Mitigating Risk with Video Surveillance

For this important discussion on the value of surveillance as a crime deterrent and risk management tool, BUSRide spoke with the following experts:

Anthony Incorvati
business development manager
Axis Communications, Inc.

Lucius McCelvey
sales manager 
mass transportation
Safety Vision


What is your company’s surveillance expertise? What are your capabilities?

Lucius McCelvey: Safety Vision has been designing, installing, and supporting mobile surveillance solutions for over 25 years. We also serve not only mass transit, but other verticals such as school, law enforcement, and trucking. We leverage this massive breadth of experience to create solutions for our clients that exactly fit their unique needs.

These unique needs not only involve the hardware, they also involve people and support. Safety Vision prides itself on building strong personal relationships. When Safety Vision becomes your partner, you’re not just going to get camera system equipment; you’re also going to get the support of every individual in this company. Our account executives listen closely to our client’s requirements, and our technical support team and field technicians are based locally and respond quickly. Everyone makes sure that not only are your camera systems working correctly, but that you’re also using them most effectively, maximizing your investment.

Anthony Incorvati: Axis Communications offers intelligent security solutions that enable a smarter, safer world. Axis is recognized globally as the inventor of the IP Video Surveillance Camera in 1996, and the world’s first purpose-built IP camera for the onboard environment in 2008.

As the market leader in network video, Axis drives the industry by launching innovative IP network products that deliver knowledge, innovative thinking and ground-breaking network products to customers through a global partner network.

What are the most significant advancements in video surveillance in the past few years?

Incorvati: At Axis, we like to refer to IP cameras as computers with a lens. The processing power continues to increase, enabling superb image quality in all situations, whether it’s leveraging smart technology to capture video in extreme low light or blinding light conditions. In addition, there are in-camera technologies that automatically help manage the bitrate to improve bandwidth and storage challenges without sacrificing quality video footage.

Perhaps the most significant advancement in video surveillance in the past few years is the open platform nature of today’s cameras. Partnering with third-party developers to leverage applications that reside on the camera can enable countless new use cases. Whether it’s to better understand ridership data through people counting, queue and dwell time management, or preventing potential incidents through behavior analysis and sound detection, today’s video analytics can bring added benefits to transportation infrastructures, including cost savings and operational insights.

McCelvey: Our clients have expressed a lot of enthusiasm for our hybrid recorders. These recorders accept traditional analog, analog high definition (AHD), and network IP cameras. AHD delivers high definition images over familiar and economical analog connections. As we like to say, “HD at an analog cost.” This, along with many other camera options, combine to give clients the flexibility to create camera systems uniquely tailored to their vehicles while minimizing costs.

Safety Vision has also fielded a lot of requests for our new 360° camera. Using an incredibly high definition image sensor and a fish eye lens, a huge field of view is captured. This wide perspective is perfect for high center mounts on buses, allowing you to see over high seat backs and cover more of the passenger cabin using fewer cameras.

How is modern surveillance technology contributing to lower crime rates and less incidents on transit vehicles?

Incorvati: For many transit agencies, it is significantly important to promote public transportation as a favorable commuting alternative and to attract more riders in their transit systems. To achieve this, it is essential to present a secure environment for both passengers and staff. Advancements in IP video technology is changing the way public transportation professionals respond to security concerns, while also enhancing passenger experience.

At the very least, visible and well-marked video surveillance systems can act as a deterrence. The last thing criminals want is to be caught on camera. Today’s high-quality images are also leagues ahead of fuzzy CCTV images of the past. The high reliability of IP video systems coupled with forensic-quality images are used time and time again to help solve crimes.

Outside of video surveillance in stations, today’s HDTV video quality for onboard buses can provide a stable picture despite vehicle vibrations and movement. The remote access to live video and sound from any bus can easily integrate with the overall security system for stations and terminals, providing a full view of operations and leading to less vandalism, fraudulent insurance claims, and quick responses to potential violence and incidents.

Finally, when every part of the expenditure on public transportation is being examined in such detail, it’s essential that maximum value is being gained from all investments in technology. When the full breadth of applications is used, video can be a true platform for growth and enable more uses beyond the traditional focus on security, only adding to the return on investment by organizations and communities.

