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Enterprise software isn’t usually what comes to mind when you think of video surveillance. Instead, you may think of motion detection and DVRs. Yet the direction taken at SFO would suggest that something else is afoot.

In March 2003, SmartCatch, an impending spin-out from NEC, the $50 billion Japanese electronics giant, installed its video surveillance product at San Francisco International Airport to detect and track humans in complex environments like employee portals. The lengthy beta test was designed to pull together customer and vendor expertise to go beyond how traditional video surveillance software could be used. The detection and tracking of multiple humans in such complex environments as access doors is known to be an extremely difficult problem. Existing techniques quickly degrade in a complex, cluttered environment in which multiple objects must be identified and tracked.

Core Product Performance

The performance of the core product, the video surveillance algorithm, was learned that the SmartCatch’s ability to instantaneously play back a video alert clip for analysis would allow them to determine the optimum response to an incident while it was taking place. (The system has the capability to automatically call up the camera in the central monitoring station.) Robert McKinley, Assistant Deputy Airport Executive, said that by reviewing a violation in real time and in immediate playback mode, the SmartCatch system "gives managers the opportunity to apply years of experience and knowledge in fashioning the best reaction, the optimum response of the security system." At the minimum, this concurrent evaluation of the incident—concurrent in that it is being assessed while it is materializing— would give managers a chance to determine what personnel and resources needed to be activated. The criteria airport managers use in making these decisions include choosing the best and most effective response with minimum cost or disturbance to the rest of the security system. If one minimally skilled guard, for example, could do the job, then there is no need to activate a figurative "A-team" and all its equipment (with possible exposures created in the rest of the system). In effect, said McKinley, "the video surveillance tool becomes a tool for cost containment as well. It doesn’t just say that something troublesome is happening. It gives information— visual data—so managers can devise the solution that is most effective from both cost and security perspectives." In this sense "video surveillance products of this sort focus on system solutions, not just incident management." According to Michael Irwin, SFO’s Deputy Federal Security Director (TSA), "The focus on the system solution as opposed to just incident management will be what will characterize solid airport security going forward."

Systems Design and Training Effectiveness

The archiving of video-alert clip information in an accessible format, in turn, allows executives to evaluate easily and regularly what kinds of violation patterns might be developing in terms of location, class of violation, time and other characteristics. Besides aiding the design and monitoring of the overall security system, this data can be used to help assess training effectiveness. If it is true that training effectiveness is ultimately proven by showing a change in behavior, then employees should perform to a higher standard of complianceimpressive by all standards. It was used to monitor employee access events at doors leading to sterile and secure areas of the airport over a period of nine months. (An access event is described as an incident at a door when one or more people try to exit or enter a sterile area.) In the course of monitoring thousands of incidents, the program successfully detected access violations 95 percent of the time. Its false negative ratio was running at two to three percent, and its false positive ratio was running at five percent, according to internal analyses conducted by the airport and the vendor. The system has an uptime of more than 98 percent. The application was robust enough to distinguish among trash cans, ladders, trolleys and small vehicles. It was also able to distinguish when more than one person attempted to gain unwarranted access to a secure area (say, for example, two people coming through a door on one card swipe or a person trying to enter the sterile area when another person was exiting the sterile area—a tailgating scenario). The system also proved that it could be configured to look to the system’s protocols after training than before. In other words, said Brooks McChesney, president of the SmartCatch initiative, "SmartCatch is also, when in the hands of smart professional managers, a training and compliance tool. You can do a whole range of assessment procedures that are part and parcel of measuring training effectiveness such as pre- and post-tests and tracking of incident ratios." At SFO, the beta test was not used initially to evaluate the success of various training programs, although that did occur in an episodic fashion. The larger interest was in evaluating the effectiveness of detecting violations with technology versus with human supervisors or monitors. Now, however, data have been collected systematically over a long period of time (more than 48,000 events). Additionally, airport managers have had time to observe what the system can report in a reliable and accessible way. Together, these outcomes permit the use of the data in designing assurance, training and compliance programs for the future. According to McKinley, "There is no substitute for good training of the human portion of the equation." An archived video alert clip of real airport personnel who follow or violate procedures in the course of a genuine workday, moreover, is a powerful teaching tool; learning accelerates when the demos and teaching modules involve familiar people. Archived video also gives objective feedback to violators and their supervisors. This "quasiforensic element," said McChesney, "can speed cooperation among airport departments, vendors and other groups. It just drains all the emotion out of the discussion. People focus on the facts of the situation when it is visible right in front of them, over and over again when the video is replayed.


From the SmartCatch perspective, the access portal represents just one of many opportunities. Its behavior analysis applications are being designed, with input from airport managers and others involved in critical infrastructure security, to also monitor exit lanes, security checkpoints, terminal pickups and dropoffs, and a range of situations at fuel farms and parking for behaviors that the airport considered suspicious in order to prevent an emerging problem from developing. These suspicious behaviors included loitering near the access door and situations wherein one person is denied access despite using multiple swipes. Finally, the system has been developed to integrate with card reader and biometric systems.

Cost Containment

Nonetheless, the real payoff was in the information that went beyond the alerts that were forwarded when violations occurred. The software used to replace the expensive and less efficient human-centric monitoring system, of course, is part of the product’s value proposition. But borrowing a page from the marketing and product design experts in other fields, the focus of SmartCatch includes emphasis on the total product. In this case, the total product takes an already sophisticated core product, as determined by the video surveillance performance, and augments it with capabilities for helping management develop solutions. For example, airport executives garages. "We chose to start at the most challenging point from a technology perspective, namely the piggybacking problem. But," said McChesney, "the gamut of behaviors where this tool can be used is almost unlimited." Meanwhile, McKinley and Irwin report that they will continue to emphasize enterprise solutions in a way that leverages cooperation. When McKinley, for example, included certain TSA operations in his communications hub, the two colleagues ended up with a joint operations center. "This is the future," they said. "Look," said McKinley, "there is no rule that says that you are more patriotic or effective if you go it alone with your own stovepipe or less patriotic or effective if you are in the private sector." He maintains that "leaders in this game will be the ones that harness the talent from local agencies, Washington and private sector firms who are willing to work with one another to solve problems that need solutions as opposed to installing a solution for a problem that ignores the bigger picture." At the end of the day, concluded Irwin of the TSA, "This will mean that innovation will have to happen across a whole spectrum of activities, not only among the technology tools themselves but also how we apply them, and the processes we use to develop and deploy them as well." Nicholas Imparato (imparato@hoover.stanford. edu), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is an advisor to several organizations, public and private, in the security arena, including the SmartCatch project.


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Enterprise Solution Is The Future At SFO

San Francisco International Airport uses a complex, integrated tracking system.