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The meaning of metadata

With the endless capabilities and advantages of IP connectivity, organizations have been able to create mega security systems that span across several buildings, or even cities, with centralized monitoring at one location. But this makes it challenging for security guards who are now responsible for monitoring hundreds of cameras and doors. This is where the concept of metadata becomes important.


August 10, 2010
By Steve Bocking

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So, what is metadata? Basically, it is data about data. Metadata is a powerful mechanism to augment the basic content, e.g. video, with complementary information to aid in the search and understanding of information.  Also, metadata automatically presents pre-filtered information to the operator so he is able to understand the issue faster and make a more informed decision.

An example of complex metadata could be the association of a door forced open to an event from an access control system, to its correlated video. With a security system that manages metadata, an automatically generated video alarm would include the description of a door-forced event. The operator now has some context of what he will be looking at, even before he looks at the image. With such information at their disposal, operators are prepared to make a fast decision, ready to determine in moments if the event was in fact a real door being forced open or a false alarm.

What metadata ultimately does is turn a typical security system into a proactive tool. Another example of metadata is video analytics. Video analytics examine the content of a video image to decipher particular events of interest and again generate event alarms. Part of the challenge for integrators and end users with video analytics has been managing all the events generated. If there are too events generated, security guards may choose to ignore event alarms and may miss a critical event.

It is for this reason that it becomes important to set realistic expectations and determine how metadata can be used effectively. One way to more effectively manage metadata is to configure event alarms based on a schedule such as the daily operation of a facility, or other conditions. For example, one could pre-program an alarm to go off when the VMS detects that someone has opened the main door of the building afterhours. During regular business hours, this type of event-alarm metadata would be overwhelming, hence why schedules are important.

So in choosing a security platform, one should make sure the security system has the ability to unify metadata events into one operating system for live alerts, reports and investigations. And, as an integrator, it is important to be selective about how the security system and its metadata are set up. Picking a system that offers metadata links with multiple products out of the box is the best choice as it offers easier and more efficient metadata programming options for best-case scenarios in the end-user’s application. Ultimately, being able to offer these types of systems will help position an integrator, not only as an installer but as a solution provider.

Steve Bocking can be reached at sbocking@genetec.com


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