Using Video Surveillance to Fight Terrorism

Author: John Honovich, Published on Dec 03, 2008

The Mumbai attacks raise questions about security enhancements. What can CCTV or video surveillance do to address terrorist attacks such as Mumbai?  While the immediate reaction is always to spend money on new security systems, what is the best way to invest in security?

Here are the central claims this report examines:

  • Video surveillance can be a key tool in allowing responders to intercept and stop terrorist attacks
  • Video surveillance was not optimally used in Mumbai (from what I have read in the New York Times)
  • Video surveillance (specifically video analytics) will generally be a poor tool at detecting terrorist events because of the nature of terrorist events such as in Mumbai

Overview

Video surveillance should be viewed as one element in an overall security plan.  At a higher level, there are a number of key factors for ensuring security:

  • Political/Cultural Tension: The more hatred and tension, the more motivated people are to commit terrorist attacks
  • Public Policy/Police: The more powerful the police and the more controlling the laws are, the less likely terrorists will be successful in attacks or choose to attack (deterence)
  • Barriers/Access Control: The more walls and more checkpoints used, the more difficult it is for terrorists to successfully execute.
  • Detection: The more people and systems (burglar alarms, video analytics, etc) used, the more likely and sooner terrorists will be detected and stopped.
  • Response: Better responders and richer information (like real time video surveillance) improves the probability of terrorists being stopped quickly and without losses.

Of these five, only the last two factors can be impacted by video surveillance. 

The first two factors (culture and policy) are probably the most important long term factors.  These are obviously outside what an individual security manager can do.

The third factor (barriers/access control) are critical and can be impacted by individual organizations and security managers.  Indeed, a huge part of the problem in Mumbai was the incredible lack of barriers and access control (contrast this to the Marriott in Pakinstan - where barricades prevented the bombing from having far more deadly of an impact).  If you don't stop people or check people as they move throughout a facility, terrorist attacks will cause severe losses - there is basically no way around this.

Video Surveillance to Detect

You can use video surveillance to help detect terrorist activities by (1) having people watch the video in real time or (2) by having computers analyze the video for you and sending alerts (i.e., video analytics).

Watching the video in real time is not feasible for any large facility. Unless you want to employ dozens of people to watch monitors - and the economics probably does not support this.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

You can use video analytics and this will eliminate the problem of having people to watch.  However, video analytics (for security) are only feasible today in areas where no person should be standing or moving.  If you have other people moving, you are likely to have numerous nuisance alerts (e.g., abandoned object detection sounds good in theory but is generally infeasible to use in production) This is why video analytics are almost always used in conjunction with barriers (like fences) or during times when an area is vacant (like an industrial facility after business hours).

Production video analytics are not sophisticated enough to determine who the terrorist is out of a group of people.  Unfortunately, the problem is Mumbai is that, because of the lack of barriers and access control, terrorists can walk right up to victims without any checks or constraints.

While video analytics can solve security problems (such as theft or intrusions), they do not address the core problems in terrorists attacks like that in Mumbai.

Video Surveillance for Response

One of the shocking problems in Mumbai was how long it took to end the attacks and how uninformed it appeared the responders were to the location and activities of the terrorists.

Video surveillance can play a crucial role to help responders quickly and precisely identify terrorists and to marshal responders to the right location and actions. Cameras can be widely distributed and accessed remotely, providing an excellent tool to see where terrorists are and where they are moving. This information can help quickly end attacks.

Unfortunately, in Mumbai, it appears that responders did not have access to those cameras during the fight with the terrorists. The NYTimes claims that the terrorists had much more information on the Taj Hotel and that responders had difficulties determining where to go inside the Hotel.

Access to Surveillance Video

If this is true, this problem must be addressed immediately.  It is a very solvable problem to share video and it does not require massive investments nor science fiction technology.

