Even today, many airports still rely on grainy, analog video surveillance. “Why is 60-year-old analog technology that is not up to the standards needed in the post-9/11 world
still being used predominantly, instead of digital technology, which is the standard in just about every other arena?” asks Wolfgang Ritter, director of U.S. sales for Mobotix, which manufactures digital network cameras.
Analog closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras capture 288 vertical lines of resolution, making suspect identification very difficult. Yet digital technology offers 960 lines with 1.3 to 3 Mpixels of resolution. In December 2005, France updated its anti-terrorism laws to enable airports, train stations, churches, and other public venues to install digital IP-based cameras with analysis capabilities in high-traffic locations (Fig. 1).
According to France’s interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, the law was drafted in response to the terrorist bombings of July 7, 2005, in which CCTV video surveillance was far too poor to use in court. And in addition to better resolution, IP-based digital cameras offer greater intelligence about what is being captured, when to capture, and even when to send out alerts to potential problems. This should lead to automated face recognition, especially in single-file security lines at airports.
“All cameras \[should\] be able to send alerts if a predefined event or sequence of events takes place or indeed fails to take place, for example, a train fails to enter a station or checkpoint at a predefined time,” adds Ritter.
A typical Mobotix digital IP-based camera includes a Micron image sensor, an Intel XScale CPU running Debian Linux version 2.6.9, and an SMSC LAN91C111 Ethernet single-chip media- access controller and physical-layer IC. It also includes flash storage for Mobotix-designed software to manage data, process images, and provide a smart interface to retrieve data (Fig. 2).
Perhaps smart technology like this could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. While the U.S. government had attacker Mohamed Atta’s driver’s license photo on file, airport security video footage from that day was much too grainy to provide an accurate means of identification (Fig. 3). “How can you identify a suspect from video surveillance if they can’t clearly be seen, a recurring problem with analog?” Ritter asks.