CBC News: Software delivers new vision for video security

May 24, 2010 | Coverage

CBC News

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

Other companies are taking on other aspects of the problem. A San Francisco-based technology company, 3VR Security, has developed a video search engine to handle the vast amounts of video surveillance data being churned out and stored. It makes isolating video of a specific series of events much easier.

"Airports are drinking from a fire hose when it comes to video," says CEO Stephen Russell.

The issue was underscored in a security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport in January when a man crossed into a prohibited boarding area, then disappeared into the crowd. Investigators shut down the airport for hours to track him down — and learned later he was not a terrorist but a Chinese student kissing his girlfriend goodbye.

"With 3VR's system, officials would have been able to search video stored around the time the incident occurred, be alerted the next time he walked by a camera, and sent security right away to interrogate him," says Russell.

He adds that 3VR's system is already being used at Evansville Regional Airport in Indiana. Russell describes it as a sort of "Google for surveillance," and security teams can use it to search video footage not just for faces, but also for specific objects, colours and shapes.

Face recognition systems that can match people's faces on video images to external criminal databases are often inaccurate, but 3VR's system works on a different principle, he explains.

"By definition, Google generates many false positives for every correct result, yet it's a wonderful tool, because it's better than going through billions of web pages," Russell says. "Our system takes unmanageable volumes of video, and if you're looking for a face or a dress, you can filter down millions of hours of video to a small enough subset for humans to look through in minutes."

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