Sending an alert during an intrusion is a passé and can no longer be considered intelligent. Smart is re-defined by today’s security systems. They study behavioural, temperature and humidity patterns, come with advanced processing techniques. Let us take a look at some of the latest and intriguing security devices from around the world
Abhishek A. Mutha
Most of the alarms generated by security products are usually false and, when that happens, there is great distress caused for everyone at the receiving end.
Security products today are packed with a lot of smart sensors. They study patterns, compare data and are designed to generate genuine alarms. Security devices are also much more interconnected to ‘things’ and are easy to install. Most devices are now just plug-and-play type hassle-free systems.
In this article we talk about select security products from a plethora of them released every year. Let us take them one at a time.
Intelligent device that generates genuine alarms
Would it not be great if you could have an intelligent home security system? A system that could be installed and configured easily, would recognise your everyday movements at home and your pets’ too, warn of even slight changes to generate genuine alarms and, last but not the least, synchronise with your smartphone to notify you.
A screeching alarm is really annoying, especially when it is a false alarm. But a new security system claims to behave like a live-in security guard, analysing house occupiers’ movements. It sends relevant notifications to avoid false alarms, such as those set off by a wandering pet.
Called Canary, this device can be easily connected to your existing Wi-Fi network and synced with a smartphone. If there is an intrusion, you are notified, so you can remotely trigger the in-built siren to scare off the intruders. The system also studies air quality, temperature, noise and humidity levels, and senses anything out of the ordinary, including rapid changes in temperature levels that could indicate a fire, for instance.
What makes this 15cm (6-inch) tall gadget so smart? It comes with a full arsenal of sensors. It sees through an HD video camera with night vision and 170-degree angle lens, microphone speakers to pick up sound and sensors for temperature, humidity and air quality. It also has triple-axis accelerometer and a passive infrared motion detector. It comes with a siren that sounds a 100dB+ alarm activated by the Canary app.
This device is highly customisable too. It can be activated at certain days in a week or at a particular time, probably when you are away. The different sensors that come with this device can be enabled and disabled depending on your needs. Alternatively, when certain parameters are triggered, the system can be set to record and store in video mode. Users can check into the system remotely and keep an eye on the house when on a holiday or on tour. The creators also claim that it has a bank-like encryption that prevents hackers from gaining access to your system or invalidate sensors during break-in.
Canary was founded by Adam Sager, formerly from Israel Defense Forces, Chris Rill, who built sensors for the US Military and Jon Troutman, former product design lead at General Assembly. It was successfully funded on an online campaign. In fact, it exceeded its pledged goal of $100,000 by a whopping 1962%! It is moderately priced at US$ 200.
DIY security systems can’t get any simpler
If you are constantly worried about what’s happening at home when you are at work, travelling or away from home for reasons of your own, worry no more! With the aim of simplifying home security and automation, this Wi-Fi motion sensor from D-Link lets you know when something is moving at home with an instant alert, making your home smarter and secure.
It behaves like a completely connected DIY home solution, and works effectively and seamlessly when used with a Wi-Fi camera (so you can see what’s happening at home), Wi-Fi Smart plugs (which provide a better grip over devices at your home) and a free mydlink Home mobile app (so you know precisely what’s happening.)
This device is modular and much simpler in terms of functionality as compared to Canary. If you are looking for a cost-effective yet simple solution, your search could end here. With just two buttons (WPS and Reset), and an LED indicator on the outside, this plug-in device incorporates a PIR sensor with 7.9m (26-feet) detection range, two internal antennae and a wireless frequency range of 2.4 GHz to 2.4835 GHz complying with IEEE 802.11n standard. It also has Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) security protocols integrated.
Whether you want to get notified when the kids get back from school, make sure the dog goes outside during day time, or receive a text when the garage door opens, this Wi-Fi motion sensor makes it simple to stay aware of what’s happening at home. The compact motion sensor plugs into a power outlet and alerts users of activity at home with a push or text notification as soon as it detects motion. It can be easily configured with your existing Wi-Fi network. This motion sensor can be additionally synced with a Wi-Fi camera to give you visual power.
Coming to the automation aspect, a combination of Wi-Fi Smart plug and the intuitive mydlink Home mobile app available for iOS 6 or above and Android 4.0 or above smartphones and tablets, provides instant control over electronics from anywhere, anytime. For example, you easily pair a D-Link smart plug with a Wi-Fi motion sensor to make home electronics immediately react to motion, such as the lights to turn on as you walk in the front door, for the air-conditioner to keep the living room cool while you are away, and for music to play when you step on the treadmill.
