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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Smart Video Surveillance: Digital Technology vs. Tradition Analog Systems

A typical intelligent video surveillance system.
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By Yvonne Cager

Over the past few years, the word security has assumed the specific connotation of homeland security in the public mind. But security activities – and budgets – stretch far beyond fighting terrorism. In fact, the private sector’s aggregate security budgets dwarf public spending. Over the past decade, video security has been deployed by governments and private institutions to combat street crime, by corporations to detect and interdict employee theft and shoplifting and by casinos to uncover cheating or fraud – to cite just a few examples.

Analog systems now comprise the overwhelming majority of video security systems. But these systems, which are based on legacy TV cable technology, have several downsides including:

  • The broadband cable infrastructure that provides connectivity is expensive to build and maintain.
  • Depending on human beings to watch multiple cameras to detect suspicious activity wastes a great deal of the security personnels’ time – and leads to false alarms and compromised security due to human error.
  • Perhaps most important, the elapsed time between the commission of a security violation and its detection is often too long to prevent the crime or even to apprehend the perpetrator.

It is not an exaggeration to say that analog video surveillance technology has hit a wall. Too many people are watching too many screens, causing too many false alarms and producing too little security. Video surveillance market is ready to accept a disruptive technology based on the concept of embedding machine intelligence in the network to provide better performance and reduced cost.

As a result, another paradigm shift is underway: Intelligence will move out of the control center and onto the periphery of the security system – even into the cameras themselves.

The technology to accomplish this is an integrated, digital system that uses a constellation of sophisticated software that includes image processing, video compression and rule-based machine intelligence. Complex, compute-intensive algorithms are used by all these programs. Powerful digital signal processors are required at reasonable prices to execute the algorithms.

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