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Safeguarding future cities and workplaces with video technology

31 Aug 2020

Article by Milestone Systems South Pacific country manager Brett Hansen.

The world has changed, possibly forever. They say that conflict is often a driver for social revolution, as well as technological advancements, and the current pandemic is driving the world towards a new order, with companies forced to evolve faster than ever before.

Workforces have been moved to home offices, for companies to maintain responsible social distancing. When physical distancing restrictions ease, and the time comes to move employees back into corporate office spaces and central business districts, environments will look and act differently than before, and maintain new codes of conduct and safety that comply with safety governance measures.

However, enforcing and maintaining physical distance rules will not be easy. Human nature gravitates towards close social interaction. 

It is very much a part of our culture to greet one another with a handshake or a kiss, and people are so used to standing close to one another in shops, elevators, sports grounds and so forth, that changing these entrenched behaviours can prove challenging. It can also be difficult for shop and café owners to monitor the behaviour of customers.

Typically, governments and organisations are faced with the following questions:

  • Which parts of my city, shop or premises are most crowded and when?
  • How do I make sure my building or shop is not overcrowded?
  • How do I know when people are getting too close to one another?
  • How do I address people and avoid confrontations or incidents at the entrance to a store?
  • How do we ensure that meeting rooms, elevators, lobbies and other common areas in a corporate facility are adequately maintained, and furniture and fixtures remain at the required 1.5 metres apart?

Many such issues can be addressed with video. Using an open platform that comes with a strong community of trusted partners, a trusted security ecosystem can provide advanced functionalities such as video analytics and object detection, which goes a long way towards maintaining a safe environment.

Linked to an open Video Management Software (VMS) platform, video analytics can provide situational awareness on aspects of physical distancing such as counting the number of individuals in a specific area, and heat-mapping to reveal patterns of pedestrian traffic over a certain time. 

This can help stakeholders identify areas that have the highest foot traffic at any time of the day and take precautions to manage crowd and movement control accordingly.

As life begins to return to some semblance of normality, maintaining control over the size of crowds will be of the utmost importance. 

A VMS can use video footage provided by cameras to automatically count the number of people in a space, and alert administrators immediately if an area becomes too full.

The same technology can be applied in corporate or retail settings, with occupancy monitoring providing accurate, real-time statistics on the number of people in a specific space.

Distance detection is another feature offered by a VMS, and one that will provide another level of safety in certain settings. The VMS can be set to automatically detect when individuals are too close together in a crowd or space, but it also remains flexible enough to identify situations that do not place an individual in dangerously close contact – such as a child holding their parent’s hand in a shopping centre or a railway station.

As hard as it is for shopkeepers and administrators to ensure people are following signs and regulations, video technology can do even more to help. For example, many shops and public spaces have deployed one-way systems to keep pedestrian traffic moving in a cohesive, safe manner. 

Making sure people follow instructions is made significantly easier using video analytics, which can be set to detect when people are moving in the wrong direction and alert staff.

Combining video with access control systems can add more layers of safety and control in a wide variety of scenarios. Barriers, electronically controlled doors and gates can be integrated with video, alarms and audio systems to gain insights on traffic at selected premises and manage traffic flow.

Audio messaging can also be integrated with the VMS, to provide an effective means of communication. Alerts can be set to repeat at regular intervals, reminding people to follow regulations, or used as a means of alerting people to changing circumstances. This can also be useful in cases where an individual needs to be warned of a potentially dangerous contact situation.

There are a host of applications for video technology which can be of great assistance to retailers, government authorities maintaining restrictions in public spaces, and corporate entities moving workforces back to the office.

The power of an open platform VMS is its ability to integrate video and all the new video technologies together to empower a cost-effective, safe, manageable and compliant environment, which will, in turn, allow businesses to remain not just operational, but optimised for these testing times.