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How Effective Are Surveillance Strategies?

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DQI Bureau
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26/11 invokes different responses, fear, insecurity, anger but it has turned into a major challenge for the surveillance market; a challenge to conquer the indomitable spirit of destruction and prevent the occurrence of such dates in the future.

A Dossier

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Surveillance is being used globally to gather intelligence on criminal and terrorist activity and help deter untoward incidents. The last few years have witnessed the heightening of the security climate in India in the wake of the terror attacks in Indian cities. At the global level, public security and safety assumed top priority post the 9/11 attacks in the US. As a result, the demand for integrated security solutions, especially high-end security solutions has increased from the public and private sectors, worldwide.

Although 26/11 could have heightened the importance of security and surveillance, the adoption and the importance of security was already understood by the market and the users. The shift is happening at 2 levels; technology and deployment. Network video or IP based surveillance technologies were maturing and improving very fast due to higher level of technology integration, and the availability of remote video information helped in spawning multiple applications using video as valuable and useful data. This segment of value based application is fast increasing and will drive further growth of the network video market.

In India, the surveillance market, which is about 30% of the entire security industry, predominantly consists of analog based installations. There is however a steep shift happening from analog based surveillance to IP based surveillance. According to the 2010 edition of the IMS Asia report, the total market for video surveillance in Asia is estimated to have been worth over $3.3 bn in 2009 and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 15.2% over the next 5 years to be worth over $6.7 bn in 2014. The network video surveillance equipment market was estimated to have been worth $511.4 mn in 2009 and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 32.8% over the next 5 years to be worth over $2.1 bn in 2014.

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According to the 2009 edition of the annual IMS Research report, the network video surveillance market in India is currently valued at $26.1 mn and is poised to grow to $89.2 mn by 2013. Axis expects to have a considerable market share of this high growth market, through factors such as increased coverage through the channel partners and the distribution reach, requirement for network video across multiple applications and also considerable improvement of connectivity through the new technologies adopted by service providers, says Prakash Prabhu, country manager, Axis Communications India.

Organizations and government bodies too need to view security as a strategic imperative and invest to make their security fool-proof and free from vulnerability to ensure people are protected from such threats.

Best Foot Forward

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Surveillance and security market was earlier being led mainly by analog technology, also known as CCTVs (closed-circuit television). However, the surveillance industry is undergoing a major technology shift, ie, the older, analog technology based CCTVs are now giving way to IP based (digital), open source and fully integrated systems. These IP based surveillance cameras are gaining good momentum owing to superior technology features and affordability.

Globally, surveillance has been used to gather intelligence on criminal and terrorist activity and help deter untoward incidents. However, an interesting aspect is that surveillance is slowly moving out of the realm of pure physical security. With network video and remote monitoring capabilities, it is now possible to react to environmental threats, fire hazards, and chemical and nuclear contamination with the right blend of technology. Also, with the advent of embedded applications in security products, surveillance is now emerging as a tool for gathering business intelligence and other applications.

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The next shift is happening from reactive surveillance to proactive surveillance with more adaptive intelligence built inside the cameras. Intelligent cameras today can do motion detection, tampering detection, among other smart applications. Today, surveillance is not merely getting information 24/7, but getting relevant information at the right time. These cameras have in-built intelligence that enable them to alert security personnel or activate the recording if an event or an activity takes place in the cameras surveillance area unlike earlier when the camera used to record endless reels of useless information. This way, less storage space is used up and only relevant information is stored.

City surveillance solutions can be used for traffic monitoring and providing traffic updates to commuters. Specialized video analytics, which can enable automatic number plate recognition, congestion monitoring, etc, also have a huge impact in helping manage this sector. IP based surveillance is also applicable in the surveillance of residences. For instance, while away on vacation, people can still survey their houses and surroundings for any suspicious activities with remote accessibility to the footage. In sectors such as banking, retail and entertainment complexes, technology such as ATM Integration, footfall measurement, POS integration and crowd monitoring can be implemented on top of the regular surveillance infrastructure.

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Over the last decade, India is witnessing rapid economic growth in sectors like infrastructure, transportation and retail, where physical security is a key concern. These have played a vital role in driving the growth of the surveillance industry in India.

Today, there is a deluge of large and medium format retail stores in the country which require in-store surveillance to prevent pilferage and shrinkage. Investments in infrastructure, transportation sectors like airports, railways, and real estateupcoming gated communities and township projectshave stimulated the demand for security equipment. In transportation, airport modernization projects are a big market. City surveillance systems are increasingly becoming important as there is heightened awareness after incidents that compromised our public safety in the last year. Government institutions are likely to invest in network video solutions (IP-based video surveillance) as both overt and covert surveillance help in deterrence and crisis mitigation. When the Metro projects are completed, this will present another opportunity.

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Government Angle

Public safety and security is an important issue for governments at all levels since both citizens and government officials wish to live without having to face immediate threats and criminal actions. Network video surveillance has proven to be an efficient preventive tool to create a safer and more secure environment within various public areas such as ministries and city halls, court buildings and prisons, customs and immigration offices, museums, transportation hubs, infrastructure and public outdoor areas (which mainly includes city surveillance).

Today, government is the biggest user of network video and most of its projects are supporting security and surveillance requirements. But the day is not far when network video will be implemented for remote monitoring and audit of government projects, telemedicine, e-governance, remote education platforms, and for disaster mitigation and information systems.

Axis network video solutions have been successfully implemented in multiple government applications around the world including India as well. Many government projects have chosen Axis video encoders for a seamless transition to a modern, IP-based surveillance system. As a result, they now have a scalable and future-proof surveillance system. Apart from that since most of the professional quality products are imported, it would be beneficial for the government to look at optimizing the existing high duty structure for these equipments. This will help in further adoption and rationalization of the cost of these equipments and reduce loss of revenue to the grey markets. Industry associations are working with the government and we are hopeful of a positive outcome, says Prabhu.

Road Ahead

With the advent of intelligent video, surveillance is now not just restricted to the sphere of security, but is also emerging as a tool for gathering business intelligence and other applications. IP cameras offer intelligent video applications or video analytics, which have transformed the function of surveillance cameras from mere passive to intelligent surveillance.

Video surveillance often takes place at times and in areas with little or no activity; for example, at schools and offices after working hours, or at retail stores, hotel corridors and parking garages during night-time. Such situations usually have an unmanned video surveillance setup with automated recording. During instances like these, intelligent applications in surveillance cameras like video/audio motion detection reduces the amount of data that needs to stored. This option activates the recording in the surveillance camera only when it detects some activity or sounds. By storing the relevant information, the security personnel can store the video over a longer period of time on a given storage capacity. These cameras can also detect camera tampering attempts like blocking or spray-painting and alert the security officials.

In terms of the future, thermal imagery is a critical component to plug the gaps that normal visible surveillance solutions have. Thermal imaging helps as a force multiplier and can effectively be used to detect threats from intrusion and other possibly fatal events to give a reasonable reaction time to effectively counter these events. Thermal imaging is not hampered by environmental conditions like illumination levels, snow, haze, smoke and camouflage. This helps it in providing reliable information at all times.

On a final note, changes are taking the surveillance market by storm and also bringing about a remarkable change in the offerings. But only time will tell how safe are we.

Shilpa Shanbhag

shilpas@cybermedia.co.in

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