Al Shipp Featured in Technology News from NPR: In More Cities, A Camera On Every Corner, Park And Sidewalk

June 20, 2013 | Coverage

NPR logo

This report is part of the series NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century.

By Steve Henn

It would take a single officer more than four days to watch all the video recorded by the Elk Grove police in an hour — but [Chris Hill, IT manager for the Elk Grove Police Department] would like to get even more.

"We actually have a pilot project coming up — hopefully shortly — with a local retailer that will be giving us access to their parking lot cameras," he says. Eventually he'd also like to work with local banks to get ATM camera feeds.

But Hill doesn't want Elk Grove's officers spending time watching parking lots and writing down plate numbers. Instead, there's software that can do that for them. To see how, I traveled to the offices of 3VR in San Francisco. The company makes the software that Elk Grove uses to sift through its recordings.

"Most people don't understand that putting more cameras [up] doesn't necessarily yield more information," says Al Shipp, 3VR's CEO. The company offers facial recognition, license plate readers and object-based searches. Elk Grove doesn't use all of these services yet, but it could add new ones at any time.

"Instead of watching hours, and maybe days, of video, you can ask questions like, 'Show me all red cars going east,'" Shipp says. "Or, 'Show me all red cars going east — fast.' Or, 'All red cars going east, fast, with a partial plate of A-B.'

"Those are search arguments you can do with our technology and literally sort through weeks of video in a few seconds," he says.

Software like this can alert the police when someone enters a park after dark. Or it can search for a face.

Diego Simkin, a technician at 3VR, shows me a search for a suspect in a possible bank fraud. He clicks and, within seconds, there are pictures of the same man walking into multiple banks on different days up on the screen.

"I have the ability to ... search against multiple cameras on that system or multiple systems," Simkin says. 3VR's corporate clients are already using these kinds of searches.

Read the rest of the article on NPR.