Intelligent visual surveillance systems monitor persistent and transient objects within specific environments in real time. The primary intentions for systems are to provide an automatic interpretation of scenes and to understand and predict the actions and interactions of the observed objects. The increasing interest to develop and deploy intelligent or automated visual surveillance systems in the public, military and commercial sectors is creating new opportunities for electrical contractors.

The first generation of video-based surveillance started with analog closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, which consisted of cameras located in remote locations. The cameras were connected with switches to a set of monitors, usually placed in a control room. The second generation used automated visual surveillance by combining computer vision technology with CCTV systems. Today’s third generation performs automated wide-area surveillance.

“Today’s video surveillance is more reliable and can better detect moving objects, people and vehicles than before without triggering false alarms for environmental movement,” said John Estrada, CEO of  CheckVideo, Reston, Va.

Since the first networked camera launched in 1996, more intelligence has been pushed out to the network, enabling the development of such capabilities as cross line detection, people counting, tamper alarms, video motion detection and object tracking. With video “distributed” to the network’s edge rather than on centralized back-end servers, simpler analysis tasks can be performed on the edge, allowing servers to handle more video streams and more complex applications, according to Sergio Collazo, director of sales and marketing for Toshiba Surveillance and IP Video Products, Irvine, Calif.

“A common example is an IP [Internet protocol] camera embedded with motion detection analysis that decides when video will be transmitted across the network to the server. This front-end processing by the camera opens new opportunities for system flexibility and scalability,” he said.

Three distributed intelligent surveillance systems market drivers are technology-, business-, and social-based, said James Marcella, director of technical services for Axis Communications Inc., Chelmsford, Mass.

“Technologically, the market is beginning to see increased camera processing power that allows onboard, on-the-edge-of-the-network analytics, which promote more complex distributed intelligence as well as video storage capabilities,” he said, adding that, for their part, businesses are beginning to realize the proactive benefits of networked video surveillance.

Socially, people expect safety in given areas, particularly urban locations, and cameras provide at least the perception that someone is monitoring for security.

Because 98 percent of burglar alarms are false, policing communities are pushing requirements for alarm verification, typically using video, before responding.

“Because of this push, the market is seeing video, itself, becoming the alarm mechanism. This evolution is particularly conducive for outside applications where traditional alarm systems don’t work, such as parking lots or utility sites, and is helping promote more acceptance of this technology,” Estrada said.

In addition, when used as either the alarm mechanism or as verification of an alarm, intelligent video systems can actually help stop crimes.

Continuing cost pressures and recognized limits to the human attention span also are driving the increased use of intelligent video monitoring in place of full-time guards in some applications.

“The effectiveness of an operator to detect events falls dramatically over even a short period of time, especially in a multicamera system,” Collazo said.

But unmanned video analytics systems can monitor video constantly for specific events or behaviors and send an alarm when they occur. In addition, the analytics software can filter recordings based on unique factors, such as the size of an object or how fast a subject is moving, and pinpoint the moment it occurred rather than requiring someone to spend hours studying tapes.

Steps to DIY
To work successfully with this technology, contractors have to first understand the infrastructure these products leverage and gain the knowledge and/or certifications from organizations, such as BICSI, Marcella said. The second step is to understand networking infrastructure and get the necessary CISCO Configuration Assistant certification.

“Contractors need to understand how these devices communicate if they intend to go beyond just running cable and being able to configure and deploy entire systems,” Marcella said.

The third step is for contractors to learn how digital recording devices operate to tie the system together, and then, fourth, look into getting a physical security professional certification to demonstrate a fundamental understanding of physical security.

“With these four steps, contractors could deploy complete distributed intelligent surveillance systems without partnering with a third party,” Axis Communications’ Marcella said.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.