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Israeli surveillance keeps an eye on the camera

Posted By Nicky Blackburn On June 18, 2006 @ 8:00 am In | No Comments

The US Department of Energy at the San Diego Water District is piloting new intelligent digital video surveillance software developed by Israeli start-up Aspectus Video Intelligence.

The technology, which is now being tested in several pilot schemes across the United States, can be used to detect intruders, suspicious objects or stopped cars, and is ideal for large-scale operations which use hundreds or even thousands of cameras.

Unlike traditional video monitoring solutions, which rely on operators manually watching dozens of television screens at a central location, often for hours on end, Aspectus’ software actually monitors the video for them. If anything untoward or unexpected occurs, the VI-System automatically sends out an alert to the security supervisor. The alert is accompanied by the relevant piece of video footage, and sent directly to the supervisor’s cell-phone, PDA, or laptop, enabling him to monitor a site from any location, even at home.

Aspectus, a small private company headquartered in New York, with R&D facilities in Petah Tikva, was founded in 2003 by Gadi Talmon and Tzvika Ashani. The lead investor in the company is 21 Ventures, a New York based investment firm. Up to now, some $5.5 million has been invested in the company. The last round of fund-raising was held in June, and another round of about $5 million is expected within the next six months.

The company’s software is based on patent pending Image Processing over IP (IPoIP) technology. It is especially designed for large digital video surveillance networks used by airports, railways, or utility companies.

What makes the technology unique, according to Talmon, is that it uses both low-cost virtual agents in the field and a powerful server in a central location. Talmon, who worked in intelligence during his service in the Israel Defense Force, likens this to his training there, where agents in the field brought back raw information that was then analyzed at central command.

Aspectus’ product line, the VI-System, includes all the building blocks required for a large-scale digital video surveillance system with real time event detection capabilities. The company’s first products are capable of detecting intruders, vehicles, unattended objects, stopped cars, etc. Other products under development include license plate recognition, facial recognition, traffic violations detection, smoke and fire detection.

In a post 9/11 world, where hundreds and thousands of cameras are being used in large-scale installations, technology like this is vital. In the last few years, the US video surveillance market has grown substantially, with both private and public bodies introducing them in pilot schemes across the country.

“In the past, the US was lagging behind markets like the UK in this sector, but it is now catching up rapidly,” Talmon told ISRAEL21c. “Video surveillance is at the forefront of a revolution. There are cameras everywhere. Already thousands have been installed in sea ports, transportation hubs, shopping malls, everywhere.”

British market research firm, IMS Research, forecasts that the world market for software to analyze video content will explode over the next five years, growing from $67.7 million in 2004, to $839.2 million in 2009.

Target markets for Aspectus include homeland security, infrastructure, and transportation. The VI-System can also be used to protect unmanned sites. Utility companies, for example, have hundreds of unmanned sites, which were traditionally protected by electric fences.

“With a single camera, or just a few cameras and video intelligence technology, you can efficiently protect hundreds of sites without a single guard in the field,” says Talmon.

Aspectus got its first customer in 2003. Israel Railways was looking for a solution to protect the tracks leading into its railway stations against terrorist attack. The railway authority tested the solution rigorously for 18 months before finally purchasing the solution. Other early customers included Israel’s Ministry of Justice, and the Israel Prison Service.

In April this year, Aspectus installed its software in a pilot scheme on the busy M6 toll road near Birmingham in the UK. The software is being tested on 120 cameras on the 43-kilometer stretch of the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG)-owned road. It detects stopped cars, vehicles travelling in the wrong direction, people and animals on the road, and unattended objects. It is also being used to protect equipment at various sites along the road and to prevent theft. The pilot should be completed sometime this summer.

In 2005, the company established its US headquarters in New York. It teamed with IBM to address railway and highway operators, utility companies, and other customers. Aspectus has recruited a sales team and representatives to handle sales and support in the US.

Aspectus plans to sell its software through two business models – direct sales to system integrators, and OEM sales to manufacturers. This enables manufacturers of video devices to upgrade their existing products with video intelligence capabilities. In line with this, the company has recently signed OEM partnership agreements with several manufacturers.

“Penetration of video intelligence technology is today only about 2-3%,” he says. “From what we hear from experts and customers, that penetration will grow to 25%, or even higher in some market segments. Down the road we foresee a day when all the cameras in the world will be intelligent.”
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