Electronic Weapons: Curing The Clueless


February 18, 2011: Over the last decade, troops in combat zones have been are increasingly using "smart cams" to guard their bases. Use of video cameras used for security is a decades-old practice. The new wrinkle is software that watches what the many cams see, analyses it, and alerts human operators if anything suspicious is spotted. Several firms, often from Israel, have pioneered the development of software that can view recorded security video, and look for something specific. This is of particular interest for police investigations, or marketing companies looking for patterns of movement among shoppers. There are many other uses. One new software, BriefCam, also creates a new video, including only the behavior being sought. Thus hours of video would be compressed into a few minutes, or less (or none at all).

All this arises from efforts to solve a long-time problem with surveillance cameras. That is, the large number of humans required to monitor them. It's boring work, and one watcher can only monitor so many cameras effectively. The smart video software that has been showing up over the last five years uses cheaper, and more powerful PC type systems to do the monitoring. The way it works is pretty straightforward. Digital images seen by the vidcams, are compared to a library of images to watch out for (people with guns, items put down and left, and so on). Thus in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troops could deploy hundreds of cameras to guard major bases, many of them sending their data back via a wireless link, and only have a few troops monitor the entire system (with other troops armed and ready to roll quickly if the system spots an intruder, and that is confirmed by the human operators.) Similar systems are used by commercial organizations for security, either of offices and industrial facilities, or checking for shoplifting in retail outlets.

But the ability to scrutinize old vids with software that can look for certain things is a big help in detecting suspicious behavior (people planning bombings or other types of attacks), or wanted individuals believed to be operating in a certain area. This kind of software is also very useful for squeezing more information out of thousands of hours of old UAV videos.




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