Sep 1, 2002 12:00 PM

Video solutions for security are more cost-effective than ever. Here are three factors that are making it happen:

  • emphasis on the Internet and off-the-shelf solutions;
  • a migration to an all-digital environment; and
  • importance of trade associations to provide standards and training.

Even before Sept. 11, the CCTV market was expected to grow exponentially. According to Ross & Baruzzini, an airport security engineering firm, the video surveillance market is expected to grow annually at about 30 percent from $1.1 billion in 2000 to nearly $4 billion by 2006.

Things have changed significantly since last fall. In a three-block area of midtown Manhattan, for example, there is a strikingly dense network of CCTV cameras providing total coverage of street-level activities. Recently New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) volunteers walked the streets of the city in search of video surveillance cameras and found more than 3,000 in Manhattan alone. According to a recent CNBC report, there are nearly 3.5 million security cameras in public places like airports and bus stations, and another 5-6 million in private use.

Market research firm J.P. Freeman supports the view of a rapidly growing market. In its "U.S. Closed Circuit TV and Video Surveillance Market Report," the company calls the CCTV market one of the fastest-growing in the security industry. The report indicates CCTV has become a favorite tool in law enforcement, municipal infrastructure, education, retailing, medicine, commercial/residential monitoring and a host of other security applications now made possible by newer video technology such as biometric identification, X-ray video and wireless video. Remote and networked video are developing quickly along with Intranet (LAN/WAN), broadband and high-bandwidth applications.

"Between Sept. 11 and the Web, it's turning out to be a very good year," says Mike Shaw of Web-Net Services, a San Francisco CCTV and security design firm. "My business since last fall has tripled and much of that will continue with our new Web site and online order center opening later this year." The Internet has become a key forum for everything from remote viewing of secure CCTV feeds to ordering camera systems and trade education.

Companies are hard at work developing the next generation of Web-ready and networkable CCTV systems. "These solutions will offer greater flexibility and performance to end-users by effectively linking analog CCTV to IP networks while protecting the initial capital investment in analog equipment. Such a solution also provides enhanced access by enabling secure viewing from any point in the network at a lower installation cost," says Jean-Paul Saindon, president of SmartSight Networks Inc., Laval, Canada.

CCTV manufacturers and integrators are gradually and smoothly making the transition to digital and Internet-based recording. "The industry is resolving issues of video bandwidth bottlenecks limiting the scalability of large CCTV systems over IP networks," Saindon says. "Central server-based authentication for access to cameras on the network will permit control of overall and per-camera network bandwidth usage. Authentication also adds an important layer of security that is a requirement for online transmission."

The goal is to enable secure viewing of the same video feed from multiple locations (Multicast IP) without using additional network bandwidth. "Providing end-users with long-term investment protection by building systems and solutions based on widely accepted video compression (MPEG 4) and networking standards ensures universal interoperability both now and in the future," Saindon says.

Because of cost and the fact that CCTV solutions are becoming easier to install, more do-it-yourself installations are being done. Many of these users purchased a CCTV system or elements of it on the Internet.

"Though shopping online can provide terrific deals on all kinds of merchandise and services, potential buyers need to understand and embrace that not every merchant or seller online is completely trustworthy," says Julie Anderson, vice president of online financial giant PayPal Inc., an Internet bank and payment service. "Most online CCTV vendors are fine, of course, but spending a few extra minutes to research a seller or merchant before making that purchase might help you avoid disappointment later on."

Digital video standard MPEG 4 has been approved as a professional international standard that supports video surveillance. It brings new features to digital video. Compared to MPEG 2 (used in DVDs), MPEG 4 offers increased flexibility in video scaling and improved resolution. It's also more stable and could ultimately bridge the gap between traditional analog gear and the all-digital CCTV environment. Ideally, there will eventually be a single infrastructure that meets the needs of both IT and CCTV.

The trend toward multiple functionality is illustrated by Unified Security View (USV), a software system from Sonic Foundry Inc., Madison, Wis. USV provides CCTV recording, video/image biometric analysis, real-time media access and content management compatible with all media, information and database sources.

"The rising concerns over security and the need to consolidate disparate information into one common view is helping to drive demand for tested and proven technology solutions," says Rimas Buinevicius, CEO of Sonic Foundry.

USV contains four pre-integrated components including an analysis system designed to extract, analyze and quickly sort through large volumes of visual information; and a comprehensive recording (capture) application for media and biometric information.

"A shortcoming of current security and surveillance applications is their inability to integrate multiple pieces of identification data, leaving security personnel with a one-dimensional view of individuals," says Howard Wactlar, who helped spearhead a related research project at Carnegie Mellon University. "The concept of a unified view provides the multi-dimensional answer to this challenge."

New CCTV products are also more "intelligent" than ever before. At the ISC West Expo in Las Vegas last spring, a video surveillance system was introduced that takes biometrics a step further with innovative behavior recognition technology. Perceptrak from St. Louis-based Cernium Inc. focuses on enhancing security in "quiet places" like parking garages, elevators, lobbies, stairwells and low traffic hallways, where, according to law enforcement, criminal behavior is most likely to occur.

Tested last summer in a parking garage at a U.S. airport, Perceptrak filters out boring, unwanted surveillance video, detects suspicious behavior, and immediately alerts security staff. The system also integrates directly with existing video surveillance installations.

Perceptrak uses proprietary software capable of alerting security staff, automatically selecting a view for call-up only when suspicious activity is detected. The system monitors and reports distinct suspicious or unusual behavioral activities, including erratic persons, a fallen person, or a lurking person, for example. The system records digital images of people at a higher resolution than their background, generating significant storage efficiency. The combination of detection and recording also enables historical query by content, and the system integrates directly with existing CCTV.

CCTV trade shows are outstanding opportunities to see the latest in access control, security systems and CCTV. Conventions and trade associations provide valuable networking opportunities, and most importantly, these organizations have strong education and training programs.

"Certainly, since Sept. 11 we've been experiencing lots of phone calls and getting requests for more information on security camera technology in public areas, such as airports and stadiums," says Richard Chace, executive director of the Security Industry Association (SIA). "Security video is really best in places where you have a high concentration of people. And certainly we've seen a larger increase in the use of this technology. It was on the rise even prior to the events of last fall."

Checking out the latest products and training programs are things that any serious security professional should take advantage of.

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a contributor to Access Control & Security Systems and also writes for SRO Magazine, a publication covering the stage and A/V rental markets.

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