Keeping The Madness of March Madness Safe

After an eventful NCAA tournament, including a historic first-round upset, basketball fans all over the world turn to the Final Four, which will take place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Those of us who don’t have a bracket riding on the outcome or an allegiance to one of the four remaining teams are most likely rooting for a turbulent, gut-wrenching, buzzer-beating game that ends in epic tragedy for one side and glorious victory for the other.

However, for those tasked with security in San Antonio, the top goal is to make sure there that the only surprises that

take place in the arena occur on the court.

At stadiums, security threats come in many different forms. There are inebriated and emotional fans who get into fights. There is the potential for theft and robberies, particularly in parking lots or other outdoor areas where criminals can target fans and vehicles for money or other possessions.

Above all else, the large, dense crowds of people who show up for major sporting events are a prime target for terrorist attacks. In an interview last year with Sports Business Daily, Alamodome GM Nick Langella described the spate of attacks in London as a wake-up call for venues around the world to bolster security: “It’s not just getting people through the door anymore. It’s about getting people off the property as well and creating a safe environment. That’s the new challenge.”

While the threats may have increased, the good news is that security technology has also improved in recent years, allowing major facilities to prevent problems from arising and to respond to those that do arise, more quickly.

At Pelco, we’ve been proud to provide comprehensive surveillance solutions to a number of major event spaces, including stadiums. One of our recent projects came at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, home of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

At the T-Mobile Arena, Pelco’s end-to-end solution includes 250 fixed SarixTM IP cameras, SpectraTM PTZ dome cameras, and OpteraTM Panoramic IP cameras. This system not only provides constant video footage on the entirety of the stadium’s interior but keep tabs on Toshiba Plaza, the two-acre public space surrounding the arena.

The centerpiece of the system is VideoXpert, Pelco’s  5th generation Video Management System (VMS), which leverages the video images from all of those cameras into one centralized system, operated by a team of 14 security professionals in the stadium’s Network Operating Center. The security personnel monitor the activity in and around the arena on six 55-inch screens that each display up to eight video feeds simultaneously. That means at any given moment the security team is viewing footage from 48 different locations and angles.

The high-definition video images enable the security team to monitor the entire stadium property leaving little doubt about what an individual caught on camera committing a crime or engaging in suspicious activity looks like. The cameras also adjust to different light conditions, ensuring that dark corners of hallways are not out of view.

Of course, what worked for the T-Mobile Arena might not necessarily be what other venues are seeking. In some cases, they already have a set of cameras –– made by another manufacturer –– and are simply looking for a better video management system. In that case, VideoXpert is still the right call, since it was built with interoperability in mind and can hook up to ANY existing video cameras.

Something else that makes VideoXpert so valuable to our partners is its ability to integrate with a variety of data analytics platforms; as well as, process edge based camera video analytics. Here are some of the common analytics capabilities that our partners and cameras use:

  • People counter: Management knows when and where foot traffic is heaviest.
  • Intrusion detection: Alerts security teams to unauthorized entrances by people, while filtering out the types of things that often cause false alarms, such as animals or blowing trash making contact with a fence.
  • Facial recognition: Spots people who have been barred from facilities due to past problems.
  • License plate recognition: A critical component of investigating vehicles entering and existing the premises
  • Suspicious Object Identification: Notifies staff of objects, such as a bag or backpack, that have been left behind. This serves as a critical security feature to notify staff of potential bombs, but it can also serve an important customer service function by helping staff recover lost items for guests.

There may not be a way to ensure that every fan enjoys the games. There will always be some of them who are unhappy with the result. But thanks to the types of new technology available to stadiums, we can do a lot more to make sure that every fan, win or lose, stays safe.

Tracking Undesirable Behavior in Casinos

Casinos with hotel properties are popular vacation destinations, and with good reason. They provide numerous forms of entertainment and amenities from one location to the next, including gaming halls, pools and beaches, spas, retail shops, amusement parks, and restaurants. Surveillance and security personnel need to be on top of all of these high traffic areas, and the unique challenges that these amenities face as complements to gaming operations.

Because they are attractions across all demographics and cultures, gaming properties and casinos attract a very wide variety of visitors, many of whom elicit undesirable behaviors ranging from alcohol and substance abuse to cheating.

