The all-knowing eye – a new paradigm in electronic security

Introduction:

For more than 100 years, electronic security systems have been protecting institutions, homes, and businesses. While there have been many advances in sensor technology and alarm signal transmission, the fundamental way these systems operate has changed little over time.

Simple mechanical switches have been replaced by wireless proximity sensors, and trip wires, by infrared and microwave motion detectors, but they can only provide a binary view of the environment, detecting if a door is in an open or closed or if there is movement present; a primitive form of “situational awareness.”

This article describes a new generation of security products, built on the convergence of video, artificial intelligence, facial recognition and other technologies that are forming a new paradigm in electronic security.

The building blocks

CCTV cameras, which have been in commercial use since 1949 [1], extended the reach of security personnel dramatically, allowing them to monitor and asses remote events.

In the 70’s, a number of companies began offering video motion detection [2], which could be connected to existing cameras. These early systems required a separate computer and strong illumination to function and were also very expensive.

Motion detection improved markedly with the advent of digital cameras, which allowed for more granular and accurate assessment of video data at a much lower cost. It is now a standard feature in most digital video systems.

Parallel developments  

As security camera performance measures, like low-light response and high-resolution imaging, continued to advance, there were parallel advances in the field of artificial intelligence which were on a convergence course.

Artificial intelligence would allow video systems to do more than detect motion. With this added ingredient, they could also identify specific objects, read words and numbers, and recognize facial features.

The all-knowing eye

The ultimate convergence would result in a video-based security platform that combines all of the above capabilities in a single system. It would be capable of being armed and disarmed with a voice command or by facial recognition. It would exhibit situational awareness, recognizing objects in its field of view and comprehend significant changes in their relationship. It would also maintain a visual record of all significant events, and allow these events to be searched by any parameter.

 

About two years ago, a company called Buddyguard produced a product called Flare that incorporated all of these features. Described in an article by Digital Trends: “Flare is part camera, part AI, part IoT accessory. BuddyGuard (the manufacturer) bills its product as the first home security system powered by true artificial intelligence.” [3]

Ostensibly, this home security product checked all the right boxes: it was a video-based system capable of voice and facial recognition, possessed AI based situational awareness and was capable of recognizing changes in a scene that would indicate an intrusion or other situation requiring attention.

Unfortunately, Buddyguard went belly up. At the time of this article, I tried, unsuccessfully, to contact the company principals and discovered that their website had been closed.  From my investigation, it seems that they released a beta version of Flare but ran out of funds before they could perfect the platform – not unusual for a start-up on the cutting edge of technology.

But the trend toward convergence appears to be advancing as noted in a recent article from Datafloq.com titled “How Artificial Intelligence Is Revolutionizing Home Security.” Here is a short excerpt: “While past security systems would sound their alarm anytime they were armed and detected movement, facial recognition combines with AI to reduce the number of false alarms you experience. Your security system’s cameras can recognize your face and the faces of the people you invite into your home on a regular basis.” [4]

Summary:

A truly revolutionary change in the security paradigm may be around the corner, or it may be a few years out, but it is definitely coming our way.  Magnetic contacts, motion detectors, and glass break detectors are going to be replaced by video-based systems with true situational awareness powered by AI. The dawn of intelligent security and the “all-knowing eye” is near at hand.

References

[1] Staff, P. and Staff, P. The history of CCTV – from 1942 to present. PC Retail, 2018. www.pcr-online.biz/retail/the-history-of-cctv-from-1942-to-present.

[2] Commercially Available Video Motion Detectors. Osti.gov, 2018. www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6274640

[3] Digital Trends. (2018). Artificial Intelligence Security System Recognizes Faces | Digital Trends. [online] Available at: www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/flare-home-security

[4] Datafloq.com. (2018). How Artificial Intelligence Is Revolutionizing Home Security. Available at: datafloq.com/read/how-ai-is-revolutionizing-home-security/4899