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Network cameras and NVRs at the next level

Network cameras and NVRs at the next level

Editor / Provider: Alf Chang | Updated: 7/22/2013 | Article type: Hot Topics

In this round of testing, we are seeing the maturation of network cameras, much like a teenager becoming an adult overnight. During our test phase, several functions improved noticeably and stability increased. These functions included the following:

1. High dynamic range (HDR): From basic view dynamic range or HDR, most network cameras support 1080P or 720P resolution with 70 to 90 decibels of dynamic range. Some chip makers, such as Sony, support up to 120 to 130 decibels of dynamic range for true wide dynamic range (WDR) in the Ipela Engine or Xarina processor. Especially during the live shootout, a spinning colored pinwheel tested different shutter speeds, contrast and color saturation. Light and dark areas were restored to look sharper, greatly increasing image quality for megapixel imaging. This is the first overall improvement for network camera performance.

2. Support for 60 frames per second (fps): Currently, most of the Generation Six network cameras can support 60 fps in Full HD at 1,920 by 1,080 pixels for live output. The imaging efficiency is even better than the previous generation for 30 fps.

3. New intelligent video software (IVS): Compared to the last generation of network generations, the newest models all have front-end analytics. They include tamper detection, intelligent voice detection, tracking, zone monitoring and other features that have come a long way. In basic preset processing and real-time analysis, both support alarm functionality. More providers offer proprietary facial recognition, able to distinguish a face in a frame and work with backend management software to build a database of faces to compare.

4. High-definition digital noise reduction (DNR): From single-frame noise reduction and multiple-frame noise reduction, even images with insufficient illumination can dial down noise in an image for the clearest images, without suffering lag and jagged edges around moving objects.

5. Intelligent bit rate control: While during testing we set the cameras to a constant bit rate (CBR), network cameras also deal with night imaging or environments that have little change. Variable bit rate (VBR) can automatically lower the bit rate, intelligently reducing the amount of storage needed and controlling costs. This improvement for CBR and VBR was seen in all entered network cameras, making them far better than before.

6. Multiple profiles, multiple streams: Apart from bit rate management, network cameras have better support for multiple profiles and streams. For example, LILIN supports four different profiles and each profile can output four different video streams. All cameras entered could handle at least two to four streams of video, showing that support for different file formats and multiple streams is being taken seriously by camera makers.

7. Greater ease of installation: The network cameras of old never failed to give traditional installers fits. The main pet peeve was complexity, as many lacked familiarity with IP setup and IT know-how. But today, that has changed. During testing, auto back focusing has become a standard feature, allowing us to get a camera up and running in under three minutes. In terms of user friendliness, network cameras have made a huge leap forward.

The above are several notable developments and improvements in this year's Secutech Excellence Awards. One thing that is worth noting is that cameras in Europe and the United States must meet UL list Class II requirements for surge protection. This is not limited to simply the product itself, but includes other safety measures, such as double insulation or reinforced insulation. This does not cover grounding or compliance to installation requirements, so it does not affect camera manufacturers directly. However, it is worth noting for sales or distribution, depending on the region.

NVR storage woes
From the beginning of our Awards three years ago, we have found on-going NVR issues for interoperability with third-party cameras and ONVIF compliance. The 10 entered NVRs were connected to 16 cameras from Taiwanese, American, Japanese and Chinese manufacturers, with every NVR found to be sorely lacking in terms of interoperability. To take a different tack by plug-and-play standards, hooking the cameras up to the NVR should be no problem, given we provide the right camera password and both devices support ONVIF. In reality, the cameras were either too new or too old, partly because different versions of ONVIF are not interchangeable. It may seem depressing, but initial testing shows that plug-and-play is still more of a dream than a reality.

For the final live demo, with each network camera being connected one by one to the NVR, we realized that there is a direct relationship between a brand's global reputation and its openness. Any NVR maker serious on capturing worldwide market share must welcome more network cameras with open arms. Integration is a must. In comparison, some NVR makers only look at domestic markets and support their own camera lines or the most popular network cameras in their region. This strategy reflects blind spots in their sales. For users, they can easily distinguish and select a more complete and open solution for future expansions.

NVR setup and use easier than ever
In the past, security installers have found network storage maddening, simply because they required too much IT expertise. Otherwise, the NVR needed many complex steps to be successfully set up, frustrating many installers — especially those used to traditional surveillance systems. But from this round of testing, NVR operation today has became far simpler. The rich and intuitive Linux interface allows installers to control all of the NVR's setup and functionality. Even getting to the more advanced features and entering data has gotten easier to access, which do not require keyboards like before but can be done on the user interface alone. A significant improvement is phased setup by steps, making NVR setup foolproof. If done correctly, an NVR can be up and running in three to five minutes for all camera feeds. As more NVRs support camera connection previews, this makes the installer's job much less painful.

NVRs have gotten better at smart searches and playback. Backup has also become simpler and more convenient. More NVRs feature solid-state disk storage, freeing up processing power for troubleshooting and checking equipment connectivity. Nearly all NVRs display each channel's image flow and frame rate for network management purposes. Although the frame rate for recorded footage depends on the NVR's CPU and the camera's decoder, NVRs still play a significant role in storage.

