Assessing Video Search (Part 2)
Video surveillance has become an increasingly proactive tool, with many users opting for solutions using triggers and incidents detected by IVA and other smart algorithms to initiate actions and events. Despite this, recording video remains a vital requirement for video users. While integrators and installers put effort into specifying systems that capture high quality video, too often less emphasis is placed on retrieving video of interest.
Smart options for video surveillance are being developed at a rapid pace. As systems have increased capacity to use captured metadata to initiate actions and alarms, to trigger peripheral systems and to collate and report on business intelligence, they do not require operators sitting in a control centre, watching screens for signs of exceptional behaviours.
There can be no doubt that video is a great enabler, and the growth of AI deployments have served to enhance the possibilities on offer. Modern algorithms can exploit GPU architecture to automate a wide range of processes and tasks.
In the past, it was not unusual for an operator to view video streams of vehicles arriving at access control points. After visually verifying the type of vehicle, and often either communicating with the driver or checking a list of expected vehicles, they would grant access by opening a barrier or gate.
Today’s smarter systems can simplify such tasks. ANPR can identify company or registered vehicles and allow access. Sometimes the process will be straightforward, simply using a rule to open a gate. On occasions, a video clip might be bookmarked and linked to the vehicle registration number. There is no need for operator intervention.
Equally, using object recognition with deep learning-based systems, the analytics engine will recognise certain types of vehicles, using not only ANPR but also the image content, to ascertain if it represents a risk or not. Where the system is satisfied there is no threat, access can be granted.
There are many examples where video surveillance can be automated to carry out tasks, only involving the security team if a threat is detected. Whilst these features add value for the end user by delivering everyday benefits, the reality remains that users expect their surveillance systems to archive footage so if an unexpected incident occurs, further investigation can be carried out.
Even the smartest video surveillance systems will include video recording. However, where end users have invested in an advanced solution capable of delivering smart functionality, they expect searching, finding and accessing critical video to be simple.
If an unexpected event or incident occurs which has not been legislated for, the only way to mitigate risk and address threats is by an operator investigating footage and taking appropriate action. If this is the point where time is lost and a response delayed, then many end users will consider their solution to have failed.
While there are a number of intelligent implementations that can be created, the reality is that unless the fundamental basics of video surveillance are efficient and effective, the end users’ expectations will not be met. Searching for, and finding, critical video quickly is an essential function. If that does not work well, then other intelligent features won’t make up for the poor performance.
CathexisVision is an open platform VMS available in four variants: Lite, Core, Professional and Premium. The search capabilities offer four options to deliver flexibility for end users. These are snap search, motion search, activity trails and bookmarking.
The main differences between the four editions of CathexisVision are the maximum number of cameras and recording servers: 48 cameras and a single server with Lite and Core, 150 cameras and unlimited servers with Professional, and unlimited devices and servers with Premium.
When it comes to search capabilities, the most basic method is to make use of the timeline in the playback screen. This is simply dragged to find specific times, and start and end points can be used to identify a time window.
The timeline identifies periods which recordings are present for, as well as identifying motion activations. For basic searches, this works well, or simple time and date information can be used.
Of the smart search options, the one most likely to be used in most applications is motion search. This can be accessed from the playback screen, either via a side tab or by using a contextual menu.
Unlike some motion-based search algorithms, CathexisVision’s motion search uses stored metadata. The upside of this is that searches are faster than many motion search options in other VMS or NVR offerings. However, this does mean that the feature cannot be used on archived streams which did not have motion detection applied when they were recorded.
Once initiated, the operator simply selects the region of interest in the camera scene and starts the search. Results are then shown in the timeline.
Because the search uses metadata rather than re-analysing recorded footage, it is fast and accurate, which is preferable when an incident is happening and timing is vital.
The other option on the smart search menu is Snap Search (based on searching by snapshots or thumbnails). This is very much like most thumbnail searches, in that it presents a series of still images through a defined time window. These can be used when searching for an incident. What is different about the CathexisVision version is when narrowing the search down, instead of adjusting the timeline, you simply select a start snapshot and then drag to the end time snapshot. This then resets the start and end times. It is simple and intuitive, and save a few mouse clicks.
There is also another interesting search feature: Activity Trails. This is ideal for searching in scenes were activity is not expected, such as sterile zones. It displays a time-stamped colour-coded (to show time differences) overlay on the recorded scene, highlighting the ‘trail’ of any motion. When the operator clicks on the highlighted area, the linked footage is shown.
Activity Trail can also be used on live footage, but as a search tool it is fast, effective and allows a synopsis-type presentation which can allow operators to carry out powerful searches based on approximate time and location.
As with the motion search, Activity Trail uses metadata and so streams must have motion configured for it to work.
The feature is simply toggled on or off, and when in use the operator simply selects a time. The feature will then present overlays for motion which occurred up to an hour before the selected time, through to an hour after it. If the operator has an approximate idea of when an incident occurred and in which area within the viewed scene, the function makes finding and reviewing the video data a simple and intuitive task.
Finally, bookmarks can b searched based upon data attributed to them. It’s not really a video search function, more of a management tool, but it does simplify things when compiling reports on incidents or creating audit trails.
