A Different View of Protection for Outdoor Spaces
New technologies make it easier for outdoor areas to be secured
- By Jumbi Edulbehram
- February 01, 2019
Take a moment to envision a typical day on a school’s
campus—either at a K-12 school or at a college/university.
There are a vast number of open grassy areas
with students practicing sports, studying and reading,
enjoying lunch outdoors or walking between buildings.
K-12 schools might also have children playing on jungle gyms,
on basketball courts or in fields. For the most part, school safety is
typically thought of within the four walls of the facility, but these
outdoor open spaces pose unique security challenges.
Colleges and universities, especially ones that aren’t located in
urban centers, often have many buildings spread across vast areas,
all of which are the responsibility of the security director. Low lighting
and limited visibility in these expansive areas may make it difficult
to quickly and accurately identify dangerous situations. But
new technologies and products are making it easier for these areas
to be secured.
Rise of AI
Outdoor protection for campuses requires the monitoring of numerous
surveillance camera feeds—which many school districts might
not have the manpower to watch 24/7 (especially in school districts
with a significant number of schools to protect). This is where new
technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), can be useful. Video
surveillance is on the rise for campuses across the country, as more
and more schools expand their security budgets, and AI, when implemented
correctly, can maximize the investment these school districts
are making in an effort to protect students and staff.
Incorporating AI-based video analytics into a school environment
enables greater awareness to occur, and this ability is only getting
stronger as the tecnnology advances. In the “new” world of AI, anomaly
detection or incident predictions can change the face of security.
There are companies now, for example, that have developed software
that can analyze every image of a video, automatically learn
what normal behavior is and identify exceptions. After the computer
looks at that video for a while and learns, it can identify any time an
anomaly occurs. If a school has a policy of clear backpacks, for
instance, and the computer detects a student walking in the parking
lot carrying a dark duffel bag, that can trigger an alert for officials to
check whether the student means to do harm. This intelligence is taking
the protection of students—both inside and outside of a school—
to a new level.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve discovered that traditional analytics have a
hard time interpreting real life but an easy time following instructions.
Analytics functionality, such as facial and license plate recognition, is
benefitting from advancements in machine learning and AI, becoming
more accurate and extensible to not only recognizing particular faces
and identities, but also classifying identifiable characteristics.
In outdoor spaces, there are a number of ways advanced analytics
can be used. For example, say a student has been recently expelled for
exhibiting erratic behavior. Using facial recognition, school officials
can set an alert to be notified if the student sets foot on campus again.
Similarly, license plate recognition can scan parking lots to search for
persons of interest entering the premises. Implementing video surveillance
that spans outdoor areas expands the ability of security officials
to be alerted to potential threats in a campus environment.
In general, video cameras provide a valuable crime deterrent and
deliver situational awareness to officials on an educational campus.
When a threat occurs in an outdoor space, it is essential to properly
monitor and address the situation in a timely manner, before any
danger reaches inside the building. Traditional pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ)
cameras are only able to cover limited areas, as they record the video
of the scene to which they are pointed. Panoramic technology, however,
such as 180- and 360-degree coverage, can pick up the areas that
PTZs miss, providing a means to capture a fuller picture, especially of
a vast, open area on a campus.
By obtaining maximum coverage with a panoramic view, there is a
reduction in the number of cameras required. Larger area coverage
with fewer cameras and remote monitoring enables cost efficiency
and a heightened understanding of situations and incidents. Panoramic
camera video data can also be used to incorporate both AIassisted
analysis and video analytics software to better identify potential
threats and alert officials to these threats. This is paramount when
it comes to mitigating the risks that are present in the outdoor areas
of an educational facility.
School security goes far beyond the classrooms and hallways. To
achieve a truly comprehensive plan for a campus, officials must
also address the surrounding outdoor areas, including playgrounds,
sports fields, common areas, pick-up and drop-off areas
and much more. Incorporating advancing technology, such as AI
and analytics with panoramic video data, can add an extra layer of
protection for students, teachers and staff in an effort to keep these
facilities thoroughly safe.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.