From time to time we’ll ask a guest blogger to jump in here – this is one of those times. As a video production agency we can’t help but notice the blistering pace of technological advancements in video technology. Video is everywhere, and getting even more everywhere all the time. We thought it might be interesting to get an insight into how digital video is being used at the cutting edge of another industry – security.
Video surveillance technology
Up until very recently, video surveillance technology hasn’t been able to achieve even a fraction of the things that TV shows and movies would have you believe.
Remember the film No Way Out, from back when we thought Kevin Costner might be an interesting actor? The whole plot hinges on the ability of sophisticated Pentagon software to ‘enhance’ a pixelated image. Which just isn’t that straightforward. In fact, there’s a page here debunking just that kind of wishful thinking/magic.
But video technology and analysis software has come a long way in the last 10 years – maybe not to utterly ridiculous CSI-levels of instantaneous wizardry, but still pretty far – and some of these developments have applications that extend beyond just security and law enforcement, and into the marketing department.
Video analytics software
Video analytics software does what its name suggests – analyses images using fancy algorithms and that sort of thing. It can’t really recognise faces – not with any degree of accuracy – but it can produce patterns of movement; invaluable information when assessing where best to locate the Twix stand in a supermarket, or working out which entrances and exits are most used.
There’s also behavioural recognition software, pioneered by a company called BRS Labs. This ‘learns’ what is normal within a scene, and can send alerts when unusual behaviours occur. It doesn’t search for anything in particular, but over time can filter out what is unusual given the time of day, day of the week, time of year, etc. Here’s a video about it.
Thermal imaging cameras are another relatively new development. They’ve been around for a while, but were cost prohibitive for anything other than large-scale or military uses. Now companies like Axis and Flir are offering them for a couple of grand each, and able to be viewed over a network as well – as opposed to traditional, TV-style cabling.
Thermal cameras are useful in very dark conditions, or where bad weather can obscure a camera’s view, such as in Scotland. That’s because they observe heat patterns, and people and animals tend to be significantly warmer than trees, and concrete. Etc. They’re often able to incorporate analytics now too, so cinema owners can calculate exactly which bits of the Twilight movies are the most, er, romantic. Perhaps.
This video from Flir runs through the history of thermal imaging. And features some excellent wig-acting.
Another interesting trend is the emergence of audio analytics. Microphones pick up sound, which is then analysed in real-time (not, generally speaking, recorded – there are rules about this kinda thing in most places) for signs of aggression. If something potentially worrying is detected, cameras can be triggered to automatically switch to the sound’s location, and an operator alerted. Although it has been used mainly in prisons up until now, there’s probably a role for audio analytics outside a Wetherspoon’s on a Friday night.
And finally, some Minority Report-style action. Well, as close as we’ve got to it so far, anyway. A Brighton company called 2020 Imaging has developed a product called TuchControl (why they needed to drop the ‘o’ I’m not certain), that uses touch screen monitors to navigate camera systems integrated into a 3D-modelled map. Which is pretty cool.
Check out the video to see how it works. Note: as far as I know, the system is yet to integrate shaven-headed watery pre-cogs into its operation. But it’s probably just a matter of time.