The year 2017 saw some of the worst natural disasters in North America, with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreaking havoc on Houston, Texas, and the Caribbean with force of which we haven’t seen before. While many people chose to evacuate these areas, many were left to deal with the devastation and first responders had the difficult job of assessing the damage, rescuing trapped victims and delivering food and supplies.

AI-Enabled Drones And Robotics To Assess Damage

In addition, more than 1,800 FEMA employees were deployed to support the hurricane relief efforts along with over 340 workers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.Robots could be vital in ensuring that security is maintained within a disaster zone - and they only cost a quarter of a police officer's salary

That’s on top of the resources that were already actively working to save lives in the affected areas, including the Texas National Guard, the entirety of which was activated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shortly after Harvey came ashore.

While these rescue workers work tirelessly to make a difference, many times there simply aren’t enough hands to truly help everyone in need.

As a result, some companies look at this as a way to introduce technology to the equation that can be easily deployed in the event of disaster, including artificial intelligence-enabled drones and robotics to assess damage, provide initial triage for patients, and provide basic supplies to people in need.

While still in the beginning stages, these initiatives are already being implemented in some emerging markets.

Robots As Mobile Sentries

Disaster situations tend to bring out the best in people as evidenced by those who turn out en masse, either on their own or by volunteering with service organizations, to try and help their fellow citizens following storms, earthquakes and other types of calamities.Utilizing a robot instead of a human as a sentry means less law enforcement and/or security personnel

Unfortunately, these types of incidents also bring out the worst in humankind in the form of looters and others who seek to take advantage of people who have lost everything.

Although it should be noted that fears and reports of looting are often overstated during events like Harvey and other disasters, there’s no denying that keeping the peace and making sure that things do not descend into chaos and anarchy during what is a stressful time for all involved is paramount.

Given that law enforcement and the National Guard must devote the majority of their attention to other recovery efforts, robots could be vital in ensuring that security is maintained within a disaster zone.

In addition to not having to allocate manpower to security, which again involves bringing in people and placing further burdens on available resources, deploying robots to act as mobile sentries offers a number of benefits.

Sustainable Resources

Obviously, there are cost advantages to using robots rather than people. For example, in a typical commercial environment, robots can be deployed for about half the cost of a traditional unarmed guard and they only cost about a quarter of what it takes to employ a police officer in a law enforcement-type application.

Most robots are also outfitted with surveillance cameras, which provide authorities the ability to constantly monitor an area and record video for evidentiary purposes.

Deploying robots to act as mobile sentries offers a number of benefits
Artificial intelligence-enabled drones and robotics aid to assess damage, provide initial triage for patients, and provide basic supplies to people in need during a natural disaster 

Perhaps the most appealing benefit that robots offer to emergency management officials in a security role during disaster recovery efforts is sustainability. Robots never get tired, nor do they have to use the bathroom, eat or take a break.

With the abilities afforded by AI, robots can also navigate any designated area autonomously to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior or alert first responders to those who may need aid.Pattern recognition programs are essentially the building blocks that make the larger umbrella of general AI possible

The SMP Robotics S5 Security Robot from Robotic Assistance Devices, for example, can run for as long as 20 hours without needing to be recharged and a single operator working from a central command post could manage up to 25 of them.

Robotic Sentries To Address Short-Staffing

Having robots patrol certain locations also reduces the likelihood of violent encounters between people and security forces. It’s not uncommon for tensions to boil over in situations where people feel hopeless and they can sometimes lash out at the very people sent to help them.

Such a situation occurred following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast in 2005. Just days after the Superdome was converted into a makeshift shelter for evacuees, conditions inside the massive building began to deteriorate and a National Guardsman was assaulted one night inside a locker room.

The attack resulted in troops putting up barbed wire fencing in various places around the building for protection from the increasingly agitated crowd.

Last but certainly not least, utilizing a robot instead of a human as a sentry in the aftermath of a disaster means that less law enforcement and/or security personnel will have be pulled from surrounding areas, many of which are already short-staffed as it is.Robots are outfitted with surveillance cameras, which provide authorities the ability to constantly monitor an area

Law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs from adjacent communities and neighboring states almost immediately pour into the hardest hit areas following a disaster; however, this also leaves their respective agencies somewhat vulnerable themselves should they encounter a devastating event of their own.

The use of just 50 robots, because they can work more hours, could mean that roughly 120 first responders could stay put in their own cities, towns and counties.