From this year's Secutech Award entries in network cameras and NVRs, we can see how different components and applications affect the finished product's performance. As we expose flaws, we also urge the industry to uphold quality control standards and implement greater openness for software. This is only fair to all the installers and buyers who demand the best in their network surveillance equipment.

Seeing your face everywhere

Seeing your face everywhere

Editor / Provider: Christine Chien, a&s International | Updated: 6/12/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner

Seeing the noninvasive, face-capturing benefits, different verticals are incorporating face recognition into their settings, acting as access control devices or identification tools. In each different setting, users must be perfectly aware of their environments and the dynamics surrounding it. Users need to know that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Each environment requires its own customized settings and calibrations in order to guarantee maximum accuracy and security.

Most of the time, a correct selection, planning, installation and configuration of the cameras in a given scenario drastically reduce the sources of failure, said Carles Fernández Tena, R&D Project Manager of Herta Security. Common failures are also caused by incorrectly operating the system, such as the wrong adjustments of parameters and thresholds, or enrolling subjects with low-quality images. “In this regard, some sophisticated facial recognition systems currently incorporate automatic quality control modules and self-healing techniques to detect and rectify such misuses,” Fernández further explained.

The biggest problems are related to the lack of knowledge from users which can create frustration and anxiety, turning what could be a quick process into a time-consuming task. “The use of graphic aids, including video animations, can drastically improve the overall experience,” said Marc Spiegel, Regional Head of APAC at Vision-Box.

Matters of privacy can be an area of high concern for some users; this accentuates the importance of educating users on how biometric templates are stored, as they are often misled and think their data are open to theft. “Sometimes, users fear their biometric information will be stolen, but chances of that are unlikely because their raw data is actually configured to a digital code and saved in the database, instead of just the raw data,” asserted Raj Venkat, VP of Cards and Credentials at Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.

City Surveillance
Employing facial recognition alleviates the work load of operators by simply sending out an alarm once a wanted criminal or target has been identified from the crowd. India's safe city project intends to cover several of its cities extensively by surveillance systems that can recognize faces and detect wanted criminals or terrorists, and flag off a centralized control room. Other surveillance systems put up by the police, other agencies and third parties, such as hotels and retail multiplexes, will be integrated as “databases.”

Even though the Tsarnaev brothers, responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, were actually in the FBI database, the facial recognition software failed to recognize the perpetrators due to the poor picture quality of their faces that were mostly angled away. With rising awareness and installations of HD cameras, facial recognition for similar situations in the future will prove to be much more successful.

Law enforcement agencies can further take advantage of mobile devices, such as handhelds or smartphones, performing recognition on-the-go to further facilitate accuracy improvements and calibrations.

Event Security
Large-scale, open events — often sports-related — are prone to terrorist attacks; employing the right level of security measures is crucial. The capacious area increases the difficulty for the human eye to make out specific targets among the sea of faces. By utilizing facial recognition, security guards will be able to locate those on the blacklist or VIP list at an accelerated rate.

The upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to take place in Brazil, portrays the scenario perfectly. The country was determined to make the tournament “one of the most protected sports events in history,” shelling out US$900 million for the event. With the hefty fund, the country bought US military robots, Israeli-made drones, high-tech surveillance, and facial recognition glasses that can capture up to 400 images per second to be stored in a database of up to 13 million faces. The system is designed to match known criminals and terrorists. Currently, the guards are already being trained to properly operate these devices.

Airports and Border Control
Not only are facial biometrics used as part of the identifying process for national IDs and biometric passports, they are used in airports and border control as well. Now, biometric recognition is incorporated into solutions that are “designed to automate the secure and fast flow of passengers through restricted areas such as security and border checkpoints,” said Jim Slevin, Aviation Business Unit Manager at Human Recognition Systems (HRS). Recently, HRS deployed its system at Edinburgh Airport to assess the flow of passenger traffic through its security screening area to help address the bottleneck queues, though it was initially used as a performance measurement tool that anonymously measures how long people spend in queues and dwell areas of the airport.

“The same solutions when designed sympathetically can offer benefits for both security and passenger differentiation — the ability to identify and tailor journeys on an individual traveler basis,” Slevin added. Facial biometrics are used in airports to facilitate the passenger's check-in to departure experience. After recognizing passengers who are enrolled in the service, texts will be sent to the passenger and guide them through the process of self check-in and baggage drop-off, all the way until the passenger arrives at the correct departure terminal and goes through the gates. Enrolled passengers are often frequent flyers who are offered this opportunity as a part of the perks, in a sense, treated like VIPs by being able to avoid long wait time.

Other e-gates allow for integrated or a combination of facial, fingerprint and iris recognition, and can be used at any country entry/exit point, Spiegel added.

Retail, Banking and Gaming
Operators will be able to analyze their customers based on their facial expression. Retailers will be able to register and create a watch list for shoplifters or VIPs. Shoplifters will be immediately escorted out of the stores when they are identified, while VIPs will be treated with the greatest shopping experience that can be provided. “As soon as you walk into Macy's and get to a certain area, they already know what you like and your buying preferences. I think there will be a lot of great technologies introduced in the next five years!” said Mizan Rahman, founder and CEO of M2SYS.