Casino security has to balance a welcoming guest-focused attitude with a firm and capable presence to prevent and handle problems as they arise. Surveillance and security operations are a mainstay at casinos because they support a range of business imperatives, including not only the protection of employees, patrons and assets, but also compliance with stringent gaming regulations.

For many casinos, one of the best ways to create a highly structured, discreet and secure environment is by employing advanced video surveillance technologies that support high-quality analytics. In addition to delivering high levels of situational awareness, these systems also deliver documented evidence for investigations and court cases.

Integrated analytics in fixed, PTZ, 360 degree, and panoramic security cameras can help to detect undesirable behaviors – such as an object left behind, card counting at the gaming table, a door propped open, a guest whose behavior is inappropriate, theft from employees or vendors, and more – and send alerts to security personnel. Surveillance analytics can also track identified individuals from camera to camera throughout the premises. Additionally, facial recognition analytics can alert operators if a known offender enters the casino, freeing security officers from constant monitoring of entrances and exits. And heat mapping can provide valuable insight into loitering statistics so that security officers can better allocate staff to problematic areas. The vast amounts of data provided by the surveillance system can be reviewed for specific trends to prevent further incidents from taking place, and deliver new sources of business intelligence.

With integrated video imaging, camera control and management, and analytics technologies in place, gaming facilities can have the real-time situational awareness and data needed to respond to and deescalate real potential threats and incidents from guests with simply bad manners and behavior.

Guest Post: Application of Advanced Video Analytics in Airports

Airport security remains one of the most critical threats faced by large cities. The rapid expansion in the aviation industry has escalated these threats due to the increase in passenger numbers. Automation of security and operational tasks is at the heart of providing effective screening and protection while scaling up to accommodate the growing numbers of passengers. Advanced Video Analytics has a crucial role in providing effective solutions that either autonomously detect and contain threats or assist security officers by providing superior situational awareness.

Advanced video analytics has been successfully deployed in airports to address critical safety and security needs. While some of the solutions are targeting proactive use of the surveillance network and increasing the situational awareness of security officers, others are fully automated and contain threats while alerting authorities.

  • At passenger security screening immediate detection of breaches to the landside/airside boundary are crucial to the secure operation of the airport. Furthermore, in large terminal buildings volubility must be mitigated by continuously monitoring unattended screening lanes for intruders.
  • At immigration desks Face Recognition scans passengers’ facial data constantly, comparing it in real time against a database of known suspects while storing every detected face in a passengers’ database to enable retrospective forensics searches.
  • At arrivals exit lanes, video analytics instantly detects pass-back violations and physically contains infiltrators by shutting automatic doors while alerting authorities.
  • Video analytics also plays a role in airside security and operations through identifying specific behaviours involving people, planes, and vehicles in an active and dynamic scene. Airside virtual intrusion and security of the Critical Paths are two of the areas where video analytics has been used to replace physical barriers by creating virtual aircraft zones and detecting unauthorised individuals at cargo loading zones.
  • Advanced scenario based rules play a big role in reducing nuisance events and focusing on real threats. Abandoned luggage detection is one example of such complex behaviour especially in busy areas like departures retail.
  • More recently the forensics use of video analytics in airports has become key in investigating incidents and apprehending those responsible near real time. Technologies like Tag and Track and Face/Behaviour forensics searches have been introduced to assist security officers to analyse hours of video in seconds, focus the investigation to achieve effective results and create the ultimate investigative tool. Face recognition forensics capability can also identify individuals in a network of cameras and search for passenger that visited the airport previously.

Written by Boghos Boghossian

Dr Boghos Boghossian is an acknowledged expert in systems/architectures for real-time advanced video analytics systems. Dr Boghossian has published numerous research papers on the subject and his inventions have be awarded global patents Dr Boghossian received a PhD in 2001 for work on human behaviour analysis for video surveillance systems at King’s College London, University of London. Since then he co-founded Ipsotek Ltd that specialise in providing advanced video analytics solutions. With headquarters in the UK, Ipsotek has provided effective solution across the world specialising in airport security, ITS and CNI protection.

Why You Need a Video Surveillance System For Your SMB

Modern technology has allowed security systems to grow and evolve far beyond CCTV and guard dogs, in addition to consistently bringing down the cost of high performing, highly capable security technology. Many video components, as well as processors and imaging technologies have been dramatically reduced in cost, making them recently available for smaller institutions to take advantage of. As a result, much more powerful cameras and video management systems are now on the market for midrange installations of between 20 and 75 cameras at small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).

