Audit CCTV Footage As a Standard Operating Procedure To Unlock Hidden Information

We spoke to Gautam D. Goradia, CEO & MD, Hayagriva Software to understand how proper auditing of CCTV video footage through software is essential for the security team to gain actionable insights, thereby leading to crime prevention

Interviewed by Adeesh Sharma

Audit CCTV Footage - Unlock Hidden Information’

1. Kindly tell us how COM-SUR software helps draw actionable insights from video footage?

As a short answer, one can say that through the process of ‘auditing’ or reviewing CCTV video footage minutely, COM-SUR makes it easy to gain actionable insights from the same. Gaining best actionable insights from any video can only be possible through the use of human sight and intelligence. While there have been substantial advances in using algorithm-based systems, there are several challenges that are associated with them; and in any case, even when algorithm-based systems provide actionable insights, finally, it is a human that needs to take a call.

Notable is the following problem that has been acknowledged by the U.S. Air Force:

As per a disclosure made in 2012, the US Air Force recorded 1000 hours of Drone Video per day. This number now may be even higher. The major problem they face is how to ‘review’ so much of video.

“…he said, there will be limits on what automated systems are allowed to do. “You need somebody who’s trained and is accountable in recognizing that that is a woman, that is a child and that is someone who’s carrying a weapon,” he said. “And the best tools for that are still the eyeball and the human brain…”

(https://warisboring.com/u-s-air-force-spy-planes-recorded-1-000-hours-of-video-every-day/).

(http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/11drone.html?_r=0)

At a broader level, it is a well-accepted fact that CCTV surveillance is now a part of the overall security apparatus across the world. However, while CCTV cameras are increasing in numbers; yet, crime, fraud, losses, process violations, traffic violations, wastage etc. continue to take place. Incidents over the past couple of years in Westminster, Manchester, London, Dhaka, Nice, Paris, Munich, Orlando, Turkey, Brussels, Pathankot, and Mumbai had at least two things in common. There were cameras everywhere, and there were recces! While no serious crime takes place without adequate planning and a recce, even a ‘simple’ process violation like not wearing the appropriate gear at a pharma unit can cost the company huge penalties and warnings from US FDA, or such other bodies.

Fool-proof automatic systems that can detect the above exceptions (like recces or the example of a pharma unit) are yet to be developed; and because of the fact that the number and kind of exceptions per se are so varied in nature, it is highly unlikely that a fool-proof automatic system will ever be developed; or at least not for a very long time to come.

While authorities have been mandating the installation of CCTV surveillance systems all over the world, so far there has been no standardization of how users (including the Police/LEA themselves) should manage all this content, or how they should gain intelligence from the same. It is our belief that users of CCTV are ‘losing’ rich visual information instead of 'using' the same because nobody looks at CCTV until something goes wrong. We strongly believe that ‘seeing’ what the camera ‘saw’ as a standard operating procedure, i.e. auditing CCTV video footage as a standard operating procedure will help users ‘unlock’ the information that is ‘hidden’ within the CCTV video footage, leading to actionable intelligence.

COM-SUR makes the ‘auditing’ process of CCTV video footage extremely efficient, which makes it easy for the user to discover exceptions and gain actionable intelligence. 


2. What kind of technologies can be used to make COM-SUR one of the most intelligent video surveillance software available today?

While COM-SUR has been built using Microsoft technologies (.NET and SQL), the sheer user experience and the simplicity that it provides, makes COM-SUR a winner. Also the way COM-SUR has been ‘designed’, it not only works with all types of cameras and video management systems/video analytics, it offers the following features that make it a complete ‘workflow’ of CCTV/video surveillance: 

  • Huge reduction of data size and the ease of creating a disaster recovery mechanism
  • The ability to run through (audit) hours of CCTV video footage in minutes
  • The almost-automatic creation of standardized audit finding and incident reports in PowerPoint
  • The delivery of business intelligence from the above reports

The broader way to describe COM-SUR would not so much be that of a ‘surveillance software’, but rather a ‘workflow’ for CCTV/video surveillance which is the ‘missing piece’
of CCTV/video surveillance.

3. How does COM-SUR help security agencies in keeping security incidents under check?

COM-SUR is an exceptional tool for security agencies to provide far greater value to their customers by adding the following tasks to CCTV/video surveillance:

  • Auditing of CCTV video footage as a standard operating procedure, thereby ‘unlocking’ the ‘hidden’ information in CCTV video footage
  • Making it easy for them to easily tag and retain exception findings for future use
  • Standardizing audit finding/incident reports and gaining business intelligence therefrom, leading to taking corrective and preventive action.

Further, security agencies can upgrade their own personnel to become ‘CCTV video footage auditors’. Doing so will ensure that CCTV cameras do not remain as ‘fit and forget’.
With millions of cameras currently in ‘sleep mode’, if all these extra ‘eyes’ wake up, it will lead to crowdsourced surveillance and community policing.

4. What are your plans to penetrate the Indian market further in 2018?

Some of our plans to penetrate the Indian market is by suggesting to relevant stakeholders like Governments as well as actual users that the installation of CCTV cameras is just the beginning; and unless users take the steps of (I) auditing CCTV video footage as a standard operating procedure (II) creating a disaster recovery mechanism (III) standardizing reporting and gaining business intelligence therefrom, optimal benefits from CCTV video surveillance will not accrue. A case in point would be the recent order (dated 29th December 2017) by the Collector of Raipur that directs all schools in Raipur district to follow the said suggestions.

Other plans are to tie-up with camera manufacturers as OEM, as well as to popularise our ‘CCTV video footage auditor’ course which has been conceived around COM-SUR.

5. How do you plan to further improve upon the capabilities of COM-SUR in the future?

Technologies, be they software or hardware are always upgraded from time to time. In the same way, we have plans to integrate AI and machine learning technologies with COM-SUR. It may however be noted that while we will pursue this roadmap, our focus shall always be a healthy combination of artificial intelligence and human intelligence. A recent relevant study (Hodgetts, Vachon, Chamberland & Tremblay, May 2017) suggests the following: “while technological systems can automate some aspects of the surveillance process, the human operator is still ultimately responsible for detection of suspicious activities and decision making. thus, the optimal design and development of new technology should not focus solely on the capabilities of the system itself, but on supporting the operators’ cognitive vulnerabilities”.

A camera lens can capture a school guard leading a child to the science laboratory (a place where she/he should not be at) and find nothing odd about it, but the human eyes and mind on seeing this, will immediately question the motive behind this act, take action, and thereby prevent a possible heinous crime. In an era of community policing, the more ‘eyes’ a community/society has, the higher are the chances of preventing crime and/or solving crime faster.