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Exploiting IP CCTV through security system integration

IndigoVision : 22 January, 2010  (Special Report)
Barry Keepence of Indigovision explains the advantages that can be yielded from IP Surveillance technology through the integration of other security system technologies such as perimeter protection, access control and ANPR
Exploiting IP CCTV through security system integration

Integrating CCTV with other security systems across IP networks offers significant benefits for the user. Barry Keepence, IndigoVision’s CTO, discusses the latest developments that allow specialist systems such as EPOS and ANPR to be integrated in the same way. Integrating two or more security systems across an IP network provides the end user with far greater benefits than could be achieved from the individual systems. Add this to the already long list of advantages a distributed IP Video system delivers and the end result is a very compelling argument for integration. The ability to pass alarms and events between each system across the network is the key to the power of integration. Any alarm in one system can trigger a number of events in another. For example an access control illegal entry alarm can cause the nearest PTZ CCTV camera to be panned to a pre-selected position and the video of the entrance to be displayed on a spot monitor, an interactive map to display the position of the alarm and the sending of an email notification, etc. This provides a very efficient operator environment that significantly improves incident response. Ideally manufacturers would deliver a single solution that provided the integration of all aspects of security - CCTV, access control, intruder and perimeter protection, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), to name but a few applications. However, the reality is that such systems don’t exist. Even if they did it would be difficult for the complete solution to have the same features and capabilities of individual systems that are developed by companies who specialise in one particular area. End users don’t mind that their integrated solution is provided by different suppliers as long as they can sit at one PC and control the whole system. They want one application to display and acknowledge the alarms from all sources. The security system most used by operators is CCTV. It is therefore logical to consolidate all alarms in the IP Video system. This also means that the video can be bookmarked by alarms and events from the other systems, allowing advanced searching of the video using these events. This gives the operator a visual record of any alarm or event in the system – a very powerful tool for incident management, auditing and evidence gathering. The logic of integrating security systems together is evident, however if information from systems such as EPOS can be interfaced then a powerful security solution for applications in the retail market and casinos can be deployed. Data sent from an EPOS system can be overlaid on a live video display, allowing operators to view the camera feed and till transaction simultaneously. The transaction information and alarms generated by the EPOS system can be bookmarked and recorded alongside the video. This facilitates visual identification of an incident in both real time and through post-event analysis. Powerful transaction analysis can be undertaken on the stored data, for example, finding out when a particular credit card was used by searching every till in a store or across all stores from the head office. Conversely, recorded video can be searched using a thumbnail feature, which displays a video still image for every transaction, allowing the operator to quickly identify the relevant footage. Evidential quality video clips and associated transaction data can be exported for investigation or use in court. Alarms generated by the EPOS system, such as ‘till left open’, ‘refund’, or ‘large note deposit’ can automatically trigger a number of events, including displaying the nearest camera to the specific till and pinpointing the alarm on an interactive map. Alarms from non-security systems such as building management and plant monitoring can also easily be integrated into the system and benefit retail applications, for example, alerting staff when a freezer fails or a door is left open. These types of discrete signals can be interfaced to the network using input/output functions on hardware such as video transmitters or by using dedicated IP Alarm Panels. The integration of alarm and event data between systems is quite straight forward, allowing a number of powerful ‘cause and effects’ to be implemented. However, IP Video manufacturers are now making available interfaces to their raw video, through Software Development Kits (SDKs). This opens up a number of new applications that can be integrated over the IP network, including ANPR, face recognition, advanced analytics processing, video fire/smoke detection and video walls. ANPR is an excellent example of how this type of integration can work. ANPR is a mature and established technology that is used in homeland security, traffic and parking management and more recently with road charging schemes. However, they are typically standalone solutions that provide users with a simple list of licence plates that have been recognised by specific cameras. Also the video produced by ANPR cameras is only useful for the recognition software and not for general surveillance. By integrating ANPR with CCTV, the application can be further enhanced: * The actual licence plate number can be overlaid with the video from adjacent CCTV cameras, thereby giving a visual confirmation of the occupants and vehicle make. * The plate number can be bookmarked with the video making it very easy to search for the appropriate clip in the future. * When a vehicle is identified from the ‘watch list’ an alarm can be raised in the CCTV system, alerting operators and automatically displaying cameras relevant to the location of the vehicle. Typically ANPR systems work by connecting a small number of specialist analogue licence plate recognition cameras directly to an ANPR server, a number of which can be networked together. Unlike leading IP Video systems this is not a truly distributed architecture. Cameras still have to be hardwired directly to the server. The high-levels of computing power required for licence plate recognition means that only a small number of cameras can be connected to a single ANPR server, causing cabling problems and the need for more servers if the cameras are widely dispersed. Integrating the ANPR on the same network as the IP-CCTV system allows it to be completely distributed. As with any CCTV camera, specialist ANPR cameras can be positioned at any point on the network and at any distance from the ANPR server, as the video is carried by the network and not dedicated coax cabling. As the ANPR servers are networked together they act in the same way as if they were a standalone system, providing the same functionality and connection to external interfaces such as national police databases and ticketing systems. When an ANPR system is integrated with an IP Video solution, it uses the same video format, with specialist ANPR cameras connected to the network via video transmitters. The ANPR server then reads the streamed video from the network in much the same way as a CCTV video management workstation. This means that the ANPR system can use video from standard CCTV cameras located anywhere on the network. In this situation the recognition success rate will typically be lower than when using specialist ANPR cameras, however, given good environmental conditions using standard cameras is possible and provides a cost effective solution for less critical applications. With the reduction in cabling from sharing the IP Video network and the possibility of using standard CCTV cameras, the installation costs of an ANPR system, when integrated with IP video, can realise savings in addition to the significant operational benefits. With the advent of HD IP cameras with low data rates and advanced H.264 compression, high-definition video can be streamed across standard networks and recorded using mainstream storage solutions. This is an important factor as applications such as ANPR and face recognition often require the high-quality images delivered by HD cameras. Storing core alarm and event data from many different security systems with CCTV video is a compelling argument for integration, providing an excellent solution for analysis, auditing and evidence gathering. Triggering ‘Cause and Effect’ actions from this data leads to improved operator efficiency and incident response, providing possible savings from reduced security staff. Extending integration to sharing raw video leads to better use of specialist systems such as ANPR. IP Video manufacturers that provide this level of integration will be able to offer end-users a powerful solution to manage all of their security needs. Before joining IndigoVision as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) in 1999, Barry Keepence worked for over 10 years in the Space industry and at 3Com as a System Architect.

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