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By Land, Air or Sea

From planes to trains, automobiles to buses, and from streetcars to ferries, today’s multi-modal transportation hubs are linking each more closely together to increase efficiencies for both travellers and cargo.


April 12, 2019
By Paul Laughton

The challenge for security professionals is transforming existing surveillance systems into more intelligent, interconnected and user-friendly ones.

For passenger and cargo terminals, a robust network of cameras and sensors must be designed and installed indoors and outdoors to monitor checking zones, registration zones, passport and custom check zones, halls, entrances and exits, elevators, stairways and parking.

Significant advances in smart camera technology can greatly improve surveillance in these vast facilities. These advancements allow security events to be better understood and interpreted at the origin, enabling a security protocol to be acted upon immediately, saving time and manpower costs.

Today’s IP-based systems use cameras equipped with their own computers, operating systems, CPUs and memory, with software and analytics that enable much of the processing work to be done “on the edge” of the network as opposed to a server. For example, if a camera detects someone trying to scale a wall to enter a restricted area, it can trigger an audio warning through a speaker while simultaneously interpreting the event, sending relevant data and an alert to the central surveillance location where further action can be taken.

Intelligent technologies that go beyond

Along with facial recognition, today’s advanced security cameras offer an array of features. These solutions allow for people counting and typing, identification within checking zones, unattended cargo detection, intrusion protection and sound detection as well as integration with other security systems such as fire-fighting equipment. Powerful new compression technologies, like Zipstream, reduce storage and bandwidth requirements as much as 50 per cent, while not compromising forensic information such as faces, tattoos or licence plates.

Protecting the perimeter

Major considerations with transportation hubs such as aerodromes include but are not limited to:

• Perimeter protection to detect a potential threat at the earliest possible stage;
• Verifying the extent and severity of the breach, and;
• Providing visual information to adopt an appropriate response

The sheer size of aerodromes can be overwhelming, particularly with the variable light
conditions that are generally present. Thermal (infrared) cameras coupled with video analysis software can protect an area at any given time of the day, irrespective of the light conditions. Even in difficult weather conditions such as rain, fog, snow, smoke, or glare, thermal cameras provide reliable alerts while greatly reducing false alarms thanks to powerful filtering algorithms. This is ideal for aerodromes as they do not interfere with air traffic control equipment and can be installed on existing fences, on buildings or even within the airside zone. The range of these cameras is impressive too, with real-time image analysis available 24 hours a day at distances ranging from 100 to 400 metres. Thus, a few cameras equipped with analytical solutions are enough to monitor the perimeter of a transportation hub, up to several kilometres.

Optimizing operations

Surveillance cameras can be installed to monitor wide overviews of expansive areas, to day and night functionality with features such as PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom), 360° pan, and lowlight capabilities. The system is also easily scalable — ground staff can identify areas that need extra monitoring, which the security team can then implement. When brought together onto a secure platform, this robust surveillance system not only provides counter-terrorism protection, theft prevention, and the monitoring of passenger and cargo processes, but the intelligence it gathers can also help optimize their movement and increase productivity.

Not only does “edge computing” allow for better surveillance, it can also record and interpret data to help with transportation logistics. This integration can help in a multitude of ways including minimize waiting times, improve passenger flow and ensure the right service is delivered to the right aircraft at the right time. A good example of this is Munich Airport where a monitoring system was installed that greatly assists ground crew who service more than 400,000 takeoffs and landings each year. Some of the 1,800 cameras in use at the airport are positioned at each gate to allow ground crew to see exactly when an airplane lands so servicing can begin as soon as possible to avoid costly delays.

From disembarking passengers and their luggage to reloading food and beverage, there are many tasks required to service an aircraft occur prior to rolling back for the next takeoff. The system is controlled by centralized monitoring software that alerts ground crew to arriving aircraft, allowing for the chain of events to begin as soon as possible.

