Surveillance Operator Simulator Reviewed

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Mar 12, 2014

Can you train a surveillance operator to detect suspicious behavior without them even looking at a live camera. One company, VSTEP, thinks so. Vstep is the maker of EyeObserve [link no longer available], a surveillance operator simulation program that the military has its eye on and is being used by the Rotterdam police to train its surveillance operators.

In this note, we review the offering and share details based on a discussion with the company.


Here is sample of what it looks like:

EyeObserve came from the demand by the Rotterdam police for a way to train surveillance operators “quickly and more effectively,” says Frank Dolmans, the chief marketing officer at VSTEP.

Dolmans says it’s faster to train operators in a simulated environment and more effective because it can test specific competencies. In this post we explore those claims and discuss how police use EyeObserve.

This is an actual image from a camera in "Virtual Rotterdam:"

What is EyeObserve?

EyeObserve is a surveillance simulation for operators. Using virtual people in a virtual landscape to simulate events of interest. VSTEP uses maps, GIS data, blueprints and high-resolution photos to create three-dimensional landscapes as identical to a customer’s actual operating environment as possible.

Rotterdam has a brand new train station that opens Wednesday and they are already training on it ... We actually used a blueprint from the city to build the station as it looks now,” he said. Trainers can also control weather conditions, time of day and outdoor visibility.


Virtual cameras are “placed” in the same locations as existing cameras, mimicking camera field of view, resolution and type (PTZ or fixed). A trainer can make cameras break or become obscured, forcing an operator to switch to other cameras and to track a suspect.

It also allows an agency to find out where it needs to add cameras. An agency can insert cameras to get an idea what the field of view would be in certain areas.

“You can test it here before you add new cameras,” he said.


“It’s important that they are able to use the actual hardware they will be working with when they are using the simulator,” he said.

This is a training station in Rotterdam:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

And this is the actual control room:

What Does it Help Assess?

Scenarios are pre-programmed and controlled by an experienced trainer, but contrary to what one might think after seeing the hokey virtual people in EyeObserve’s 3D world, the program isn’t teaching operators to recognize a virtual gun or a pickpocket actually. Those are scenarios that can be programmed for practicing SOPs. The program is mainly training operators to learn to spot behavior that is different relative to the normal behavior of a population.

“What is different from the masses? If you have a big crowd of virtual characters and there are a few characters that are acting oddly, you can train someone to detect that,” he said. “That is also one of the competencies that need to be trained.”

The Rotterdam police have a classified list of skills and competencies that must be mastered before becoming an operator.


EyeObserve uses a subscription license model, and the level depends on the required setup (e.g.,size of the area and the level of detail an agency wants to simulate) and extensiveness of training. Usage fees start at $20,000 annually and depend on what scenarios an agency wants to simulate.

VSTEP’s Claims

VSTEP says it saves an agency time and money by using EyeObserve to train operators.

“[In the past] An operator would sit next to the rookie and teach them the controls and wait for something to happen. It wasn’t cost effective because days nothing happened. It took a lot of time and resources for someone to have to wait for things to happen to get experience,” Dolman said.

Claims Examined

The Rotterdam police did not respond to requests for information. We were told resources are tied up in preparation for the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit [link no longer available]. Another thing that should be noted, however, is that as its first (and so far, only) customer with EyeObserve deployed, Rotterdam did not have to pay the full cost.

VSTEP also says the training is more effective because they can call up a number of scenarios to test operators. While it can test specific competencies, like if an operator can detect behavior that is different from the norm, there are no numbers to say how much more effective EyeObserve trained operators are than traditionally trained operators.


VSTEP see law enforcement as its primary market, but it may considering targeting retail and other sectors in the future. The company has interested agencies “in Europe and abroad,” including military units.

Rotterdam has a need for a way to streamline training as they have an active surveillance operation. Around 750 cameras are watched by 90 operators at a time who rely suspicious events to a corps of 30 police who are on standby to investigate incidents operators report.

Only time will tell how many other organizations will adopt this approach to training. The U.S. military uses similar technology for weapons training, but even virtual training has to be supplemented by real-world training and handling.

Comments (0) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Deep Science - Active Threat Cloud Monitoring Startup on Apr 03, 2017
Deep learning for $2 a day for a system that automatically detects guns and masks, alerting the police to robberies and threats? A US startup is...
Startup Image Intelligence 10X Accuracy Guarantee on Mar 26, 2018
An Australian startup, Image Intelligence, is targeting the biggest problem of video analytics, poor accuracy, with quite a claim: Is this...
Deep Learning Tutorial For Video Surveillance on Oct 17, 2017
Deep learning is a growing buzzword within physical security and video surveillance. But what is 'deep learning'? In this tutorial, we explain...
ZeroEyes Gun Detection Startup on Jul 16, 2019
A gun detection video analytics startup, ZeroEyes, is being led by a group of 6 former Navy SEALs, aiming to "save lives" by using AI to assist...
Vivotek LPR Camera Tested on Apr 15, 2020
Vivotek has historically sold license plate capture cameras but not LPR. Now, they have released their own cameras with embedded LPR. How do they...
Amazon Echo Look Fashion Camera Tested on Oct 27, 2017
Can deep learning make you look good? That is what Amazon's Echo Look, a "Hands Free Camera and Style Assistant", claims to do. We bought this...
Kogniz Silicon Valley AI Startup Profile on Nov 07, 2018
Kogniz is a Silicon Valley company that aims to bring AI analytics to security and surveillance, centering on their own smart cameras: We spoke...
Use Access Control Logs To Constrain Coronavirus on Apr 09, 2020
Access control users have included capabilities that are not commonly used that can help zero-in and discover potential Coronavirus hotspots in a...
Neurala Deep Learning Platform Profile on Aug 31, 2017
Find lost children? If Neurala has its way with its recent partnership with Motorola, that is the aim as shown in their video below: Neurala has...
Bosch AI Camera Trainer Released And Tested on Apr 09, 2019
Bosch is releasing a highly unusual new AI feature - 'Camera Trainer'. Now, coming as a standard feature in Bosch IVA/EVA analytics, one can train...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Startup Duranc Presents AI VSaaS on Jul 06, 2020
Duranc presented its system at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. A 30-minute video from Duranc including IPVM Q&A Background on the...
Low Voltage Nation Wants to "Help You Carve Out A Fulfilling Career" Interviewed on Jul 06, 2020
It is difficult to make your way in this industry as there is little formal schooling. However, one person, Blake Urmos, the Founder of Low Voltage...
The Next Hot Fever Detection Trend - $100 Wall-Mounted Units on Jul 06, 2020
The first wave of the booming fever detecting market was $10,000+ cameras, now interest for ~$2,000 tablets is high and the next big thing may be...
Cisco Meraki Unlocks IP Cameras With RTSP Tested on Jul 06, 2020
Meraki opened up its cameras to 3rd party NVRs/VMSes by offering RTSP streaming because of "the need to solve a business problem". We tested...
Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...