Visual security: New camera takes it all in

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 @ 01:06 PM gHale

When it comes to security, traditional surveillance cameras can canvas a crowd or try to pick out a suspect fleeing a crime scene.
Once you zoom in, however, you lose contact with the rest of the scene, until now. That is because a new video surveillance system may soon give law enforcement an extra set of eyes. The Imaging System for Immersive Surveillance (or ISIS), developed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), takes new video camera and image-stitching technology and bolts it to a ceiling, mounts it on a roof, or fastens it to a truck-mounted telescoping mast. [private]
Like a fisheye lens, ISIS sees very wide. Whereas a typical fisheye lens distorts the image and can only provide limited resolution, video from ISIS is detailed, edge-to-edge. That’s because the video consists of a series of individual cameras stitched into a single, live view.
“Coverage this sweeping, with detail this fine, requires a very high pixel count,” said Program Manager Dr. John Fortune, of S&T’s Infrastructure and Geophysical Division, “ISIS has a resolution capability of 100 megapixels.” That’s as detailed as 50 full-HDTV movies playing at once, with optical detail to spare. You can zoom in close without losing clarity.
For years, photographers have used low-cost stitching software to create high-res images. But those are still images, created days or weeks after shooting a scene. ISIS works in real time. A new interface allows maintenance of the full field of view, while you can zoom in on a focal point of choice.
Other maneuvers, some of which are commercially available, work through a suite of software applications called video analytics. One app can define a sacrosanct “exclusion zone,” for which ISIS provides an alert the moment it’s breached. Another lets the operator pick a target and the detailed viewing window will tag it and follow it, automatically panning and tilting as needed. Video analytics offer at high resolution across a 360-degree field of view, coupled with the ability to follow objects against a cluttered background, would provide enhanced situational awareness as an incident unfolds.
In the event that a terrorist attack occurs, forensic investigators can pore over the video, using pan, zoom, and tilt controls to reconstruct who did what and when. Because these controls are virtual, separate investigators can view different regions of a crime scene simultaneously.
ISIS creators already have their eyes on a new and improved second generation model, complete with custom sensors and video boards, longer range cameras, higher resolution, a more efficient video format, and a discreet, chandelier-like frame—no bigger than a basketball. Eventually, the Department plans to develop a version of ISIS that will use infrared cameras to detect events that occur at night.
S&T formed a partnership with the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), and in December 2009, began an ISIS pilot at Logan International Airport, allowing Homeland Security end users the opportunity to evaluate the technology. Beyond the potential for enhancing security at our nation’s airports, if successful, the current testing at Logan could pave the way for the eventual deployment of ISIS to protect other critical venues.[/private]

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