Using surveillance to help improve operations in hazardous environments

Jesper Olavi

When hazardous environments are part of your organization, it is vital that safety and security are one of your main priorities. Often in these settings, there will be few to no workers regularly on the ground, so it is of paramount importance that there is a way to observe what is going on on-site, from monitoring the performance of equipment through to ensuring remote workers like repair personnel are adhering to strict safety protocol.

It’s impossible to have human eyes everywhere and especially in remote, large hazardous environments, organizations need a helping hand from technology. Due to technology needing to be maintained in order to operate at optimal efficiency, when looking at the surveillance needs of sectors that have hazardous environments as part of their business, it is important to consider balancing innovation with functionality and the ‘hardiness’ of the technology to be stationed in the area. Oftentimes there will be harsh weather conditions, vibrations and the risk of explosions that could affect both the quality of the video produced, as well as taking a physical control on surveillance units.

In addition to the environmental factors that could impact a surveillance system, the nature of a lot of hazardous environments – remote, private and often full of valuable and/or hazardous assets – means that they are often targeted by criminals with intentions ranging from vandalism and theft right through to terrorist interference that could cause extreme disruption to communities and even fatalities. Therefore a comprehensive security plan is needed.

Digital eyes

The new technologies that are providing advanced solutions to surveillance in hazardous environments are largely being driven by several trends: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT); advanced cybersecurity and video analytics. With the smart use of these technological techniques, video surveillance becomes the digital eyes overseeing the facilities. The insight into the state of a site can mean the difference from life and death in case of emergencies, especially in those hazardous areas where people’s safety is always at risk.

Due to the importance of being able to rely on these devices being able to see and measure what is on-site, it is paramount that all the components are protected and future-proofed so it can work effectively.

If the camera isn’t optimized to perform at its best, then the control room can literally lose sight of what is happening on the critical and dangerous site, potentially putting employees, assets and the surrounding communities at risk.

High-quality video solutions combined with protective enclosures are one example of how critical sites are being protected. For example, IP cameras are available with heavy-duty enclosures, classified according to different systems, such as Class/Division and Zone systems, for use in hazardous areas where flammable material (liquids, gas, vapor, or dust) may be present. Additionally, the enclosures make them highly resistant to high-pressure water jets, dust and vandalism, which is especially important in safeguarding critical infrastructure facilities.

Other ways in which video surveillance is being used in hazardous situations is to adhere to strict hazardous-industry-specific regulations. In the oil and gas sector for example, video coverage is increasingly being used alongside other sensors to ensure everything is running smoothly and there is tight protocol that must be met, so they need to ensure their surveillance equipment meets sector-specific certifications. Manufacturing facilities, such as food processing plants are also addressing training and environmental health (HSE) compliance with video surveillance solutions to prevent incidents, such as food recalls. Therefore camera manufacturers should work with different sectors that operate in hazardous environments to develop products that not only aid security, but also provide functions optimized to meet niche industry needs.

Furthermore, enhanced protective enclosure is enabling technologies that were previously too fragile, difficult to maintain or unreliable to be used in these sites, such as the strategic placement of panoramic surveillance cameras.

Rise of connected devices

In the security industry, IoT is a key trend that continues to grow, alongside the increased integration of sensors into a network.

Connected cameras can be easily integrated into the facilities’ system to seamlessly work alongside other security solutions, from alarms and public announcement systems through to access control solutions and sensors that monitor the state of equipment.

This means, the security and safety technology run off the same system, and all the data they collect can be centrally aggregated to give increased intelligence and insight into the operations of a facility. The collection and analysis of the data is giving key insights, such as the intelligent management of facilities, an increased ability to detect anomalies and ultimately perform predictive maintenance. One area of concern across all markets and sectors is cybersecurity and with connected cameras organizations can quickly and remotely identify and repair any issues with the cameras being hacked. They can also benefit by having remote intelligence for situational awareness, emergency management as well as opportunities to provide advanced asset performance management.

Increasing use of video in new markets and applications.

With everything becoming more digitalized, it is essential that the surveillance solutions chosen are scalable and able to adapt to new needs. By using open platforms, it is easy to integrate third party analytics to meet the individual needs of each environment and for system integrators to modify and adjust the camera, as well as ensure it is properly maintained to avoid cybersecurity risks.

Taking this a step further, the ability to support AI functionality is becoming increasingly important in all markets – but especially in hazardous environments where machines are more likely to be “on the ground” than people, there needs to be an objective, reliable way for any issues to be swiftly identified and resolved before an accident or malfunction occurs.

To find out more about surveillance solutions for hazardous environments, take a look at our range of explosion protected cameras.

Explosion-protected cameras