Protecting cargo

Today’s global marketplace requires airtight security wherever valuable cargo may be stored while awaiting transport, adjacent to or near ports and airports. Major shipping company, Purolator sought to upgrade their outdated analogue video surveillance systems to sophisticated IP solutions in all their service locations. The goal was to support and monitor quality control, validate retail transactions and aid investigations of customer inquiries and criminal activities. Some of their locations have limited resources and are in remote areas. The company’s team was concerned about rolling out network technology that would not only challenge bandwidth constraints but would require significant funds for software licences. Their new system combines IP cameras with Companion video management software and 2TB or 4TB Companion Recorders for easy retrieval, local storage and remote monitoring of the superior-quality video footage. Now they can accurately record transactions and the new system makes it far easier to manage customer inquiries and illegal activities.

With an intuitive interface, security personnel can use the system with minimal training and remotely monitor activity, reducing the number of onsite guards it employs. The management software automatically sends alerts when someone enters a restricted area, creates a protected video record of events allowing for quick search and retrieval of video footage and detailed analysis of the high-resolution images captured by the cameras.

Similarly, in ports and marine terminals, operators need a cost-efficient system to streamline the movement and inspection of containers as they move to and from the rail yard. The Virginia Port Authority’s Norfolk Terminal sees about 700 containers pass through daily, but this can triple during the busy pre-holiday period. To handle the increased volume, the Virginia Port Authority has deployed an array of network cameras mounted on light poles and container handling equipment to transmit container identification numbers, slot locations, rail car numbers and other data to inspectors monitoring a video wall in the administrative control centre. High resolution cameras take snapshots of each container from multiple sides as they travel through the rail yard, allowing inspectors to remotely track shipments and examine every cargo box for damage without leaving the safety and comfort of their office. The process is much faster than having inspectors walk up and down the container tracks, saving time and money.

On-board cameras

Operators of large urban transportation systems also require security on public buses and trains, but with hundreds if not thousands of vehicles operating day and night, city budgets make it impossible to have security guards on board. Today’s specialized high-performance cameras designed specifically for mobile surveillance are adapted to the requirements and challenges of rolling stock: limited physical space, extreme shock and vibration, rapidly shifting light conditions, minimal storage space, and more.

Mobile surveillance solutions can withstand vibrations, and with HDTV image quality and Wide Dynamic Range, fluctuations in light during driving is not a problem. Network video is ideal for wireless transmission over 3G/4G/LTE, mesh net and WiFi, so an onboard system can benefit from easy remote assistance. Other capacities such as GPS, accelerometer, and a driver alarm button for instant security alerts can be integrated. In addition, smart cameras can adapt the video quality to the bandwidth connection available, while simultaneously recording an additional onboard video stream at full frame rate and full video quality. Image compressing technology reduces the size of files while preserving important details, so data can flow more quickly with lower storage and bandwidth requirements. Recording and archiving is possible inside with the camera or within onboard vehicle computers allowing high-quality recordings of incidents to be extracted wirelessly from vehicles to minimize costs and shorten investigation times.

Taking analogue systems online

A 2015 survey conducted by the UITP (International Association of Public Transport) found that 25.7 per cent of public transit systems still operate solely analogue cameras, and 2.9 per cent operate hybrid systems. It also found that 85.3 per cent of respondents actively considering upgrading their surveillance systems will look at IP/network cameras, suggesting a clear preference for digital technology. As this transition from analogue to digital occurs, an interim solution is provided by video encoders.

Munich Airport is the second largest airport in Germany with about 33 million passengers annually. To update the existing security system and enable it to be controlled via centralized management software, all the cameras had to transmit digital images. About a third of the airport’s analogue cameras were equipped with video encoders, which converts analogue signals into digital streams that can be sent over an IP-based network, such as a LAN, Intranet or Internet. Users can then view live images using a password-protected user account on the web or with video management software on a local or remote computer via a secure account. This can be a major cost saver as it allows functioning analogue cameras to be integrated instead of replaced, protecting existing investments while allowing a gradual change over to an IP-based system.

With the advances in surveillance technology now available, along with flexible, scalable solutions, transportation and cargo hubs can get perfectly clear images, both in real-time and recordings. These advances in surveillance technology make it possible for any transportation and cargo authorized personnel to access relevant information from anywhere, at any time. It also allows for automatic incident alerts and alarms, and it creates a cost-efficient, flexible and future proof video surveillance platform.

Paul Laughton is the architect and engineering manager at Axis Communications (www.axis.com).

This story appeared in the April 2019 edition of SP&T News Magazine.