Boston airport tests video alert system

Logan International Airport in Boston launched a digital video pilot project in May designed to automatically detect breaches of the airport's perimeter so that police patrols could be dispatched to investigate.

Logan is using VistaScape Security Systems' software and infrared cameras to continuously collect and analyze video images from the airport's grounds. The challenge is to build a system that can detect suspicious activity but not burden security staff with lots of false alarms.

Here's how the system is designed to work: When its cameras pick up a suspicious object (based on location or some other criteria), they track the object's movements from camera to camera, judge its speed and direction, and generate an alert that is sent to handheld computers that state police officers carry. The alert is coupled with geographical positioning on a satellite map of Logan to mark an intruder's exact location.

"Typical physical intrusion detection relies on some sort of sensor," said Dennis Treece, director of corporate security at the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport). "The bogey that you want to avoid is false alarms because they drive everyone crazy. I have big jets taking off and landing all the time. I have commercial and government vessels right next to our beaches, and I have a lot of wildlife.

"Traditional sensors that measure ground vibration or heat or noise or motion won't work," he said. "I needed a technology that I could program so I can determine what specific conditions need to exist that I am worried about, because I am worried about a lot."

VistaScape's technology allows Massport officials to set up a finely tuned security policy, such as one based on pixels and location, to avoid false alarms.

"If somebody is coming out of the water, I want enough pixels to cover a person from the waist up at 250 feet from the camera," Treece said. "It gives me the ability to really focus on things that matter, rather than 'Yep, there's another airplane taking off.'"

Network bandwidth has not been an issue for pilots because the system does not use resource-hungry full-motion video, Treece said. Also, integrating the technology into the airport's existing information technology infrastructure simply involved adding another server.

Treece is also weighing the option of obtaining forensic-quality video to support the successful prosecution of intruders. However, that upgrade could triple the project's cost.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group