Banks will be able to use facial recognition for identifying criminals in order to prevent robberies. Customers can also be identified for better services and accessing ATMs and safety deposit boxes. As for online transactions, Facebanx has developed a new online facial recognition solution that will enable banks, payment processors, and insurance and ID verification companies to dramatically reduce fraud and ID theft. Users simply need to add their face to their account via the camera from their electronic device, such as a mobile phone or laptop webcam. Each individual's face is recorded by a video stream (rather than stills), and the technology compares the multiple images taken throughout the recording to confirm the person is real and not a spoof by a photo.

In the gaming sector, a few years back, certain Canadian and Singaporean casinos started to use facial recognition to track down and identify gamblers who have put themselves on a self-exclusion list. The facial recognition software instantly scans photographs taken by a dedicated camera as visitors pass by a security desk, looking for matches with pictures of gamblers who have put themselves on the self-exclusion list. If a match is found, a silent alarm goes off, the matching photos pop up on a computer screen, and security guards compare them. Once the guard verifies the match between the visitor and the image on the screen, they will ask for the identification of the individual before escorting him or her from the facility. For those who have not been placed on the list, their photographs are instantly discarded. The cameras with facial recognition are also used for identifying VIPs, cheaters, as well as authorized personnel in the cashiers and vaults.

Facial recognition for automobiles has been heavily researched and tested so it can be incorporated into onboard cameras in order to track the driver's pupils and facial orientation to detect head movement, eye direction and blinking patterns. If the system senses the driver is about to fall asleep, it will issue an alert for drivers to pull over to the side of the road. For driver convenience, BMWs use facial recognition to adjust to each driver's customized settings, such as steering wheel height, seat position, mirrors, and even turn on his or her favorite radio station. However, there are some problems to tackle, such as where to best position the camera to capture the face again immediately after being obstructed by the driver's hands and steering wheel. Adapting to changing lighting conditions is no small feat either, since cameras have to be able to continuously capture the driver's face even as she drives through a tunnel, into the sunset or after dark.

Biometrics face off

Biometrics face off

Editor / Provider: Christine Chien, a&s International | Updated: 6/11/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner

According to MarketsandMarkets research, global biometrics market revenues are anticipated to reach US$20 billion by 2018. Increasing security requirements for public security such as border control management, national identity cards, e-passports, Internet and network access, and financial transactions are acting as growth drivers. As of now, fingerprint is the most commonly adopted form of biometrics, but face recognition will most likely become its successor in the years to come.

The global biometrics market is expected to grow at an estimated CAGR of 22.9 percent, as compared to the facial recognition market growth of 27.7 percent during the period of 2013 to 2018. Over the next six years, facial recognition is predicted to become highly pervasive, ubiquitous across its ecosystem, and penetrating the market to a huge extent, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Facial recognition, one of the oldest forms of biometrics, had been slow to gain widespread adoption due to the problems in accuracy and reliability often found in its algorithms. However, the dynamics revolving around the use of facial recognition is changing, as government officials and commercial sectors are starting to realize the convenience in using facial biometrics for various purposes. Its appeal stems from the contactless, noninvasive nature when capturing and recognizing an individual, but also from its similarity to how humans recognize each other — through the face.

Because of its enhanced accuracy, flexibility of being used in all environments, and the public's higher tolerance for it, the speed of adoption shall only accelerate.

Main Purposes
For one-to-one identification, face images are used in combination with video surveillance in a controlled situation. Ideal sources of controlled environment for image capture include motor vehicle agencies, visa and passport agencies, mug shots, background checks, and surveillance cameras placed at “choke points.”

For one-to-many identification, facial recognition algorithms have experienced noticeable improvements through continuous attempts to address commonly associated problems in uncontrolled environments.

“Facial biometrics is one of the most promising technologies to be widely adopted and more generally affordable in the short future, given that capturing of samples can be done at relatively long distances and without any participation on the subject's part,” said Gary Lee, International Business Development Manager at Herta Security. With the ability to operate from afar, facial recognition is used to conduct passive recognition where no real cooperation is needed from subjects to detect and collect their faces in a real-time surveillance video — and start the match against databases of unwanted personnel or the “blacklist.” Areas with large crowds, heavy traffic and high throughput will be more effective if a separate mode of recognition can be incorporated into the surveillance solutions to further ensure maximum accuracy.

When it comes down to identifying an individual against an entire or multiple databases, facial recognition drastically enhances the chances of locating a match. Database will continue to expand, not only because of the likes of the FBI's billion-dollar next-generation identity program, but with the help of social media and retail sites where users upload images for a virtual makeover. This allows operators to access dozens of photos of individuals from varying angles and settings. The growing computational powers ameliorate the process of scanning these massive databases.

Challenges and Limitations
As with all technology, using biometric devices and solutions has challenges and limitations, whether it is due to the algorithm itself or operational errors. Carles Fernández Tena, R&D Project Manager of Herta Security, mentioned some improvements on the way. “One will be the ability to process very high-resolution imagery in real time. This will result in higher image quality for identification, more opportunities for matching the short apparition of a subject against the database, increased bandwidth capacity for processing either a greater number of channels or larger frames with the same resources, and the development of more sophisticated algorithms that are not currently possible due to the existing computational limitations.”

