I live in the Boston area so was following with great interest the case of the Boston Marathon bombings last April. Like others across the country, and indeed the world, I marveled at the job the various law enforcement agencies did in apprehending the suspects in short order.
After viewing a video about a video surveillance solution that Schneider Electric offers with its partner IBM, I think I have a better idea of just how the suspects were caught so quickly – and how alliances are playing a role in making our cities smarter.
First, full disclosure: I don’t know whether Schneider Electric and/or IBM equipment, software or services were involved in the Boston Marathon case. Although it seems IBM software was being tested that day, according to this story in InformationWeek:
In fact, the city’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events was testing a new operations dashboard from IBM on April 15, the day of the marathon, and Boston CIO Bill Oates was on hand to oversee its use.
Oates talked to InformationWeek contributor Michael Fitzgerald that morning from Boston’s call center on the eighth floor of City Hall, where he and IT staffers were able to view on a monitor the marathon route and a two-block span around it. At the time, just a few hours before the bombings, Oates said the goal was to use the marathon “to get a sense of what the system is going to show us, so we can look at leveraging how to improve our coordination of events.”
What I know for sure is the kind of capabilities our solution offers is a good fit for the challenge that law enforcement faced in the aftermath of the bombings.
In a nutshell, the offering combines the Pelco by Schneider Electric line of IP cameras and Endura IP Video Management System with IBM Intelligent Video Analytics. The IBM analytics software can examine stored images from the Pelco cameras for various criteria, depending on the use case.
In the Boston Marathon example, law enforcement may have wanted to search for people carrying back packs in the area where the bombings occurred. The software would quickly enable them to find any images matching that description within any specific timeframe. Or, if they had a tip on what the bombers looked like, they could enter physical attributes like height, hair color, clothing color and the like.
As you may remember, the bombers were caught after law enforcement published photos of the two suspects that were captured by video surveillance cameras in the area. Once the images were broadcast in the media and online, the suspects were quickly identified and, within a few days, caught in a police dragnet (with one suffering fatal injuries). Again, I don’t know whether Schneider Electric or IBM played any role in the case, but that’s exactly the type of thing our solution enables.
This is a powerful solution that has many applications across a city and elsewhere. An example outlined in the video has to do with cameras monitoring a highway flowing through a city. Say, for example, law enforcement is on the lookout for a red SUV involved in a robbery. The IBM software could quickly find any SUVs matching the description and alert law enforcement as to its location.
It could also be used to find objects that are out of place. We’ve been hearing for years now not to leave bags unattended in places such as airports. The Schneider Electric/IBM solution would provide an easy way for security personnel to quickly identify such bags and enable an appropriate, timely response.
In fact, as the video makes clear, the system is designed to integrate with existing physical security information management systems, other third party products, including IBM Smarter City Solutions. I can also see situations where it could integrate with networking solutions from another Schneider Electric partner, Cisco. Cisco’s Medianet architecture helps organizations deliver the best possible user experience for applications such as video, including for when it has to be viewed on a device such as a smartphone.
In short, as the video points out, the Schneider Electric video surveillance solution can help keep people safe wherever they gather, work, learn and play. It’s just another example of the power of alliances and partnerships.