Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
July 1st, 2020
Author: Lizzi Goldmeier

The Insight Your Business Needs to Optimize Safety in the Second Half of 2020

The Role of Video Content Analytics in Evolving with Agility

In late 2019, it was evident that video content analytics technology has a growing importance in many sectors and industries, ranging from municipal law enforcement to retail to transportation. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and – in a matter of weeks – globally wreaked havoc on the daily lives of citizens, personally, economically, physically, and professionally. Although the first half of 2020 did not unfold as expected, the emerging problems have only further validated the importance of video content analytics technology: Video intelligence software has become a key tool for facilitating the public health mandates of physical distancing and mask-wearing, as well as driving contact tracing.

Video content analytics is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to transform live or recorded video into structured metadata. By processing video to identify and extract the objects that appear (people, vehicles, and other items), and index them, intelligent video surveillance makes video searchable, actionable and quantifiable so that the volumes of valuable video data collected by surveillance infrastructure can be put to effective use.

The software can be used in a variety of ways, both in real-time to respond to situations as they evolve, to review incidents for post-event investigation, or to gather and analyze information about long-term trends. The technology is applicable not only to public safety and physical security teams, but also to operations, planning and marketing teams across various sectors and industries: Whether it’s urban planners optimizing traffic patterns based on long-term data and analysis; retailers analyzing foot traffic patterns in shopping malls and stores for maximizing ad, product or display placement; or law enforcement agencies quickly and accurately reviewing footage to pinpoint a suspect at the scene of a crime, the extensible technology is well suited to meet evolving challenges and overcome unexpected obstacles. Ensuring health safety in public spaces as well as workplaces is more complex in the era of COVID-19, and for liability, productivity and morale reasons it is now a huge priority for companies of many sizes and types. Which is why, in response to new COVID-19 requirements, municipalities, corporations and quasi-public agencies, such as transit companies, are embracing video analytics to monitor compliance and prevent further virus spread, while also responding proactively to reports of diagnoses with effective contact tracing, based on face recognition and appearance similarity video analytic capabilities.

Detecting face masks

In today’s public health crisis, video content analytic real-time alerting capabilities are critical for detecting public health mandate violations. Face mask detection, for example, enables video analytics operators to alert on and search for people based on whether or not they are wearing a face mask. This enables end user organizations to enforce requirements and assess risks based on compliance.

Monitoring physical distancing

It can be difficult to enforce the new mandate of physical distancing in public spaces, retail stores, college campuses, and workplaces. While it’s impossible for security officers to be everywhere and to accurately observe whether people are following social distancing rules, existing video surveillance resources can be leveraged in new ways to carefully monitor and ensure people are keeping at least six feet apart. Video content analytics can detect the proximity between people, enabling video operators to trigger real-time alerts for physical distancing violations that last longer than a pre-set duration threshold. Operators can also search and filter video and generate dashboard reports, to understand in the long-term where and when these violations take place and whether any specific individuals are at risk, because of it.

Ensuring safe building occupancy

Video content analytics systems can also trigger people counting alerts immediately when a pre-configured occupancy threshold has been exceeded and an unsafe number of people has been detected in a certain area, such as a hospital waiting room, public plaza or even a city street. People-counting technology also enables the management and maintenance of safe building occupancy. Beyond real-time alerts for exceeding acceptable occupancy thresholds, users can derive occupancy statistics and reports to understand patterns and demographics over time and location. These critical business intelligence dashboards can also be used to demonstrate compliance and identify problem hotspots.

Optimizing facility maintenance and sanitization

Using the same count-based alerting logic, operations teams can align sanitation and maintenance efforts with actual facilities usage instead of traditional time-based cleaning schedules. By triggering customized alerts based on people counts and line crossing rules for area entryways, hallways, or other highly trafficked areas, maintenance managers can more effectively and proactively clean spaces, as needed, based on actual traffic.

Facilitating contact tracing

Employers can streamline contact tracing in the workplace video content analytics; this helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 among employees, customers and visitors. If an employee self-identifies as having tested positive for COVID-19, the employer can conduct a forensic video review to see where that employee interacted with others during the contagious stage. To do so, the employer would upload a photo of the employee to the video analytics system and use facial recognition and multi-camera search to pinpoint the employee across the space and identify proximity violations that post a risk to others.

Operators can also conduct cross-camera searches based on the description of the employee’s clothing, using an appearance similarity filter. Paired with facial recognition or used separately, this capability can expand the search and help the employer further identify at risk people and locations. Without compromising the employee’s identity, the employer can generate a list of people who encountered the infected employee, and then can recommend them to self-quarantine. They can also assure those who did not have contact with the infected person, so they can be more at ease.

As we enter the second half of 2020, preventing the spread of COVID-19 disease has become a major priority that requires large-scale, global, multi-faceted efforts. One important way individual organizations can help control the pandemic is to maximize investments in existing video surveillance technology. With its flexibility and ease of use, video intelligence software is a cost-effective way for organizations to combat the COVID-19 crisis in the short term, while making video searchable, actionable and quantifiable for productive investigations, proactive response and predictive planning beyond the pandemic.