Some other problems include the cost of employing facial recognition devices or software. The technology in search applications usually faces more challenging conditions such as lower resolutions, variability in pose and expression, changing illumination and larger occlusions, which result in higher costs. “Depending on the reliability and functionalities of access control systems, their price range is typically between hundreds and a few thousands of dollars,” Lee stated. According to Alf Chang, Senior Consultant at a&s, current cameras can detect faces up to six or seven meters. Identifying individuals from a long distance can be problematic if the cameras do not have high enough resolution. If users wish to detect or identify individuals from farther away, they must invest in cameras with higher resolutions.

2-D vs. 3-D
3-D recognition is the newest form of facial recognition to have emerged over recent years; however, the debate on its use continues to exist. By employing 3-D recognition, it is able to address some of the common problems faced by regular 2-D recognition, such as lighting and facial angle, and provides additional information to facial analysis. In turn, this could lead to more accurate recognition.

"The basic idea with 3-D facial recognition is that a biometric template based on unique geometry of a person's face can be readily stored on a database, for access control, and compared with a ‘live' analysis to identify the person in question,” said Anna Stebleva, VP of Business Development at Artec Group. “3-D facial recognition is fast, contactless and accurate, and this combination of features caters fully to the needs of the access control market today.”

As of now, 3-D facial recognition is still in the research stage for the most part. “Very few applications are actually incorporating the use of 3-D facial recognition. Capturing and storage of 3-D templates are more complicated than with 2-D technology. It is also an expensive approach for access control or any other applications, so it still remains a technology in search of a true application event,” according to Jim Slevin, Aviation Business Unit Manager at Human Recognition Systems, who thinks 3-D can be extraneous for regular access control and one-to-one verification, but remains attractive for forensics and postevent analysis of surveillance footage.

“The main limitation of 3-D technology is the very high cost and limited working range of the sensors required to make it accurate enough,” Fernández said. “This breaks with some of the traditionally attractive characteristics of 2-D facial biometrics: long-distance operability, multiple identifications in crowds, and relatively cheap deployments in distributed architectures, given that cameras have become a commodity.”

Some also believe that 2-D and 3-D can coexist. “In uncontrolled environments, 3-D can address some of the problems. 2-D, with some of the advancements we've had, like something as simple as IR-based images, has already advanced a lot and are already doing well,” said Mizan Rahman, founder and CEO of M2SYS. “We may not need to replace all of the 2-D systems, and they will continue to exist in some capacity. 3-D is more effective because it is not constrained by end-user training; 3-D systems are able to handle unexpected environmental conditions.”

Safran/MorphoTrust releases inmate identification system

Safran/MorphoTrust releases inmate identification system

Editor / Provider: MorphoTrust | Updated: 6/6/2013 | Article type: Security 50

MorphoTrust USA (Safran), a  U.S. provider of identity solutions and services, recently released the newest version of its inmate identification, enrollment and tracking solution, Offender ID. Offender ID 3.1 offers new security features, including fingerprint and face biometric capture as well as searchable aliases. In addition, new integration and support features allow law enforcement to maximize current technology resources.

MorphoTrust Offender ID is an advanced inmate identity management and tracking system incorporating iris, fingerprint and facial recognition technology for fast and accurate identification. Critical processes, including booking and release, are quickly and securely executed preventing inmates from falsifying their identities, with no increase in staff. The solution integrates into an existing jail management or mug shot system, such as those provided by Morpho, or can operate as a standalone biometric and biographic repository. A complete offender identification process is available for operators to book and release subjects, create audit trails of subject enrollments and identifications, query records with text-based biographic searches and generate fully customizable reports.

“Accurate, efficient tracking of inmates helps prison officials protect the safety of their facilities and personnel, and prevents dangerous mistakes as inmates are moved and released,” said Bob Eckel, CEO of MorphoTrust. “The newest version of MorphoTrust Offender ID complements the live scan devices and other solutions available through Morpho, making these processes even safer and easier for agencies to implement.”

The Missouri Sheriffs' Association (MSA) and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association are currently using MorphoTrust Offender ID in their statewide offender identification system. Booking, tracking and release of inmates now takes place in a context of statewide connectivity, so that agencies in each local jurisdiction have accurate and up-to-date information at all times about the true identity of offenders, their criminal history, their current status and their physical whereabouts as they make their way through the criminal justice system.

“Giving law enforcement the ability to access information in a timely manner is key to protecting officers on the street as well as the public they serve. If we cannot verify a criminal's whereabouts, we cannot act,” said Mick Covington, executive director of the MSA. “As Missouri moves forward in coordinating affordable solutions for information sharing, we have identified MorphoTrust as the foundation upon which we can build and expand our ability to reach the ultimate goal of providing real-time information at the fingertips of officers on the street.”

Four cross-industry technologies changing global mobility

Four cross-industry technologies changing global mobility

Editor / Provider: World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group | Updated: 5/28/2013 | Article type: Hot Topics

By 2025, innovations based on more integrated cross-industry cooperation that capitalizes on mostly existing technologies and preventive data analytics will radically improve how people travel and transport goods, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum, produced in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group.

