Security Squared: ASIS 2009 Round-up: Beyond Video Management

October 8, 2009 | Coverage

Security Squared

With IP camera interoperability largely established, vendors now look to integrate security management at a higher level

San Francisco International Airport has 1,880 surveillance cameras. Only three people monitor them.

For Robert Allen, director of business development for Abeo Technical Solutions, this fact encapsulates the growing management problem video surveillance presents to large organizations. "There's no way they can monitor that much video," he said. "No one can."

Once interoperability is established, physical identity and access control systems have proved relatively easy to correlate with logical IT-based identity and access management systems. Video, by comparison, has always presented a spate of management problems, even to organizations that are embracing security convergence. Now, as more companies deploy more cameras at higher resolution, in addition to issues of platforms, interoperability and architecture, they are running into the human limitations of managing hundreds, if not thousands of video feeds in what has become, as observed by Dave Tynan, vice president-global sales and marketing for Avigilon, "the million-pixel world."

At the 2009 ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits, several companies showcased solutions designed to organize huge surveillance video files so they can be correlated with events and alarms triggered by other systems fast enough for security staff to determine an appropriate response. To some degree, the concept resembles physical security information management (PSIM), but is far less customized and aimed at a broader market. Indeed, while many of these solutions can connect into a PSIM system, and many use video management as a starting point, all are designed to be an umbrella layer for management of a variety of other security tasks.

In addition to Abeo TS and Avigilon, other examples include tools and technology from 3VR, On-net Security Systems Inc. (OnSSI), NICE Systems, Risco and Steelbox. Each company takes a different approach--and some of these solutions can work together--but their common goal is to organize video surveillance data so it can be better applied across the entire security infrastructure: both at the tactical level to support a faster real-time response and the strategic level to provide the metrics to deliver a return on investment (ROI).

The development of these "engines," as the companies tend to describe them, comes in response to a combination of factors. First, there are the pressures of network and data center consolidation, headcount reduction, risk management and compliance. Yet amid all this IT streamlining, digital video surveillance networks using high-definition and megapixel cameras have begun to flood the operation with more and more data. There is no question that the video technologies that have made it to market can significantly increase the amount of strategic information an organization can use. The operative word here is use.

3VR: Searchable Surveillance

The chief problem is that unlike most other data within a corporate network, digital video footage, which takes the form of huge files on a video management system (VMS), is unstructured. On the human level, that means to locate an image of specific event or suspect, staffers have to play back and view large blocks of raw video. On a data processing level, it means other security applications cannot easily query, reference or correlate the video data in conjunction with their own. "We need a tool that robustly structures and organizes data," said Stephen Russell, founder and CEO of 3VR.

3VR has built its platform around an engine that makes video searchable. Users can specify a particular image they seek and the software will sift the metadata to find it. "Think of all the huge innovations we've had for IT. In that time, no one's changed the guts of the VMS," he said. "There's no Google for surveillance or for breaking down information for integration with IT systems."

3VR's P-Series SmartRecorder is nominally a VMS, but it incorporates an analytic component that detects and catalogs every activity, face and transaction, then cross indexes and stores them as metadata in a searchable database. The search engine can find specific faces, transactions or other events across large sets of video files derived from any number of camera feeds. Results can be exported to a centralized evidence file. The process can reduce video review time by 60 percent, the company claims.

VMS: The Next Generation?

3VR offers an example of what might termed "VMS-plus." While the first round of open platform, IP-based VMS systems focused on interoperability of command-and-control software, that is, the ability to manage cameras and encoders from different vendors, legacy companies have begun to catch up. That's pushed some of the leading network-centric VMS vendors to incorporate command-and-control interfaces to other security tasks, including access control, intrusion detection and perimeter protection, while tapping into other data processing systems, such point-of-sale transactions, license plate recognition and other analytics.

Approaches differ. Some partner with other vendors or incorporate features through an OEM arrangement. Some develop specific software in-house. Some develop interfaces as demand requires through software development kits. Most vendors rely on a combination of these strategies,.

The more management functionality VMS systems take on, the more they resemble PSIM systems. Although there is some debate over the actual definition of PSIM, there is no doubt that solutions from companies such as OnSSI, Avigilon and NICE Systems have some PSIM characteristics. And they do exploit one aspect that PSIM vendors such as Proximex, VidSys and Orsus lack--experience in video management.

OnSSI's Ocularis essentially comes in two components, DS and ES. DS is a recording and video management solution for large enterprises and handles an unlimited number of cameras. Ocularis ES implements centralized management of multiple edge devices beyond the cameras. Operating together, the two systems permit greater correlation of data from video, analytics, access control, intrusion detection systems, creating composite, documentable events out of what would have once been a series of individual and isolated alarms.

From there, video, access and sensor data can be correlated with GPS and mapping databases to present a geo-spatial view of the event. This information, along with synchronized video, can be displayed on a video wall and pushed out to first responders.

Whether it's video content or intrusion detection, "data is data," said Gadi Piran, OnSSI president and chief technology officer, and as long as it can be structured, it can be processed. "It's really correlation of logic between events that occur at the same time." The ES engine drives the correlation, using programming language from Microsoft that can format Boolean terms, the syntax used in basic search, into pull down menus on the Ocularis user interface.

Unlike a high-end PSIM system however, Ocularis ES is not customized and uses off-the-shelf software, Piran said. This puts PSIM-like management capabilities within reach of smaller, yet sizeable operations that use hundreds, as well as thousands, of cameras.

Measuring ROI

Avigilon and NICE Systems also point to the business advantages that centralized management physical security tasks provides, including information that can be used to document ROI.

Avigilon is aggressively pursuing the stadium security market. The company provides video surveillance and management to the University of Southern Mississippi's campus stadium and is a founding member of the university's National Center for Spectator Sports Security and Safety. It is also advising the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security on stadium protection. Avigilon also has supplied IP video systems for a number of professional stadiums around the world, including Wrigley Field in Chicago, Canberra Stadium in Australia, University of Toronto stadium and Target Field, the new baseball stadium set to open in Minneapolis next April.

Stadium owners, who in many cases own the team that plays there, understand the business impact of sound surveillance as much as the security aspects, Avigilon's Tynan said. "Owners are asking, 'How do I provide a comfortable environment? How do I provide a family environment? I can't fill seats because of hooliganism.'"

In addition to managing a variety of megapixel and HD cameras, Avigilon's Control Center manages and correlates information from access systems from such companies as Lenel and analytic systems from companies such as Mate and ObjectVideo, Tynan said. Analytics can be used to immediately detect undesirable behavior, say a fight in the grandstand; the megapixel cameras can provide enough image detail to definitively identify the spectator or spectators causing the problem; the access system can pull up the section, row and seat and push all that information to the stadium security personnel closest to the disturbance. Intervention can be fast enough to avoid anyone getting hurt, while positive identification from video can make sure the right individual is ejected or arrested.

From a strategic perspective, stadium owners can track response times to incidents, analyze whether a reduction in hooliganism correlates with and increase in attendance.Using interfaces with point-of-sale systems, they can test common notions, such as whether cutting off sales of alcoholic beverages before the end of a game reduces spectator problems. "This is really a productivity tool," Tynan said.

 Likewise, within the past twelve months, NICE Systems has begun to place more emphasis on the way managing and integrating video can measure ROI, said Moti Shabtai, executive vice president for the company. The company has combined its video and audio divisions and is focused on crafting "solutions to everyday security problems," said Shabtai, principally by making its NiceVision ControlCenter the central management point that can be used to detect, verify, resolve and investigate security-related incidents and improve business processes.

As with Avigilon, NICE's approach structures and organizes video, primarily through rules-based analytics, ties it to other information systems, and uses that integration to deliver information for real-time decision support. NICE tailors applications integration for various verticals, such as gaming, transportation, public safety and critical infrastructure.

In the casino environment, NICE focuses on integrating systems management for game protection. Customers include Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Isleta Casino and Resort in Albuquerque, N.M. Shabtai gives a game protection example to show how integrated security surveillance and information systems can offer management measureable ROI.

When casino surveillance suspects a blackjack cardcounter is working a table, it usually requires a skilled countercatcher to backcount along with the player to see if his bets correlate with the count. This can take an additional 20 to 30 minutes and does not always yield a definitive conclusion, as advantage players tend to keep playing sessions short. The NiceVision video management system works in conjunction with the company's Table Game Management (TGM) software to combine video analytics with information from TGM card counting software and trigger an alarm when the count is in the player's favor and her bets increase. A surveillance staffer can instantly see the true count and the amount of wager. With a mouse click, the staffer can then immediately go back three minutes, or to a previous point when the count was in the house's favor, and see if the player's bets correlate.

Such a rules-based approach replaces guesswork with documentable, auditable evidence. The ROI factor: Casino management is more likely to nullify a substantial long-term threat from a genuinely skilled player than chase away a profitable high-roller who got lucky.

Fast Action

The ability to instantly manipulate and manage video information with other systems has safety and security applications in other verticals. For example, most airport video systems will trigger an alarm if an object is left behind. NICE Inform allows surveillance to instantly go back a few minutes to see whether it was left by a child or an individual who fit a threat profile. The NiceVision ControlCenter will also allow a surveillance crew to backtrack all video of the individual from the time he or she entered the terminal. Was the item brought in? Was it handed off from someone else? In the recent past, such a situation might require the evacuation of the terminal at a cost of millions of dollars to the airlines and the airport authority. Because the video is now structured and be correlated and managed alongside with other data, surveillance can answer all these questions and formulate the correct response without having to take time to view minutes, if not hours, of raw video. The threat potential can be ascertained within seconds and needless passenger disruption and anxiety can be avoided, Shabtai said.

Backing In

While companies like NICE extend their video route into security information, Risco Group is backing in. It begins with its SynopSYS security and building management platform, which forms an umbrella layer of management for video, access control and fire alarms by way of open interfaces. At ASIS, Risco was demonstrating interoperability with Milestone Systems' XProtect VMS, Lenel's access control system and fire panels using the BacNET protocol. SynopSYS provides site management and control from a single interface. The company will also develop specific drivers and software development kits for other security tasks depending on the project, said Len Friedman, president of Risco.

