Leading the World in Video Analysis: Spectral-360®, the Unblinking Eye

Just imagine the crime-fighting potential of a security camera that not only understands what it sees, but also can independently report suspicious activities to its operator or to the relevant authorities!  Thanks to researchers from Staffordshire University’s Centre for Information, Intelligence and Security Systems (CIISS), the dream of such incredible camera intelligence is even closer to reality.

Through cutting-edge applied research, the University’s CIISS team has developed Spectral-360® – a groundbreaking invention that allows a computer to quickly and accurately see objects, people and other entities in a video, even when picture quality is poor. Able to replicate the capabilities of the human eye, to accurately detect and recognise objects in far from perfect weather and lighting conditions, Spectral-360® is built on a sophisticated physics model to address the main sources of deficiency which reduce the performance of video analytics systems found on the market today.

Identifying performance bottlenecks

In developing the Spectral-360® technology, Dr. Mohamed Sedky, together with Dr. Claude Chibelushi and Professor Mansour Moniri – all from the University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences – first identified that one of the main performance bottlenecks of current video analytics systems is their inability to accurately detect visual entities under challenging imaging conditions. Calling on their considerable expertise in algorithm design, they then went on to create Spectral-360®.

Spotting what can be missed in the blink of an eye

“Field tests have demonstrated that Spectral-360® is able to outperform a human operator,” comments Dr. Sedky. “In fact, in recent trials involving a number of visual surveillance tasks, the technology was shown to detect events missed by even the most vigilant of operators. Moreover, Spectral-360® produces more accurate results, with higher object detection capability. It is also more resilient to illumination changes, compared to other state-of-the-art techniques.”

First place in demanding image detection tests

Further evidence of the breakthrough capabilities provided by Spectral-360® is also shown by the results of a worldwide benchmarking competition of image-change-detection algorithms. Here, Spectral-360® was tested rigorously against 25 other algorithms, produced by some prestigious universities and companies from around the world, on a comprehensive set of challenging videos. The technology topped the performance chart from February 2013, the month it was uploaded onto the benchmarking website. The results can be viewed at: www.changedetection.net 

From biometric recognition to medical imaging

Another key advantage of the Spectral-360® technology is that it is sufficiently versatile to be integrated into smart tools for a range of applications. These include: real-time visual surveillance, biometric recognition, diagnostic medical imaging, as well as automated inspection of product quality in manufacturing.

‘Adaptive Video Analytics’ software tools

Leveraging the advanced detection capabilities offered by Spectral-360®, the CIISS team has since gone on to develop the Adaptive Video Analytics (AVA) suite of advanced software tools. Available from a newly created University spinout company, the AVA tools provide quick and accurate analysis of video footage. They can be used for advanced CCTV-based perimeter protection, detection of unattended luggage, monitoring physical assets, counting people and vehicles, and summarising videos.

Missed detections - a thing of the past

“We are delighted to report that the Spectral-360® applied research programme has had a direct impact on the improvement of public services, as well as providing economic benefits,” adds Dr. Sedky.

“Through the launch of Adaptive Video Analytics Technologies (AVA) Limited,” he continues, “we have created a spinout business to take the technology to market. Most importantly, the AVA tools we have developed are already helping to lower the cost of CCTV operations, all whilst improving CCTV performance through their outstanding detection accuracy and robustness to illumination variations. These tools can enhance the effectiveness of CCTV systems by improving object detection – something which is a critical component of video analytics software. They are making ‘missed detections’ a thing of the past.”

Halving police investigation time

The AVA software has already been used to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and of a leading private-sector provider of custodial services to governments around the world. As a result of embracing the technology, police investigators and custodial service officers have seen a huge increase in their performance and productivity on investigations that require examination of video material.

In one recent case, for example, the AVA software halved the police investigation time and boosted the confidence of investigators. This boost in confidence was due to the fact that, by using the AVA software, it was known that no CCTV evidence had been missed.

Reducing police investigator work by a hundredfold

In another example, the AVA software was used by police to produce a summary video containing only evidence of criminal activity relevant to a confidential post-incident investigation. Manually reviewing the CCTV footage would have proved both expensive and labour-intensive. By eliminating all irrelevant sections of footage, however, the AVA software reduced, by more than one hundredfold, the amount of video content that needed to be reviewed manually by police investigators.

Significant cost savings

The reduction in police labour time, which came about as a result of using the AVA software, translated into a significant saving for the public purse. A speedy prosecution was achieved and investigators were able to move on to other cases.

Where relevant, the speed of the AVA software, and its ability to shorten investigation time, can also reduce the need to release suspects on bail. This is a further advantage, as it removes the likelihood of re-offending or even absconding.

Making a real impact in research

Around the globe and across the UK, researchers from Staffordshire University are making a real impact. From providing sustainable solutions to the problems faced by society, to transforming lives, tackling global issues and devising flexible new ways of teaching and learning, our academics, graduates and research students are helping to make the world a much better place.