Advanced video surveillance technology promises safer mass transit

The significance of video surveillance in defending national security came to light following the major role it played in the Boston Marathon and London Transit bombing investigations. Equipped with high-tech software and technologies, surveillance cameras are gradually becoming more effective in preventing potential threats and detecting crimes. And in addition to providing higher safety and security, these high-end systems contribute significantly to maintaining the efficiency of our transit networks.

CCTV cameras at a train station

Multiple surveillance cameras at a train station. From Richard Smith.

How video surveillance in mass transit helps

Public transit surveillance makes monitoring of large areas relatively easy and prevents vandalism, violence, and crime. Chris Akiyama, transit and security division manager for Seon Design Inc. says that these systems also provide protection from litigation and wrongful lawsuits.

Mobile surveillance videos in moving vehicles help transit managers respond quickly when an incident happens. Police accessing live feeds can determine whether a vehicle needs to be stopped if the need arises. For example, if a bus operator needs assistance or an accident happens, both transit authorities and police can immediately take action.

Constant vigilance also affects potential offenders psychologically. According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, surveillance cameras in public places, such as monorails, subways, and other transit systems, deter people from violating the law because they trigger a perceptual mechanism in any potential offender. Offenders are aware of the camera’s presence and think the risk of being caught outweighs rewards of the intended crime

New video surveillance trends in mass transit

To cope with the challenges of preventing another tragedy, the surveillance market is now brimming with advanced products that monitor, detect, and avert danger to protect critical infrastructure and the public.

Interconnected, IP-based solutions, possible due to IP technology advancements and cost-effective cameras, provide transportation agencies with the visibility and image quality needed to ensure public safety.

Adding GPS technology to the video surveillance system is another major trend that is growing in the transit market. “It adds another level of security to be able to see what’s happening on a vehicle, in real time, and be able to react to it,” says Gunnar Guenette, director of marketing, Radio Engineering Industries Inc.

Multiple cameras to record different views, customization of surveillance systems, integration and interoperability, and system automation are also gaining popularity.

Public transit authorities are even adding smart cameras to their expansion plans. For instance, TriMet of Portland, Oregon is introducing these cameras in the upcoming Portland-Milwaukee Light Rail Project slated to open in 2015. Combined with smart video analytics, these advanced cameras automatically analyze camera feeds to register temperature changes, count people, and identify suspicious behavior. A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are now working on surveillance cameras that can do ‘activity forecasting’. Similar to the idea of “Precogs” in the movie “Minority Report,” this future surveillance camera is said to predict crimes before they occur.

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