Based on the Forum's Connected World project, a yearlong research effort involving more than 50 leading companies from the travel, transportation, and information and communications technologies (ICT) industries, the report identifies several innovations that hold great promise for revolutionizing the travel and transportation ecosystem. Some of them have the potential to provide significant business opportunities and societal benefits. From an initial list of 100, the following four have been highlighted:

  • An integrated proactive intermodal travel assistant would create one seamless ticket across road, railway, and air. Users would access the solution through voice- or gesture-controlled data glasses (or even contact lenses) that would offer real-time information on travel plans. Big data and artificial intelligence would allow a user confronted by a major flight delay, for example, to select from a variety of travel options -- possibly a flight to an alternative airport and a car rental.
  • A condition-based megacity traffic-management system would integrate and process up-to-the-minute information from vehicles, travel infrastructure, individuals, surveillance cameras, and the environment to manage traffic in the largest cities around the world. Before congestion on a major highway hits problematic levels, for example, the system would automatically reroute drivers or adjust tolls to encourage alternate routes. Services such a system could offer also include forecasting air pollution levels, blocking access to areas caused by environment or emergency issues, and even smart parking. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil has already rolled out such a system three years ago, gathering traffic information from 400 surveillance cameras. China's Langfang city has also rolled out a similar smart traffic system recently, utilizing 178 cameras. Current research indicates the market for smart traffic systems could reach US$ 12 billion by 2025.
  • A fully automated check-in, security, border-control, and smart-visa system would harness technology to eliminate the long lines at airport screening points and border crossings, simultaneously enhancing security. Visa applications would be standardized across multiple countries with data available to officials in all participating nations. Check-in for a flight would be expedited by replacing paper documents with an electronic passport, as well as biometric traveler identification through fingerprints, facial recognition, or an iris scan. New sophisticated behavioral risk-based screening systems would speed up security checks, allowing luggage to be scanned with liquids still packed. And boarding and customs processing would be made dramatically faster by the same biometric identity checks. While Dubai has one of the most advanced automated iris checking systems implemented since 2012, the world is still far away from implementing a fully automated check-in system at an airport. The International Air Transport Association's has scheduled pilot projects in 2014.
  • A tracking and transparency-based logistics optimizer would solve some of the thorniest "last-mile" challenges associated with product deliveries. Under this system, cheap and ubiquitous RFID chips would be incorporated into product packaging and used to track not only the real-time location of items as they are moved but also factors such as the average temperature during shipping and the CO2 emissions associated with the production and shipping of the product. Such a system would both allow more efficient transportation of products and give consumers valuable information on the quality and environmental impact of the items in their shopping carts.

"These solutions will be game changers, and the technological know-how to make them a reality largely exists," said BCG Senior Partner Antonella Mei-Pochtler, who is also codirector of the Connected World project. "It is only through an integrated approach across industries and through active support by the public stakeholders that we can realize them. Business leaders need to create the prerequisites; strengthening data analytics is one of them."

The Forum and BCG are currently working with companies, governments, and other stakeholders throughout the world to map out plans for developing these solutions.

Challenges to Implementation Are Surmountable

Although many of the technologies exist today, successful implementation will depend on surmounting several institutional barriers. The main obstacles, according to the report, are a lack of cooperation across industries and various public agencies. At the same time, the challenges that typically surround hyperconnectivity -- including data ownership, data privacy, and resilience against cyberattacks -- create additional hurdles. The Forum's push to bring corporate and government leaders together to promote development of these solutions is aimed at addressing such challenges.

In addition to the four highlighted solutions, the report notes eight others for their potential to shape the future of travel and transportation. They include: holographic communication platforms, mobile living rooms and virtual offices, integrated intermodal mobility providers, driverless swarm-car service, logistics drones, mobile pop-up hotels, preventive vehicle-maintenance systems, and vehicle operator and passenger health analytics.

The Connected World project and report are part of the Forum's Hyperconnectivity Initiative, which aims to provide insight into how the increasing prevalence and speed of connections around the globe will impact issues such as security, cybercrime, and privacy.

Value-added biometrics

Value-added biometrics

Editor / Provider: Compiled by a&s International | Updated: 5/28/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner

In science fiction, biometric identification represents a futuristic icon. Today, biometrics have become more commonplace, with mobile devices incorporating biometric authentication to replace weaker security measures, such as passwords. Many have turned to biometrics not only for the added security and accountability, but also for the value-added services and limitless possibilities.

Homeless Service Management
In the U.S., one recent application demonstrates the development of a centrally managed homeless management information system (HMIS). It helps manage data on homeless individuals and analyzes who received services in order to pinpoint demand. However, tracking and managing homeless individuals require a great amount of labor as they lack fixed addresses. Before, the only way to track them was through signature-based sign-in forms when they entered homeless shelters. However, these hand-written forms were prone to fraud, which led to more work and waste in resources. To address this problem, Bergen County — part of the New York City metropolitan area and the most populous county in New Jersey — turned to fingerprint systems for its Department of Human Services for more accurate identification and efficient data management to manage part of its homeless service program.

