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Evading security cameras just got harder

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 25, 2013 01:03 PM

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securit camera.jpgTechnology is working for the British police these days. Last week I wrote about a forensic lab in London that has developed an innovative method for guaranteeing that audio recordings are genuine and not doctored. Now here’s new research out of the University of London that may solve a tricky reconnaissance problem: how to track suspects as they move from one security camera to the next.

In the industry this is known as the problem of tracking people across “non-overlapping” camera networks, or the fact that often there are blind spots between camera views. Most solutions rely at least partially on appearance matching—using distinguishing visual features to track a suspect as he moves between security cameras. But this approach doesn’t work in instances where the quality of a feed isn’t good enough to pick up details.

So a pair of engineers, Riccardo Mazzon and Andrea Cavallaro, have come up with a new solution. They’ve devised an algorithm that predicts the paths people are likely to take in the blind spots between security cameras, and the places they’re likely to reappear once they’re back on tape. The algorithm takes into account layout features that influence walking patterns, like exits, seats, and meeting points, and also behavioral data about pace and the routes people tend to take in different kinds of walking environments.

They tested their model using security feeds at the arrivals terminal at London Gatwick airport. In different tests they were able to correctly re-identify people from one security camera to the next about 50 percent of time—not bad for a first run, and all without any appearance matching. And if you’re wondering what you can do to confound this system, here are two tips: The algorithm was particularly ineffective at re-identifying people who exited a camera frame at the same time, location, and pace as another person, and it tended to lose people who started to walk dramatically faster or slower between camera views.

You can read the whole study, complete with nifty motion-tracking graphics, here.

H/T PHYS.ORG

Image courtesy of Soctech.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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