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Smart Perimeter Protection For Airports

Qognify : 26 October, 2010  (Technical Article)
Guy Lorman of video analytics specialist Nice Systems provides some insight into the use of proactive perimeter protection systems
When it comes to an airport's perimeter protection the old adage that 'a smart person knows how to resolve a problem, but a wise person knows how to avoid the problem in the first place' has never been more appropriate. CCTV surveillance systems that take advantage of Video Analytics can provide the insight that allows security teams to proactively monitor perimeters and significantly raise the probability of early event detection to prevent or contain an incident.

Today's airport is like a self-contained mini-metropolis. Much like the urban centres they border, airports depend upon a myriad of service businesses, suppliers and retailers to keep their operations running smoothly. All of this translates into a maze of security challenges for the security teams charged with ensuring public safety and protecting vital, mission-critical assets.

Perimeter control is the first line of defence for an airport and typically security teams place heavy reliance on CCTV monitoring for the early detection of potential security breaches, across such a large area. However, surveillance of monitoring also creates information overload for those monitoring CCTV footage.

Research demonstrates that as the number of surveillance cameras deployed across a CCTV network increases, the ability of security personnel in the command and control room to attentively scan all the video feeds actually decreases. In fact, after approximately 20 minutes the average operator only absorbs about five percent of the information presented and when it comes to surveillance it is all too often the small and easily missed events that have the largest impact. So there is clearly a need to aid operators in the immediate detection of suspicious situations. Leveraging the inherent surveillance capabilities of Video Analytics systems can do much to augment the monitoring tasks of the airport security operations.

While Video Analytics cannot and should not replace security operators, it can vastly improve their ability to identify potential events by alerting security teams in real-time to suspicious activity, allowing them to verify the alert and then allocate resources and respond immediately.

Video analytics works by analysing captured video from CCTV cameras in real-time for behaviour, and objects that meet a pre-defined set of criteria that could suggest a security threat. Once these criteria have been met an automatic alert is sent to the security team who can playback the feed from the camera (whilst continually monitoring the live situation) to assess the level of response required. These types of Video Analytics algorithms can be embedded within computers, Digital Video recorders, surveillance cameras or enabled video processing units, depending on how the surveillance system operates. Today, Video Analytics that are designed with open architecture can be applied to any CCTV surveillance system.

Not all Video Analytics applications are created equally
Of course not all Video Analytics applications are created equally. The success and levels of performance achieved are in large part reliant on a number of factors, including: its ability to integrate within the existing infrastructure, how it is deployed and supporting technologies and features that boost its efficiency. For instance, environmental conditions such as wind, rain, snow, fog and low light can compromise the performance of Video Analytics and generate false alarms. However, there are now technologies in the market place designed to overcome this common issue.

For example, a Visual Parameter Optimiser can continuously and automatically adjust the visual parameters of enabled surveillance cameras according to individual scene characteristics, to ensure optimal brightness and contrast for video viewing and recording. This solution helps security operations deal with naturally occurring environmental factors that can impact illumination such as seasonal fluctuations, time of day changes and site dependent considerations. Some systems can even detect and alert to "man-made" conditions, such as camera tampering, that can compromise the effective use of Video Analytics for perimeter protection.

It is also possible to support functionality such as Advanced Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) Tracking, which can track an identified object or individual from the moment it breaches a perimeter. Once identified, the PTZ tracking system takes over and follows the object (or person) wherever it (or he) goes within the secured environment. Security operators are able to save precious time by sending responders to the right location right away.

Video analytics and situation management
As part of a larger surveillance system, video analytics, when applied the right way, can greatly enhance an airport's perimeter monitoring capabilities, ensuring operators are alerted to a situation at the right time. Now with the advent of situation management technology it is possible to aid them further to automate processes and ensure that the right decisions are made at the right time. Here is an example of how surveillance cameras, video analytics, situation management and the control room can all work together to protect the perimeter, or indeed any part of an airport's infrastructure.

A sensor positioned at a perimeter fence is disturbed and as a result a chain of automated events is immediately triggered. First an alert is sent to the control room, where the operator is presented with a pre-defined message; at the same time the system deploys the airport's perimeter intrusion procedures. In this instance the process involves automatically viewing the relevant CCTV camera toward the sensor and displaying the real-time and pre-recorded video feed to the human operator in the control room, who is overseeing the incident in real-time. Meanwhile, the system automatically locates the appropriate personnel on the ground best equipped to respond to the alert (airport police, fire crews, medical teams etc) and sends a multimedia task assignment to their mobile devices, with the required action.

In this instance the operator is using his training to co-ordinate the management of the situation, whilst the technology is providing the information and advising on the necessary course of action.

Delays and shutdowns to an airport translates into millions in lost revenues for airlines and the satellite businesses supporting them. In some instances this is of course unavoidable, however, wherever possible prevention is better that cure. So when it comes to perimeter protection are you smart or are you wise?
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