New Possibilities With Artificial Intelligence

While drones still largely require a human operator to chart their flight paths and control their movements, the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the capabilities of machines to work autonomously.

Though it may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel or movie, there are already numerous robotic technologies that leverage some form of AI technology today.

Of course, there is still a bit of confusion about what exactly AI is as well as some of the underlying terminology surrounding it.

Generally speaking, AI is the ability of a computer to imitate the cognitive thinking and decision-making capabilities of humans.

the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the capabilities of machines to work autonomously
AI is the ability of a computer to imitate the cognitive thinking and decision-making capabilities of humans

Some of the terms used in conjunction with AI, such as machine learning, deep learning and neural networks, refer to the ability of software programs to recognize patterns in large amounts of ingested data.

Pattern recognition programs such as these, labeled by some as ‘narrow AI’, are essentially the building blocks that make the larger umbrella of general AI possible.Robots used in disaster scenarios could help maintain law and order, assist in search and rescue operations, and provide vital communications capabilities

Remote Physical Security Capabilities

The physical security industry has recently been inundated with technologies that leverage different components of this narrow AI category.

The manned guarding segment, in particular, has seen the introduction of a variety of robot guards over the past several years, which have been deployed in a range of different applications.

Aside from serving as a force multiplier, robots with machine learning capabilities give security end users the ability to have an expanded presence in locations or situations characterized as too 'dull, dirty or dangerous' to place a human guard.

For example, while it may not be feasible to have a human patrol the outskirts of a vital electric substation located hundreds of miles from the nearest town, having a robot that can easily traverse the harsh terrain and notify the proper authorities when something is amiss would be a viable alternative.Sometimes health and safety concerns make it dangerous to have a human watch the site, such as at toxic waste dumps - robots do not have this issue

Technology As Force Multiplier In Disaster Management

There are also situations where health and safety concerns simply preclude the ability of having a human watch the site, such as at toxic waste dumps, but this is not the case for a robot.

Similar to these situations where having human guards is not desirable or even possible, robots could be used in disaster scenarios where they could help maintain law and order, assist in search and rescue operations, as well as provide vital communications capabilities.

Robots and drones that are equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities can offer first responders a look into the aftermath of a natural disaster and serve as a force multiplier in these cases.

We’re seeing the rise of the use of this kind of technology, and as the world faces more and more weather-related and man-made disasters in the future, they will become a part of the fabric of emergency response.

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What Do You Need To Know About Thermal Imaging Cameras?
What Do You Need To Know About Thermal Imaging Cameras?

