Nicholas Smith, business development manager UK and Ireland, MOBOTIX looks at how exciting video analytics and access control technologies can help deliver new smart building innovations.

The role of intelligent buildings within increasingly smart cities could potentially improve security, comfort and efficiency while making savings in terms of power consumption and human management resources. Yet adding intelligence into buildings at design and more commonly retrofitting these systems into existing structures is still a challenge. A critical element is automating access points along with surveillance technologies that when combined with video analytics can deliver advanced automation and interesting new use cases.

The post man rings twice

The humble entry phone is an early example of robotics and remote control and first started to appear in the 1950’s, initially with just voice and in later years with simple video displays. The popularity of such systems grew with the construction of multi occupant dwellings and high rise apartments to meet post war housing needs in major towns and cities. However, the usefulness of being able to remotely inspect a visitor and open a door has in recent years been extended using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and WIFI networks that allow for easier deployment of access control technologies.
Where legacy entry-phones were typically wired in a serial fashion to a single reception point or residential unit, modern systems like the Video Door Station can route two-way video along with the ability to initiate door opening across any IP network to a plethora of computing devices both local and across the internet. The benefits are extended by the ability to easily create RFID based transponder cards that can be configured to offer varying levels of building access on both a temporary and permanent basis. This accessibility is not just for the front door but can extend throughout a facility. For example, in a commercial setting of say a hotel, a correctly programmed RFID transponder card may give access to the lobby, guest room and gym but not the banqueting room hosting a corporate function or private health spa. As each transponder acts like a beacon, it also provides an element of track and trace for identifying both building usage and for more advanced security monitoring.

Knowing me, counting you

The ability to see who is within a building and where they move around a site has been a requirement for shopping centres for many years. The ability to count footfall is vital for shopping centre owners trying to attract tenants and as a way of correlating promotional activities with an increase in visitor numbers. In the past, this people counting technology has tended to require specialist and very expensive equipment. However, in recent years, it is increasingly built into CCTV systems that with increased processing power, now can analyse real-time video footage to not only count people but also gather information on what they are doing for presentation in a data driven fashion suitable for a wider range of analysis applications.
And it’s not just shopping centres. For the last few years, The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, the UK’s largest indoor snow sports activity venue has been using revolutionary MxAnalytics in-camera video analytics technology, to conduct real-time analysis of how visitors to the Centre use key facilities across different times of the day, week, month and year. The system deployed by Switchnet Systems, an Advanced MOBOTIX Partner, tracks approximately 6000 visitors each week with about 90% accuracy as they move around certain key locations.
For security, health and safety requirements; the Centre has 50 advanced CCTV cameras covering its indoor ski slopes, bar, restaurant, shops and viewing areas. Utilising an existing MOBOTIX Q25 camera covering its main entrance, the Snow Centre uses the built-in MxAnalytics software to automatically count how many people visit the centre and determine where they initially go within the facility. This aggregated data is then used for trending and forecasting which is vital for ensuring adequate staffing levels and resource allocation.
The system provides detailed reports to senior management at the Snow Centre, and as managing director Ian Brown explains, “We pride ourselves on providing a secure venue that meets the expectations of our guests in terms of facilities and service. The use of analytics will allow us to accurately analyse the flow of guests and enable us to make improvements to the customer experience. We can also use the data to potentially reposition certain features and as an aid to creating new promotions.”
Brown points to the ability to gauge the success of any changes, “We can also see the results of any initiatives on the resulting footfall and as the system continues, the long-term trending potential will help us to better manage our staffing levels and seasonal activities” he adds.

Integration is vital

Although retailer and leisure venues have proven early adopters of modern access control technologies and surveillance analytics, the wider smart building sector is starting to build these technologies into the initial design phase along with deeper integration into other systems.
“The applications we have discussed with some customers range from simple energy saving to high security situations,” explains Gregg Pike, MD for Switchnet Systems and an expert in video analytics, “For example, one project we are consulting on is for a large office block that automatically turn offs lights and HVAC if the surveillance analytics and people counting detects that the building is empty and then reactivates building function by zones as staff turn up for work. Another project looks at how RFID can be used to track high value items around a hospital – in both cases, the projects aim to use existing technologies along with better integration into building management systems to automate tasks that were traditionally incredibly difficult and labour intensive to manage.”
With video surveillance technologies moving predominantly onto IP networks and pioneers offering deeper application programing interfaces (APIs) into a host of video and access control devices, the architects of new smart building projects will increasingly have more opportunities to create innovative new systems that improve security and comfort through seamless automation.