CathexisVision might not boast the advanced search capabilities of an AI-powered VMS, but it does deliver the expected search options with an intuitive and easy-to-use edge. Motion search works well, snap search makes the process simpler by eliminating a few mouse clicks typically required for thumbnail searches, and activity trail delivers an easy-to-use synopsis tool for sterile zones.
Hanwha Techwin: Wisenet Wave
Hanwha Techwin’s Wisenet Wave is a VMS package aimed at integrators and installers working in mainstream applications. The manufacturer has another software package designed for entry-level video systems, and its policy regarding enterprise-level solutions is to direct integrators and installers to its technology partners for advanced integrations. This is an important point to bear in mind, because
Hanwha Techwin is very clear that Wisenet Wave has been designed to offer a solution to the middle ground of surveillance. As such, it’s functionality – and subsequently it’s search options – are very much targeted towards that sector.
Wisenet Wave is a flexible VMS offering compatibility with Windows, Linux and MacOS. It can be deployed on servers, desktop devices, the Cloud or on mobile platforms. It supports up to 64 devices on a 64-bit desktop device or 24 devices on a 32-bit PC. When implemented on a server it can support up to 128 devices.
The VMS uses an open platform approach, with supported video formats including H.265, H.264 and M-JPEG. It does include SUNAPI which ensures full integration with the manufacturer’s own Wisenet X, P and Q camera ranges.
Other features include an events rules engine, easily customisable GUI, digital mapping, health monitoring and support for failover.
With regard to search options, Wisenet Wave offers basic navigation via the timeline, as do most VMS packages, as well as standard search criteria and a smart search option.
When navigating via the timeline, recorded segments are highlighted, as are alarm events. The operator can quickly filter through these by simply dragging and dropping to manipulate the timeline.
More specific searches can be implemented via the calendar. When a playback stream is selected, clicking on the calendar icon brings up the interface required to specify time and date searches. This is very much as is typical from a VMS or NVR.
Wisenet Wave also offers two variants of a thumbnail search. The first is initiated from the timeline and allows a period of time to be selected. Thumbnail images are then shown, and these include identifiers for the point in the timeline that they appear. The alternative is a preview search, which breaks larger time windows into smaller sections. While the two are similar in operation, thumbnail searches are used more to speed up the process of navigation over the timeline than to find specific segments of video.
When a preview search is carried out, the operator can access other options from the search results including thumbnail navigation, calendar search and the VMS smart search function.
Wisenet Wave’s smart search function makes use of motion detection to perform any searches of archived footage. As such, the video streams to be searched must have motion detection enabled for this feature to be active.
With the camera selected, the operator simply identifies the region of interest in the video scene and instigates the search. Because the search uses existing motion detection metadata, any area in the viewed scene which contains a motion detection mask specified in the VMD configurations cannot be used in a smart search.
As an aide to the operator, when selecting a region of interest, the creation of a zone will not be possible if motion detection isn’t enabled on the video stream. This gives an instant notification to the user if the smart search isn’t possible.
Any motion detected by the smart search is then highlighted in the timeline with a red motion flag, and can be easily viewed by the operator.
Wisenet Wave is, as mentioned earlier, aimed at the mainstream video market, and so it does lack some of the filtering refinements included with the other VMS packages in the test. However, for the sector it is aimed at, it delivers a decent degree of search functionality, akin to that found on an NVR designed for general surveillance use.
CathexisVision is a VMS which is often under-rated by integrators and installers. While it might not have the profile of some on the better known packages, it always delivers in terms of performance, and it has some very nice design touches which make it more user-friendly than some of the popular options. The search capabilities not only deliver what the leading brands offer, but do so with an interface which allows operators to quickly and accurately find footage as needed. The activity trail functionality adds something new and makes searches in sterile zones or areas of site which are closed a very easy task, and will be enough to swing some end users towards opting for this VMS. The other smart search functions work well too, delivering a capable and robust package. As such, CathexisVision receives a Recommended rating from Benchmark.
Hanwha Techwin: Wisenet Wave
Wisenet Wave is unashamedly a VMS that targets the mainstream market, and as such it must be considered as a software-based alternative to an NVR. The search capabilities are exactly what you’d expect from a system aimed at that level of application, and they deliver the level of functionality typical for that market segment. The smart search works well, and whilst it could benefit from some element of filtering, it cannot be penalised for not having it. As such, Wisenet Wave receives a Recommended rating from Benchmark, but with the proviso that the VMS is suited to mainstream applications looking for basic surveillance.
If an application wants Appearance Search, it doesn’t come cheap. The site will need the Enterprise version of ACC, Avigilon NVR hardware and Avigilon analytics cameras or the AI appliance. However, it is cost-effective, because the forensic potential is significant, and in many sites it could be the difference between incidents being resolved and managed quickly and easily, or incidents being closed without a successful conclusion due to a lack of resources. This alone makes ACC Enterprise the right choice for video users, and for search capabilities it is rated Outstanding by Benchmark.
Milestone: XProtect Corporate
The XProtect range remains one of the more user friendly VMS choices on the market, and the VMS is powerful and robust. The searches are easy to use, deliver good results and provide flexibility when seeking footage. When compared to other VMS searches, the package has to Recommended; we await the forthcoming releases with interest.