IP surveillance enables new levels of security in transport
“Decreases in the cost of technology, as a result of commoditisation, coupled with lower data charges and the aggressive roll out of a more superior fibre network infrastructure, is creating opportunity for enhanced network video surveillance within South Africa’s public transport sector,” says Roy Alves, Business Development Manager, MEA, Axis Communications.
Whilst certain segments of the South African public transport sector, such as local and international airports, make use of cutting edge surveillance technology in the day to day management of safety and security, the same does not hold true across South Africa’s commuter bus and rail network.
The global picture, however, is somewhat different. A recent survey by Axis and UITP, the international organisation for public transport authorities and operators, indicated more than 67% of international public transport organisations make use of IP surveillance. “The benefits are huge,” says Alves. A safe and secure transport system with real-time access to live and recorded images in HDTV quality leads to less violence and greater control of the commuter environment, essential to the safety and security of all commuters.
However, the vast majority of local public transport organisations currently make use of video only, purely for retrieval of information. The result? A very reactive environment. Whilst South Africa might not have to deal with high terror alerts, our public transport network remains plagued by crime – from assaults through to theft and vandalism. “Effective security and surveillance should be focused on prevention,” continues Alves. “It’s about detecting suspicious behaviour or a vulnerable situation before a crime is committed.”
Alves adds that key to the successful implementation of any IP surveillance network is an exact understanding of the client’s requirements, and the marrying of these against available technology solutions. He goes on to share some features and benefits of the latest in network video technology enabling Axis to make a difference in daily operations across public transport organisations worldwide, citing the use of enhanced analytics as most key.
“Analytics is providing users of IP surveillance technology with the ability to respond proactively, based on real-time footage,” continues Alves. Examples range from the early detection of smoke or heat, potentially concealed firearms (bulges in clothes) and luggage left unattended for longer than an acceptable period of time through to loitering or other suspicious behaviour. “Enhanced analytics allows for ‘intelligent camera application’ – the automatic prompting of alerts to the relevant control point, at the exact moment any of these incidences occur,” says Alves.
Enhanced analytics is also able to detect changes in crowd or individual behaviour, from a mass exodus in times of emergency through to tail gating. In emergency situations, analytics is able to trigger a command for the immediate opening of exits and doors, thereby preventing a potential stampede. With tail gating, it ‘looks out’ for individuals walking too closely together. “We have worked with a Spanish company where the additional revenue received from previously ‘lost tickets’, as a result of tail gating, was as high as ten times the cost of the solution,” adds Alves.
However, he goes on to caution that although cost might remain a sensitive topic, despite decreasing technology costs, public transport companies need to pay attention to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). “It is as essential to evaluate the risk, to one’s business and passengers, of not having a real-time IP surveillance solution,” he stresses. “It is critical to ensure our customers, and passengers, have a good experience. Not only for their safety and security, but similarly for brand protection.”
Other elements of IP surveillance technology that Alves deems essential, particularly within a local context, include:
• Aggression detection (aka ‘sound intelligence): Microphones, embedded within cameras, examine acoustics and are able to detect any changes in audio. “This could be something as seemingly minor as a change in pitch. It would be immediately picked up, prompting control to pay closer attention,” explains Alves.
• Facial recognition: Based on specially developed software, facial recognition technology analyses video streams from network cameras allowing for the ‘matching’ of faces against those stored in a database. “It is an excellent way of detecting non-desirables, with a history of criminal behaviour,” says Alves. “It provides control with a ‘heads-up’, empowering them to either closely monitor the individual’s movements, or deny entry altogether.”
• Tamper alarm: Any human interference with a camera is automatically picked up. This could range from spray painting over the lens through to changing the direction it is facing, thereby altering its intended view. “In these instances, another camera will notify control. Once again, this allows suspicious behaviour or vulnerable situations to be detected, and investigated, well before any crime is committed,” stresses Alves.
“Due to constantly changing light conditions, buses and trains are probably two of the most difficult environments in which to place cameras,” continues Alves. Yet, significant improvements in the area of video quality is leading to excellent output with no risk of over or under exposure. “The exact same quality we are witnessing in consumer electronics, such as TVs or video games, is available across IP video surveillance,” says Alves. Further, certification for use on-board a bus or train, ensures this technology is able to withstand a moving or ‘shaking’ environment, whilst still producing stable and clear images.
Superior image quality, combined with enhanced analytics, is also leading to less false alarms. “Those in control need to be vigilant, responding quickly to any alarm in the interest of early detection. However, it is only human that too many false alarms could result in the desensitisation of security personnel,” cautions Alves.
As leaders in network video, Axis Communications’ public transport offering provides solutions across multiple areas including on-board, stations and depots as well as infrastructure. “Our solutions are based on open standards, allowing for easy integration into non Axis and other IP systems,” says Alves. This allows the user to add cameras as and when needed, whilst seamlessly integrating with analogue cameras already present on the network.
“It’s about being able to make the right decisions at the right moment, in real-time, ensuring the safety and security of all our commuters, says Alves.