Each individual who wishes to come for a meal or access the shelter for the first time is asked for a fingerprint scan on an Internet-based platform deployed in the caseworker's computer. The fingerprint file will be stored in a single fingerprint database under the country's data center for client identification at their subsequent accesses, to allow for quicker entry by placing their fingers on the sensor. In the same manner, user access to the system is also guarded by the technology where system operators are also required to be fingerprinted to log in. The database system is based on Fulcrum Biometrics' modular development framework and managed by Eyemetric Identity Systems, a biometric solution provider. The system was designed to operate independently from New Jersey's HMIS while maintaining automated information exchange with the federal system to keep both databases updated. Furthermore, the database has restricted interoperability and cannot be checked against any law enforcement databases. “To meet this requirement, the application is configured not to save the raw fingerprint images. The system only saves the fingerprint template required for matching and client identification,” said Ray Bolling, cofounder and President of Eyemetric.

The system has helped the department efficiently document the use of other services such as showers, caseworker appointments, and computer and telephone use. Bergen County's system has been running as a pilot since 2009, serving as a test case statewide and nationwide. The adoption of biometrics in social services is expected to expand. “The first step in delivering social benefits is to identify clients,” Bolling stressed. “Given current conditions, it is time to explore new ways of delivering services more effectively and efficiently while remaining humane and respectful to clients. Biometric identification is the ideal means to meet that challenge.”

Self-Service License Renewal
Self-service is largely praised for time and labor savings. In some parts of the world, automated machines are gradually taking over in restaurants and movie theaters where, traditionally, the presence of service attendants was required. In the U.S., self-service has entered the public service sector. Since the early 2000s, US citizens have been able to conduct online driver's license renewals, although they are still required to visit the motor vehicle office to have their photos and signatures taken, depending on the state.

In 2009, Mississippi became the first state to deploy self-service driver's license renewal/replacement kiosks with a photography function that incorporates a facial biometric identification system. Cooperating with MorphoTrust USA (a Safran Group company), the Mississippi Department of Public Safety adopted a system that streamlined the licensing operations and reduced customer wait time. Mississippi is followed by a number of states, including Delaware, Indiana, Alabama and more. Tennessee deployed its self-service solutions in the beginning of 2013.

Such kiosks help initiate the applicant enrolment process and enable self-service and cashless transactions; one can make payment on the machine with a credit/debit card. Customers are guided through a series of prompts and are asked to securely enter personal information on the kiosks' touch screen menus. For identity theft prevention, the facial recognition technology and image verification software are embedded in each kiosk. The machine will take a photo of the applicant, and the software matches it against with the existing photos in the database networked with state driver's license records to verify the person's identity. After the identity confirmation, an interim receipt will be printed out for temporary use until the secure card is mailed out from the central issuance facility.

“This new technology makes the renewal and replacement process simple, and gives Mississippians the option of visiting one of our driver services' buildings or one of the kiosk machines,” said the Mississippi Department of Public Safety in a prepared announcement. Bill Gibbons, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, agreed in an interview with MorphoTrust: “In some cases, we're saving our customers a nearly 20-mile drive plus the time spent waiting in line by placing our kiosks in locations that are convenient to them.”

Enhanced Airport Experience
On top of the stress from organizing trips, many travelers dread the long lines at the airport check-in counter. Trying to navigate the airport causes more headaches, taking all the joy out of a not-yet-begun journey. While compromising security for speed is not an option, many airports have reexamined the bottlenecks and turned to technology to speed up the processing of travelers. They automate procedures and take care of the chores that ground crew used to handle.

Gatwick Airport is the second largest and busiest international airport in London. According to its website, 34.2 million passengers passed through it in 2012 alone. Aiming to reduce queues generated by heavy foot traffic and ensure each passenger is treated like a special guest, the airport recently tested the use of biometric and analytic technology to personalize and improve travel experience. HRS Systems, a British biometric solution provider, was approached to help demonstrate this capability.

According to HRS, the concept of the trial was based on what travelers wanted from airports in the future and the airport's customer-focused commitments — to create a more personalized airport experience. The journey begins when travelers are identified using facial recognition upon their arrival at the parking barrier. The barrier is then opened after the verification, which triggers the system to send an email or text via the Gatwick mobile app to the traveler's cellular phone and guide them to the parking space reserved for them. “The modality of the biometrics used may vary; for simplicity's sake, the concept used facial biometrics via strategically placed cameras to identify the traveler. It then checks this ‘template' against the database and opens the barrier once a positive match has been made,” said Ian Cushion, Marketing Manager at HRS. “The database is based on frequent registered passengers who are already known to the airport with an existing biometric and user profile enroled in the airport system.”

A series of personalized guidance messages following the first are set to be delivered to the traveler's smartphone along the way. Once they enter the terminal, the app sends another message to notify the passenger of their flight information and the location of their check-in counter, along with a general welcome message. “This welcome can be personalized to advise the traveler of any events or offers that are currently running that they may be interested in based on their previously stored profile,” added Cushion.

Based on the traveler's stored profile and previous purchases, the system feeds personalized adverts as they travel through the airport. In addition, the airport also plans to deploy iris recognition technology that is currently under live trial at the airport's auto-boarding system. “At check-in, travelers use designated self-service bag drops to deposit their hold luggage and enroll themselves biometrically via unobtrusive iris recognition.” Cushion said. “Enroled travelers can then utilize automated self-service gates to board the aircraft through a combination of iris recognition and presenting a valid boarding card.”