This ability to control devices remotely, automate electronics and get a quick view of what’s happening at home from virtually anywhere puts you in the driver’s seat. The mydlink Wi-Fi motion sensor (DCH-S150) costs approximately US$ 40 and the Wi-Fi smart plug costs about US$ 50. If you also opt for a Wi-Fi camera, the cost pretty much equals the cost of the Canary security system.
Detecting hidden organic threats quickly and wirelessly
Finding threats in tight spaces can be a big problem. Keeping in mind officials from different fields like maritime police, event security, border control, law enforcement and general aviation security, the world’s first handheld Z Backscatter technology imaging system was designed by American Science and Engineering, Inc. (AS&E). It basically provides on-the-go detection of bootlegged items in hard-to-reach areas, such as vehicle tires, small boats, furniture, suspicious bags, walls and car interiors. Accompanied by a Windows 8.1 tablet PC embedded with an ASEInspection software, the MINI Z system provides effective detection of explosives, organic threats and contraband.
Weighing 4 kg, with a scan speed of 15cm (6-inch) per second and four hours battery life, typically, it uses AS&E’s signature Z Backscatter technology, producing a real-time image of the scan target, bringing organic materials that transmission X-ray systems can miss, such as drug, currency and explosives to the fore by wirelessly connecting to the tablet. Unlike portable transmission X-ray systems, trace detectors or density meters, the MINI Z system provides an easy-to-interpret image to swiftly pinpoint organic contraband behind non-metallic surfaces. The operator controls the scanning function with the help of an uncomplicated, intuitive graphical user interface on the system’s dedicated tablet which produces an image of the scanned area that appears in real time.
The MINI Z system is safe for bystanders, operators and the environment as well. The system’s X-ray dose conforms to the appropriate EURATOM, NCRP, ICRP and ANSI radiation safety standards. It cannot be used for scanning people, although the MINI Z is a low-dose and low-energy Z Backscatter system.
Some of the applications it can be used for are public safety (quickly screening unattended and suspicious bags and packages for potential terrorist threats), border and security checkpoints (screening vehicle bumpers, tires, panels or interiors for concealed threats such as drugs, cigarettes, explosives and plastic weapons), drug enforcement (investigation of suspected drug labs or fake currency), event security (screening of hand baggage and deliveries to ensure public safety) and VIP security (securing rooms and furniture for organic threats and IEDs to ensure personnel safety).
Wearable electronics to enforce law and order
A body-worn video camera for law enforcement best fits police, private security agencies and other law enforcement personnel. Seattle-based VIEVU recently announced its latest offering in the wearable camera domain—the LE3. It is specifically designed for professionals who need to video document their actions. In the US, notably the police departments from Farfield and Novato have deployed these cameras. While some police officers feel that this turns them into RoboCops, others feel more positively and consider it to be a means to prove their side of the story. Despite some objections raised, like privacy issues and mixed reactions from the officers, the use of this technology is growing.
This compact, 70gm, pager-sized, self-contained video recorder with a 16GB non-removable storage captures and provides convincing forensic video evidence, and can be comfortably clipped on the uniform. It has the most uncomplicated way of operation; it turns on/off by simply sliding the lens slide cover, which is very convenient for activation in stressful situations. With two video resolution modes (1280×720 (HD) or 848×480 (widescreen SD)), and battery life up to five hours for SD and three hours for HD, it records at 30 frames per second for up to 12 hours at SD resolution and up to 6 hours at HD. Video evidence is securely stored and tabulated with a FIPS 140-2 compliant digital signature process which can prove that the video has not been tampered with.
The LE3 camera is powered by VIEVU’s VERIPATRO software system and can be integrated into existing video systems or other video management platforms. All video evidence can be accessed and stored locally or in a cloud for ongoing cases and trials. The software installs either in a stand-alone, network or cloud-based mode.
The ability to function in both high-definition and standard-definition modes was one of the most notable features incorporated. This was achieved by adopting the H.264 compression scheme and by increasing the camera’s internal memory from 4 GB to 16 GB. Another notable change from its previous version was the change in the lens itself. After consulting with a forensic expert, the company settled on the concept of a flat image for the camera, which means no distortion because of the field of view. The ideal field of view is 65 to 70 degrees, and hence the lens was designed with a 68-degree field of view. That provides a very flat image with no curvature on the back side of the image. So, if one needs to forensically enhance something, it is of high quality all the way through.