As businesses, schools, hospitals and sporting venues look to safely reopen in a COVID-19 world, thermal imaging systems will play a critical role in helping to detect and distinguish skin temperature variations in people. Thermal surveillance, a mainstay of traditional physical security and outdoor perimeter detection, is now being deployed to quickly scan employees, contractors and visitors as part of a first line of defense to detect COVID-19 symptoms. In the coming weeks and months, the security industry will look to implement thermal camera solutions for customers, yet many questions remain as to the differences between different system types and how to properly install thermal imaging cameras. In this Q&A, Jason Ouellette, Head of Technology Business Development for Johnson Controls, answers several of these questions. Q: What are some of the different thermal imaging solutions available in the market to detect an elevated temperature in a person? For the general market, there are three types of these thermographic screenings. There is the handheld device, which is typically lower cost, very portable, and very easy to use. Typically, this is a point and shoot type of device, but it requires you to be three feet or less from the person that you're screening, which, in today's world, means the user needs to wear protective personal equipment. For the general market, there are three types of these thermographic screenings The second type of solution would best be described as a thermal camera and kiosk. The advantage of this system over a handheld device is this can be self-service. An individual would go up to and engage with the kiosk on their own. But many of these kiosk type solutions have some integration capability, so they can provide some type of output, for either turnstiles, or physical access control, but not video management systems (VMS). Some of the downside of this type of system is that it’s less accurate than a thermographic solution because it does not have a blackbody temperature calibration device and the readings are influenced by the surrounding ambient temperature, called thermal drift. So instead of being able to achieve a ±0.3ºC accuracy rating, this system probably provides closer to ±0.5ºC at best. Some of these devices may be classed as a clinical thermometer with a higher degree of one time accuracy, but do not offer the speed and endurance of the thermographic solution for adjunctive use. And then there are thermal imaging camera systems with a blackbody temperature calibration device. These types of systems include a dual sensor camera, that has a visual sensor and a thermal sensor built right into the camera, along with a separate blackbody device. This provides the highest degree of ongoing accuracy, because of the blackbody and its ability to provide continuous calibration. These systems can provide much more flexibility and can offer integrations with multiple VMS platforms and access control devices. Q: When installing a thermal imaging camera system what is the most important element to consider? Camera placement is critical to ensure the system works as expected, however the placement of the blackbody device which verifies the correct calibration is in place is equally as important. If the customer wants to follow FDA medical device recommendations for camera placement, both the height of the camera and the blackbody as well as the distance between these devices should comply with the product installation instructions. This takes into account the device focal range and calibration parameters in addressing the distance from the person undergoing the scan. Also, integrators should minimize camera detection angles to ensure optimal accuracy and install cameras parallel with the face as much as possible, and again in compliance with installation instructions. Integrators should minimize camera detection angles to ensure optimal accuracy The blackbody should be placed outside of the area where people could block the device and located more towards the edges of the field-of-view of the camera. You need to keep in mind the minimum resolution for effective thermographic readings which is 320 by 240 pixels as defined by the standards. To achieve this, you would need to follow medical electrical equipment performance standards driven by IEC 80601-2-59:2017 for human temperature scanning and FDA guidelines. Within that measurement, the face needs to fill 240 x 180 pixels of the thermal sensor resolution, which is close to or just over 50 percent of the sensor’s viewing area typically, meaning a single person scanned at a time in compliance with the standards for accuracy.  Along with height and distance placement considerations, the actual placement in terms of the location of the system is key. For example, an expansive glass entryway may impact accuracy due to sunlight exposure. Installations should be focused on ensuring that they are away from airflow, heating and cooling sources, located approximately 16 feet from entry ways and in as consistent of an ambient temperature as possible between 50°F and 95°F. Q: Once a thermal imaging camera system is installed, how do you monitor the device? There are several choices for system monitoring, depending on whether the solution is used as standalone or integrated with other technologies, such as intrusion detection, access control or video systems. For standalone systems, the ability to receive system alerts is typically configured through the camera’s webpage interface, and the cameras include abilities such as the live web page, LED display for alerting, audio alerts and physical relay outputs. When done right, these features will all follow cybersecurity best practices which is important for any network solution today, including changing default passwords and establishing authentication methods. The ability to receive system alerts is typically configured through the camera’s webpage interface These types of thermal cameras can also integrate with turnstile systems, VMS platforms and access control systems. This is typically done through the integration of a relay output, activated by a triggered temperature anomaly event on a thermal imaging camera which can then be used for activities such as locking a turnstile, or through access control and video systems to send an email or provide an automated contagion report for contact tracing. These capabilities and integrations extend the monitoring capability above that of the standalone solution. The camera can be configured to monitor a specific range of low and high alerts. Users can determine the actions that should be taken when that alert exceeds the preset low or high threshold. These actions include things like a bright and easy-to-see LED can provide visual notification through pulsing and flashing lights as an example. Q: What about system maintenance? Does a thermal imaging camera require regular service in order to operate accurately? First it’s important to make sure the system is calibrated. This can be done after the unit stabilises for at least 30 minutes to establish the initial reference temperature source known as the blackbody. Calibrations conducted before this warm up and stability time period can throw off accuracy. Also, as part of your system maintenance schedule you will want to perform a calibration check of the blackbody device every 12 months, along with following recommendations of the FDA and IEC. If you install the solution and don’t perform maintenance and the blackbody calibration certificate expires, over time there’s a risk that the device will experience drift and a less accurate reading will result. There’s a risk that the device will experience drift and a less accurate reading will result Q: What final pieces of advice do you have for either an integrator who plans to install a thermal imaging camera system or an end user who plans to invest in this solution? Before you buy a thermal imaging camera check to see if the manufacturer ships the camera with a calibration certificate. Also, become familiar with FDA’s guidance released in April 2020, Enforcement Policy for Telethermographic Systems During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency. This document places thermal/fever products for adjunctive use under the category of a Class I medical devices and subject to its regulatory control. Driven by these regulations and categorisation, users need to understand specifically what is required to meet the required level of accuracy for successful detection. While thermal imaging camera systems are more complex than traditional surveillance cameras, they can prove to be a valuable resource when set up, configured and maintained properly.

