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The NYC terrorist threat and how video analytics could have prompted a faster response
By Mark Gally
The recent bomb scare in New York City served as a wake-up call, highlighting that the U.S. is still vulnerable to an attack within our country. Though investigators say the bomb they found inside a parked car was not very sophisticated, it’s clear that terrorists with the determination and deadly materials could cause serious harm.
The incident also highlighted the need for increased safety and security in municipalities across the country. What many cities and towns have found, though, is that the costs associated with 24/7 manned surveillance can be staggering. Security guards and police officers are necessary and important, but they can’t keep their eyes on all areas all of the time.
So, how can we deal with these ongoing threats? Sadly, it is likely there will never be a time when the threat completely disappears. But there are technology advances that are making it possible to greatly increase security, while simultaneously reducing the costs associated with it.
Video analytics provide highly accurate and proactive protection at a lower cost than traditional security systems. They can improve the efficiency and efficacy of manned guards and 24/7 onsite police officers. Video analytics scrutinize video footage in real-time, frame-by-frame, to detect conditions of possible threat and prevent crime better than guards alone. And because today’s most advanced analytics systems only report on incidents of interest, it’s possible to use intelligence-driven video surveillance across vast territories such as major cities using wireless networking.
In the case of the bomb scare in New York City, video analytics could have greatly improved the response time, as well as greatly reduced the time it took to search for forensic information. A video analytics system would have quickly analyzed that there was a parked car in the area that shouldn’t have been there, and would have immediately notified authorities. By tracking object “loitering time,” the system can detect when a person or vehicle stays in a defined area for longer than they are allowed, such as a car loading or unloading at an airport, a person loitering in a parking lot or a car stopping in a tunnel or under a bridge.
As it was, police heard about the suspicious car from an alert street vendor. And while they were able to diffuse the situation, they did lose critical minutes in their investigation.
A video analytics system also has intelligent search capabilities, which would have allowed operators to automatically retrieve all images containing the suspect and/or his car across all the available cameras. This would have allowed them to recreate the path of the car-and-driver in minutes -- without any manual search -- reducing the forensic investigation from hours or days to just minutes. This would have allowed for an even more rapid response in terms of identifying and apprehending the suspect.
There will certainly be a lot of post-incident analysis following the bomb scare in New York. While authorities will be likely look to improve their policies around no-fly lists, parking restrictions and response times, they should also look to improve some of the technology they have in place. No doubt, the cost of security can be high. But video analytics, with its lowering cost and increased accuracy, is a feasible option to not only reduce overall costs, but also greatly improve security response times to prevent incidents before they occur and accelerate the apprehension of suspects.
Mark Gally is Vice President of Marketing for VideoIQ. He can be reached at: