Films like “Minority Report” are no longer considered futuristic: video surveillance methods portrayed in this 2003 film are already in use. In fact, such methods have already helped in catching criminals and terrorists, albeit being controversial.
One of the most innovative technologies in this field was developed by Israeli company BriefCam, which helped in catching the Boston Marathon bombers. Using tracking algorithms, BriefCam enables users to track events caught on tape much more quickly, thus maximizing the potential of video surveillance.
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A search engine for videos
Founded in 2007, BriefCam is an Israeli startup that developed video analysis software called Video Synopsis. It condenses hours of footage into minutes, making it easier and faster to analyze data. The software helps in identifying suspects, criminal incidents, stolen items and more. “Essentially, it’s a video search engine,” Dror Irani, BriefCam’s CEO and president, tells NoCamels. This searching capability is achieved through new, complex video tracking algorithms.
Video Synopsis takes long videos and visually indexes them automatically; in fact, it converges many films that contain multiple objects in order to create a simultaneous presentation of events that happened at different times. BriefCam’s technology adds advanced analysis capabilities in order to manage multiple video files that are extremely large. The advantage of BriefCam’s solution it that it can create a digest of many hours of filming, which shortens the video to a few seconds or minutes, depending on the original length of the video. With BriefCam’s product, a gate supervisor at an airport, for example, can quickly scan a daylong video by watching only the important segments.
A mapping algorithm also enables users to refine the video search: They can look for a specific object using parameters such as color and size. So, if you’re looking for a green truck, you don’t need to watch all the white trucks or smaller cars going through the frame.
From the Boston Marathon to the Statue of Liberty, BriefCam takes part in homeland security
Right after the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, BriefCam helped the FBI in identifying the Tsarnaev brothers in the surveillance videos. After Hurricane Sandy had struck Liberty Island, BriefCam and its partners installed a new, advanced security system (which combines software and hardware) on top of the Statue of Liberty. The US Park Police, National Park Service and the US Department of Interior are also clients of BriefCam, as well as law enforcement agencies in North America, Europe, Asia and Israel.
BriefCam is one player in the multi-billion-dollar Israeli defense industry, which includes dozens of companies in the fields of video surveillance, homeland security, defense equipment and components, raw materials and fire protection.
Family home videos inspired BriefCam
BriefCam did not begin as a surveillance tool but rather something far from it. It was designed to track moments from family videos. Eventually, this “domestic” invention transformed into a powerful security tool that can potentially save lives and help law enforcement.
However, surveillance technologies such as Video Synopsis and CCTV are controversial because the tracking and monitoring of people can also clash with privacy. Opponents of video surveillance have argued that it hurts civil liberties. Proponents say they are willing to accept some invasion of privacy in exchange for the safety video surveillance provides.
It’s important to mention that BriefCam’s Video Synopsis isn’t only used for security purposes; it is also used in office buildings and shopping centers, for data mining and to monitor customer behavior. Additionally, this technology is about to be used in smart homes. A recent BriefCam project with FLIR Systems, which manufactures surveillance cameras, provides a cloud-based Video Synopsis tool for monitoring your home – even your refrigerator, if you put a camera in the kitchen. Sounds strange? Well, according to Irani, monitoring food consumption can actually promote a healthier lifestyle for families!
BriefCam worked closely with the Hebrew University on the development of the product, and the university holds shares in BriefCam as the owner of the Video Synopsis algorithm.
Photos and video courtesy of BriefCam