McCelvey: We’ve considered ways to make it more apparent to mass transit ridership that the agency has invested significantly in their safety. Safety Vision’s solution has been the implementation of our Awareness Monitors in passenger cabins. These are large, rugged displays that are configured to display camera views being captured by the recorder, showcasing the security technology watching over them.

When criminals are aware that irrefutable evidence is being recorded that can be used against them, their activity can be deterred. We know transit agency personnel really care about the well-being of their riders, and these monitors ensure they understand you are committed to their safety.

What is the value of using security and surveillance systems as risk management tools?

McCelvey: Our systems capture the actions, performance and location of the fleet’s drivers, so that their performance can be assessed and valuable feedback can be provided.

Safety Vision’s Foresight PRO software includes real-time GPS tracking and live look-in capabilities, allowing administrators to know exactly where their bus is, and view inside it in real time. Not only does this increase accountability, it creates opportunities for coaching and identifying inappropriate behavior.

Foresight PRO includes very extensive reporting capabilities. Data from these reports can be analyzed; identified trends can be scrutinized, and performance can be improved.

Incorvati: Risk management, as related to dealing with legal claims, is certainly a big reason for the deployment of video systems in a public transport environment, especially as it relates to the onboard environment. Based on conversations with end-users, it is becoming clear that IP video system deployments are being driven by an increased amount of public transit travelers.

For example, video notifications can be sent to operators and security teams, when there is sudden braking by a driver, or an on-board or station alarm is pulled. Going a step further, transit operators can combine video with audio detection analytics, which can alert them when there are raised voices on a platform or breaking glass on a vehicle. After all, being able to review, assess and respond to an incident is the best way to stop incidents from escalating further.

What factors are driving innovation in security systems and video surveillance?

Incorvati: In the security industry, innovation tends to come in two buckets: planned evolution and new use cases. For planned evolution, all we need to do is look at Moore’s Law and can see the ever-increasing performance of the processing power and chip performance within the camera. As I mentioned previously, today’s IP cameras are computers with a lens, which means that they will only get smarter as technology advances.

By leveraging on-camera applications and taking full advantage of IP technology, there are ultimate possibilities for innovative deployments. These solutions can also integrate to better facilitate collaboration with other stakeholders and key partners in public-private partnerships such as police, first responders, federal organizations and large private institutions, including large sporting or entertainment venues or universities, that may rely on public transportation.

McCelvey: The biggest trend Safety Vision has identified in mass transit security and surveillance is integration. With many fleets, recorded video and data for mass transit systems exists separately in its own ecosystem of storage and management software. Municipalities increasingly want these valuable perspectives integrated with other security systems, giving law enforcement and other authorities a complete and more effective narrative of notable events.

To this end, Safety Vision has developed its newest and most advanced recorder, the RoadRecorder® 8000, with the capacity for open architecture. This allows transit agencies to install a variety of different software platforms that utilize our advanced hardware, integrating with existing stationary camera systems and creating a powerful, convenient, singular platform for video surveillance.

What will the security and surveillance “landscape” look like in five years? Ten years?

McCelvey: Our Product Development team is concentrating on ensuring data communication speeds are optimized across all our hardware in the near term. Increasingly larger resolutions are being recorded into smaller files which can then be transferred across faster networks. 360-camera technology is made possible with image sensors capable of huge 4K resolutions, but H.265, or High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video compression methods provide smaller files. These more efficient files can then be transferred at incredible rates in upcoming next generation wireless networks.

Over the course of the next decade, we see these trends continuing to advance and the hardware and software evolving to take advantage of them. In the future, data transmission could become so effective, a recorder on every bus will no longer be necessary. Each camera could transmit its images wirelessly and directly to a comprehensive central video management system, potentially in the cloud. The incredible amounts of information available will be managed by increasingly integrated software that will continue to become accessible across more devices. The future looks more efficient and more intuitive.

Incorvati: The world continues to move to a server-less, cloud-based approach regarding data. We are seeing the first hints of this happening in the bus onboard video market. In fact, there are companies just now launching solutions in which the camera is essentially the server and onboard storage component.

Specialized developers and in-camera applications can provide local camera applications and edge storage with their cloud services to create a reliable, cost-effective, connected and easy-to-use purpose-built video management system for transport and mobile solutions, which includes fleet management and health monitoring functionality.