Tuesday, May 11, 2010

High-Tech, High-Res

There is an interesting article over on HomelandSecurityNewsWire.com about a new surveillance camera being developed by DHS S&T. It is a new 360 surveillance video camera that is able to provide high-quality videos over the whole range of the camera while allowing high-quality live-zooms in one area while continuing to record in other areas. According to the article, this sounds like a security officer’s answer to video surveillance prayers. Now I am not a video surveillance expert, but I think that I know enough to pick out a couple of obvious problems that will limit deployment of this new system. First off, the camera system, ISIS (Imaging System for Immersive Surveillance) does provide huge amounts of detail, up to 100 megapixels according to the S&T web site. According to the S&T program director that is “as detailed as 50 full-HDTV movies playing at once”. That much information flowing from the camera to the security station is sure to take up massive amounts of bandwidth. That much bandwidth will almost certainly require a dedicated hard line from the camera to the security station; not a simple network connection. Even at-camera data compression will be inadequate to this task unless the video quality is degraded so much that it is just another 360 surveillance camera. Likewise, data storage is going to get expensive quickly. Every minute of stored observation for this one ‘camera’ will take up as much storage as 50 standard megapixel cameras. Once again, data compression can reduce that significantly, but only at the cost of lost detail. As a security-detection tool it is going to have the problem of providing a method for security team members to provide real-time surveillance over the observed area; data display and data density problems will be difficult to overcome. Both the article and the S&T web site explain that video analytics will help with that problem. Unfortunately, the infamous ‘guy changing his shirt in Time Square’ shows the limitations of using a video analytics model. No, the best use of ISIS will be in video forensics, determining what actually happened in an area after the event. Even then it will only be of real use in large wide open areas where there are few visual obstructions. There it will allow for continuous tracking and recording of the movement of a pre-identified individual through an area without the problem of handing off the target from one camera to another.

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