You know those security cameras you see in stores, schools, restaurants, and malls? They’re not just for security anymore.
What used to be a simple closed circuit system for loss prevention has now morphed into an IP-based intelligence system capable of logging statistics useful to a number of departments, including Sales, Marketing and Operations.
I’ve just spent the past few days in Salt Lake City with the good folks at Cisco, talking about the recent updates to their Physical Security and Video Analytics lines. This solution has come a long way in a couple years’ time. While we did talk about features and specs, a large portion of the time was spent discussing how customers are actually using video analytics. For example:
- Obviously it has great use for loss prevention and security, and this is probably what most people think of immediately.
- Casinos use it to look for unusual (and therefore suspect) activity, as well as monitoring traffic of customers from one area to the next. This allows them to staff more efficiently for different times of day (a use that can apply to many verticals).
- County and Municipal governments use it for traffic and parking enforcement, public transportation routes and staffing, and security in critical areas like courtrooms. Some government entities also analyze video of police interrogations to look for telltale behavioral indicators in crime suspects.
- I’m currently working on a project for a major retailer where they are using analytics to monitor customer movement. It will count the number of people passing through the store, but the client is taking that a step further. For example, If a customer pauses long enough in a given area a salesperson is notified on their smartphone to go over and help.
Almost any environment that deploys video for security can benefit from analyzing that footage for business reasons.
A few tips for deploying a video analytics solution:
- Dont buy an HD camera and scale it down to standard definition, thinking that you are somehow future-proofing the system. Standard def cameras provide a much better image at standard def resolution.
- Don’t enable motion sensing to enable and disable recording on cameras that are outdoors or near a window. The changing light conditions throughout the day will make motion sensing all but useless.
- If you need to drastically reduce the size of your video stream, slow the frame rate before reducing resolution. Yes, the video will look choppy but you’ll be able to make out facial features, license plate numbers, and other details that would be obscured in lower resolution.
- Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) cameras are great, but they should be used as a supplement to fixed install cameras. Sometimes salespeople pitch PTZs as a replacement for multiple fixed cameras, arguing that you can simply put the PTZ in continuous motion and cover 360 degrees. Unfortunately this won’t cover 360 degrees at a time (which is an important distinction), but there is also the issue that having the camera in continuous motion will reduce the warranty or void it completely.