FOR many cities, it is of great importance to promote public transportation as a favourable commuting alternative and to attract more riders in their transit systems. To achieve this, it is essential to present a secure environment for passengers and staff.
When public transit systems span a busy urban centre, a wide range of incidents can happen - and sometimes seemingly all at once. Commuters could face violence at a station, critical injuries near moving vehicles, metal theft near some rails, vandalism at a depot, and more.
For the authorities, deciding whether or how to respond isn't always easy - especially if the information that reaches the alarm central is delayed or vague.
A holistic public transportation security provides protection for passengers, personnel and assets.
This includes caring for passengers' safety during their travel, from the very start of the journey until the final stop and exit out of the public transport system, protecting the personnel during their complete work shift, during day and at night, as well as protecting assets regardless of location at stations, depots, along the infrastructure and rolling stock.
Stepping up security
Public transport systems today, both in urban locations as well as nationwide, cover very big security domains. The number of locations, vehicles and length of infrastructure are diverse and disperse.
The multitudes of security-related events that occur originate not only from the volume of passengers but are also a mirror of society's issues and problems.
Surveillance systems serve as the instrumental tool for security operators to be able to assess the situation at hand and make a decision remotely on what to do for each specific case.
The ability to connect the right response to the right incident is the role of the surveillance system at its essence.
There is a big difference between handling violence or vandalism at a station, managing a response to pick pocketing or other disorderly behaviour on board a bus or metro and intercepting metal theft taking place on the rail infrastructure or detecting and preventing graffiti before it takes places at the depot.
Surveillance systems are great at capturing these types of events, being the "prolonged eyes."
There are challenges however, with enforcing transport surveillance. The vast number of people using public transport makes it a challenge to monitor compared to say, at airports.
Add to this the high number of entrances and exits on trains, LRTs, buses, depots and stations, and designing an installation becomes tricky.
For example, there are some 36.5 million people using the KTM per annum. Within it there are 45 stations spread out across two lines with a total length of 175km of track. Now that's quite some ground to cover.
Analogue vs digital surveillance
This is where a well-proven, reliable, scalable and future-proof surveillance solution comes in.
Back in the old days, analogue systems used VHS to records images, which was clearly expensive, time consuming and produced inconsistent image qualities.
Today's analogue systems are generally linked to DVRs, which have replaced the old videotape with a recordable hard drive. The images are digitalised and compressed in order to fit as much footage onto the drive as possible.
The latest in camera technology is a network video system using network cameras. A network camera is a camera and computer in one unit. Images are captured, then digitalised and compressed by the camera. The video is then transported over an IP-based network and is recorded to a PC.
Network video solutions give crystal-clear surveillance video in real-time so that any challenge to keep passengers, staff and property safe is efficiently handled.
Network videos can not only detect and handle any incident as it happens, but security officers also have the benefit of the system's deterring effect on crime.
Smart tools that come with network video cameras like sharable live video, HDTV image quality, thermal imaging and automatic alerts make sure nothing escapes attention.
The right camera for increased security
More and more transit authorities are beginning to implement network video solutions as they give transportation security officers the means to improve safety, control flow and enhance overall security at airports and public transport hubs, stations, terminals and railyards, and even on-board vehicles such as buses and trains.
The fact that pictures are created, stored and transmitted in digital format means they are available in real time. Instead of only using surveillance video forensically after an incident, transit authorities can now connect all their security cameras in stations, depots, trains and buses to the security centre.
Live images in HDTV quality can be viewed from any camera at any time and shared with response resources, police and authorities. This allows efficient detection, prioritisation, response and investigation of the many and diverse incidents that occur daily on a transport network.
Some of the more impressive functions of digital cameras are their in-built ability to report suspicious behaviour when captured. This is vital, because it has been suggested in various case studies that camera monitoring professionals are often not effective.
There are also vibration-resistant on-board cameras and recorders, vandal-proof indoor and outdoor cameras, as well as thermal and low-light cameras which allow automatic detection of persons and vehicles in complete darkness. These cameras provide new means for perimeter protection and serve as an efficient tool against metal theft, graffiti and tunnel trespassing.
In addition, remote surveillance enables them to monitor everything - check-in, platforms, gates, hangars, parking lots and baggage systems, as well as vehicles in service. Network video traffic monitoring and management reduces congestion and improves traffic flow.
Future of network video surveillance
IP-based solutions that will make it possible to easily connect various security systems to one another into larger systems and enable real time gathering and sharing of video information are increasing in demand.
We have also started to see more solutions that are based on built in-camera intelligence (video analytics) as this technology matures.
For example, automatic alerts when an object is blocking or crossing a railroad or rail track, or a motion detection sensor which alerts authorised personnel to the existence of trespassers on tracks, at stations and level crossings of the infrastructure.
The proliferation of HDTV video quality will continue which allows for easy identification, facilitates investigations and compared to analogue footage can be used more readily as valid evidence in a court of law.
Furthermore, the high image resolution of HDTV video streams enables surveillance system designers to use fewer cameras to cover the same surveillance domain compared to analogue cameras.
With real time surveillance, it is now possible for transport officers to make an informed decision on how to respond appropriately to each incident, and to make passengers and staff feel safe.
(Nafis Jasmani is country manager for Axis Communications in Malaysia.)