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Intelligent analytics can help protect the public and prevent the spread of coronavirus
As organizations continue to confront unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, industry and government leaders worldwide are seeking reliable solutions and technologies that can help them adjust to the “new normal” in a productive and safe way. One technology that stands out for its ability to flexibly support many evolving urgent needs is Video Content Analytics; specialized software that processes video to identify, categorize and index objects in video footage to drive mission-critical intelligent analysis. With recent advancements in AI and deep learning, video content analytics (VCA) offers several important benefits that may not immediately come to mind when considering traditional video surveillance technology. Using its newer features for a growing range of applications, intelligent video surveillance offers much more than post-incident investigative support. In fact, VCA is now on the front lines as an instrumental solution for empowering public safety agencies and private businesses to protect our society and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
VCA Solutions at Work in the Pandemic
Intelligent analytics software detects all objects – and even recognizes faces – in a video scene and, by extracting identified objects, classifying, and indexing them, video content analysis makes video searchable, actionable, and quantifiable. Object and face recognition capabilities ultimately enable users to leverage video to better understand their environment to work more productively and respond proactively and preventatively to evolving situations and emergencies. Examples of key features of VCA solutions that support the most pressing needs during the pandemic include real-time alerts for pre-defined unsafe behaviors, people counting and line crossing to facilitate occupancy awareness and face recognition for contact tracing. The actionable data provided by VCA with these capabilities support the decision-making and response processes in this uncharted time.
The New Normal Requires Greater Situational Awareness
Today’s video surveillance networks with analytics solutions go far beyond delivering conventional security benefits. Organizations can leverage video content analysis to configure rule-based alerts that are based on extensive object class and attribute filters, as well as face recognition, appearance similarity, directional data and more. These features allow corporations, campuses, and other organizations to improve specific situational awareness, which is the ability to isolate, understand, evaluate, and interpret data from extensive and varying environments as they change, and circumstances develop.
As cities, states, and countries work to contain the spread of COVID-19, deepening situational awareness across all sectors of a community including businesses of all sizes, healthcare institutions, educational campuses, law enforcement and local government, has very quickly become a top priority. With evolving social public health recommendations such as social distancing, the need to be constantly and completely informed about what is happening and there has never been greater. Keeping a watchful eye on important areas can be a daunting and stressful task, especially for highly active and large areas, such as hospitals and healthcare facilities that need to prevent bottlenecks in ambulance bays and preclude overcrowding in waiting rooms, as well as watch for any suspicious or problematic dwelling and loitering across its campus. In environments like these, VCA can be used to identify those hotspots and automate alerts to specific behaviors or circumstances, so that the scene can be assessed, and action can be taken accordingly.
Beyond healthcare facilities, heightened situational awareness also has increasing benefits to all those responsible for the protection of people and places and compliance with evolving public health regulations. From building maintenance to retail store operations, owners of essential services businesses, law enforcement and other managers, there are new safety requirements to uphold and risks to mitigate.
As the world continues to adapt to the new realities brought about by the coronavirus, it is becoming clear that the need for increased situational awareness around crowding and people counting support will remain a priority for the foreseeable future. Of course, the need for situational awareness and real-time intelligence extends beyond COVID-19, and occupancy tracking and people counting is a constant requirement for retail environments to proactively prevent losses, checkout abandonment and much more.
Why People Counting is Key
People counting is a particularly important video analytic capability right now as it provides the ability to detect the increase or decrease of people in a pre-defined area. Knowing how many people are coming and going into and out of a certain location allows agencies and organizations to comply with public health recommendations, such as social distancing. This is especially helpful for essential retailers that need to monitor the number of people in stores and the length of checkout lines, as well as healthcare facilities that need to ensure that waiting rooms and other areas are not overcrowded.
Intelligent video surveillance can allow for rule-based alerts that send notifications when thresholds of people/customers have been exceeded. Analytic-driven people counting can serve to protect the public and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in several ways including managing building maintenance and cleaning, complying with public health recommendations, and redirecting traffic to prevent bottlenecks.
Organizations can take a more dynamic approach to building maintenance and cleaning by configuring count–based alerts for area entryways and triggering notifications for cleaning crews when more than a certain number of people have entered the space. This way, operations managers can ensure that the property, especially sensitive areas such as public kitchens and bathrooms, remain clean and disinfected.
Beyond everyday cleanliness, as organizations work to comply with the latest public health recommendations, best practices and operating protocols, they can use VCA to seamlessly and continually monitor their occupancy statistics with real-time video content analytic people counting to facilitate compliance and protect visitors and staff, regardless of the venue.
They can also proactively avoid unnecessary crowding and prevent bottlenecks by detecting mounting traffic as it forms. By configuring people counting alerts for tight hallways and spaces, operators can monitor and identify potential crowding and proactively avoid this situation by sending personnel to redirect traffic to other walkways or access points or by producing signage that achieves the same effect. In an airport or transit hub, for instance, dynamic occupancy alerting can help ensure that travelers move swiftly through check-in and security checkpoints for safer and more streamlined visitor experience.
People counting is effective for virtually any situation where preventing crowding and optimizing traffic flows is connected to customer satisfaction and/or safety. Having real-time, relevant situational awareness enables employees to use the data more effectively, and ultimately predictively, both in times of crisis and in the face of everyday challenges.
How Video Analytics Can Accelerate Contact Tracing
The concept of contact tracing has quickly become vital as authorities worldwide look to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Understanding the interactions between people and objects in their environment is required in order to trace infected individual’s contact with other people and things. Manual contact tracing is difficult and time-consuming, but video content analytics can accelerate and aid this effort tremendously. With multi-camera search capabilities specific men, women, and children can be identified quickly and accurately through VCA. Accurate face recognition can also be used to pinpoint specific people of interest.
While contact tracing has been used for other purposes, it can be very effective in the efforts to combat coronavirus. The basic process for contact tracing with VCA for coronavirus starts with medical testing, followed by identification, tracking, contact tracing and finally guidance. Official medical testing is the first step to confirm that an individual has tested positive for the virus. Once an individual verifies testing positive for the virus, the systems administrator adds the individual’s digital image to the VCA platform for rapid video filtering based on face recognition.During the tracking process, the operator can use the VCA system to identify the appearances of the individual across cameras and environments. To conduct contact tracing, the VCA platform is then used to pinpoint the people with whom the infected individual has come into contact, as captured by video surveillance. This produces vital information on who else may be at risk, which enables the organization to identify and notify otherat-risk individuals and to provide appropriate direction on the next steps based on public health recommendations.
Charting a Course for the Future
While much remains uncertain as the pandemic develops, the importance of maintaining public safety and health is constant. Today intelligent video surveillance can help organizations across the board from small retail stores to large healthcare organizations, respond to rapidly changing needs relating to compliance with public health ordinances and support for contact tracing. Going forward, and beyond the pandemic, these powerful situational awareness capabilities will continue to provide lasting value across organizations in many ways through both existing and new uses of intelligent video content analytics solutions.
About the Author:
Stephanie Weagle is the Chief Marketing Officer at BriefCam. Stephanie leads the company’s global marketing initiatives, accelerating the market adoption of BriefCam’s comprehensive video analytics solutions. Before joining BriefCam, Stephanie was Vice President of Marketing for Corero Network Security, where she led global marketing for the company’s cyber-threat mitigation product portfolio. Previously, she held senior marketing roles at Lionbridge Technologies and Novell, Inc.