Several recent developments in camera technology have made higher performing cameras more appealing for SMBs. HD image quality is better than ever, helping to eliminate the need for supplemental lighting in many cases. Compression technology that delivers that extremely high definition video to a video management system (VMS) without a loss of data helps to lower the need for extensive storage that can increase overall costs. Automation is more capable than ever, with high definition cameras enabling new and dynamic analytics capabilities including abandoned object, object removal, loitering protection, and camera sabotage to take some of the pressure off of security officers and enable more efficient, accurate, and intelligent monitoring.

VMS offerings, meanwhile, have increased their capability for SMB installations dramatically, making capabilities previously only available for large, enterprise-level installations now affordable for smaller deployments, and many VMSs are available that directly serve the needs of SMBs. Easy-to-install, easy-to-use designs with interfaces that are simple for officers to learn and utilize ensure that no time is taken from a smaller security team to train on a new system, with some VMSs available to plug-and-play. These intuitive interfaces perform all necessary tasks in a single desktop view and let users reorganize their workspace, making it simpler for security officers to quickly become proficient, providing fast, actionable data quickly. VMSs with multiple server access allow a facility with a single operations center for their security team to deploy their VMS across multiple locations. In addition, modern VMSs include programmable functionality to enable officers on the move, which makes it easier for security teams with fewer officers to utilize their system without someone to operate it at all times.

SMBs with effective, capable modern video surveillance systems can provide higher levels of safety for their business from multiple features. Often, the presence of a video surveillance system itself is enough to deter crime or other undesirable behavior and a reassurance to prospective clients, customers, and contractors that the environment is a safe one. Analytics can also help to prevent threats and mitigate risk by picking up on aberrant behavior with wrong-way detection, object left behind, and other integrations that can proactively respond to possible threats. Additionally, video surveillance with capable compression can maintain significant storage of video data for forensic purposes, helping to reduce liability and protect your business in the case of a lawsuit, criminal activity, or other issue. Businesses with capable video surveillance systems that take advantage of capable technology at a lower price point can significantly increase their overall safety and deliver real benefits to their security team.

How Advancements in Video Management Systems Help to Protect Small-To-Mid-Size Businesses

Small-to-mid-size businesses, or SMBs, are some of the most difficult businesses to properly protect from risk. Security systems and personnel often come at a cost that is difficult to justify because it seems large in comparison with revenue. Yet, without safeguards in place, it can be difficult for SMBs with modest cash flows to recover from losses resulting from security breaches. Protecting your assets, facility, and personnel is a mission-critical objective, and SMBs need cost-effective solutions to protect themselves.

SMBs that install a modern, advanced video surveillance system get a number of benefits beyond simple monitoring. The presence of security cameras itself is often enough to act as a criminal deterrent, and the implementation of a system can help dramatically reduce the rate of security breaches and criminal activity, in addition to preventing some issues altogether. Video surveillance improves response time in case of a threat or other situation that requires physical intervention, and reduces liability by providing auditable video.

SMBs are particularly vulnerable, as they often do not have the resources to put these important safeguards in place–a potent combination with limited resources to absorb losses and proactively protect themselves against threats. Crimes against SMBs have been known to go completely unreported out of fear of bad publicity, and because the chances of successful prosecution are low. To mitigate this risk, SMBs have to be both proactive and savvy when planning and implementing risk-reduction strategies– including physical security.

Because they needed to be cost-effective, SMBs have until recently tried to make due with basic video surveillance systems, consisting of Network Video Recorders (NVRs) without the advanced functionality available on video management systems (VMS) designed for larger, enterprise-level installations. In the past, smaller businesses had to make a difficult choice between enterprise-level systems, which were highly capable but also complex and expensive, and entry-level systems that were not much more powerful than basic consumer-level systems. Today, however, VMS solutions with high-performing functionality are available for SMBs as well.

When looking for a VMS specifically for small-to-midsize business, there are several factors to consider. The typical video surveillance system for an SMB is between 20 and 75 cameras, and is typically used to cover the outside of a facility, parking lots, entrances, and key interior locations. A VMS designed to handle up to 100 cameras per server is therefore ideal, meeting today’s needs while preserving flexibility and the capability for scaling up as needs may change and grow. Most SMBs do not possess extensive or highly technical security personnel, so a VMS with an intuitive user interface that is easy to learn and operate is essential.

In addition, recent advances allow new VMS to provide improved analytics for smaller installations. Analytics supplements and enhances human monitoring of the video feeds, tirelessly watching for certain triggers to activate alarms or send alerts to security staff for evaluation and response. Integrated analytics can include loitering (a person staying in one area longer than expected or allowed), wrong way (a person traveling in the wrong direction – entering an exit, for example), object removal (something that is normally in the monitored scene is no longer there), and others. These triggers can also be used to locate specific video data in the event that it’s later needed. With analytics present on a VMS, security systems can do much of the work for the user—a crucial aid to any SMB.

SMB security presents many challenges—the need for the same dynamic protection as larger businesses, for much lower cost and with much simpler operation. With modern VMS systems, this type of protection has become much more cost-effective, easier to implement and operate, and more highly functional than any video surveillance system for this scale has ever been.

How to Choose A VMS for SMB Applications

As you facilitate the growth of your business, the ability to protect people, property and assets is a mission critical business objective for general security purposes and to minimize risks and liabilities. Video surveillance is one of the most important investments you will make to ensure this goal, so it’s important to choose the Video Management System (VMS) that will best meet your specific needs. This is particularly true of small-to-mid-size businesses (SMBs) that often require VMS solutions with enterprise level performance and intuitiveness on a greater cost-value basis. Here are some considerations SMBs should explore before selecting a VMS:

Size of Business

Make sure your VMS is the right size for your operation. Though many VMS systems today can connect thousands of cameras across multiple facilities, such a massive system will overwhelm your business needs – and you’ll be paying for much more than you need today. These systems weren’t designed from the ground up for prospering SMBs with long-term growth objectives. The average camera count for an SMB is well below 100 cameras, which requires a VMS solution scaled to this capacity.

Although your business may not require a large number of cameras and an enterprise-level VMS, SMBs have heftier needs than mom and pop level businesses. For example, an entry-level Network Video Recorder (NVR) is typically capable of supporting up to 16 cameras, which is often too few cameras for most SMB installations. In addition, the functionality and capabilities of NVR-based camera control systems are fairly basic, and insufficiently suited to the surveillance objectives most SMBs want and need.

Define Your VMS Needs and Objectives

Once you begin researching various VMS solutions, you’ll find a multitude of options designed to serve a variety of purposes. Some will fulfill a specific function faster and better, but not share capacity for other purposes, while some solutions are designed for very general surveillance applications. However, there are VMS solutions designed specifically for SMBs that are optimized for unique functionality, provide scalable camera and recording capacities, and accommodate third-party integrations for more advanced functionality. You should evaluate these capabilities very carefully to help ensure you are making the best decision based on your present and future needs.

Feature Selection Criteria

There are powerful and highly efficient features available on today’s latest VMS solutions designed to deliver easy installation and operation. This is important on several fronts, most notably relative to Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), personnel training and system operation. The personnel who install and operate your VMS solution are probably not technicians, so it’s important to evaluate the User Interface (UI) for intuitiveness and overall simplicity. A complicated UI may look impressive and promise to provide greater functionality, but it will most likely confuse novice operators which can result in costly mistakes. VMS solutions with an intuitive UI will help flatten the learning curve, saving both time and money while ensuring proper system operation. Inquire about estimated installation and training requirements when evaluating systems, as these should be core selection criteria.

Additional key features to look for in a VMS solution include “plug and play” operation to easily install and add cameras, and the ability to support extended recording capacity using internal or attached storage. Ideally, the VMS solution should also support third party plug-ins to enhance its operation with advanced capabilities such as people counting, object left behind detection, license plate recognition, integration with point of sale systems, and more. These added functions can help improve overall security and contribute to other present and future business intelligence applications.

Purchasing a VMS solution for your SMB is an investment in your business – one that will allow you to establish and maintain a safe and secure environment – so you can focus on growth. Take the time to ask questions and compare various VMS solutions. And never hesitate to ask a video expert to help steer you in the right direction.

3 Questions to Ask When Planning a Video Surveillance System

Implementing a reliable video surveillance solution that will meet business needs is a considerable challenge for any organization.

