5 Video Security Challenges to Address Before Returning to Campus

While students, staff and faculty are still primarily engaged in virtual learning, educational institutions can use the current situation as an opportunity to evaluate and enhance video surveillance technologies on campus.

5 Video Security Challenges to Address Before Returning to Campus

The current health crisis has forced video security providers to rethink how surveillance can be integrated to become a pragmatic security solution; one that adapts to an organization’s specific needs and transforms into a state-of-the-art system. While societal reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to change, the need to protect communities, infrastructure and valued assets in disparate locations remains crucial.

Right now, building managers and campus officials have a unique window of time to evaluate and implement strategic security systems. With the gradual recovery from the pandemic, campuses will inevitably take measures to adopt new policies and processes to establish a “new normal” and better protect all individuals while maintaining a quality of life on campus. Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), schools are cautiously resuming operations and “going back” with either remote or hybrid virtual learning to minimize group interactions on campus. As this movement is initiated, institutions can use this opportunity to look long and hard at the video surveillance technology they have in place and determine what’s needed to take them into the future to better protect students when they fully return.

Utilizing the right technology and advanced intelligence capabilities is at the core of addressing the following five challenges.

1. Surveillance in Areas with Poor Lighting

Threats to facilities are no less real today than before COVID-19. In fact, buildings and surrounding property may be even more vulnerable after the pandemic because of a lack of resources, like strategically placed security officers and enhanced perimeter protection. Add in the potential for incidents to occur in areas with bad lighting and overall poor visibility, and the risk to the facility — and those within it — skyrockets.

This may be one of the trickiest aspects of installing a video security system that generates consistently clear images in all environments. Successfully managing video surveillance in areas with no light, low levels of light, distorting glares or an intense contrast of light requires cameras with advanced technology and intelligent capabilities that can compensate for any poor lighting or low-light conditions.

The crucial details of any scene with bad visibility can easily be missed when using cameras that aren’t equipped with automatic low-light management or IR illumination. Strategically implementing cameras that are able to combine the power of wide (or high) dynamic range (WDR) and low-light technology can enable administrators to view video feed that is crisp and detailed even when lighting is poor. WDR technology enhances the camera’s intelligent capturing of bright and dark conditions while improving blur and frame quality. To supplement, some devices automatically apply the power of low-light technology that uses smart sensors and image processing to preserve detail and color. Add Infrared illuminators that can light up an area without being recognized to the human eye, and campuses can build a comprehensive surveillance system that can capture finely tuned images and detect anything out of the ordinary in any type of light.

2. Coverage of Large Areas with Blind Spots

Obtaining full coverage in more expansive areas is a common challenge on large campuses. After fighting to return to daily operations, it may be wise for institutions to enlarge the actual scope of their video monitoring to not only surveil for threats, but also for violations of newly introduced policies and ensure compliance.

Installing multi-sensor panoramic cameras combined with fixed IP cameras at strategic locations can allow officials to take in the entire panoramic scene and eliminate the need for extra coverage at blind spots, entrances or other vulnerable areas. Administrators and security personnel can ensure they have wide visibility and an instantaneous record of any incidents that occur on campus, including clear visuals of faces and all activity, allowing them to more competently determine how to respond. Also, the impact of the mere presence of cameras throughout a space is often overlooked; it can serve as a deterrent.

This also applies to spacious outdoor areas, which are important to consider because surveillance in these spaces typically requires the right kind of casing that’s protected from vandalism and harsh elements. With surveillance cameras that are resilient enough to withstand extreme conditions and vandalism, and offer high-quality video performance with wide, immersive coverage no matter the time of day, it will be next to impossible to miss how an incident unfolded.

 3. Overcrowding and Traffic Flow

Open-platform video technology can be integrated with advanced intelligent systems, like most VMS platforms, and give campus officials the ability to locate overcrowding and track the number of individuals traveling through, or even loitering within, a defined area using heat mapping and deep learning edge or cloud-based analytics. This allows officials to reallocate staff or adjust facility best practices based on analyzed video or monitoring in real-time for rapid response. Many institutions already have intentional spacial arrangements on campus and throughout buildings. The heightened importance of social distancing takes this to a new level, making intelligent and openly integrated surveillance systems a critical solution.

Additionally, the same smart video technology can help manage unsafe traffic conditions in campus parking lots and at on-premise intersections. School officials may be able to use their integrated network of cameras to utilize analytics and advanced algorithms that capture, identify, categorize and track visitors or dangerous traffic movements.

 4. Incident Response

The safety and health of everyone on campus is the most important factor. To ensure this, every environment requires a different surveillance configuration to achieve situational awareness and to empower security operators to be prepared for unpredictable events. With customized solutions that incorporate both smart technology and are scalable, institutions can obtain high-quality video paired with pragmatic risk mitigation capabilities that increase response times.

These flexible tools have been developed as part of most integrated surveillance systems. Automatic motion and sabotage detection work by recognizing subtle changes in a scene, taking a snapshot to capture tampering if a predetermined number of pixels change and triggering an alert via the network and mobile applications. These real-time alerts enable security personnel to immediately gather information from the video stream and respond accordingly.

 5. Vaping and Smoking

Concerns around the enforcement of drug and substance use policies are now two-fold: deterring the general use on campus while also monitoring the social gathering that typically comes with it. With the rise in intelligent sensor technology that can be integrated with most VMS platforms, administrators are able to proactively oversee, promptly detect and immediately respond to vaping and THC usage.

When this type of environmental monitoring technology integrates with leading VMSs, it provides enhanced situational awareness throughout all areas of concern. Smart sensors are able to detect smoking and vaping in hard-to-surveil areas, and officials can then pinpoint and follow the incident through surveillance. If a network of cameras employs the wide-ranging coverage of panoramic devices as discussed previously, tracking an incident in real-time or investigating using playback scene analysis can be performed with all of the visual gaps filled in.

Now Is the Time to Consider an Upgrade

Educational institutions are faced with ever-changing compliance obstacles, operational hurdles on campus and the incredible challenges that come with protecting large student and staff populations. Administrators and security management realize far too often that they will never be immune to outside physical threats or on-premise disruptions. And today, institutions must adopt new ways of evaluating existing security systems to improve and customize technology in the wake of a non-physical threat that has fundamentally shifted risk assessments around the world.

Strengthening video surveillance systems with advanced IP cameras and intelligent panoramic cameras that are easily integrated to maximize their advanced capabilities can allow facilities to achieve expanded visibility of any captured scenario, comprehensive situational awareness, more insightful incident management with deep learning analytics and faster response times for security officials.

Prudent administrations are already undertaking crucial pivots to promote safer and more health-focused learning environments. Nevertheless, now may also be the time to more broadly consider campus security requirements, and consider upgrading to the video surveillance technology that will better mitigate risks and protect students, staff and assets.

Stuart Rawling is Pelco’s vice president of technology and customer engagement.

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