Managing surveillance to deliver public value
Genetec has developed a number of solutions to help public sector organisations to get more from video networks
Surveillance is increasingly an issue for government, particularly law enforcement and municipal authorities, and with the advent of mass connectivity and the affordability of IP-based camera solutions, it has never been easier for cities to implement surveillance schemes to monitor their environment.
The growth of mass surveillance however, throws up a number of challenges, not least in managing the networks of cameras, and making sense of the huge volumes of video that are being created, and turning it into actionable intelligence. With some organisations creating petabytes of video from their camera systems, the burden of managing these systems has become considerable, and risks overwhelming organisations.
One company which is helping organisations to gain control over video solutions and extract more value from them is Montreal-based Genetec. The privately owned company was founded on video management software solutions, and has expanded into IP video surveillance, IP access controls, automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) and turnkey solutions such as control centres and data centres. Today the company has a global customer base, with over 40% of its business coming from government organisations, including close relations with the G18 (G20 excluding China and Russia). Five of the G7 leaders have their official residences protected by Genetec solutions.
To give an idea of scale, Pierre Racz, president of Genetec, points out that the largest system managed with its solutions covers 200,000 cameras, 4,000 servers and 5,000 simultaneous users. In terms of management capabilities, Genetec has helped coffee shop chain Starbucks to monitor 9,500 locations with a team of just three people.
Management of large estates of cameras requires a large degree of automation, and the company supports customers with services such as configuration and development in order to develop these capabilities. It has also created capabilities to integrate with GIS systems for mapping capabilities, and mission control systems, with decision support and other functions.
One key capability of Genetec is federation technology, which allows organisations to share camera feeds. The solution was originally invented twelve years ago, Racz said, with a view to enabling public-private co-operations, specifically to allow Montreal Police to have access to a subset of the cameras deployed by the city’s electric utility. Since then, it has become evident that ‘public-public’ co-operation is more in demand, to enable public sector organisations to share systems.
“It is more useful for public-public cooperation, where for example in Chicago the Office of Emergency Management is a big user of our system, and the police department, they want to exchange multimedia and events in real time, but they have different IT departments, different budget cycles, and so federation lets them manage this,” Racz explained. “They can be on different versions, separate configuration philosophies, but this lets the operators deal with it as one seamless system.”
The solution also allows for the federation of the security architectures of the various organisations, including integration with Active Directory or LDAP, to handle security access and credentials and credential management.
Another capability of the Genetec solutions is to integrate additional data sources from across the city. One such project was developed with Microsoft, for New York, with a cloud based solution called Aware, that provides data to 36,000 police officers through mobile devices. The Aware correlation engine gives officers on the ground access to a range of different data sources, including non-obvious data, which enables officers to discover relationships or connections on the fly. Data ranging from vehicle registration to gunshot reports to lease records can all be access to give a broad picture of an incident or locale.
Another such capability is providing ‘predictive policing’ to Chicago, Racz added, where statistical data, crime heat maps and so on are all combined and processed with analytics to suggest where police should assign their resources. Chicago police are also looking at integrating public feedback with their systems.
With more cameras, and also with requirements to retain video for longer, the volume of content being created and stored is expanding rapidly, and although it is a challenge, Racz said that Genetec solutions are able to scale up and out to accommodate the growth.
Other means to tackle the volume of videos include cross indexing of unstructured content with structured data. US retailer Target is a customer, with a massive 23 petabytes of data storage – a typical airport will only have 3 petabytes, and Genetec solutions are able to manage both the IT load, and also provide intelligent solutions to enable the company to gain insight from its video. Racz gave the example of how Target’s unstructured video data was indexed with structured information – in this case the cash register exchange details, which allowed the retailer to view video of all purchases of a particular item, and identify a common cashier error that was costing the company $1.5m.
Analytics and intelligent data management has also been applied to other data sources to look for correlation, including gunshots and speeding vehicles, or one instance in Brazil where licence plate recognition was used to identify suspected car thieves and even bank robbers.
While there are pressures on organisations to integrate their sensor and camera networks, particularly with the rise of IoT, doing so poses a security risk, Racz noted. Although the company can interface with over 2,000 different models of camera, many of the devices are using protocols which are “junk” he said, and with the recent Mirai botnet, which hijacked 1.5m IP cameras, organisations need to be aware of what exactly they are connecting to.
“When you are going to put junk IoT devices on your network, then you are putting your network at risk and you are also violating the good shepherd principle, that your equip cannot be subverted to attack another network,” he said.
Racz said that security awareness around the IoT is very much in the beginning stages, with few organisations actively considering their attack surface or vulnerabilities. Genetec has developed a cybersecurity practice to help mitigate the risks for customers. The company has created micro-firewall devices that can be used to isolate an untrusted edge devices, and is including encryption and obfuscation to protect data.
With greater security and scalability, new projects can now be enabled to utilise more cameras in new ways. One such project is Detroit’s Project Green Light. The city, which has long term problems with crime, has launched the project to expand surveillance. Businesses can buy and install an IP camera, for $500 or less, which then streams to a command centre operated by Detroit Police Department, which is running on Genetec technology in the cloud.
“This is a wonderful public-private cooperation,” Racz said. “It has zero footprint, it was really easy to set up. Businesses that buy a camera, get a certificate and a green light that goes on top of their business, that says that place is under Green Light protection. It has reduced crime by 40% in less than a year, and it is pulling the city back from the brink.”