At this point, it is notable that the Indian Railways, with all its capacity and mega-network, is taking steps in helping fight the pandemic situation by making oxygen coaches and isolation wards available for people.
Passenger safety has always been one of the main priorities for Indian Railways. In an interview with Financial Express Online, Sandesh Kaup, Country Manager, Milestone Systems India, discusses how Indian Railways are adopting the video management systems (VMS) and how that can play a pivotal role in managing crowds and ensure the safety of passengers and railway employees better during the COVID-19. Excerpts:
1. The Indian Government has been focusing on upgrading the security of the Indian Railways. How do you see this progress from the security industry perspective?
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Today, we are facing one of the biggest humanitarian crises this generation in India ever saw. The country was almost preparing to unlock itself when came a more formidable second phase of COVID-19, and now our country is again battling for life and death.
At this point, it is notable that the Indian Railways, with all its capacity and mega-network, is taking steps in helping fight the pandemic situation by making oxygen coaches and isolation wards available for people. With a broad infrastructure scattered across the country, scaling up its security and monitoring requires constant innovation while ensuring security for the safety of railway employees and passengers who may still be travelling during this time.
Since 2020, the Indian government has taken steps to enhance security at railway stations by installing IP (internet protocol) based video management systems (VMS) at stations across the country. Most of this deployment and initiatives are centred on the nation’s Smart City initiatives launched in 2015.
Procurement and installation of IP camera technology and developing Integrated Command and Control Centres to analyse real-time data, has also been prioritised at the Indian Railways.
In 2020, a budget of around $34.2m was allotted to Indian Railways from the Nirbhaya fund for installation of a video security system. Today, we are largely dependent on the digital infrastructure, and expect to see an increase in security management.
Video footages from IP cameras for instance can provide thorough understanding of crowd control, people counting, heat mapping, crowd behavior and abnormalities in standard patterns, etc. These parameters work together well with an integrated open VMS to help security teams make quicker and better-informed decisions. While security concerns are as prevalent as ever, we see how modern integrated security systems are making it easier for operators to effectively police transportation hubs, using an array of modern technology to counter crime and potential terrorist acts before these even materialize.
2. How does prioritising the state-of-art Video Management System over traditional surveillance make a difference?
A state-of-the-art VMS will be able to integrate seamlessly with a wide array of innovative technologies such as AI, data analytics, sound detection, behavioural analytics etc. making it easier for security personnel to effectively monitor and manage complex transportation infrastructures to counter crime and potential acts of terrorism.
Today, the installation of security cameras at crucial locations is not the only aspect of a smart, data-driven security system. It is more of a combination of the camera and audio feeds, sensor data, with intelligent video analytics, that enables organisations to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies requiring immediate intervention.
These measures will prove helpful in managing passenger safety since there have been strict rules regarding mask-wearing and social distancing issued by the Indian Railways for travellers during the second phase of the pandemic. Additionally, thermal screening is being done at stations and inside the trains, in places like Maharashtra, and those travelling in outstation trains cannot travel in local trains.
AI-based algorithms scan video footages and flag down abnormalities. For example, when cameras capture an unidentified personnel trespassing identified in a restricted area of an office complex, the system will immediately raise an alarm. With thermal cameras, authorities in any establishment can get real-time heat mapping reports and identify anyone with a fever – a very practical tool in these dire times right now, and especially in places with high footfall, like railway stations, airports, and shopping malls.
To check if social distancing norms are being flouted, crowd counting sensors through the VMS and mobile app, can easily alert the authorities. With these tools in a VMS platform, transportation services and any other public places, are becoming even more accessible and crime resistant.
With the advent of modern video technology, the mundaneness of monitoring can now be taken care of by machines and software, and human resources are available for more productive employment.
3. How is technology impacting public safety and security measures?
The country is amid a public health crisis. At this stage, VMS technologies are capable of playing a much broader role that is beyond security. For instance, hospital facilities are facing unprecedented high footfall, and it is difficult to keep track of the number of people on the premises at any given point in time.
Video analytics with its advanced headcount features help hospitals keep track of the number and locations of individuals to aid emergency evacuation or people management.
Specific solutions like behavioral analytics can also help to determine at-risk activities such as violence and aggression that may occur in these spaces. In terms of controlling traffic in highly crowded spaces, data generated from embedded sensors, video cameras and crowdsourced traffic information can help authorities understand pedestrian patterns better and route emergency response to congested areas.
With mobile applications, this also has real-time considerations and value such as heat mapping, people counting, and crowdsourcing, which can all help to improve how transit schedules are determined.
Milestone’s XProtect Smart Client allows users to see both fixed and mobile cameras on one screen. The user can perform live video analytics without relying on fixed cameras. It will soon be possible to add drones, body cameras, action cameras or even in-train cameras.
An open VMS like Milestone Systems’ is a brand-agnostic platform, it can accommodate any technology and software that works in tandem, so security teams will have highly accurate information.
4. What role will video play in the new normal for public transportation in a country like India?
In a highly populated country like India, it is important to abide by locally prescribed social distancing rules, combined with strict security measures and strong public health policies to combat this severe crisis together.
Video solutions can provide the best situational awareness to ensure safety for the passengers and our frontline workforce, and we must now be better prepared to bring down the numbers of the pandemic. The right video technology can help in ensuring that strict measures are implemented.
Analytics tools can identify the proper distancing amongst people and ensure that citizens abide by compulsory mask-wearing. Heat-mapping cameras can sense a change in temperature indicating COVID affected zones or hotspots in crowded transit areas and highlight locations of large gatherings.
Right now, our focus must be on saving as many lives as we can and this we can do with the aid of technology. The country is in dire need of help and assistance at present. We need both empathy and courage while we face these tough times, and video technology has proven a vital role in keeping premises and people safe.
Responses by Sandesh Kaup, Country Manager, India & SAARC