The trial demonstration is part of a US$1.8 billion investment program to modernize Gatwick Airport's facilities and improve the overall passenger experience. In 2012, Gatwick Airport won the Best Security and Immigration Experience Award for improvement on its security and immigration process and the implementation of biometrics.

Beware of fishy details

Beware of fishy details

Editor / Provider: Tevin Wang, a&s International | Updated: 5/17/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner

Fisheye cameras provide views from all angles, but must be set up properly to be effective. This feature takes a closer look at practical expectations and tips.

Fisheye cameras are all about seeing everything in a scene more efficiently and effectively than with multiple cameras. They are also more economical as they reduce licensing costs by requiring only one license instead of multiple camera licenses to cover the same area. By expanding horizontally, fisheye cameras allow security managers to cover an entire scene in a logical way without gaps or missing areas of coverage. Other benefits include:
● A huge field-of-view, hence total coverage with no blind spots
● Unbroken surveillance on a single camera; no camera switching required
● Massively reduced camera counts when covering large areas
● PTZ or ePTZ around the scene during playback

However, fisheye cameras are not a cure-all for replacing fixed or PTZ cameras in every scenario, as the loss of detail plus pixel density drops are still their Achilles' heel. “Depending on camera mounting height and distance from the subject, what the user may not get from the 360 camera could be facial-recognition shots or car license plates,” said David Myers, CTO at AMG Systems. “In these cases, the use of an additional fixed camera may be required, usually at an entrance or exit.”

As fisheye cameras change the perspectives of security personnel who actually “see” the video, installers should pay closer attention when deploying them. First, installers must be conscious of where the camera is being mounted on and of the type of material of the wall or ceiling. As certain fisheye cameras are designed to blend into the decor and need to be mounted on harder ceiling material like drywall or sheetrock, plenum space where air circulation is used might not be a good option. “Aesthetics plays an important role in many installations, especially when mounted at eye level or just above eye level in a wall,” said Greg Alcorn, Global Sales Director for Oncam Grandeye.

Since a fisheye camera covers a wide area in all directions, “ceiling or mounting height is important, and cameras should be positioned strategically to provide the best coverage of the area,” Myers said. Additionally, how the camera is going to be powered (with PoE) and how it would connect to the management network should be given some thought.

Claire Huang, Product Marketing Specialist at Dynacolor, agreed. “Due to resolution drops around the edges, users should make areas of interest the center of the image. Thus, the height and location should be carefully considered.”

Another consideration is light variations in a given scene. “Very bright lights often blow out a scene or create lots of shadows, and many 360-degree cameras cannot pick up information because the image is either too dark or too bright,” Alcorn said. The brightest and darkest areas will be a challenge for the camera to resolve. “Installers should consider the entire scene when placing a camera — how much light will be visible and what in your scene is important to see for total situational awareness.”

When installed under a bright environment with lamps of low frequencies, there might be flickering as well, Huang added.

Security professionals should understand that fisheye cameras are designed to add value, rather than perform as a Swiss-army-knife solution for surveillance. Fixed or PTZ cameras might still be required to ensure fisheye cameras provide a complete overview of the scene and a conclusive evidence trail for devising proper business or security measures.

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S. African mines undertake holistic approach to health, safety, HR and security compliance

S. African mines undertake holistic approach to health, safety, HR and security compliance

Editor / Provider: G4S | Updated: 5/13/2013 | Article type: Commercial Markets

About three years ago, G4S Secure Solutions South Africa (then under the Skycom banner), became involved with projects aimed at enhancing business support systems, especially in the HR and payroll sectors of South Africa mining operations business. Different projects were initiated and aimed at replacing outdated time and access management system with a new comprehensive access control system utilizing smart card readers, portable card readers, fingerprint readers, facial recognition and access control software.

Mining in South Africa has been the driving force behind the history and development of Africa's most prestigious economy. Gold mining has accounted for 12 percent of the world's production in 2005, although the nation had produced as much as 30 percent of world output as recently as 1993. Despite declining production, South Africa's gold exports were valued at US$3.84 billion (£2.5 billion) in 2005. Almost 50 percent of the world's gold reserves are found in this country. Global mining houses and local mining companies throughout Africa employ well over 450,000 people across all the extraction sectors and platforms.

G4S was tasked with the provision of various hardware and software platforms tailored to the specific requirements of each business. These platforms were then integrated into the existing operations to provide site managers easy and efficient control over access, time recording Health and Safety requirements, movement patterns and environmental situations. The intention was to create software that allowed ease of use to both the end user and management. From the employee clocking into work to the HR team collating reports and gathering management information.

To keep out illegal miners, the solution introduces fingerprint technology to control access to mining facilities; proximity based card readers solutions for mass gatherings; facial recognition deployed for meal issuing and control at canteens plus various accommodation facilities; access control management of shift work or group access to mines as well as health management of workers.

In addition, the system also enables contractor management; visitor management; fuel management; inventory management by making sure workers receive the correct equipment. Through XTIME command and control software, the system can be integrated with building alarm and security systems. Video surveillance systems can also be integrated into the system.

