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Digital Video Surveillance
March 1, 2007
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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a major player like IBM has entered the realm of physical security. After all, with traditional storage formats evolving into digital data, the demands for better data integration, management and security have increased.

“Data and networks are what IBM is built on,” says Jim Lingerfelt, a senior consultant with IBM Public Safety and Security Solutions, “it’s what we do.”

Since 2002, IBM Digital Video Surveillance has provided an integrated video surveillance and security solution which enables organizations to view, monitor and digitally record activity from throughout their environment. IBM has worked with both public and private sector clients to date, but one of the biggest deployments took place at the Detroit Police Department.

“It was the first time that a major police department had undertaken a fully automated in-car digital video solution,” said Lingerfelt.

Detroit Police Department wanted to install an in-car video solution that would not require police personnel to physically handle the video and which would fully automate the storage and catalog of the video recordings..  The system has significantly increased the conviction rate for cases involving video and has strengthened investigations of complaints against officers. “In most cases, since its implementation, it has exonerated the Detroit Police Department police officers,” says Lingerfelt, “therefore, it has not only unfounded complaints but also saved the Department and the City a lot of money in cases that might otherwise have been settled with liability payments.”

Karenne Smith, senior consultant with IBM Public Safety and Security Solutions, helped design the Detroit system, which was initially confined to precinct buildings and police cars. Smith is now working with the City of Detroit on expanding the digital video surveillance (DVS) to include more areas of the downtown core.

With security, including video surveillance, often categorized as an issue for the IT department, CIOs may be interested to learn more about some of the themes in this rapidly developing area.

Those who seek funding for IT are sometimes weary of the high price tag associated with digital technology, but Lingerfelt urges his clients to consider the complete solution and the costs associated with the bigger picture. As he sees it, there are four components to video solutions: one, capturing the data; two, transferring data from the media to the storage device; three, data storage; and finally, management of the data, which encompasses security, access and audit trails. Digital data offers significant benefits over traditional methods in terms of automating the storage and archival process, says Lingerfelt. Take physical storage devices like CDs, DVDs and analog tapes, there is a cost associated with the correct storage and labeling of the archived data. If data is stored ‘physically’ in one central location, the prospects of recovering completely from a disastrous event (like water or heat damage) are slimmer than if the video data is stored on a network, which offers additional security and presents users with the opportunity to retrieve data from anywhere at anytime (more on this later). Digital records also reduce the time personnel spend on logging information and automation eliminates human errors.

However, it’s no good thinking that digital data can be stored indefinitely; “it’s not long before we have to talk to customers about terabytes,” says Smith. Fortunately server technology is constantly being updated, so it’s not always necessary to go to a storage area network which is where prices really start to get expensive. By automating the video retention schedule for the Detroit Police Department and other storage management strategies, IBM controls the amount of digital video that needs to be stored. Usually video is kept for one year (as mandated by the Department of Justice) but “if a customer wants to keep it for longer” it can be written to a less expensive media and stored elsewhere. Storage costs can get out of hand, so it becomes important to manage video and its associated metadata. The knowledge and expertise that a vendor like IBM brings to the table here is critical. In the Detroit case, the Department of Justice’s mandate stipulates that video cameras should remain on 24/7. Keeping this kind of volume of mostly uneventful footage at 30 frames a second would require tremendous amounts of server space. So, IBM integrated live motion detection software that means when there’s no activity in the video frame the camera records at one frame every two or three seconds; the moment the camera picks up movement the frame rate automatically jumps to 30 frames per second.

“The lessons that we have learned are now applied in every digital video engagement that we undertake,” says Lingerfelt.

The IBM video surveillance solution is run on open standards, Lingerfelt explains, “we can integrate with any existing infrastructure.” IBM says the system can run on any network, from cellular to Local Area Networks (LAN), naturally the bigger the bandwidth the better the overall performance.

“The system senses what type of network modem or connector its working with and it will self pace depending on the speed of the network it detects,” says Smith.

Every camera and every recording device has an IP address so users can access an individual camera from anywhere that they have access to the network. IBM uses a dual streaming video processing unit, which means that the cameras in the police cars continue to record, even when they’re uploading digital video over the wireless LAN. “If the car has to pull away during an upload, the system marks the frame where it stopped and then when the car is back in range of the precinct’s wireless it starts up again at the same spot,” says Smith. Detroit also uses multi-layered storage: first the video is recorded on a device in the police car; it’s then uploaded automatically and stored locally at each precinct; and finally a central storage network constantly searches for new pieces of video and uploads them to a central storage facility.

As with any computer network, security is a prime concern. Lingerfelt explains how IBM secures the system: “All the video is fully encrypted, each frame of video is encrypted unto itself and there are also special keys that indicate the location of the video frame in the file. If someone removes a frame from the video file the system knows because there is a pointer to the next frame and a pointer to the previous frame.” The IBM system can be configured to automatically notify security personnel if a file has been modified. In addition to the physical encryption of the video, the network itself uses bi-directional authentication. “Each device is registered to the network and authenticates itself to the network, and likewise each server authenticates itself to the device,” says Smith. Another level of security is the directory: Each person with access to the system is assigned a role and the role dictates what level of access they have. “Any of these measures can be combined with other layers of security,” says Smith, “like passwords, tokens, or biometrics.”

Perhaps the fastest growing area of DVS is analytics. Software packages exist that can analyze live video looking for anomalies and also provide post-recording forensic tools. For example, gunshot location sensors pinpoint the location of a gunshot noise using GPS and automatically signal to video cameras positioned in the area to start recording. Smith implemented the system in a pilot project in Minneapolis. Within seven hours it detected shots and soon after that police had picked up a suspect. “Did it prevent the guy from pulling the trigger? No,” says Smith, “did it take him off the streets? Yes.”

“The fact is that recidivists commit the vast majority of crime,” adds Lingerfelt, “so by arresting the shooter, police may in fact have prevented many subsequent shootings.”

Resources from the International Association of Chiefs of Police
IACP survey of law enforcement agencies across the US to ascertain current applications of CCTV/video cameras and assess their impact. Click here
A paper written by a panel of law enforcement representatives, scientists, equipment manufacturers who worked together to develop minimum performance standards for digital in-car video systems. Click here

RFID technology can be integrated with IBM’s DVS solution. It is something Smith anticipates proposing to the Detroit Police Department, the idea being that the RFID tag attached to a prisoner or piece of evidence triggers a camera to capture video as the article passes buy. “So if something goes missing we can search the video based on the RFID information,” says Smith.

Even a fully automated system still requires oversight, so digital video is not about removing the person from the equation completely. “We are increasing the individual’s productivity,” says Smith, “so you have one person handling more cameras. The system can tell you what’s happening, but you still need a person there to make a decision on how to react.”

“I think that people need to look at DVS as a tool in the prevention of crime,” says Smith. “The purpose of marrying video into a security system is to provide proof to help with a prosecution.”

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