Rather than VMS vendors, Friedman positions Risco against companies such as Johnson Controls and Siemens Building Technologies, but maintains his solution is geared for the middle of the market. As an example, he cited a Risco deal with Walgreen's, the drug store chain, which involved centralized security management of some 6,500 locations. Friedman also stops short of characterizing the SynopSYS solution as a PSIM platform, echoing similar points from OnSSI: the system is not customized and uses off-the-shelf software.

Above the VMS

Risco's approach shows there are starting points other than VMS when it comes to structuring, managing and integrating video information into wider security operations.

For example, Abeo TS was formed in February 2008 from a consolidation of three companies with backgrounds in research, technology services, and security systems design and integration. Its Automated Warning and Response Engine (AWARE) brings together video management, analytics, access control, sensors and motion detection under a single common point of management, said Allen. The system consolidates security inputs into a policy engine, where anomalies can be identified. Drawing on data from cameras, VMS systems, access points, intrusion detection systems, GPS, building schematics and satellite imagery, the system provides a security operations center with a geo-spatial view of the entire area, and pinpoints the areas where the situation is taking place. The system can also create an immediate time line view of the development. As with VMS-based systems, the information can be pushed to personnel in the field. Customers include Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

What's more, the AWARE system, if necessary, can reach out and manage video feeds from other surveillance systems, using IP connections. Should a threat response require it, the Abeo TS system managing security at Reagan can access cameras at Bolling Air Force Base, which lies on the opposite side of the Potomac River, Allen said.

Allen sees the umbrella management approach as critical to the effectiveness of concepts such as Chicago's Virtual Shield, which is designed to link and draw from thousands of public and private surveillance feeds. "Two or three different systems in play, we don't care," Allen stated. "We integrate the system architecture."

Mark Torbeck, also an Abeo TS director of business development, added, "We're agnostic when it comes to sensor input. People are not going to rely on one type of sensor input. Video, microwave, seismic--a layered approach--increases the probability of detection. Our goal is to get command and control out of forensics and provide the tools to handle a situation on a real-time basis."

The Middleware Solution

The solutions detailed so far approach video as just another form of data, just as an IT professional would. And all are aimed at making video not simply interoperable, but manageable in an IT context.

Steelbox, however, in conjunction with its partners SRI International and Telindus Surveillance Solutions, may go the furthest in using IT management concepts to address structuring and integration of video. Steelbox, a unit of Adtech Global Solutions (AGS), can best be described as middleware. Steelbox's technology optimizes the transmission and storage performance of video in a large-scale network environment.

Steelbox's Open Video Framework (OVF) is the IT glue that bonds the SRI and Telindus components into their own, separate high-end security management systems. SRI International, a nonprofit applied research organization that spun out of Stanford University, contributes its Integrated Video Environment (IVE) and Aware, a mobile networking system (not to be confused with the Abeo TS AWARE platform). Telindus supplies its CIRIS command-and-control application.

The Steelbox OVF consists of APIs, SDKs and a library of specialized Web services, which are strings of programming code designed to link up via IP networks and automatically execute complex applications. The Steelbox appliance lies at the center of the OVF. The SRI and Telindus systems exploit all these objects as "middleware" to carry out management functions, said Nik Moissiadis, Steelbox managing director.

The end result is a scalable layer of security management in both both integration scenarios, accessible through Telindus software, yet reaching across platforms through SRI. Moissiadis sees the system as fairly high-end--for users with hundreds of video streams and complex networks. "We believe we hit the sweet spot--interoperability of disparate systems," he said. "How do I get my islands connected? It's all about transport management, scalability and [user interface].

When placed into action, the SRI solution can interact, manage and issue instructions to all resources on the scene of an incident, said Paul Callahan, business operations manager, SRI Direct Technology. Information from the scene can be processed from images and integrated with maps and geo-spatial displays and pushed out to responders via a wireless mesh network. Directions are clear and voice traffic is minimized. For example, instead of directing the placement of roadblocks by two-way radio, a supervisor can mark the locations on a map that is being displayed in every patrol car and on PDAs. "We increase control and decrease chaos," Callahan said. The mesh network itself can be configured and powered through compact dashmounted radios in police cars, which operate on unlicensed bands independent of other local wireless infrastructure.

Customers of the Steelbox/SRI solution include the Port of Tampa and the Atherton, Calif. and Lakewood, N.J., police departments. Customers of the Steelbox/Telindus solution are the U.K. Highways Agency, the Incheon, South Korea subway and the Moscow Metro.

ASIS presented a mere sampling of solutions that will be available to users and integrators as they confront the proliferation of video and its collision with enterprise IT. While security management is becoming more complex, the good news is that the focus is on enhancing value and sharpening response. SRI's Callahan might sum it up when he considers how converged security must work in an environment of reduced resources: "It's how we empower decisionmaking at the point of attack."