Fortunately, expertise is available from both leading manufacturers and experienced integrators to make this process easier and to increase the likelihood that the resulting system will meet expectations.

As is the case with most large, complex projects, establishing clear objectives and gathering the answers to key questions at the start of the job will make the difference between a successful and effective solution, and an expensive, disappointing one.

To help integrators ensure success with their project, we released a new whitepaper: Planning a World Class Video Surveillance System.

Our latest whitepaper will help clarify several basic questions that must be considered before any planning begins. The answers will establish the scope of the system needed and its level of video detail, the level of automation and staffing, and the operating environmental conditions.

These questions are so important, and so basic, that some people may be tempted to assume the answers are known to all, and agreed by all – but this is almost never the case. Our whitepaper delves into these questions – and many more – which will enable you to build agreement within your organization. This will pay generous dividends later in the project.

Here are a few basic questions we recommend before doing any planning.

1. What are the operational goals of the surveillance system?

Designing any system involves many decisions and tradeoffs, and the first goal must be to understand what the system is intended to do. This is not as obvious as might be anticipated by many lay people, and the answers may be interrelated in unexpected ways.

2. How will the system be staffed?

It is important to understand at the start of the project whether the surveillance system will be monitored at all times, at some times, or not at all. The answers here will raise numerous important issues relating to camera control and analytics.

3. What are the environmental conditions?

Conditions such as extreme heat, cold, humidity, corrosion, and high dust levels will play a part in determining what equipment can be considered for the installation. Other environmental factors also can play an important role, such as ambient light levels, the availability and reliability of existing power and network infrastructure, and more.

Based on the answers to these questions and discussion points, system designers can determine the range of possible equipment choices and start to flesh out a basic plan with some tentative early decisions.

To learn more about planning a world-class video surveillance system, download our free whitepaper below:

Choosing the Right VMS: What You Should Know

Choosing the correct video management software (VMS) can be a challenge. With all of the VMS offerings available on the market today, weighing the pros and cons of each tech feature or system architecture can be a daunting task for both integrators and end users. Which functions are right for our team? Who will have access to the platform? Will it integrate seamlessly with other devices? Can it grow with the business?

We offer a few helpful concepts for businesses to consider when selecting the right VMS platform to make the rest of the process as quick and efficient as possible (much like your final choice of VMS will be).

Performance. The single most important factor is performance. All other system capabilities are built from or rely on this. Configuration and management of video from a central location can make all the difference in efficiency, especially if (or when) servers go down, leaving users scrambling to ensure that video data is safely stored. Leading VMS platforms maintain a high level of performance through advanced configuration and accessibility, with comprehensive databases that allow easy access to video and data from multiple systems.

User experience. Not all security teams are created equal, so to compensate for gaps in technical know-how, it is critical to create a seamless user experience. Intuitive platforms that have easy-to-use interfaces with information at an operator’s fingertips allow security teams to make more informed, effective decisions that propel proactive security planning, such as fast, efficient tactical responses. These platforms also reduce training requirements and manual processes, so that end users can safely deliver continuity of their services.

Open platforms. It is virtually impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of a VMS system without stressing the importance of advanced integration capabilities with third-party technology. Security leaders realize even greater capabilities with open platforms that allow other security devices and business systems to easily integrate with video management solutions. These other devices offer a wide range of benefits, including license plate recognition (LPR), video analytics, alarm management, visitor management, access control, mobile access, and lighting and building automation.

Flexibility. Businesses are constantly evolving, moving locations and updating their infrastructure to keep up with supply and demand for video security as much as any other proprietary services they offer. Whether migrating to IP for the first time or looking to boost a current installation, businesses can use advanced VMS systems to bridge the integration gap without abandoning existing infrastructure through enhanced flexibility. These advanced systems even support existing cameras, allowing users to retain costly investments and realize more returns without requiring surveillance triage.

Scalability. Once users have identified the right features for the size and nature of their installation, the last piece of the puzzle is assessing the ease with which the VMS system can accommodate the installation’s rate of expansion. True scalability allows organizations to build a VMS system that meets specific operational and surveillance needs as they grow, and continue without interruption even as security risks increase proportionally to growth.

Want to see this list in a more condensed version? Click here to see our latest infographic.