Thursday, July 31, 2008

Video surveillance in 2008 -- emerging technologies and trends to watch out for

Video surveillance has been an effective monitoring tool for quite some time now. Traditionally, however, this method of surveillance has played more of a reactive rather than a proactive role in security. Recent technological advancements have begun to revolutionize the way surveillance technology is used. This growing trend of active, intelligent video surveillance will likely continue to transform the way society utilizes this technology well into 2008 and beyond.
We will seek to review some of the emerging surveillance trends that will likely garner a great deal of attention throughout the remainder of this year. We will also seek to look at some of the concerns over how the increased use of CCTV and surveillance equipment will affect our personal privacy.

New surveillance trends for 2008
In a Newsweek Web Exclusive (March 15, 2006) by Jessica Bennett entitled, "Big Brother's Big Business," it was stated that nearly one in four major cities within the United States is investing in new surveillance technology. In addition, Joe Freeman, a columnist for Security Technology & Design Magazine has noted that spending on surveillance equipment has nearly doubled in the last five years.
The 2005 video surveillance market was a $9.2 billion dollar business, and is expected to grow to $21 billion by 2010. Advancements that are likely to take the spotlight in 2007 include intelligent video surveillance, new breakthroughs in video surveillance cameras and equipment, and improved wireless IP video connectivity.

Surveillance becomes proactive with intelligent video surveillance technology

Intelligent video surveillance is used to describe the active monitoring of video feeds to detect suspicious activities and behaviors. Intelligent video surveillance software is designed to actively and rapidly scan though video feeds to monitor and detect such suspicious activities as a person entering an unauthorized areas, a bag left unattended, or an individual loitering.
A gentleman by the name of Rama Chellappa, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering of the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, has developed just such a system. He has designed an application that essentially has digitalized specific patterns of activity such as walking. He then incorporated the intricate variations that occur when an individual is harboring a hidden object, or carrying a package, for example. His software is able to detect these variations and determine if they match a pattern consistent with suspicious activity.
Chellappa and his team are now seeking to combine this technology with advanced facial recognition software, and a software algorithm that can estimate the height of subjects. This powerful combination of tools will help identify individuals that might pose a security risk such as known terrorists, criminals, and even unknown individuals who turn up repeatedly in sensitive locations.
New breakthroughs in video surveillance cameras and equipment
Video surveillance cameras and related equipment become more sophisticated every year. New technology rapidly emerges, and almost as quickly video equipment that was once cutting-edge suddenly becomes obsolete. Two new innovative additions to the surveillance marketplace include a distortion free wide-angle camera lens and a hovering camera.

· Distortion free wide-angle camera lens -- A group of South Korean researchers led by Gyeong-il Kweon have designed a wide-angle lens that produces a distortion free image. The lens is built in the shape of a dome. When light enters the dome of the lens, it is reflected off a v-shaped mirror. The light is then redirected into a second "refractive" lens that produces a crisp, clear, undistorted image. Video surveillance cameras equipped with this lens can achieve a field of view of 151 degrees. This camera lens is very inexpensive, selling for only $105. Potential applications for this lens include use in intelligent video security systems and as a robot navigational aid.

· Hovering video camera -- Another unique device we will likely be hearing more about in 2007 is the hovering video camera. Honeywell Aerospace has developed a small 13" compact aerial hovering video camera device called the Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) that can be used in military applications to provide information on surrounding areas without exposing troops to enemy fire. This device can go as high as 10,500 feet, but it performs optimally at around 500 feet. It is capable of hovering and loitering in one spot, or can be used to track and follow a moving target. It is easy to see the benefits this type of technology has for military applications.

· Improved wireless IP video connectivity -- Wireless video technology has experienced rapid growth and development in recent months. This technology is responsible for greatly expanding the scope and outreach to which video surveillance cameras can perform effectively. A new development in wireless standards in March of 2006 has led to the 802.11n protocol. This greatly increases both the range and transfer rate of wireless signals. Wireless security has also improved drastically. It is now standard for a wireless system to incorporate advanced encryption technologies. Examples include 128 bit AES, TKIP, 152 bit WEP, and RADIUS. These technologies make it extremely difficult for anyone to break-in or eavesdrop over any wireless network.

All of these advancements is a strong indicator that video surveillance technology is here with us to stay. The applications to which video surveillance technology will be applied will only become more creative and innovative as time passes.

What do all of these innovations mean for us personally?
In general, most individuals are not bothered by the every present eye of video surveillance cameras. A survey conducted in Chicago polled 700 registered voters and found that 8 out of 10 were in favor of video surveillance cameras as a crime prevention measure. The problem is, as video surveillance cameras get more sophisticated they become more effective and easier to conceal. It becomes increasingly difficult to detect and prosecute those that use surveillance technology illegally.
It is inevitable that there will be those that abuse this technology and directly violate an individual's right to personal privacy. Civil liberties groups have become more outspoken about the potential abuse and the need for protective measures. The debate over the use of surveillance cameras is likely to rage on, with no easy solution to the problem.
Like the video surveillance trends we reviewed that will remain with us throughout the year, the conflict between personal protection and personal privacy will remain with us long into the future.

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