Safeguarding outdoor assets, whether commercial sites like maintenance yards and car lots or critical infrastructure protection like airports and refineries often comes down to the same thing: Accurate detection and timely information about the unfolding event. While there are many technologies for outdoor security, combining reliable alerts with knowledge about what is actually happening and where it is happening has been hard to achieve.
For outdoor security applications, a common goal is to detect intrusions with low nuisance alarms in widely varying environments, often over large areas that are difficult to patrol. For these reasons, automated systems are typically combined with manpower. Smart systems never tire, can cover large areas, and “see” what the human eye would miss, while people – when provided with accurate alerts – can respond appropriately.
Detection Accuracy is the Key to Outdoor Security
But to work well, such an arrangement has to start on a foundation of accurately detecting people violating securing policies. When alerts are unreliable, there is no accountability – a responder doesn’t know which of an overwhelming number of alerts are the ones needing attention. Historically, the common approach for securing large outdoor areas has been to use a “blind” sensor, such as coax or fiber on the fence, acting as an activity detector, supported by a camera to help determine the cause of the alert. The drawback is that these sensors can generate so many nuisance alerts caused by the outdoors that reliability is diminished. At the same time, costs for deploying and maintaining two separate systems – a sensor and a video system – will quickly escalate.
This is why using smart video on the perimeter has been gaining appeal. Video offers a key functional advantage over “blind” sensors because it combines detection and visual verification into a single system. Video has already been established as an effective forensic tool for analyzing what happened after an event. Now video has been established as a top choice for detecting outdoor intrusions as well.
Thermal Cameras Solve Many Outdoor Security Challenges
The most common challenge for video over wide areas has been an inability accurately detect outdoors, where changes in lighting, wind, reflections, and weather can create a lot of nuisance alerts. There’s been great disappointment among customers in cases where video analytics have been deployed for perimeter security without addressing these issues. Thermal video security systems are built specifically for these outdoor difficulties. A thermal camera offers a number of advantages over visible cameras for outdoors: They detect in complete darkness or bright sun, ignore reflections off water or stray lights from passing cars, and represent a reliable, all weather 24/7 solution. In the past, the higher price for thermal technology limited their use in commercial applications, but as costs continue to fall, many organizations are now able to choose thermal cameras for their outdoor security needs.
As an example, achieving security awareness around maritime ports was once considered difficult to achieve using traditional perimeter security solutions. Ports cover large geographic areas that include vast and varied perimeters, while lighting is often poor or unavailable along extensive port perimeters due to cost and lack of infrastructure. Smart thermal cameras with video analytics can accurately detect intruders despite background water movement or glare off the water, while presenting very clear details about the scene, even in circumstances of bright sunlight or complete darkness.
PTZ Cameras for Securing Outdoors
Once an accurate detection system is in place, it’s common to combine such a system with surveillance PTZ’s. While PTZ cameras can be helpful for validating the nature of an alert, in practice there’s almost no chance a PTZ will be looking in the right place when an intrusion occurs. A PTZ’s narrow field of view relative to the wide areas under surveillance almost guarantees that events will go undetected; trying to manually steer PTZs over a large area is like finding a needle in a haystack.
To solve this, some perimeter security cameras can auto-steer PTZ’s to zoom and follow an intruder in real-time. Automated PTZ control is much more effective than trying to steer a camera to the source of an alert using a joystick. Security guards are able to respond quickly and appropriately when automatically directed where to look, enabling a real-time response, and can always take over manual control when the situation warrants. Such “hands free” PTZ operation also ensures good forensic evidence after the fact. There is nothing worse than missing important evidence because the PTZ is looking in the wrong direction.
Knowing the Precise Location
Another requirement for wide area surveillance is real-time information about where an intrusion has occurred. Software is available that can display the topological positions of intrusion events overlaid on a top-down satellite image of the surveillance area. This provides important details about the location of the event relative to fixed, known areas, especially critical when managing multiple sites. Knowing the precise location of an intrusion is the first step to making a successful response.
Once generated, all of this information can be organized by a video monitoring system or physical security information management system (PSIM) into a private command center or a commercial central station for actionable response. The result is a comprehensive solution that provides domain awareness even over large outdoor areas.
Security professionals often have two main concerns: Not being aware of the risks that are lurking, and not knowing the place and nature of an intrusion should one occur. Combing a reliable detection system with automated surveillance can add a new dimension of accuracy to your security operations, ensuring “eyes on until hands” capability over your entire facility.