Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
October 20th, 2020
Author: Gili Rom

The Role of Intelligent Video Surveillance in an Evolving Transportation Landscape – and a Changing World

Achieve Operational Efficiencies Without Compromising Safety

I was pleased to present at the Virtual ISC West 2020 on “The Evolving Role of Video in Transport Security and Operations,” where I discussed how the video surveillance technology and video content analytics have evolved to address various challenges that the global transportation industry faces. All transit operators — whether a maritime shipping company or a cruise line, as well as railways, , airports, or municipal subways — have always been motivated to streamline the transit experience, to move people or cargo efficiently, while ensuring their security and safety. As globalization, security concerns such as terrorist threats, and health and safety concerns have evolved, the transport industry has expanded in volume and geographic reach and faces new challenges around crowding, efficiency and security.

Sometimes there is tension between increasing security and streamlining operations to ensure the smooth flow of passengers and goods; for instance, security lines at airports are a security protocol that commonly creates bottlenecks. However, despite such challenges, it is possible for transit operators to leverage technology to achieve both goals: streamlining operations, while ensuring safety and security. My ISC West presentation focused on ways that transport organizations can enhance their existing investment in video surveillance networks with video intelligence software that addresses the various facets of their security and operational productivity. This included a discussion of the maturation of video surveillance technologies and the concurrent evolution of the transportation industry, as well as the emergence of video analytics for security and operational decision making to address changing performance indicators and industry requirements.

Airport Analytics

The evolution of video surveillance

Video surveillance has come a long way since the days of analog cameras and video cassette recorders (VCRs). The transition from analog to digital video began over twenty years ago and was followed by the transition to IP video with the NVR and IP cameras. In recent years there has also been massive growth in the number and type of video sources such as body cameras, personal mobile devices, private video surveillance systems, in-vehicle law enforcement cameras, drones, and more. With so many ways to collect video footage, it is impossible to manually review and make sense of it all. Fortunately, in the past few years Deep Learning and artificial intelligence have been utilized to generate revolutionary video analytics, introducing the age of intelligent video surveillance, where organizations can effectively harness and leverage the data that is captured in video footage. This technology breakthrough has made video footage searchable, actionable, and quantifiable.

The evolution of transportation security

At the same time, transportation security has evolved from being reactive to proactive. The terrorist attack of 9/11 marked a turning point in transportation security practices; it led to an emphasis on preventing such attacks in the future with heightened security protocols that often interrupted the seamless and streamlined traveler experience. With more security checkpoints, longer queues at airports, and more cargo checks, Customs procedures and paperwork causing delays in shipping and creating more cumbersome and time-consuming transportation experiences.

Video analytics for streamlining security

Driven by deep learning, video content analytics software can process video surveillance footage and feeds, identify objects (people and vehicles), and index them based on object classification, so that video content can be easily and quickly searched, analyzed, and alerted on based on pre-configured triggers, such as detecting a face on a face recognition watchlist or loitering in a highly sensitive or unauthorized area. By defining rules for when alerts should be triggered, a video analytics operator can be notified when a crowd or queue suddenly forms, so that security teams can quickly assess the threat and respond as appropriate. Video analysis technology also allows security teams to quickly and accurately review incidents in their immediate aftermath, to reduce their time-to-target, understand what occurred and perhaps even prevent future incidents by creating alerting rules based on the incident.

Video intelligence software beyond security

Because it aggregates generated video data over longer periods of time, video analytics can be leveraged to uncover valuable business intelligence across several areas of transportation:

  • Supply chain and logistics companies can derive trend data, such as how much time shipping containers are kept on loading docks to understand statistics around the time it takes to load and unload a container
  • City transit planners can quantify how many people, vehicles and containers pass through buses depots, mass transit terminals and local infrastructure for transit service planning and for data-driven decision making in the future
  • Operations managers can evaluate traffic and footfall patterns, identify bottlenecks and streamline movement throughout the terminal
  • On-site retailers and marketing teams can utilize visitor demographic data of transit and airport guests for targeting advertising and merchandising
  • Travel hospitality organizations can understand visitor behaviors, traffic peaks and even metrics, such as how long it takes cruise ships to onboard and offboard passengers

Health and safety compliance concerns

Today, COVID-19 is an overwhelming priority, but it is not the first public health crisis that the transit industry has ever faced and, unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last. Outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the H1N1 influenza in 2009, and Ebola required rapid compliance with new health safety measures, but the COVID pandemic changed travel requirements almost overnight, and drastically. In response, most mass transit authorities and shipping companies have implemented public health mandates such as face mask wearing and physical distancing. Because video intelligence software can detect the proximity between people as well as whether or not they are wearing face masks, this technology can help transit managers identify non-compliance trends and develop solutions to encourage safer health practices among employees and visitors.

Many transit organizations also conduct employee contact tracing, in an effort to prevent further spread of the contagion among their staff and visitors: With video content analytics, organizations can forensically review video to identify and trace diagnosed individuals and those with whom they’ve been in contact, using a combination of face recognition, appearance similarity and proximity identification filters.

Video Analytics beyond safety and security

Mass transit agencies are rated by their constituents and stakeholders on a variety of key performance indicators (KPIs): punctuality and availability of service, safety and security, employee management, the passenger experience, ridership metrics and revenue, and health safety compliance. Video content analytics leverages the existing investment in video surveillance to help a variety of departments and users across diverse transit organizations assess their performance towards their KPIs and new challenges that evolve.

Video analytics technology leverages video surveillance infrastructure but extends its value across the organization’s departments, well beyond security and safety, to operations, marketing, risk and guest satisfaction