Functionality Beyond Security: The Advent of Open Platform Cameras
Functionality Beyond Security: The Advent of Open Platform Cameras

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic marks the biggest global disruption since World War II. While the ‘new normal’ after the crisis is still taking shape, consumers are apprehensive about the future. According to a recent survey, 60% of shoppers are afraid of going grocery shopping, with 73% making fewer trips to physical stores. Returning to the workplace is also causing unease, as 66% of employees report feeling uncomfortable about returning to work after COVID-19.  Businesses and employers are doing their best to alleviate these fears and create safe environments in and around their buildings. This also comes at tremendous costs for new safety measures and technologies – including updates to sanitation protocols and interior architecture – that protect against COVID-19. Costs in the billions that most businesses will face alone, without support from insurance and amidst larger, macroeconomic challenges. Saving costs and increasing security But what if building operators, retail shop owners, and other stakeholders could save costs by leveraging new functionality from their existing security infrastructure? More specifically, expanding the use of current-generation security cameras – equipped with AI-driven image analysis capabilities – beyond the realm of security and into meeting new health regulations. This is exactly where video analytics algorithms come into play. And in the next step, a new evolutionary approach towards open security camera platforms promises new opportunities. Security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors Over the past decade, security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors. They provide valuable data that can be analyzed and used in beneficial ways that are becoming the norm. Since 2016, Bosch has offered built-in Video Analytics as standard on all its IP cameras. On one hand, this enables automated detection of security threats more reliably than human operators. And on the other hand, video analytics collect rich metadata to help businesses improve safety, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and create new value beyond security. Expanding Camera Functionality Beyond Security Today, we have ‘smart’ security cameras with built-in video analytics to automatically warn operators of intruders, suspicious objects and dangerous behaviors. The rich metadata from several cameras on the same network can also be consolidated by making use of an intelligent software solution. It offers so-called pre-defined widgets to provide business intelligence by measuring area fill levels, counting building occupancy and detecting the formation of crowds. In combination with live video stream data, these insights enable heightened situational awareness to security operators. What’s more, operators are free to set their own parameters – like maximum number of occupants in a space and ‘off limit’ areas – to suit their needs. These user-centric widgets also come in handy in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Specific widgets can trigger an alarm, public announcement or trigger a 'traffic light' when the maximum number of people in a space is exceeded. Building operators can also use available intelligence such as foot traffic ‘heat maps’ to identify problem areas that tend to become congested and place hand sanitizer stations at heavily frequented hotspots. At the same time, the option to perform remote maintenance on these systems limits the exposure of technicians in the field during the pandemic. Again, the underlying camera hardware and software already exist. Cameras will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus Looking ahead, cameras with video analytic and neural network-based analytic capabilities will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus. For instance, cameras could monitor distances between individuals and trigger voice announcements when social distancing guidelines are violated. Facial recognition software can be trained to monitor personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance and sound alerts for persons entering buildings without masks. The technical requirements are already in place. The task at hand is to deliver these new functionalities to cameras at scale, which is where open camera platforms hold the key. Why Open Camera Operating Systems? When it comes to innovating future camera applications that extend beyond security, no hardware manufacturer should go at it alone. Instead, an open platform approach provides the environment for third-party developers to innovate and market new functions. In essence, an open platform principle allows customers and users to change the behavior of devices by adding software afterwards. This software can either be found in an app store or can be self-developed. For a precedent, we can look at the mobile phone industry. This is where software ecosystems like Android and Apple’s iOS have become the norm. They have also become major marketplaces, with the Apple App Store generating $519 billion in billings on 2019, as users use their phones for far more than just making phone calls. In the same way, intelligent cameras will be used far beyond classic video applications in the future. To get there, adopting an open platform principle is essential for a genuine transformation on an industry level. But establishing an open platform principle in the fragmented video security industry demands a cooperative approach. In 2018 Bosch started a fully owned start-up company, Security & Safety Things, and became one of five founding members of OSSA (Open Security & Safety Alliance). With more than 40 members, the Alliance has collectively created the first Technology Stack for “open” video security devices. This includes the OSSA Application Interface Specification and Compliant Device Definition Specification. An open camera platform for innovating future functionality  Based on OSSA’s common APIs, collective approach on data security and core system requirements for video security cameras, the first camera manufacturers were able to build video security cameras that adopt an open platform principle. Further fueling innovation, OSSA focused on driving the creation of one centralized marketplace to unite demand and supply in the market. Camera devices that are built in accordance with OSSA’s Technology Stack, so-called “Driven by OSSA” devices, can benefit from this marketplace which consists of three pillars: a development environment, an application store, and a device management portal. Security & Safety Things has advanced OSSA’s open camera platform concept, built this marketplace for the security and safety industry and has developed the open OS that powers the first “Driven by OSSA” devices. Making it quick and simple to customize security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps This year, Bosch, as one of the first camera manufacturers, introduces the new INTEOX generation of open platform cameras. To innovate a future beyond security functionality, INTEOX combines built-in Intelligent Video Analytics from Bosch, an open Operating System (OS), and the ability to securely add software apps as needed. Thanks to the fully open principle, system integrators are free to add apps available in the application store, making it quick and simple to customize security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps on the INTEOX platform. In turn, app developers can now focus on leveraging the intelligence and valuable data collected by analytics-equipped cameras for their own software developments to introduce new exciting possibilities of applying cameras. These possibilities are needed as smart buildings and IoT-connected technology platforms continue to evolve. And they will provide new answers to dealing with COVID-19. The aforementioned detection of face masks and PPE via facial detection algorithms is just one of manifold scenarios in which new apps could provide valuable functionality. Contact tracing is another field where a combination of access control and video analytics with rich metadata can make all the difference. Overall, open camera platforms open a future where new, complex functionality that can save lives, ensure business continuity and open new business opportunities will arrive via something as simple as a software update. And this is just the beginning.

