THE MAGAZINE

Seeking Faster Footage

By Teresa Anderson

At McCormick place in Chicago, movement is a priority. The largest convention center in North America moves more than 3 million visitors a year through its 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space in four buildings. Along with those people come equipment and vehicles to support dozens of trade shows and meetings that traverse the center’s halls each year.

Ensuring that all this movement occurs safely is security’s job. Security at the convention center is responsible for the public areas of the center, while show management contracts for security on the show floor. To protect these public areas, McCormick has access control readers at eight key points, which are monitored by cameras. The center is converting all of its 600 cameras to IP models—currently 450 are IP and 150 are analog. The cameras feed into a control center located on site and are projected onto a video wall. (Axis provided the cameras and Milestone provided the video management system.)

To keep people and equipment moving, a primary part of security’s mission is to review all of this sur­­veillance video to investigate incidents. The main issues concern damage, according to Frank Solano, security systems engineer at SMG, a management company that oversees convention centers around the country. “There is some theft, but that’s rare, and a few injuries. But, in any case, you want the best information you can get,” says Solano.

Solano, who works full-time at McCormick Place on behalf of SMG, ensures high-quality information by dedicating an entire unit of mostly off-duty police officers to forensics and investigations. For each incident being investigated, it “takes hours and hours to go through days of footage,” says Solano, because most incidents investigated by the unit happened in the past and were sometimes reported days after the actual event.

Solano wanted to upgrade the convention center’s video software to make searching for incidents faster and easier, but he wasn’t immediately sold on using analytics to achieve this end. He had worked with analytics before and had “not had a great experience” with the software actually doing what manufacturers claimed. However, after a talk with integrator Johnson Controls, Solano agreed to watch demonstrations of new analytics technology.

After reviewing several products, Solano chose the Video Synopsis software by BriefCam, headquartered in Modi’in, Israel. The software compresses hours of video to display all the events on one screen. With the camera footage compressed into one video stream, each individual mover—car, person, animal—is identified and time-stamped so that the user can see when that mover is present in the time stream. By clicking on any one mover, the user can stop the simultaneous video and view just that mover in its own time stream. The user can also isolate certain types of movers—such as vehicles of a certain size. Solano was most impressed by one feature: “With the software, the staff is efficient because it doesn’t take as long to go through video footage,” he says.

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