City Security Technology Gets Smart

Security cameras and surveillance systems have been around for decades, but the technology behind the hardware has changed dramatically over the years. Gone are the days of analog cameras feeding racks of looping VHS tape machines whirring away in the security office. The clarity and efficiency of digital imagery, not to mention practically unlimited storage capacity, has relegated tape based systems to the technology trash heap.

Today, advancements in networking capability along with software systems that integrate multiple and disparate hardware feeds are helping to create multi-function smart systems. Municipal security organizations, working with security technology companies in the private sector have been on the forefront of adopting this new technology. A case in point is the city of Houston, Texas.

According to a recent issue of Security Technology Executive, isolated locations in the city using single purpose security systems have, with the help of network technology, been linked together to supply different types of information to a central system. For example, the information from a visible light camera on the roof of one company’s warehouse can be integrated with the information from a thermal imaging camera in another location and combined with yet another ballistic detection system in a third location. This gives law enforcement and first responders much richer information sets to work with as they respond to an incident, or better yet, as they mobilize to prevent an incident from even occurring in the first place1.

This technology all has to be maintained and monitored of course, and so the human element is still a big part of the equation. However, the software that integrates these systems can react instantly to patterns and combinations of information that might take a human longer to recognize. The human system operator must still make crucial decisions and deploy appropriate resources, but he or she will have gained valuable time through the assistance of the smart security system.

Of course, the ultimate goal is increased safety and security for the city’s population, but that brings with it economic side benefits. All substantial cities engage in marketing strategies and messaging to entice businesses and residents to make that city their home. Those that emphasize safety and the use of smart technology to protect residents are likely to attract larger and better quality businesses looking for a safe location to set up shop and provide quality of life enticements for their employees.

A safe city is a prosperous city and so security system providers and municipalities are joining forces to accelerate advancements and make their cities smarter and safer.

1Lasky, Steve; The Convergence of Secure and Smart Security Technology Executive Sept., 2017

Video Plus Data Equals Better Security

Cloud Security ScreensIn the last decade or so, video surveillance has become a ubiquitous tool in security systems across an enormous array of markets. Networked security cameras are deployed by municipalities, in public spaces, and throughout businesses and organizations ranging from hospitals and churches to manufacturing, retail and corporate offices. Of course, the most obvious benefits of surveillance systems are that they create a deterrent to criminal activity and that they help to identify perpetrators once an act has been committed.

But in this age of heightened security concerns, end users are demanding more of their systems, and there is a new value placed on data collection and analytics. With over 240 Million cameras in use worldwide, there is a rapid push by manufacturers to include both forensics and actionable data to meet customer demands. In a recent article on, Hitachi’s Justin Bean, Director Smart City Marketing, says:

“For a long time, we have been able to see video as a source of images and eyes on the street if you will. It allows us to see what is happening. But with the advent of things like computer vision and machine learning, we are turning this video data into insightful and actionable data1.”

Some of the data available from current surveillance systems includes the ability to evaluate crowd flows and analyze vehicular traffic patterns and types of vehicles. Movements of suspicious vehicles can be analyzed, and through machine learning and artificial intelligence, systems will be able to use video of previous incidents to create profiles of threat behavior and be on the lookout for matches in real time. There is also facial recognition software that can trigger alerts if matches with individuals on watch lists are found.

Similar to the way online tracking software helps website owners analyze movement and interaction on their websites, there are also camera based tracking systems deployed in retail locations that can analyze customer movement and interactions to determine likelihood of theft or other criminal activity. Mr. Bean also mentions that, in addition to proving data for security, retail camera systems can also provide business intelligence on shopper behavior and buying patterns, and may well help store owners with product placement and store design. Again, this is not really all that different from what is happening online.

Many of these systems are still in development, and deployment and efficacy will only increase as the technology improves and prices come down. The real benefits of combining machine learning and data collection only occur after a sufficient amount of information has been collected and can be compared to previous video and data sets of actual security incidents. Like humans, machines learn by memory and comparison followed by making educated assumptions and then testing for accuracy.

As expected, this all raise concerns about privacy. Facial recognition and vehicle tracking are particularly sensitive areas, but it may well be the price we have to pay to be safer in this volatile time.

1 Lasky, Steve; The Implications of Analytics, Security Info Watch, Mar. 2017