Intelligence: VidCams That Think


November21, 2006: While computerized facial recognition got shot down in the media recently, for not being ready for prime time, the technology has proved useful in other ways. While faces are pretty difficult for current pattern recognition software to handle, other images are not. For a decade now, pattern recognition software has been used successfully for industrial robots and robotic vehicles. This technology is now being applied to security video (a big market, that is growing rapidly.) Software can detect when something bad is going on, like a crime, and alert human operators. This solves a major problem with surveillance video; having someone who can watch the video feeds. This is not always necessary, because the videos have proved most useful as a record of a past crime, and thus a deterrent to criminals. But in some security situations, and most military ones, you want to alert someone right away if something unwanted is happening.

Security video is a big deal in Iraq, where is has been a major factor in keeping casualties, from roadside bombs, down. The many video cameras in UAVs, or just mounted around bases, have caught terrorists planning bombs, or undertaking preparations for other types of attacks (mortars, rockets or guns). But these video feeds tie up a lot of troops, who must spend mind-numbing hours monitoring the pictures. The new pattern recognition software takes on some of this duty. That means more vidcams can be employed, with software doing most of the analysis. A human operator is only alerted when the software detects what appears to be a suspicious activity.

Higher resolution vidcams, cheaper hard drives to store the images on, and faster CPUs to do the analysis, are what make a lot of this pattern recognition software work. The concept has been around for decades, but only recently have the resources become available. The technology was originally developed for police and security, not military, applications. The software can monitor vidcams in high-crime areas, and alert police as crimes are committed, often quickly enough to halt some (such as rape or assault). In the security area, burglary and vandalism can be detected and interrupted. Moving these capabilities to military applications is pretty easy.




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