NICE Suspect Search Examined

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 25, 2014

Did you lose your child here?

Or here?

Now, many might say you were a terrible parent but not NICE Systems. NICE's new Suspect Search aims to solve this.

In this note, we break down how it works and what the problems with it are.

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Comments (21)

On top of everything else, the video has bad grammar! "...what if it 'was' here?" should have been "...what if it 'WERE' here?" There were other errors as well. No excuse, really.

Marketing Communications (MarComm) people tend to be idiots. They have but one job: Proofread someone else's copy, and arrange booths at trade shows. They seldom do well at either task.

Was your Typo deliberate?

It was not...but I blame Swift Key. It has been fixed.

I find your myopic view of MarComm people as ridiculous and offensive. You either have never been exposed to the true power of an effective marketing team, or you lack the business acumen to understand the value of marketing, or both.

This is punctuated by your statement that "They have but one job:" then go on to describe two different functions. Neither of which even provide an effective partial list of what MarComm performs.

I feel sorry for you.

I didn't post anonymously. The guantlet is thrown.

NICE is going to be doing a live demo of this system at their ASIS booth. That should be entertaining and an interesting challenge!

We'll be checking it out and recommend you do as well. To give it a good test, pass by their booth first, walking around for a few moments to make sure it gets you. Then come back a few hours later, have them do a search and see how well it picks you up.

We spoke with NICE today and have added some tech details, copied below:

  • When analyzing video, NICE pulls and detects people. Those people are then analyzed based on color, texture and other features, enabling people to be compared and contrasted.
  • The maximum FoV width to be analyzed is ~10 meters based on their current analysis using CIF resolution. As such, the cameras can have moderately wide FoVs at best.
  • For ~100 cameras, this would require an additional server with 12 cores (2 CPUs, 6 cores each) and 32GB RAM.
  • This requires using NICE's video management software / system and cannot be 'added on' to 3rd party VMSes.

An end user asked about tracking a suspect across different locations to see where else the suspect had been previously.

The big challenge is time frame. If you search across many cameras over a week or a month, you'll be faced with tens or hundreds of thousands of images to compare against. Lots of other people will 'look' similarly to the analytic and it will be hard to find the actual person. Worse, since the suspect may not have been to any location or only one out of a hundred of them, an operator may become very frustrated going through massive amounts of mismatches.

Oh, and you have to buy NICE recorder / analytics for every location...

"If you search across many cameras over a week or a month"

If your search spans more than 24 hours the suspect is unlikely to be wearing the same clothing arrangement, which is 90% of the basis of this kind of search.

Even someone removing or adding a hat or jacket (intentionally or just from going indoors/outdoors) will easily thwart this type of appearance search.

It sounds nice, and in controlled environments it demos well, but it will have very limited practical use.

I thought 3vr claimed they could do this sort of bigbrotheresque stuff too.

I found the Schlage wireless lock that offered WEP support to be appalling too.

3VR is probably the closest comparison. I don't think the two are claiming the exact same approach, but there are similarities in the overall search / find a needle in a haystack approach.

In some of these scenarios, I think you'd be better off using facial surveillance / search (like 3VR) because, while matching faces from uncontrolled video is hardly perfect, it is a lot more accurate that matching bodies.

Btw, I reached out to 3VR on Friday for their take on NICE's approach and their best comparable offering. I'll update if / when I hear from them.

Even if it worked in a mall say, are malls asking for this service? I don't see any good ROI for this - try charging the distressed parent for the service - see how that goes over...

Well, I am sure lost children and crime suspects are an issue for malls.

However, to your point, what is the return / value of being able to find them faster?

I suspect NICE will target this more for critical infrastructure, which is their core market anyway - airports, city surveillance, etc.

"However, to your point, what is the return / value of being able to find them faster?"

This would be a time-saver for the mall, and in essence a deterrent to abductions or certain crimes. Many VMS vendors already tout various features that expedite searching video, this is no different. I don't think anyone would propose a mall charge for this service, but if a parent claims a lost child they are going to be compelled to put high effort on finding the child. You could easily suck up 20-40 man hours in a short time hunting down a child reported missing. Of course, my personal opinion is that this avatar-building video game will just suck of time in a different way and produce bad results, the point is that the value is faster response and resolution.

"Many VMS vendors already tout various features that expedite searching video, this is no different."

Specifics please, since you are criticizing a competitor and since your counterargument is the vague 'expedite searching video'

Every VMS demo I've ever seen has tried to highlight something about their search capbilities.

Avigilon lists it promienetly on the ACC product page:

Briefcam has built a whole company around video search.

Exacq issued a press release about their video search enchancements:

Genetec/AgentVI tout search enhancements:

OnSSI demos search heavily, and has a quote calling out the search function:

Not sure exactly why you took exception with me saying that NICE is basically trying to do what every VMS does: highlight something special about their video search functionality. I'm not criticising it anymore than you have already, I'm agreeing with you in saying that I don't think it will live up to the hype.

Come on, you can't seriously be comparing Exacq and OnSSI search 'enhancements' to what NICE is claiming with suspect search. For example, here's Exacq's big search breakthough catch-up.

NICE is saying they catalog individual people and can rank those people by similarity.

Is anyone else on your list claiming anything like that?

I obviously am skeptical about NICE's ability to deliver this, but you can't fairly cut it down by comparing it to vanilla VMS search.

The OP to this thread said "I don't see any good ROI for this - try charging the distressed parent for the service".

You replied "However, to your point, what is the return / value of being able to find them faster."

What I was saying is that this 'feature' isn't something that NICE is proposing (from my understanding) that you'd charge money for, etc. It's a search enhancement feature to try and make it easier/faster for operators to search through video.

Every major VMS vendor seems to call attention to particular aspects of their search capability. I also think it is fairly well known that operators normally spend at least as much time looking at recorded video as they do live video, and often times the trigger to look at recorded video is some event where they also want to backtrack or collect related frames of video.

I'm NOT saying that NICE's avatar search is in the same category as a basic pixel-change search or motion-event search.

The ROI to this is operator efficiency, not new revenue streams.

I can't see the business case of saving 20~40 hours, when every day the child is usually found (manually) at Toy R Us, 15 minutes later. Are you telling me that there are surveillance operators at the mall constantly processing lost children tickets or scanning for shoplifters where this feature would be a big help? Or is this an application looking for a customer?

Robert, I think the more ideal hypothetical / aspirational use case is the London bombing (thousands of hours spent looking through video, etc.).

Toys R Us is not likely going to buy this but a big city with tens of millions of budget for surveillance, that I can see.

I am still not saying it will work well, but that's where the money likely lies.


Not that I buy into this being ready for main stream but I can see the value. I have a bank robbery who has hit us at the same location three times. However after the second time the FBI wanted more then a months worth of video. they wanted to see if the guy had been to the location to case it out. If we did have some way of quickly sifting though the video to quickly pull up the body types this wuld have been helpful.

Anyway..... just my opinion.

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