Smart video for smarter building construction

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Smart video in action at a smart facility.

JORDAN CULLIS reveals how the inclusion of smart video solutions in new buildings are moving smart facilities one step closer to reality.

Modern buildings have evolved significantly, offering better services and facilities to tenants and consumers, as well as deriving more value for owners and management. Since the onset of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, the term ‘smart building’ has come to represent an array of features and services that were not possible in the past. This essentially elevates the building to the status of a giant online device, with interconnected solutions working together to make life easier, more efficient and safer for occupants.

Whereas the majority of buildings are raised to this ‘smart’ status by adding solutions to existing infrastructure, there is a very real opportunity to capture even more benefits by building smart features into the very fabric of the project right from the start.

One aspect of a smart building that has seen very significant progress in recent times is the evolution of security cameras and associated video management technologies. Whereas cameras and video were once associated with security and nothing more, their role has now morphed into something much greater. While it is certainly possible to retrofit a smart video technology solution to a building, looking at these features during the design phase adds immediate value and untapped potential for more smart solutions down the track.

At the top of the list, Video Management Software (VMS) is essentially the glue that holds a smart building’s video capabilities together. In recent times, as complementary technologies proliferate, the importance of an open platform cannot be overstated – since it allows various components to be brought together into a unified solution. In essence, a VMS manages cameras on the network, allowing security staff to control their view of the premises. This traditionally means sending images to a monitor, allowing staff to zoom in on an area, change a camera’s settings and focal direction, select a particular view and so forth.

Since the rise of artificial intelligence, cameras have essentially been equipped with digital brains to match their eyes. This has enabled systems to analyse live and recorded videos in far greater volume than ever before, with less human intervention. It also empowers a smart security network to provide substantially more value to a building through video analytics. For example, behavioural analysis and the proactive insights that can be drawn from it are already turning passive cameras into active assets, adding value in areas such as retail, crime prevention and workspace management.

Mapping the movements of consumers as they shop can provide deep insights into their behaviour, just as an organisation can actively track a modern office space and optimise things like employee movement, the use of meeting spaces and automated air conditioning and HVAC facilities.

“The world of surveillance has grown exponentially, and now operates as one part of a whole ecosystem of solutions that are bringing sophisticated features to smarter buildings and facilities. Open platforms mean that other vendors can add their service or solution to the mix, and it creates a whole world of possibilities for service providers like us to bring safer, smarter ideas to the table and enhance a building’s functionality as well as its safety,” says Darren Taylor, managing director at PMT Security.

Straight up, plugging a video analysis software solution into the building’s VMS will bring a host of smart features to that facility. These additional functions would therefore require that camera placement evolves accordingly to maximise their benefits. In shopping centres, this may involve positioning 360-degree fisheye cameras above the entry way, in order to capture a view of the whole store, which can be analysed for consumer heat mapping. In the case of an open-plan professional workspace, it may require a network of ceiling-mounted cameras working in conjunction with one another, as well as IoT nodes to record and analyse the entire space, then optimising the use of desks and common areas to improve workplace efficiencies.

“Cameras are no longer simple devices for recording activity. There are a host of features that add value to almost any deployment and an infinite amount of subtle variations designed to suit very specific circumstances. These might include darker areas, spaces with lots of one certain type of foot traffic, particularly hot, humid or cold conditions, vandal-proof cameras, devices which can be set to protect the privacy of a certain area while recording a space right next to it, infrared cameras and so forth. The options are only limited by the imagination of the people controlling the space,” says Wai King Wong, country manager, Axis Communications.

Workplace management is becoming an important asset for modern commercial properties. IoT-enabled devices, used in conjunction with a camera network and VMS, can detect things like maximum occupancy in a meeting room, can turn up air-conditioning in a heavily populated space to maximise user comfort or direct people to a meeting room by the fastest route.

Accessories that work in conjunction with a workplace management solution include TV screens, monitors and digital signage, as well as connected audio options, which combine to provide clear signals and messages to building occupants.

Facial Recognition (FR) is another feature of the modern smart building, one that can enhance the facility’s security mission at the same time as making life easier and more efficient for building users. Integrated with an open platform VMS, FR technology can recognise individual facial features and bring up information about that individual. This in turn can activate an access control solution and allow or deny them entry to a specific part of the building without the hassle of presenting credentials such as an ID or proximity card.

Fraser Larcombe of Imagus Technology suggests that, “FR technology can add benefits to security by not just identifying criminals, but also giving users the ability to look for unknown associates of that criminal, and finding people that may have been involved but weren’t originally known to the user. It empowers users to find links between suspected individuals and follow certain behaviours on a whole new level of investigation.

Facial verification can also help customers in say, a retail environment, by recognising a VIP shopper and creating a seamless experience. Imagine walking into your local car dealership for a service and having all the paperwork ready for you at the desk, or walking into a coffee shop and using your face to get your regular order, without waiting in the queue.”

Licence plate recognition works the same way as FR, with cameras now able to recognise number plates within a millisecond and allow vehicles access to secure parking facilities. Conversely, the system can be set to identify unauthorised vehicles, or those on a particular watchlist, and notify administrators that the vehicle is trying to enter a certain space.

Access control is another important factor for smart building development, providing a direct link between the individuals entering and using the space and the security ecosystem that lies behind it. Secure perimeters can be linked to automated doors or barriers and accessed by FR, a card, identity tag, biometric scans, or secure mobile phone credentials. Again, an open platform can tie in with many other integrated solutions to help provide a faster, safer and more efficient building.

Smart facilities are here to stay, and the huge scope of opportunities they provide can make life better for the people who frequent them, be it to work, live or shop. Now, not only can the solutions offer ways to improve general conditions in the buildings, but also offer opportunities to monetise these spaces, or at least maximise their usefulness to offer tenants more value and potential.

Jordan Cullis is APAC director, Milestone Systems.


Image: 123RF’s Dmitry Kalinovsky ©

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