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Friday, November 21, 2008

Integrating thermal imaging into surveillance systems

"Defense & Security

Integrating thermal imaging into surveillance systems

Glen Francisco

Thermal imaging camera systems can be merged with existing surveillance technologies and new image-processing algorithms to protect critical infrastructures more efficiently.

With the increased concern over terrorist threats at critical infrastructure sites, installing and operating comprehensive detection, management, and control systems has become imperative. This can be achieved by selecting appropriate components from the most powerful surveillance technologies available and using each to create highly-effective security systems. Thermal imaging, automated software detection, immersive visual assessment, and wide-area command and control are presently considered the four building blocks of a completely integrated security system.

It is now recognized that many US energy plants, commerce hubs, and other key sites –mostly monitored by closed-circuit television (CCTV)– currently need to improve their detection and monitoring capabilities. When compared to modern methods, most conventional CCTV systems have major shortcomings, including limited all-weather situational awareness, impaired nighttime detection, and lack of early detection functionalities. They are also subject to operator fatigue or other human errors.1 Integrating a system using the four building blocks offers the means" to significantly decrease these shortcomings.

The popularity of thermal imaging camera use at critical infrastructure sites is largely due to their good performance under nighttime or challenging weather conditions, their ability to see through foliage, and their covert surveillance and long-range detection capabilities. In remote locations, the lack of adequate lighting is always a concern and can breach security in shadowy corners, dense foliage, or other dark areas. Visible CCTV cameras and short-wave infrared cameras have difficulty detecting intruders in dark areas because of their dependence on a visible light source. In contrast, thermal imaging can detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects based on their temperature, thermal imaging cameras can pick up on warm objects which stand out well against cooler backgrounds. Humans and other warm-blooded animals are then easily detected against the environment, day or night. In addition, the thermal waves used by such cameras make it easier to detect threatening activities under inclement weather conditions. Even at long distances, these cameras remain the most effective choice for surveying large areas.

The performance of a critical infrastructure security surveillance system can also be improved by combining thermal imaging cameras, working either as stand-alone monitors or as part of a network, with advanced image-processing algorithms that can improve reliability while increasing the degree of system automation and the level of situational awareness.

Modern surveillance systems should be able to detect events, evaluate the degree of threat, and archive or provide real-time reports to a command center. In addition, a 3D-immersive video surveillance system, with either single, multiple, or pan/tilt/zoom cameras, can further enhance situational awareness for security personnel. This can be achieved by creating a 3D visual context that seamlessly merges “live” video streams from security cameras with a 3D representation of the monitored facility, with further enhancement possible using algorithms that can increase awareness and reliability to higher levels.

While 3D-immersive video surveillance provides situational awareness, a wide-area remote surveillance system integrates sensors of any type over very large areas to ensure effective responses to security threats. The wide-area surveillance can detect and respond to a series of alarms, while one (or more) 3D-immersive system(s) can manage an individual event.

The level of threat to critical infrastructures across the world is high, and these facilities are expected to remain vulnerable in the coming years. The value of a modernized surveillance system that increases security and safety at these sites is accordingly enormous. This is why automated thermal detection and software systems are presently considered a highly valuable addition to traditional security systems for protecting the public and assets to the fullest degree and with the highest confidence

Flir's Thermal Imaging Cameras -

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