U.K. Home Offices praises University of Reading CCTV research

Published 15 March 2010

The Computational Vision Group at the University of Reading has developed computer systems which emulate human vision and is currently working on improving the effectiveness of CCTV for safety, security, and threat assessment purposes; the systems will be used in crowd image analysis, spotting unattended luggage, and detecting threats to aviation both on the ground and in the air

U.K. security minister Lord West of Spithead has praised the research work of Dr. James Ferryman, who leads the Computational Vision Group (CVG) in the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading. Info4Security reports that Lord West said that the CVG’s work in the field of behavioral science was “an incredibly useful tool,” and suggested that work such as this which highlights unusual behavior in crowds would be ideal for events like the 2012 Olympic Games.

In essence, the CVG has developed computer systems which emulate human vision and is currently working on improving the effectiveness of CCTV for safety, security, and threat assessment purposes.

This work includes crowd image analysis, spotting unattended luggage, and threats to aviation both on the ground and in the air. The research is included within the U.K. government’s Innovative Science and Technology (INSTINCT) program that seeks solutions to address the objectives of CONTEST, the U.K.’s counter-terrorism strategy.

On his visit to the university, Lord West was shown several areas of work that could have a real impact on the fight against terrorism. The SUBITO Project, for example, is developing an automated system to spot unattended luggage in public spaces, such as airports and train stations, and to alert CCTV operators immediately. Those operators will then be able to identify and determine who placed the luggage in situ and where they have gone to.

A separate project, Co-Friend, which is deployed at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, is developing an artificial intelligence system for understanding activities on airport aprons. Both people and vehicles moving around aircraft are tracked, with the captured information used for checking service scheduling as well as potential security infringements.

A further strand of work looks at detecting suspicious behavior onboard aircraft.


The CVG is also developing an automated CCTV surveillance system for monitoring land and maritime checkpoints, thereby improving the efficiency and security of the transit of pedestrians and vehicles. Involving sixteen European partners, this project involves working closely with border guards throughout the European Union.

The focus of the research is on real-world scenes, the team engaging with a host of other partners including not only the U.K. Home Office but also the British Transport Police and Network Rail.

Lord West commented: “The use of behavioral science offers us a lot of opportunities in countering terrorism, and the work going on at Reading will help with this. This sort of technology is an incredibly valuable tool.”

The minister added: “We’re encouraging the world of social and behavioral science to share their ideas and expertise with us to do this. Academia and industry may be able to provide invaluable assistance and advice in helping to prevent terrorist attacks.”

Dr. James Ferryman responded: “It was a marvelous opportunity to show the Government the breadth of research work with which we are engaged at the University of Reading. The projects developed here have a real application for countering terrorism, and we’re looking forward to working with the Home Office and industry to progress them further.”

Lord West has announced the publication of the second in a series of brochures which set out the objectives for using science and technology within CONTEST. Many of its themes incorporate the work of Dr. Ferryman and his research team.

This second brochure is targeted at experts in social and behavioral science in particular, asking them to think about how they can play a role in helping the counter-terrorism community tackle the security challenges now encountered pretty much on a daily basis.