The value of smarter, safer video surveillance in public transport

Axis and the International Association of Public Transport, UITP, have collaborated again to research the international trends of video surveillance in public transport. In this second report, we compare the development since our first report in 2015. So, what is the value of video surveillance for public transport?

The value of video surveillance in the incident lifecycle

Every day, safety and security incidents occur in public transport networks around the world. Managing these incidents is a multi-step process known as incident management – with defined actions and workflows at each stage of the incident lifecycle.

The value of video surveillance can be seen at every step of the lifecycle: Detection > Prioritization > Response > Investigation > Follow-up. But where does it add the most value? Looking back at the results from 2015, survey respondents found video to be of highest value in the investigation phase. However, the latest report shows that respondents find less value in video during the investigation phase, and attribute the highest video value in the detection, prioritization and response phases when an incident is happening in real or near real-time. This result indicates a finding of a clear shift in previous focus on post-incident use of video surveillance, to a real-time use of video surveillance. Video surveillance is now an active part of everyday incidents!

Sharing live video for better situational awareness

Situational awareness has been recognized as a critical, yet often elusive, foundation for successful decision-making across a broad range of situations, including incident management and security work. Lacking or inadequate situational awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error. Situational awareness can be broken down into three segments: perception of the elements in the environment, comprehension of the situation, and projection of future status (Source: Endsley, Micah; Jones, Debra (2016-04-19). Designing for Situation Awareness (Second ed.). CRC Press. p. 13).

A clear video feed from a situation achieves all the three situational awareness goals in this respect. Further, sharing that situational awareness with all involved decision-making stakeholders is a measurement of the level of maturity of public transport security. The Axis-UITP report investigated sharing of video within public transport organizations as well as to external stakeholders outside of public transport. The most common sharing is done within public transport organizations, to Central Security Centers followed by Operational Control Centers and Station Control Centers. Interesting to note is that there is significant growth in sharing between 2015 and now, indicating a greater use and improved capacity to make appropriate incident management decisions by the public transport organizations themselves.

Video sharing with external stakeholders has also increased but at a slower pace than internal sharing. It’s also interesting to see the development of video sharing with City Surveillance Centers which has doubled since 2015. This indicates a more holistic approach to handling public safety in cities where the public city and public transport spaces are equally important to secure. Incidents may happen in the city that move into the public transport network, or vice versa.

Challenges with a real-time approach

What are the major hurdles for security operators in a real-time surveillance approach? Some of the more common challenges relate to older, analogue camera systems still present in some transit networks. For instance, the poor image quality of older analogue cameras has a large negative impact on situational awareness, and older system architectures are not designed for future expansions or sharing of video.

Another common challenge relates to the size of video surveillance systems and the difficulty in monitoring a growing number of cameras in real-time. Surveillance operators simply cannot focus on thousands of camera feeds simultaneously – they need automatic alerts to become more effective.

The Axis-UITP research show that the public transport sector has clearly moved from a forensic surveillance approach to an era of real-time monitoring as described earlier. The next step ahead of the industry lies in the activation of video surveillance systems. For camera systems to become smarter in helping surveillance operators to detect and classify incidents as they occur, as well as to highlight these findings for decision makers in the security centers.

Activating video surveillance systems

The adoption of automated video and video surveillance in the public transport sector has grown significantly from a few video analytics used by a minority of public transport authorities in 2015. In fact, the latest study shows that all analytics mentioned in the Axis-UITP survey are in use to a greater or lesser extent, with some of the most popular analytics approaching 50% usage among respondents. Looking forward, the research also indicates that the automation and activation of video surveillance systems in public transport will continue to develop with most analytics showing an interest rate between 60-80% among respondents.

This clearly shows that the next era for video surveillance in public transport lies in the activation of the video surveillance systems. Public transport is getting smarter and safer! Learn more in Patrik’s interview with UITP here.

Download the full report