As a direct outcome of the success of the initial projects with large multinational mining houses, a technology partnership was formed with G4S and a number of the big mining companies to develop well suited, efficient technology solutions in accordance to specific requirements at various global mining sites with the use of the time and access management systems. The high end security plant systems were also converted to XTIME which was custom developed for mining and industrial sector customers that had a need for a high security environment such as gold plants and high risk areas. The system handles full search facilities with intelligent routines which are set up by users of the system to cater for different conditions that occur in the plant. The graphical maps feature available provides control and situational awareness from a single screen. This ultimately results in the business being able to view the various platforms in one single view. The overall success of the solution across South Africa has led to implementations within other customer operations in Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.


2013 access control trends

2013 access control trends

Editor / Provider: TDSi | Updated: 3/20/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner

TDSi, a UK access control systems supplier and system integrator highlighted six major trends in the access control sector in a recent report. The last few years have seen a huge shift in the integration of security. This year is shaping up to be no different with the access control sector following the technology evolution. A number of technologies, such as near field communications (NFC), biometrics, PoE and wireless systems are maturing will dominate greater percentages of the market this year – mirroring much wider trends in the technology sector.

1. NFC
As a recognized standard, NFC promises to offer open connectivity (in a similar vein to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) enabling far more types of technology to successfully interact with one another. Whilst the concept is tried and tested it's the unquestionable dominance of smart devices that have fuelled the possibility and interest in using the technology in security and access control applications. Smart mobile devices already encompass highly sophisticated technology, with some utilizing facial recognition for secure device access. This in turn offers great opportunities for them to be used to help confirm identity. It could also be highly convenient for users, using something that they carry to authenticate access control.

2. Biometrics
Biometrics systems are continuing to evolve and the price point of more complicated systems will continue to fall. Facial recognition has become more accessible and cost-efficient in recent years. But systems developers are also looking at other biometric markers. An emerging technology is heartbeat readers. Like fingerprints or the shape of the human face, the electromagnetic signature of the human heart is unique and offers a new way to prove identity. Rather than having to present biometric data at an access point, systems could be attached to the body, automatically sending approval to entry doors and allowing authorized individuals to freely move between unrestricted and restricted areas with minimum fuss.

3. Cloud-Based Systems
Integration of access control systems continues unabated and following the IT sector, there are moves to make use of cloud technology to host systems and store access control data. Survey figures suggest that 65 percent of new security products will be delivered via cloud by 2014.

4. PoE
There is also a growing move towards PoE, which makes installation easier, quicker and neater – benefiting end users and installers alike by saving costs. This theme is continued with a growing trend towards wireless systems. In the past there had been reservations about using wireless systems with regards to security. The perception by some is that there is a greater risk of system hijack, but as the ubiquitous use of Wi-Fi usage has shown, properly protected, and configured, systems can use encrypted wireless signals. There is also a growing emergence of hybrid Wi-Fi/wired systems which minimize wireless dead spots.

5. Energy Saving Systems
Energy saving is continuing to be an added bonus to integrated access control systems. There has been a distinct move recently towards installing access control systems with switch mode power supplies, which saves money on the running costs of the control systems themselves.

6. Industry Standards
With all the exciting developments in technology that are going on in 2013 it's easy to overlook the IEC and ISO standards. The latest IEC 60839-11-1 is set to be an important one for the access control industry if it passes the voting stage later this year. This is an important piece of legislation which will affect the manufacturing and interoperability of thousands of access control systems. Like many standards a number of stakeholders need to agree before it becomes available, but in a sector that is noticeably less regulated than the intruder and fire markets, it offers a step forward from the current underused and outdated EN standards.

Catholic church in Brazil opens hotel with pilgrims safety in mind

Catholic church in Brazil opens hotel with pilgrims safety in mind

Editor / Provider: Axis Communications | Updated: 3/13/2013 | Article type: Residential & Consumer

The Rainha do Brasil Hotel built by the Catholic church in Aparecida do Norte, Brazil recently installed an IP-based surveillance system consisting of 106 Axis Communications cameras and Digifort VMS, sourced from distributor Delta Cable. Local system integrator Sillis handled the implementation and the integration of access control with alarm management. Installation for the 15-floor hotel was completed in three days, since the cameras were preconfigured on the Digifort platform and were basically plug-and-play upon installment, said Marcel Minotelli, Technical Director for Sillis. To assist engineers, Sillis also configured each camera IP in advance with matching numbers on each box that correlated to its position in the hotel.

The hotel security team required a centralized monitoring system and the ability to access cameras from various points on the local network. Other requirements included automatic alerts of any unauthorized camera repositioning or blocking, as well as archived video footage for investigations.

One discreet, outdoor-ready fixed dome with WDR was installed in each of the five elevators; 10 more of the same model can be found on the ground floor where the reception is located. The ground floor is protected by eight additional cameras, with various WDR, D/N, vandal-proof and facial-recognition features. The discreet dome model can also be found in the mezzanine and each floor of the hotel, along with a fixed model. A total of 15 cameras were installed in the mezzanine, while four cameras were installed on each floor of the hotel.

Six vandal-resistant domes and two ultra-discreet outdoor fixed domes were installed in the penthouse area, where the hotel swimming pool is located. Alfonso Aurin, Technology Consultant for the church, noted that the system has helped in an incident where an unattended child fell into the adult swimming pool, and the video recordings clarified what further measures should be taken to prevent further incidents.

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