There is a key challenge - no standards between video management systems (and even with IP camera standards in development, this will not resolve the problem with video management systems). These can be overcome, at least temporarily, by using PSIM systems to facilitate cross vendor video surveillance integration.

 

Thoughts? Disagree?

Related Reports

Improved Security And Surveillance Bidding - 2018 MasterFormat Divisions Examined) on Jul 19, 2018
Navigating the world of system specifications and bidding work can be complex and confusing, but a standard format exists, and understanding it...
Directory of Video Surveillance Startups on Jul 18, 2018
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known entity...
FST Fails on Jul 17, 2018
FST was one of the hottest startups of the decade, selected as the best new product at ISC West 2011 and backed with tens of millions in...
Axis Perimeter Defender Video Analytics Tested on Jul 12, 2018
Axis 'high security' video analytics offering is Perimeter Defender, OEMed / developed with Digital Barriers. But how good is Perimeter Defender?...
Belgium Bans Private Facial Surveillance on Jul 06, 2018
Belgium has effectively banned the use of facial recognition and other biometrics-based video analytics in surveillance cameras for private,...
GDPR For Access Control Guide on Jul 03, 2018
Electronic access control is common in businesses plus organizations are increasingly considering biometrics for access control. With GDPR coming...
Allegion Acquires Isonas on Jun 29, 2018
Isonas failed to 'revolutionize' access control as they regularly claimed. Now, nearly 20 years after their founding, they are being acquired by...
Replacing / Switching Access Control Systems Guide on Jun 28, 2018
Ripping out and replacing access control systems is hard for important reasons. Because users typically hold on to access control systems for as...
Free Online NFPA, IBC, and ADA Codes and Standards on Jun 27, 2018
Finding applicable codes for security work can be a costly task, with printed books and pdf downloads costing hundreds or thousands. However, a...
Axis Guard Suite Video Analytics Tested on Jun 25, 2018
In 2015, we declared Axis' Guard Suite analytics "weak", with missed detections and false alerts common. But after nearly 3 years and a 2.0 version...

Most Recent Industry Reports

AI Startup Anyvision Raises $28 Million Led By Bosch on Jul 20, 2018
Anyvision is the most ambitious heavy-spending video surveillance startup in many years. And, now, the startup has raised $28 million led by...
Fail: Dahua "Didn't Check The Lux Levels but It Was Dark" on Jul 20, 2018
Dahua UK has been promoting their camera quality on LinkedIn: I, and others, asked what the lux level of the scene was. (background: Lux Rating...
Free 100+ Manufacturer-Customized Camera Calculator Released on Jul 19, 2018
Now, any manufacturer has a customized IPVM Camera Calculator, free. The goal is to make it easier for companies to help their customers better...
Improved Security And Surveillance Bidding - 2018 MasterFormat Divisions Examined) on Jul 19, 2018
Navigating the world of system specifications and bidding work can be complex and confusing, but a standard format exists, and understanding it...
Last Chance - Security Sales Course Summer 2018 on Jul 19, 2018
Today is the last day to register. Based on member's interest, IPVM is offering a security sales course this summer. Register Now - IPVM Security...
Directory of Video Surveillance Startups on Jul 18, 2018
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known entity...
Ladder Lockdown and Ladder Levelizer Tested on Jul 18, 2018
Ladders are a daily necessity for surveillance and security installers, but working on an unstable surface can be extremely dangerous. In addition...
FST Fails on Jul 17, 2018
FST was one of the hottest startups of the decade, selected as the best new product at ISC West 2011 and backed with tens of millions in...
Axis ~$100 Camera Tested on Jul 17, 2018
Axis has released their lowest cost camera ever, the Companion Eye Mini L, setting their sights on a market dominated by Hikvision and Dahua. Can...
Amazon Ring Alarm System Tested on Jul 16, 2018
Amazon Ring is going to hurt traditional dealers, and especially ADT, new IPVM test results of Ring's Alarm system underscore. IPVM found that...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact