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Posted on: 05/07/2003

Hot Video Hits
By Bill Zalud


Video security, which now is among the hottest of security technologies, continues a fast-track expansion into public places and businesses. Benefits continue to expand, too, from deterrence, identification and protection to special events and even customer service and management training.

Great Britain, ahead of most countries in the use of video surveillance in public places, carries innovation further along with mobile, wireless cameras on city streets to fight specific crime hot spots. Just weeks ago, London area's West Oxfordshire Community Safety Partnership launched what it calls an "Anti-Social Behavior Initiative." It includes a mobile wireless camera system that is located where the bad guys hang.

The mobile cameras focus on crime hot spots not covered by static cameras and where there is no fiber optic network. With a transmission range of up to 4 kilometers, coverage is possible in areas that are would otherwise be unprotected, according to Malcolm Wright of Petards Vision, the system provider. "Local government has identified anti-social behavior as its number one priority," he says.

On this side of the "pond," a New England integrator, MAC Systems (Avon, Mass.), has completed a more traditional but robust installation of video surveillance for Rhode Island's Lincoln Park. The aim is to use hundreds of cameras to protect patrons and employees at the state's largest provider of gaming entertainment and greyhound racing.

Large-scale Installation
The system includes 352 digital cameras, 25 digital video recorders and power supplies.

Located in Lincoln, about ten minutes north of Providence, Lincoln Park has more than 1,700 video slot machines, a greyhound track with daily racing and wagering and three onsite restaurants.

"Officials at Lincoln Park came to us to help them provide a more safe and secure environment for their customers," says Robert McMenimon, president of MAC Systems. "Time and information are valuable tools in surveillance. The system we installed makes both real-time and recorded video available in seconds, rather than the minutes it took with the facility's previous VCR-based system."

Ron House, Lincoln Park's director of surveillance, says he liked how integrator MAC Systems worked closely with his staff to install the video system. He also says he liked how the design allowed for growth.

On the special event side, video played a role at the biggest special event of them all.

Security at Super Bowl XXXVII combined integration of numerous types of technologies including IP-enabled video surveillance. Digital video technology from cVideo in San Diego, Calif., made it possible to view any security camera anywhere at any time. Thanks to the integrated approach, officials from the FBI, the National Football League, San Diego Police and stadium security simultaneously accessed interactive video from more than 50 cameras throughout Qualcomm Stadium.

Nearly all of the cameras could look at virtually any angle with enough zoom capability to read a lineup card. According to Bob Davis, technical director of the Super Bowl for the San Diego Police Department, "When people have to make decisions, they're actually seeing live, real-time video. This allowed all these agencies involved in this effort to provide better decisions for law-enforcement and for safety."

Beyond special events, the ability of video to integrate with other business systems in more routine applications makes for more uses, too.

And there is no more routine business than retail sales.

The folks at GE Interlogix, Kalatel Division in Corvallis, Ore., have integrated video surveillance, for instance, with point of sale (POS) systems. ProBridge 3 provides an interface for Kalatel digital video multiplexer/recorders (DVMR), including the StoreSafe 4-channel DVMR with auxiliary read/write CD unit, to POS text transaction data. Aimed at gas stations, the gas pump POS system combines a comprehensive electronic cash register with an island controller that communicates sales and inventory data to the user's home or back-office computer.

Pairing Video, Sales Data
Gas station management can capture POS transaction text, associate it with the correct video and record it on internal hard drives. This allows personnel to quickly search for video using receipt text such as credit card holder name or number, dollar amount or number of gallons to locate desired recorded digital images.

When displaying transaction text, a separate window is displayed, similar to that of a scrolling cash register receipt. The window can be sized to display as many lines as the monitor will display. The system also allows users to easily review playback video and focus on specific transactions. By freezing the display, users can also highlight the desired receipt text lines, bring up the images associated with that text, and print out both the selected text and image.

Security cameras are also an effective deterrent when applied to specific problems such as vandalism.

The Ohio town of Gahanna, for example, will soon open a $200,000 skate park. But town officials are concerned about discouraging vandalism. The town, near Colombus, is using a chain-link fence, surveillance camera and security lights to protect the site. Local police will monitor images from the site.

There's no doubt that cities and states all are embracing video cameras, and some applications go beyond traditional security needs. A project in southern California, for instance, is seeing if a blend of highway cameras and Internet access could provide quicker life safety help.

According to media reports, Mohan Trivedi of the University of California San Diego and colleagues at the University's Computer Vision and Robotics Research Laboratory are working on a plan to determine the effectiveness of a network of highway cameras. The cameras, wirelessly connected over the Internet, could provide faster and more intelligent response to traffic emergencies.

Already, the project has been experimenting with two cameras along a part of Interstate 5. Unique to the application is computer-enhanced 360-degree imaging to display a diversity of views.

The future, according to Trivedi: mobile interactive avatars, robot-like devices that can be "dispatched" on site of accidents and incidents.

The concept of 360-degree video is growingly important. Product, system and software companies are forming new business units to develop and market 360-degree video.

Oak Ridge, Tenn.-based Internet Pictures Corporation (IPIX), for one, has formed iPIX Security Group to get out its 360-degree video technology to commercial and government security end users. In this case, 360-degree real-time spherical video can eliminate blind spots, allow multiple users to simultaneously navigate their own unique view of the scene and digitally record and retrieve the archived video, all using wired or wireless access from any authorized location.

Of course, the marriage of security video and the Web persists. There were numerous firms at last month's International Security Conference in Las Vegas pushing the service.

For example, WebEyeAlert in Chelmsford, Mass., showed ISC attendees its DVR Plus 3.3. The architecture has the ability to unite multiple digital video recorders and cameras deployed over a geographically dispersed area. WebEyeAlert DVR Plus creates a unified enterprise surveillance system that can be accessed and managed via a single browser running on a single workstation.

Bill is the Editor of Security Magazine, and he can be reached at (630) 694-4029.


Copyright 2003 by Business News Publishing Co.