Some other improvements designed into this camera, in contrast with the previous LE2, were ability to mute audio. It was incorporated considering the laws in some states that require two-party consent to record conversations and an improved battery life. It costs about US$ 900.
Smarter surveillance with advanced image processing
Taking into account the burgeoning requirement for security and safety products, more and more cameras are being stationed in neighbourhoods, districts or other locales where they are at the mercy of nature and other elements. Capturing video in dim and dingy areas, where most of the cameras fail, and providing colour images when cameras transition to monochrome mode, is a challenge overcome by this 5MP camera with starlight technology. Even at night, the DINION IP starlight 8000 MP benefits users by providing details such as colour of vehicles or clothing, which assist in the identification of people and objects and reduce costs associated with added illumination.
This camera can be used for round-the-clock video surveillance. Regardless of surrounding lighting quality, time of the day or amount of object movement, it delivers relevant IP video 24×7. Capturing images at 5MP resolution at up to 30 frames per second, even under extreme low-light conditions, it gives images in fine detail. The latest sensor technology combined with the sophisticated noise suppression results in a light sensitivity of 0.0121 lux at full 5MP resolution in colour and even 0.00825 lux at 1080p resolution.
Advanced image processing techniques take this camera to another level. Intelligent video analysis (IVA) basically tracks and concentrates on pertinent situations as well as adds sense and structure to stored video, allowing you to quickly retrieve the correct data. The DINION IP starlight 8000 MP generates full colour images in un-illuminated situations beyond the point where other cameras would have switched to monochrome images. And where others show no image at all, it still delivers detailed monochrome images.
The built-in intelligence eliminates the probable disturbances that usually originate from fluctuating front or back light. The intelligent auto exposure (iAE) gives front- and back-light compensation, providing a perfect picture every time. It dynamically adjusts the exposure of the camera to automatically adapt to changing light conditions and provides perfect exposure of objects of interest every time. Intelligent dynamic noise reduction (iDNR) saves bitrate at the source and only uses bandwidth when needed. This results in up to 50% less bitrate, which significantly reduces storage costs and network strain without compromising on video quality.
With the ability to capture fast-moving objects, high resolution, wide dynamic range and superior light sensitivity, this camera is regarded as the ultimate 24×7 camera for IP video surveillance.
Laser-based device exposes hidden snipers
Snipers are always a threat to eminent and important personalities attending special events or delivering a public speech. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), quite recently, developed a new device to track secluded snipers behind windows and curtains.
To safeguard VVIPs from such snipers, DRDO has developed a laser device called the Optical Target Locater, which can identify and spot potential assassins carrying sophisticated rifles, hiding behind windows of high-rise buildings. A portable laser-based device for detection of optical and electro-optical threats, it can aid security firms providing VVIP security to locate snipers and spies trying to stalk, observe and eliminate their high-value targets. The device has been developed and successfully test evaluated for optical targets up to a range of 300 metres.
A laser beam is released from the equipment that examines the particular area, and the moment it hits any device such as a telescope, binocular or the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle, the location of the sniper is identified. DRDO’s Laser Science and Technology Centre (LASTEC) Director Anil Kumar Maini was quoted saying, “The best part is that the sniper would not even know that he has been compromised and he can be apprehended.”
The security agencies deployed for VVIP protection are already using imported equipment for scanning the areas being visited by the VVIPS. But Maini adds, “The equipment used by these agencies is almost two to three times more expensive than the device developed by us, and they have shown keen interest in the product developed by us.”
Many more interesting innovations in security
Relying on the fact that there is 1-in-2.25 trillion chance of a false ID with irises, EyeLock, an iris-based identity management technology solutions company, released an iris biometric solution in September last year. It provides video-based iris authentication in motion and at a distance. This system uses video of both your irises to verify your identity.
Another groundbreaking innovation by Optellios, the US-based manufacturer of fibre-optic sensing and security systems, is their recently released FP1400 zone-based perimeter intrusion security system. It uses algorithm-based distributed sensing, coupled with frequency filtering, to reject environmental sources of nuisance and false alarms. It provides superior intrusion detection with support for software-configurable 8 to 28 zones, and provides cut-immunity, which means the systems remain operational and will detect even if a cable is cut.
IoT, short for Internet of Things, dubbed today as ‘Internet of Everything’ is starting to get a stronger hold over the technology landscape. It is predicted that by 2020 there will be at least 20 billion connected devices all over the world. With continued technological advancements, every year will continue to bring a bevy of new innovations that are smarter, customisable and connected to the security industry.
The author is a senior technical correspondent at EFY