3VR video management system tracks faces with low bandwidth costs

Published 2 October 2006

By turning images into metadata, system cuts down on transmission and storage fees while giving security officials a fast way to sort through footage; 3VR approach takes individual snapshots as it records, allowing for easy searches later on

The Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco, like many luxury hotels, experiences a range of crimes from the pedestrian to the world-changing. It was, most notably, the scene of the second 1975 assassination attempt against Gerald Ford, and interested visitors may still see where the bullet fired by Sara Jane Moore struck the front of the building. Most of the time, however, hotel security officials worry more about employee theft, which is why the Sir Francis Drake recently installed sixteen intelligent video management systems from hometown favorite 3VR.

Unlike typical surveillance systems, which merely record large amounts of data for storage and review, 3VR’s systems use biometrics and other mathematical sorting techniques to create easily searchable metadata on hotel visitors. The upside: instead of scrolling through hours of video tape looking for a particular person, users can use the metadata to quickly find the particular person they are looking for. “If you walked into the lobby of a building, a normal camera would take 3,000 pictures of you. What our system does is say there is a person walking in this direction. Here is the best shot of this person’s face. We apply a biometric template to the face, and we do this all in real time,” explains Tim Ross, co-founder and executive vice president of 3VR. “Then when you search through this video, you can start with a shot of a person’s face and tell the system to show you anytime that person has been in the building or anyone who has been with this person. The result is mug shots.”

If this were all the 3VR system did, we would be impressed, but there is more. By turning video data into metadata — security guards receive a series of snapshots rather than streaming video up until the point they see something of interest — the system demands much less network bandwidth, and much less long-term storage capability, than other video management approaches.

3VR is funded by In-Q-Tel, as well as venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Vantage Point. About 25 percent of 3VR’s customers are government agencies, with the rest being banks, pharmaceuticals, hotels and other enterprises with security concerns. All told, the global market for video-surveillance equipment is more than $5 billion last year, and the research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that the market for software that complements these systems is worth $153 million, and it projects growth to $670 million by 2011.

-read more in Carolyn Duffy Marsan’s Computer World report; company Web site