Video monitoring networks provide highly cost effective coverage of virtually any space - from airports, train stations, streets and car parks to retail interiors and shopping malls.
Capturing and storing video images from a network of linked cameras, however, is only half the story. Once you've installed a network of IP-enabled cameras, servers and PCs, what's the best way to maximise return on your investment? In other words, how can you be sure that your video monitoring network is delivering valuable information you can act on... and profit from?
By its very nature, video surveillance can generate many hours, days, or even weeks' worth of images where there's very little action. Sitting in front of a video monitor that's covering an underground car-park is only a little more exciting than watching paint dry: until, of course, something untoward happens.
As well as being boring and fatiguing for an operator, long periods of sustained observation can have other undesirable consequences. Research published in the US magazine 'Buyer Beware' confirms that after 12 minutes of continuous video monitoring, an operator can miss up to 45% of on-site activity. After 22 minutes of viewing, as much as 95% is overlooked. The consequences of 'observation fatigue' are well documented, and in the case of security and surveillance applications it could easily mean ignoring a crucial incident.
Equally, retaining large amounts of recorded video material for future viewing and analysis can be expensive. While the real costs of server-based storage have fallen dramatically in recent years, maintaining an archive of weeks' worth of images from multiple cameras can easily consume hundreds of Gigabytes of storage capacity. Transferring material from a video server to an off-line environment - typically based on tape or optical disc formats - reduces the cost of storage per bit, but it's still an inefficient use of resources when 99% of the information that's being stored is irrelevant or redundant.
Clearly, what's needed is a more intelligent approach to capturing video images that avoids issues of inefficient storage, while eliminating the need to view many hours' worth of uneventful material.
Modern network cameras offer a highly practical solution to the issue of 'observation fatigue'. On-board activity detection can trigger an on-screen alert on the user's PC, or even send a message to a designated email address warning that something's happening within the camera's field of view. Latest Sony network cameras offer the further refinement of 'smart' motion vector detection that will respond only to an object's movement. Spurious changes in illumination - such as the sun being temporarily obscured by clouds - are ignored, reducing the risk of false alarms. The consequences for an operator are obvious. Activity-related alerts mean there's no need to keep watch over an unchanging scene for hours on end. Organisations can make better use of human resources by allowing security staff to focus on other tasks rather than being tied to a video monitor for the duration of their shift.
Just as importantly, activity detection delivers dramatic savings in storage costs and network resources. Latest Sony cameras can keep a watchful eye over any scene without sending a constant stream of digital data across the network. When something happens, however, the camera snaps instantly into 'active' mode and begins transmitting pictures that can be viewed by any authorised user on the network or recorded onto a networked video server. Even when it's 'dormant', however, the camera still has another trick up its sleeve. Pictures from a scene are recorded continually into the camera's on-board memory in a 'looping' mode. This means that the crucial few seconds or minutes of action leading up to an incident are always captured safely, even when the camera is not transmitting across the network. When an alarm is triggered, it's easy to 'interrogate' the camera and download the scene - allowing operators to pinpoint an incident rapidly without having to sift through hours of video tapes.
Motion detection and analysis in retail applications
We've already seen how activity and motion detection plays a central role in modern security and surveillance environments. Sony has taken this technology a step further to offer tangible benefits in many other commercial applications.
Video surveillance has long been a feature of retail environments, allowing store owners to discourage theft and manage inventory control more effectively. Modern digital processing techniques, however, offer exciting new possibilities for retailers to learn more about their customers by counting and analysing movements within a camera's view.
Until now, customer traffic and behaviour information has been collected using laborious manual methods or with counting systems at store entrances that can be inaccurate and offer little in the way of high-value information. Now, however, Sony video monitoring networks can help store owners and managers understand the behaviour of their customers more accurately and generate greater profitability from any retail space.
Sony In Store Observation solutions team small, discreet network cameras with a suite of powerful software applications to offer up-to-the-minute information about customer traffic flow, accurate visitor numbers and the location of people in any store. Retailers can gather and analyse high-quality intelligence with the aid of two software tools. In Store Observation Tracker is a powerful software tool that can count and analyse the movements of customers passing beneath a networked video monitoring camera.
In Store Observation Reporter software allows analysis of customer movements detected by networked video cameras located at entrances, exits and other target areas, providing additional insight on data that has already been collected using In Store Observation Tracker software. In Store Observation Reporter allows retailers to:
- Compare traffic counts in particular part of the store from different occasions to see which months, weeks, days or parts of the day experience the highest visitor numbers.
- See who is passing by a particular region - such as an entrance to a particular department - but not entering.
- Display all visitor movements as a 'weather map' to provide immediate insight into 'hot' and 'cold' spots.
- Display the mean time that visitors are spending in a particular area to assess the popularity of a particular display or promotion.
Outside the retail environment, similar software tools can be used in a wide range of public spaces where it's desirable to know more about the behaviour of customers and visitors. For transport operators, it's easier to monitor and streamline passenger movements through station concourses, lobbies and walkways. Leisure providers - such as museums and theme parks - can optimise the layout of their visitor attractions to maximise traffic flows and increase profitability.
By adding greater intelligence to video monitoring, Sony networked video solutions can help organisations understand what's happening in any environment... and act on their information more responsibly and profitably.