Why Video Cameras are the Swiss Army Knife of Building Sensors


"Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein


When we think of analytics related to buildings systems, we generally think of predictive analysis or fault detection and diagnostic software tools related to HVAC systems.

Video analytics systems -- software that can analyze and identify people, objects and events -- are fundamentally different from those systems, but in many ways can be just as important in providing information on building use and performance. The reason is that like the iconic Swiss Army Knife, video cameras can be multi-functional.

The analysis of digital images addresses aspects of physical security, but goes way beyond that to provide data and information for building life safety, energy management and overall building performance. What you find is that this one device, the video camera, has a variety of uses for sensing and gathering data about the building condition and performance.

This is a good thing, since more high-quality and relevant building data is critical in generating actionable information and key to better management and building performance.

If you assume that the video camera is an extension of the human eye, the analytical software is the extension of the human brain. On the market today are cameras that can detect smoke or fire, identify specific people, detect motion, determine if objects have been moved and provide occupancy data including the actual number of people in a space.

Without going in to too much detail on the process, video analytics starts by analyzing the pixels gathered by cameras in a coverage area. Generally, if you can develop a pixel template of the event or condition you are trying to track, the video analytic software can detect the event or condition.

Potential Uses of Video Analytics as Sensors

Video cameras are a staple of physical security systems, and most of the analytics tools in development for video arrays are focused on security -- but providing security with more real-time frequency and higher levels of reliability than human-monitored systems.