IBM introduced an advanced video analytics software called the Smart Surveillance System (S3) that it says can provide real-time decision-making or analyze recordings by carrying out data analysis of video sequences. The move marks a public entrance into the realm of physical security, though Arun Hampapur, manager of the exploratory vision group for IBM Research, Hawthorne, N.Y., told SDM that he believes IBM has already been doing some installations in the market.

Based on open standard middleware, the S3 platform can monitor and analyze real-world events through multiple sensors. These include video cameras, radar, chemical sensors or audio inputs. The S3 platform can also integrate technologies from multiple vendors.

“S3 is not just a single product — it’s a framework for building solutions around this kind of technology,” explained Hampapur. “If you go to most vendors today and say, ‘Can you search through video for specific events?’ their answer will be very limited.”

A characteristic that distinguishes S3 from other video analytic systems is its ability to search for specific events or objects after an event has occurred that were not specified before the event, Hampapur maintained. The system can be queried to find a particular object or event after the fact because of its reliance on metadata, which is a description of everything that occurs in a scene, not just the event that is being searched for, Hampapur emphasized.

Another function to which the system is suited is providing more than just security information. “As more and more cameras get in place, customers realize they can use the cameras for making their operations better,” Hampapur noted. “What’s being required of video systems is not just security, but also investigation and intelligence. That really is where customers want to use the systems, and having this framework allows us to do that.”

The system could show people leaving the parking lot at a particular time, indicate when additional staff is needed in retail situations, determine the effectiveness of a store design or promotion, help with loss prevention systems or even identify tailgaters. The company’s retail loss prevention solution connects surveillance video with point of sale systems, inventory and customer and employee data.

The software also can blur out faces and other portions of video images to protect privacy based on the level of access a person has. With this feature, one person with the proper clearance would be able to see faces whereas another with a lower level of clearance would not, Hampapur noted.

Hampapur noted that IBM uses a “broad partner network that leverages in a variety of ways.” Coming from the IT side of the business, IBM is looking to continue partnering with integrators from the physical security market.

For more information about IBM Security and Privacy Services and the new service products, go