Improving security and surveillance with computer vision

Learn Nov 11, 2021

In a world that needs to be more secure and connected, computer vision redefines the development of innovative systems in a wide range of security applications, such as port security (cargo inspection), facility security (embassy, power plant, bank), and surveillance (military or civilian). Today video surveillance cameras can be found almost anywhere – in offices, banks, hospitals, parking lots, malls, airports, and more. This is done to sustain relative peace and reduce crime incidents.

According to the World Population Review, the overall crime rate varies significantly from country to country and is influenced by many factors, such as poverty, unemployment levels, age, law enforcement, and more. Having this picture on one hand and technology progression on another, enhancing security and surveillance systems with computer vision appears predictable, yet very promising.

computer vision in security and surveillance

What is computer vision?

Computer vision is a subdomain of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), whose purpose is to empower computers to "see" things as we, humans, do. With the introduction of deep learning and neural network methods, computer vision saw an enormous shift and found its application in all kinds of industries, security being one of them.

Nowadays, security systems can provide us with an extensive array of information. Some go as far as detecting movement, recognizing faces, or sharing thermal estimations. These advancing automation technologies immensely impact societies, governments and should be applied with caution. So let's dig deeper and find out what computer vision has to do with this and how these technologies will evolve.

What is city surveillance?

City surveillance presents a set of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to enhance security. It serves as a deterrent for vandals and criminals and is a great way to provide evidence for investigations. In addition, city surveillance supports the organization of mass events, management of the traffic systems, etc., resulting in many benefits for both government and local businesses. For example, cameras placed in high-traffic areas can help reduce crime and encourage more consumer traffic to local restaurants or stores. On top of that, governments can (and often do) support businesses that provide surveillance cameras in their areas.

However, there are drawbacks to city surveillance cameras, such as the issues of privacy or damage. It's important to consider that surveillance cameras do not point to private areas like apartments or offices. Besides, wrongly arranged cameras, severe weather conditions, or outdoor accidents can result in unsatisfactory recordings or hardware damage at large.

Ai-based surveillance use-cases

As already mentioned, AI-powered surveillance solutions are pretty popular, and the examples of their implementation are limitless. Below we'll introduce a list of the most popular benefits and applications.

Reduction in crime

As might be expected, surveillance cameras in public places reduce crime and vandalism. It simply makes no sense to commit a crime where you can get caught, right? However, CCTV cameras alone may not be enough as they act as passive “viewers” in case of an accident. Instead, when supported with AI programs for face recognition or handgun detection, these cameras can be a great preventive tool. Here’s how it works: an AI-powered CCTV is programmed to “see” weapons, ski masks, recognize criminals, and track suspicious behavior. Once a threat is detected the camera can turn on the alerts, send warning messages to police or security staff, thus preventing unfavorable consequences. Of course, CCTV is most effective when combined with other crime-reducing/deterring methods such as improved lighting, security guards, and defensible space. Overall, the surveillance cameras help deter and reduce crime in that they support investigations with alerts before and video evidence after the incident.

surveillance cameras in public places

Person detection

As we know, face recognition AI models enable computers to actually recognize people. So, when CCTV camera is supplemented with a face recognition model, police can use the criminal’s image and let the CCTVs alert once a match has been detected. This will enable forces of law and order to take preventive actions and react before an incident occurs.

The same logic applies when looking for missing children and disoriented adults who suffer from cognitive disorders, such as dementia, amnesia, epilepsy, or Alzheimer's disease. Again, real-time video analysis and face recognition systems make the person identification process significantly easier.

COVID-19 compliance

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many public facilities have equipped existing security cameras with AI-based software to track compliance with health guidelines and detect if people are wearing masks, track handwashing, and even detect coughs.

covid-19 mask detection

Facial authentication in healthcare

It's no news there is a significant patient identification crisis in the healthcare industry. In over 2.5 years between 2013 and 2015, 7,600 wrong-patient events occurred at 181 hospitals in the U.S., with roughly 9 percent of those errors resulting in harm or death. The causes of death include prescribing incorrect medication following the wrong health record or not following patients’ diet. Facial authentication is a method to prevent patient misidentification throughout treatment. On top of that, providing AI-powered surveillance in hospitals makes it possible to assist fraud detection and validate authorized personnel.

