Researchers are developing a computer system that can replace manual surveillance of critical security locations such as bridges, airports and power stations, with automatic detection of any form of suspicious behaviour (Photo: Colourbox)
Are our current surveillance systems good enough to prevent attacks on the country’s infrastructure? Researchers in an industrial postdoc project are working to develop a computer programme that is able to optimise security and reduce the threat of terrorism.
Following the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 and a number of other terrorist actions in the past years, focus has been directed towards society’s ability to protect itself from future terrorist attacks.
This is an area where the infrastructural nerve centres of society such as airports, bridges, power plants and facilities, and communication channels play an important role. Just one of these systems being suspended can have serious consequences across other sectors and paralyse security in large areas or entire countries.
To be more resistant to future attacks, it is important to protect these critical parts of a country’s infrastructure. But the available surveillance systems are typically manually operated and cover only the perimeter of the areas, thereby making it almost impossible to get a fully detailed overview.
Automatic surveillance optimises security
Today control rooms typically have a number of people monitoring critical locations manually with the help of modern camera technology. This entails a risk of overlooking important incidents. Therefore, researchers are focusing on replacing manual control dependent on individuals with automated systems that draw on different forms of sensor technology and a new, advanced computer system. The advantages are a higher degree of security and a reduction of the costs connected with 24-hour staffing for surveillance.
The new surveillance system will utilise various sensor technologies such as radar and cameras. The sensors collect information about people’s activities in a limited geographical area. This information can be gathered and used to identify any kind of suspicious behaviour and to send an alarm and activate a video camera in order to gain more detailed insight.
To provide a comprehensive overview of the security situation at any given location, the researchers will combine several different kinds of available data. A radar can show where an object is heading and in which direction, but not how heavy it is or whether it is airborne or moving on the ground. Here you need to monitor the object with other types of sensors that can provide a very detailed description of a critical situation when taken together.
Supplements existing surveillance systems
However, the complexity of the system makes it difficult to purchase, install and test. To make the system financially viable, the researchers will develop a computer programme that analyses the quality of the coverage and surveillance that can be obtained by using the sensors and video cameras that are already installed at the location. For example, in an airport there may already be cameras keeping an eye on the behaviour of the passengers.
The project is a collaboration between Aarhus University and the Danish company Terma A/S with the support of the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation.