New Visions in Security Tech

By CN Staff

Do’s, Don’ts and Dynamic Developments in Surveillance Solutions

To get the high-def picture on the trending surveillance technology of today—and tomorrow—CN connected with Rick Holmes, Business Development Manager, Corrections, Hanwha Vision America, who also shared some helpful tips for facilities seeking to integrate or improve surveillance on-site.

What do you think is the most important current trend with correctional video surveillance and how has your firm responded?

Holmes: AI is becoming more prevalent. Analytics are mostly used in outdoor environments such as along perimeter fence lines. Traditional pixel-based analytics have proven to be unreliable, netting too many false alerts. This causes Correctional Officers to ignore the alerts. Object-based analytics are the solution. Using virtual zones and lines, AI-based cameras can effectively detect person and/or vehicle offering up real-time alerts. Hanwha remains on the cutting edge of AI technology, constantly introducing new technologies and form factors in this realm. Currently, we offer two levels of AI. Our X Series cameras accurately detect objects such as vehicle, person, face or license plate. Our P Series AI camera line takes that a step further offering attributes for objects such zs gender, upper garment color, lower garment color. These attributes may be used for both real-time alerting as well as reducing forensic video search times.

What guidance would you give to a facility looking to integrate a new video surveillance system or to improve their current one?

Holmes: Don’t get over-sold. There are video surveillance systems that promote and present features that are impressive in appearance but do not function as intended in a corrections environment. Additionally, facilities must exercise caution when choosing a video surveillance solution. Know your costs upfront. Be inquisitive about annual software maintenance fees.

Many owners are told there are no fees only to later find there are hidden conditions that apply.

Finally, don’t sacrifice video resolution and storage to reduce initial investment costs. Funding capital improvements in a corrections environment is an arduous task. When making a new capital investment, be certain that you’re maximizing the value for your expenditure. Opt for the highest quality available within your budget from the outset as technology is in a constant state of evolution. Sacrificing costs up-front could lead to procuring technology on the verge of being outdated.

How can a well-designed video surveillance system best complement a facility’s overall security and operations? 

Holmes: Video surveillance delivers benefits on multiple levels. Ensuring the safety of both inmates and officers is paramount. All individuals, whether inmates or officers, have the right to live and work in an environment that promotes safety and well-being. Ensuring their safety upholds their dignity and basic human rights. A safe environment helps prevent violent incidents, conflicts, and altercations among inmates and with staff. Reducing violence is essential for maintaining order and minimizing harm.

Video surveillance plays a crucial role in monitoring the introduction of contraband into a facility and subsequently preventing its occurrence. Systems not only focus on inmates but also keep track of staff behavior. This can deter staff members from engaging in or facilitating contraband activities.

Advanced video surveillance systems, such as Hanwha AI cameras, are equipped with analytics and alert mechanisms. Unusual activities, such as loitering near fences or entrances, can trigger alerts for immediate response.

Video footage serves as tangible evidence in identifying and apprehending individuals involved in contraband smuggling. It can be used for investigations and prosecutions. Recorded video can also be used for training staff to recognize smuggling behaviors and improve security protocols.

Are there any crucial “do’s and don’ts” for effective correctional facility surveillance in 2023? 

Holmes: Regarding the “do’s,” make sure to capitalize on the tools provided by your video surveillance system, including leveraging the built-in camera analytics for immediate alerts in response to crucial situations.

Maintain a secure and reliable storage solution for video data, complying with data protection regulations and ensuring footage is accessible for investigations. It is important to have redundancy built into your system in the event of a hardware failure. On-premise systems with effective safeguards in place are still the most economical solution for corrections.

When it comes to the “don’ts,” exercise caution with proprietary systems. Inquire whether the cameras and/or software you’re purchasing can integrate with other systems and ensure that all features are fully compatible.

Avoid leaving areas without camera coverage, as blind spots can be exploited by individuals attempting to engage in unauthorized activities. Pay attention to lighting conditions and select the proper camera to suit those conditions. Each correctional facility has unique needs. Avoid adopting a surveillance system without customizing it to match the specific security requirements.

What has been the most vital development in video surveillance over the past decade or so and what has it meant to modern detention centers?

Holmes: The most beneficial development over the past decade is higher resolution video and the introduction of multi-sensor cameras. Traditionally, corrections have used old VGA quality video rendering video where subjects are unidentifiable. Cameras with higher resolution capture finer details, making it easier to identify individuals, objects, and activities, even at a distance. This is critical for accurately identifying inmates and officers involved in incidents. With higher resolution, digital zoom can be used more effectively without significant loss of image quality. This is crucial for zooming in on specific areas or subjects of interest.

Applications of multi-directional cameras have become a staple in corrections environments. A single multi-directional camera can cover larger areas effectively without sacrificing clarity, reducing the need for installing multiple cameras all while reducing initial investment costs.

Overall, higher camera resolution and type enhances the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of corrections facility surveillance by providing a clearer and more detailed view of activities, individuals, and incidents.

Looking to the future, what video surveillance advancements might we see over the next 5-10 years?

Holmes: The development and use of AI will continue to advance. More beneficial and reliable camera-based analytics will support improved efficiencies as well as real time alerting of critical situations and events. I can see one day where video sensors will be an integral part of a more safely automated solution, allowing inmates to move about a facility without officer interaction, reducing staffing requirements while increasing safety.

Cloud-based video storage will become more prevalent in corrections environments, as more cloud offerings continue to become available. For many facilities, first-phase acceptance will be on-premise storage with cloud backup, due to the high-density nature of corrections surveillance systems, as well as lingering concerns over security and storage costs. However, with continued bandwidth increases and reducing costs, and as more end users become familiar with cloud video platforms, adoptions rates will increase.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of Correctional News.