AI surveillance cameras can learn, remember ... and forget

The AISight cameras used during the Republican convention adapt to their environment to determine if anything is amiss.

A few years ago at the FOSE trade show in downtown D.C., I was able to get a look at some neat new technology where artificial intelligence was being added to cameras designed to protect federal installations.

Back then the cameras were not too terribly smart. They could do simple things like monitor one-way traffic in a hallway and then alert users if someone walked in the wrong direction. Or they could be set up so if they were monitoring a no-parking zone, they would alert security if someone put a vehicle there.

Things have changed. To protect the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa, the city spent $2 million to install highly intelligent behavior recognition cameras in 30 locations downtown and near the convention center. BRS Labs, which makes the AISight cameras, says the latest models are leagues ahead of where they were back when I first saw them.

The new cameras can watch over an area and learn the behaviors of people who travel up and down a street. If someone's behavior is inconsistent with the baseline, the camera can zoom in, record that behavior and then alert the police.

According to the BRS Labs website, the secret to the camera’s success is the AISight program’s ability to learn…and to forget.

“Just as frequent observation of objects and events reinforces AISight’s memories, memories that aren’t reinforced degrade,” the company says. “This means that AISight not only learns about commonly occurring activity but also ‘forgets’ when that activity becomes less frequent, enabling it to alert on events that are no longer commonplace.”

That ability — to learn, remember and forget — lets AISight adjust to its environment and increases the ways in which it can be applied. “It adapts to moving vegetation, lighting changes, repositioning of furniture, weather patterns and myriad other environmental aspects that challenge video analytic systems,” the company said.

The system uses several types of memories, including long-term memories of repeated events, mid-term episodic memory of events in the recent past and perceptual associative memory, short-term recall of recent events.

AISight can distinguish such things as the types of objects common in an area, whether people are loitering, takes note of the trajectory of any moving object, and even recognizes trash in an unexpected location, the company said.

It can be set not just for specific types of alerts, based on observing specific types of behavior, but also to send alerts only at certain times of day. It also can be monitored live by operators who can be alerted by a sound or pop-up and who would have the ability to add comments to the alerts.

And the proof may be in the results. The convention in Tampa has had few disruptions due to protesters, unlike the one featuring John McCain a few years ago. Perhaps the smart cameras are ready to protect our most important government installations.

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