Security Surveillance Gets Smarter


By Scott Basham.

Merging security with the IT department.

The days of the stereotypical ‘doughnut eating’ security guard blankly watching fuzzy images on a black and white TV screen are gone. New networked digital cameras combined with intelligent video analytics software are changing the nature of surveillance from reactive human-based monitoring and replays of past events, to sophisticated automated threat detention and rapid responses to more quickly identify and act on potential issues.

As a result, today’s Chief Security Office (CSO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) must work closely together, says Scott Basham, Unisys’s Asia Pacific Program Manager for Location, Perimeter and Surveillance Security.

Australia has come a long way since the first closed circuit television (CCTV) security camera was installed in Melbourne in 1981 to help support a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In the twenty years since, those humble analogue installations have transformed into modern high resolution, networked-enabled, digital systems. As the technology has improved, and adoption rates have increased, the costs for modern CCTV systems have been significantly reduced, leading many organisations to deploy more and more cameras.

However, adding more cameras is only effective if you can accurately and effectively monitor the images they generate. Just hoping that a security guard will happen to notice a change when an image cycles through a bank of monitors leaves too much to chance. The advent of digital video cameras has allowed large numbers of high resolution cameras to be networked over existing Ethernet networks (rather than expensive coaxial cable networks).

When combined with powerful video management systems that incorporate video analytics software, it is possible to automatically detect potential threats in real time, so that security personnel can take appropriate action as events occur. This transforms security surveillance from being a reactive tool for finding out what happened post an incident, into a dynamic and proactive capability for live, and real time, threat detection using the surveillance camera feeds.

One of the most interesting outcomes of this transformation is how the increasingly sophisticated security surveillance infrastructure is blurring the line between what was once strictly the domain of physical protection specialists, but now is now also squarely in the realm of the IT department. As a result, today’s IT and security departments must effectively combine their unique skills and abilities to deliver the security outcomes the organisation seeks to achieve.

An analytical look at today’s security requirements and tools For the last two decades, governments and commercial organisations in Australia, and around the world, have used video surveillance as the cornerstone of physical security capabilities. Whether it was for national security, critical infrastructure protection, securing assets within the finance and banking sector or to protect private property, video surveillance has been universally accepted as the foundation layer upon which an organisation’s ability to protect its people, assets and facilities has been based. And it was solely the domain of physical security experts.

Even though the cost of new cameras has decreased, organisations have faced continued pressure to further reduce operating costs. CCTV provides a convenient and efficient solution to manage and protect large areas at all hours, so many organisations have increased the number of cameras deployed, but not the number of people monitoring them. However, more cameras does not necessarily equate to increased security assuredness.

The only relevant measure of the organisation’s real-time enterprise-wide level of security situational awareness is the number of constantly monitored feeds. Unobserved camera feeds only provide retrospective information – which helps to identify what happened, but does nothing to help stop an event from occurring. What’s more, even if someone is monitoring the screens, studies show(1) that a person’s ability to constantly monitor a screen rapidly decreases after just 20 minutes.

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