Surveillance, one of the earmarks of modern life, is in good part an archiving challenge. How do technicians sort through masses of captured visual data, or how do they engineer storage systems to make the job more efficient, and less boring. Just zipping through favorite movies for the best bits can be an aggravating undertaking; but try looking through hours, days, or weeks of images of, say, a bank lobby or a suburban shopping mall parking lot.
In its quarterly spotlight on new technology, The Economist reports on an innovation that makes sifting through footage far less of a drag. An Israeli company, BriefCam, has developed an image-processing system that allows an operator to watch, in real time, only portions of footage in which movement has occurred. The viewer then needs to watch only footage in which some untoward activity has occurred – a robber sticking up a customer at a bank teller machine, for example. Depending on how much traffic has occurred at a monitored site, an operator may be able to achieve in a minute what would take a day, at regular speed. The video is not speeded up; rather, BriefCam‘s video-synopsis software picks out the juicy bits, so that operators who view the processed footage see movement at its actual speed. They can also switch at any time to watching the original, uncut footage.