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EU-funded project breaks new ground for critical site management


BRUSSELS – Tasked with developing solutions to protect critical infrastructure sites, a European research consortium has produced a range of innovative hardware and software solutions for purposes of surveillance.

The technology concerned flows from the EU-funded project known as “SAMURAI”. Led by the UK’s Queen Mary University, the three-year project concluded at the end of 2011. It had a total budget of EUR 3.7 million, of which the EU contributed 67 percent. SECURITY EUROPE

SAMURAI set out to develop and integrate novel technologies into existing critical infrastructure protection (CIP) site management systems. A typical scenario involved an inner-city critical infrastructure site that lies adjacent to large, often crowded public spaces. In such settings, numerous passers-by will innocently walk close to critical entry points, making the identification and interception of suspicious or hostile individuals very difficult. Thus, closed circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance and radio-directed guard patrols risk being overwhelmed by the sheer number of possible suspects in such a scenario.

To overcome this challenge, SAMURAI proposed three innovations in surveillance and site management technology. These were:

  • networked video sensor feeds for augmenting visual surveillance monitoring
  • intelligent video analytics for real-time abnormal behaviour detection
  • mobile sensor devices to facilitate data feeds back to a control room

For sensor monitoring, SAMURAI produced a range of software and visualisation tools to assist in surveillance and command centre functions. Software for highlighting individuals or groups and tracing them on their journey through a crowd was a priority, and new graphical user interface (GUI) feeds were developed to manage the numerous cameras required to achieve this.

One such innovation was an “over-lapping” sensor feed concept. Through this, once an individual has been tagged as suspicious, the tool’s software will automatically track the individual as he moves beyond the visual field of one camera and into that of another. If the individual fails to arrive at the next logical camera field as part of his “normal” journey or trajectory, an alarm is then triggered.

The software was supported by intelligent video analytic tools for abnormal behaviour. By surveying an area for a period of time, the software assembles surveys of common and non-suspicious habits of the average pass-by. Anyone who deviates from the model is then automatically highlighted. Conversely, SAMURAI’s cameras can be trained to ignore common background movements — for example, the revolving door of a building — in order to focus automatically on abnormal movement; such as a maintenance hatch being opened.

Moreover, the software creates an automated filter for managing a critical site, dubbed a “focus of attention” (FoA) system by the consortium. Controllers will only have their eyes drawn to individuals already displaying abnormal or suspicious behaviour, thus reducing controller fatigue and avoiding false positives.

Finally, the consortium developed a unique mobile tool for site management, the “NINJA” surveillance unit: a wireless-enabled lightweight sensor system capable of being mounted onto the uniform of employees. Incorporating both sound-recording and visual sensor ports, NINJA allows a CIP control room operator to gain immediate “eyes on” information from a patrolling guard who investigates a possible security risk, without the need for a radio call. Some 50 NINJA prototypes were eventually manufactured, along with a software processing backbone called the “NPS NINJA”, for handling inputs produced by multiple wearers.

Combined, these technologies amount to a comprehensive CIP tool, augmenting existing CCTV surveillance feeds and streamlining command and control functions for site staff. Commercial versions of the system are now anticipated, although no public information is currently available regarding a date for their release.

 THE UPSHOT: Many recent FP7 projects have focused on abnormal behaviour detection, each claiming their system is the “next step” in suspicious behaviour algorithms and crowd monitoring software. Amidst this clamour, SAMURAI is not unique.
However, few projects have focused specifically on site management and control room issues. Here, SAMURAI has produced some genuinely novel innovations, especially regarding its FoA concept for control room screen management. This could warrant further investigation by CIP site managers as it moves towards commercialisation.
The other possibly under-rated aspect of this project is the NINJA sensor suit. While conceived as a surveillance tool, such a lightweight and wireless capable system could have some interesting applications in the law enforcement field. By effectively collecting digital evidence in real-time, NINJA could assist in judicial prosecution and investigative procedures after an incident. This too is worth a second look by end-users.

About Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall was policy analyst for SECURITY EUROPE from 2011-2012 and now works for the UK government. He can be reached at: jonathandowdall@googlemail.com

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