Recognizing The Importance Of Security Officers To Promote Safety
Recognizing The Importance Of Security Officers To Promote Safety

The general public doesn’t give much thought to the important role of security officers in creating and promoting safer environments. The low-profile work of security officers is vital to protecting people, places and property. During the pandemic, newer aspects to that role have emerged. Security personnel have been called on to perform diverse tasks such as managing queues at the supermarket, safeguarding testing centers and hospitals, ensuring food deliveries, and supporting police patrols. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and two other organizations in the United Kingdom are joining forces to raise awareness of the work of security officers and to recognize the vital importance of the duties they perform. BSIA, a trade association, includes members who are responsible for 70% of privately provided UK security products and services, including security guarding, consultancy services, and distribution and installation of electronic and physical security equipment. BSIA, the Security Institute and the Security Commonwealth Joining BSIA in the awareness campaign are the Security Institute, a professional security membership body; and the Security Commonwealth, which is comprised of 40 organizations from across the security landscape with common objectives to build professionalism, raise standards and share best practices. “The recognition of security officers as key workers is the start of a re-appraisal of what service they provide to the community in keeping the public safe and secure,” says Mike Reddington, BSIA Chief Executive. “As we exit lockdown and have to navigate public spaces again, [security officers] will have a crucial role in supporting public confidence. We are working closely with the Police and all other public bodies to find the best way to achieve this.” Security officers acknowledged as key workers The campaign will showcase security professionals as a respected, valued, professional service provider and a key worker that is acknowledged and embedded in daily lives. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and two other organizations in the United Kingdom are joining forces to raise awareness of the work of security officers “Great effort has been invested in the professional standards and capabilities of frontline [security] officers, and they have proven their worth during the coronavirus crisis in the UK,” says Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive, the Security Institute. “They, along with the wider security sector, deserve to be recognized, respected and appreciated for the safety and security they provide across the United Kingdom.” “[We are working to] build professionalism, raise standards and share best practices, and I hope this campaign can make more people recognize the changes we have all made and continue to make,” says Guy Matthias, Chairman of the Security Commonwealth (SyCom). The industry will be reaching out to companies, professionals, and organizations in the sector to participate in the campaign. The hope is that, over the coming weeks as lockdown is eased, the industry can play its part to ensure that the country emerges with confidence to start to recover and build for the future. Private security more important than ever The campaign will showcase security professionals as a respected, valued, professional service provider Across the pond in the United States, law enforcement professionals are facing a crisis of confidence during a time of civil unrest as protestors call to “defund the police” and to otherwise undermine and/or recast law enforcement’s role in preserving the peace and ensuring public safety. If an upshot is that public policing is starved of resources, the role of private security to supplement their mission is likely to increase. In short, the role of private security is more important than ever on both sides of the Atlantic. Public recognition of that role is welcome, obviously. In any case, the importance of their role protecting people, places and property has never been greater.