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How video analytics and thermal cameras improve perimeter security

How video analytics and thermal cameras improve perimeter security
Perimeter intrusion detection systems are integrating more and more with video surveillance systems, allowing for visual verification and data analysis.
The video surveillance segment — including security cameras, video analytics and other video components — accounts for the largest market share of the perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDS) market. This is driven by demand from security operators for visual verification and desire to capture images.

When choosing a camera for perimeter security, Stewart Dewar, Product Manager at Senstar , recommends selecting cameras from manufacturers that fully support ONVIF standards. This will guarantee compatibility with video management software, simplify integration and avoid vendor lock-in. Additionally, he recommends choosing a manufacturer that has a proven track record with regard to firmware updates and security patches, to ensure the camera is always cybersecure.

Video analytics provides more insight

Adding video surveillance cameras alone to a perimeter security system will not deliver the enhanced security desired by security operators. The addition of video analytics, though, can make for a much more effective solution, particularly for locations where there is no suitable fence for a fence sensor or an open area for microwave or buried-cable solutions, explained Dewar.

Yet, a successful video analytics deployment is not as simple as just adding software to an existing video surveillance system. Video analytics requires a higher standard in lighting and camera count than would typically be required if the video was used just for assessment. Dewar added that the best video analytics are usually server-based, where they benefit from increased processing power. However, this creates additional upfront costs for the servers, plus the associated operational costs of maintenance, power and cooling.

Dewar also pointed out that, “It is considered harder to get a good probability of detection (PD) versus nuisance alarm rate (NAR) balance from video analytics than from a traditional perimeter intrusion detection sensor, but with higher-end analytics and expert tuning you can still get effective results.” There are still exceptions: scene variations like foliage growth, seasonal weather and site changes can impact performance and require re-tuning. 

Thermal cameras bring the heat

The use of thermal cameras in perimeter security has mostly been associated with critical sites (e.g., utilities, airports, chemical plants, etc.)
John Romanowich,
President and CEO,
where a breach could have significant repercussions. In these applications higher costs were more easily justified since there was a need for more sophisticated systems.

Today, the price of thermal cameras has come down while performance continues to improve. As a result, less critical sites are also adopting thermal systems for perimeter protection. These sites are using them as an “outdoor burglar alarm” to protect against more common challenges like theft prevention to stop business loss at commercial sites such as datacenters, cannabis growers, industrial parks, vehicle lots, schools, retail locations and construction yards, explained John Romanowich, President and CEO, SightLogix. Now, any site that needs to prevent intruders from entering the perimeter and causing business disruption can use thermal cameras.

Romanowich noted steady growth in the use of thermal video for perimeter applications in the last several years, and expects that trend to accelerate in 2020. While terrorism and other global challenges have generally driven investment in perimeter security, he believes the recent upswing comes from two key developments.

“First, the combination of advanced software being powered by newer, faster, cheaper processors allows us to bring more capable thermal systems to market with ever-increasing detection performance. Secondly, the adoption of thermal video for automotive and other non-security applications has expanded the market for thermal sensors, creating economies of scale and subsequent cost reductions. This means today’s thermal perimeter cameras detect better, in more situations, at less cost than the systems we had only a few years ago,” Romanowich said.

The biggest benefit of using thermal cameras together with video analytics is the very high level of detection reliability the system provides. Thermal is ideal for outdoors since it can work in total darkness and is not impacted by weather or reflections. It can also help perimeter security operators save on cost by reducing the number of cameras needed.

“Thermal cameras can detect intruders over very large areas, measuring hundreds of meters wide and distant, creating a compelling financial advantage when you consider the reduction of poles and power otherwise needed with systems that cannot provide such depth of coverage,” Romanowich added.

However, thermal cameras have poor capabilities with regards to intruder identification, making the use of visible-light cameras and perimeter lighting necessary for a complete assessment and investigation, according to Dewar.

Other challenges include implementation of best practices, design and infrastructure. For example, it is important to make sure camera fields of view overlap along the perimeter as to not leave blind spots. Thermal cameras also require typical networking arrangements for their use, such as properly hardened networks, a range of available IP addresses, firewalls and best practices of cybersecurity.

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