Biometrics analysis

Biometrics are physical or behavioral human characteristics that can digitally identify a person and grant access to systems, devices, or data. For example, fingerprints, facial patterns, voice or typing cadence recognition are used heavily for data protection and privacy in banks, airports, live buildings, and even our mobile phones.

Computer vision powered security solutions

Now that we know what computer vision is and how it's used in security and surveillance let's look at what platforms and solutions there are in the market.

  • Umbo is a video security system for human and vehicle events both indoors and outdoors. In combination with established computer vision software, Umbo's smart security cameras autonomously detect and identify suspicious events, such as intrusion, tailgating, and wall-scaling.
  • Deep Sentinel is a home security solution where smart cameras combine with live surveillance personnel who remotely intervene via microphone when a threat is detected.
annotated thief
  • Actuate, formerly known as Aegis AI, is an AI camera software that integrates with the existing camera and focuses on firearm detection. Once the model identifies a weapon, it alerts security teams and law enforcement.
  • Scylla AI is a real-time physical threat detection solution powered by a smart decision-making algorithm that enables companies to reduce labor costs while increasing the effectiveness of security operators. With systems for object detection, thermal scanning, perimeter intrusion detection, drone security, and aerial surveillance, Scylla provides an all-in-one security solution.
  • ​​Swiftlane is an integrated video intercom system for any building where person verification may be needed, take live buildings, hospitals, or schools, for example. The camera with touchless access quickly verifies the visitors and allows for guest calling.
  • Paravision is yet another security platform designed for global security device manufacturers, solution providers, systems integrators, and financial services firms. They offer services of face recognition, action detection, and they recently repurposed COVID-19 solutions.
  • Synapse Technology detects threats at X-Ray and CT security checkpoints. As stated on their website: "Syntech ONE® allows for automated screening technology, enabling security checkpoints worldwide to catch more threats while reducing operating costs and increasing throughput".
  • Evolv Technology uses a combination of camera, facial recognition, and millimeter-wave technologies to scan people walking through portable security gates at airports and automatically check for threats, including explosives and firearms.
  • UVeye is an Israeli startup for vehicle inspection that captures high-resolution images as it scans passing vehicles. The company aims to sustain highway safety and automate vehicle testing. Companies such as Toyota, Honda, Volvo, Hyundai, and Škoda are among their clients.
  • StopLift is a solution specifically for retailers that analyzes security video and point of sale (POS) data to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent behavior at checkout. By applying advanced computer vision algorithms to existing camera feeds, StopLift's ScanItAll system tracks items that pass through the checkout lane, associates them with POS, and flags suspicious activity.
  • Shield AI is a company that works with federal, state, and local departments and agencies to deliver next-generation surveillance systems. Their first product, Nova, is a Hivemind-powered drone that searches buildings while simultaneously streaming video and generating maps.
  • Finally, Orbital Insight specializes in applying computer vision to geo-analytics using satellites, drones, balloons, UAV footage, and geolocation data. It helps analyze human activities to provide businesses and governments with key behavioral insights and address security concerns.

Summing up

Computer vision is indeed redefining the industry of security and surveillance. Despite being revolutionary on their own, the modern CCTV cameras are not enough, being passive units that help solve incidents but lack proactive prevention. That's where computer vision, AI, and ML step in, enhancing existing cameras with a wide range of features to address recurrent issues in public security. In this article, we've introduced how computer vision-powered security systems take the reduction in crime, person detection, and even compliance with COVID-19 regulations to a whole new level. Considering the trends in computer vision, its influence in security and surveillance is only expected to increase because recreating a sensor nearly as powerful as the human eye opens up a varied range of untapped potential for security organizations and societies at large.

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