infrastructure is scalable and there is no limit to the number of devices that can be added to the network.

Video surveillance and security
Organizations that deploy video surveillance stand to benefit from being able to monitor a facility’s environment, people, and assets in real time and record events for subsequent investigation, proof of compliance / audit purposes. The value of video surveillance has grown significantly with the introduction of motion, heat, and sound detection sensors as well as sophisticated video analytics.

Physical security solutions that combine IP video surveillance, access control, and incident response, are easy to manage and support. They are based on open standards, and can easily be integrated with products from various other agencies to meet specific requirements across industry verticals such as education, transport, retail and healthcare.

Video analytics which enables computer processing and analysis of video helps to alert operators or generate alarms based on specific events- such as people entering the field of view, the direction of an object, or the removal of an item from the field of view. The flexibility of where video analytics can be deployed and who can use it gets enhanced when used on an IP network because the network provides the video to be analyzed and also generates reports that can be distributed anywhere the network goes.

In addition to physical security, video monitoring and surveillance can come of use in many other areas as well. In transportation for example, video surveillance systems can help to monitor traffic congestion; in retail, video can be helpful in identifying customer movements in the store, or serve to alert the management when the number of checkout lines need a change. Some video analytics packages even offer the ability to identify a liquid spill on the sea and generate an alert enabling faster response by custodial services, thus avoiding a slip and fall situation. Product and package shipment operations can also use recorded video to help track and validate the movement of cargo or locate lost packages. With time video surveillance has evolved not only in its application, but also in its deployment.

Today the availability of the fourth generation video surveillance systems has made it possible to provide enhanced security wherever required. These solutions provide a unified interface that gives safety personnel a higher level of situational awareness and allows intelligent decisions to be made more quickly. Customers can build cost-effective, modular physical security solutions that are both best-in-class and interoperable.

These next generation video surveillance architectures provide increased reliability, higher system availability, greater utility (any camera to any monitoring or recording device for any application, anywhere), increased accessibility and mobility. Multivendor interoperability ensures that these solutions can be used to enhance other building management system capabilities thereby reducing capital and operational expenditures.

By converging various applications and technologies on the IP network, fourth-generation video surveillance provides additional benefits and advantages over preceding generations. Fourth generation surveillance solutions also extend the capability of video surveillance gateways (enhanced encoders and decoders) and the network video recorder (NVR), and allow legacy matrix switches to be replaced by standard and typically lower-cost Ethernet switching platforms.

Since they help to collapse video switching functions onto an existing Ethernet switch environment, these solutions reduce the complexity and lower the cost of deploying a video surveillance solution. They also provide video surveillance system owners with the flexibility to design solutions tailored to their unique requirements. As part of an open network, operators can create policies allowing the inherent value of the video, as a source of information, to be used by other safety and security applications, as well as other nontraditional business applications.

The Ethernet switch environment provided by the network infrastructure integrates the video stream provided by the NVR when used with PCs for monitoring and reviewing video. Video encoders can make use of the pervasive IP network cabling infrastructure instead of the redundant cabling infrastructures, while long-range camera deployments can benefit from the complete elimination of fiber multiplexers and distribution amplifiers, thereby reducing deployment costs.

Fourth generation video surveillance systems are supported by the Video Surveillance Manager (VSM) software which provides a browser-based user interface to collect, manage, record / archive and distribute video from multiple third party video encoders and IP cameras. This enables operators and users to easily access live or recorded video using a PC, or any other browser equipped device in remote and mobile environments. Additionally, VSM allows for easier integration with other network applications including third party command and control software.

Fourth generation video surveillance systems are characterized by interoperability which helps video surveillance system gateways convert or translate proprietary vendor-specific video signals and formats into a common format and share video information with other systems via that common format. It enables the integration of video surveillance with access control and intrusion detection without the need for a centralized server. This ability to integrate, or unify the surveillance system with other alarm systems, increases the effectiveness of security operations and reduces the chances of responding to false alarms. For instance, with video surveillance, a security officer can correctly determine if the source of a ‘door-forced alarm’ was a gust of wind or an intruder.

The availability of a common format for video that is transmitted across the IP network also provides the ability to add new functions such as video analytics anywhere in the network. Whether at the edge of the network, embedded in the camera, in the encoder, or centralized in the monitoring center, a common format enables the same video analytics program to be used for reporting and can varied based on specific circumstances.

When the NVR also supports a web-browser-based graphical user interface and is complemented with video transcoding capabilities, video surveillance monitoring and reviewing can be provide first responders and their centralized safety and security command control with an unparalleled level of information and collaborative capabilities.

Services for video surveillance
In order to provide the required level of physical safety and security that fourth generation surveillance solutions promise, there is a need to integrate the most effective designs, products, and services to comprehensively deliver safety and security that meet the customer needs. An integrated, services-led solution approach helps to effectively provide emergency response systems for corporate campuses, hotels, schools, critical infrastructure sites, transportation facilities including airports, and cities.

Services that help to design and test various security solutions deploy the solution and its supporting management systems; as well provide the detailed operational plans add to customer benefit. Such services must also provide the support needed to plan for and implement the new solution components and/or migrate existing systems, as well as executing and recording the results of the acceptance tests that validate successful deployment.

The author is Sr. Vice President – Advanced Services, Cisco Systems