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  • CCTV technology to foil terrorism

Dec 2010
Margaret W. Bushee, margaret.bushee@

ESPOO, Finland – In recent history, unattended luggage at airports, railway stations, trade fairs and other public places has become synonymous with terrorism. On many occasions, abandoned suitcases containing explosives or other dangerous substances have claimed the lives of unsuspecting civilians. Typically, CCTV systems monitor these spaces, gathering vast amounts of video data; however, the technology for analyzing the data effectively and identifying risks in real time has been nonexistent.

Now scientists at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are developing image processing technology that not only will automatically and rapidly distinguish abandoned luggage, but also locate or track the person who placed it there.

The research, funded by the European Commission Framework 7 program and led by professor Jouko Viitanen, is one aspect of the SUBITO – Surveillance of Unattended Baggage and the Identification and Tracking of the Owner – project. This long-term, multinational undertaking addresses surveillance-related issues as varied as the logistical challenges of security personnel, the distinction between false alarms and real threats, and social, legal and ethical matters.

The European Commission’s SUBITO project includes developing CCTV technology that can detect abandoned luggage and the person who left it.

The scientific objectives include robust detection and identification of all moving objects, long-term tracking, and facial recognition for multicamera surveillance applications. Detection of carried objects is being addressed, as is detection using pan-zoom-tilt camera tours. Combining sensors of various modes, including acoustic, chemical and photonic, with state-of-the-art probabilistic methods and fusing pattern classifiers should hone the analysis further. Using existing CCTV systems was part of the original SUBITO plan for keeping costs relatively low.

The project will culminate in a demonstration of semiautomated human-in-the-loop data processing that quickly distinguishes abandoned luggage, the person who left it, and his/her current location or path after depositing the baggage.

The study, which is being performed in cooperation with end users, has been ongoing since early 2009 and, according to a press release from VTT, will continue until the end of 2011. SUBITO is being implemented in six European countries in cooperation with 10 partner organizations that include research institutes, universities, businesses and end users.

The technology is intended for civil applications but could be adapted to other uses and may have significant commercial potential.

1. The process of following an object's movement; accomplished by focusing a radar beam on the reticle of an optical system on the object and plotting its bearing and distance at specific intervals. 2. In display technology, use of a light pen to move an object across a display screen.
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