Crime watch

Anti-terror police in the UK could benefit from a wireless
communications network capable of transmitting high-quality video images from surveillance cameras to officers.

Anti-terror police in the UK could benefit from a wirelesscommunications network capable of transmitting high-quality video images from surveillance cameras to officers – no matter where they are.

The broadband network, being developed by a project team led by Bristol University and involving the National Special Branch Technology Unit (NSBTU) and Toshiba Research Europe, will gather and transmit broadcast-quality video images from mobile and fixeddigital cameras using wireless LAN technology.

The Vigelant project (or Video Intelligence Gathering and Exploitation using Wireless LAN Technology) is designing the most suitable wireless network for efficient video transmission, to provide images both in real-time and for post-event analysis.

The researchers are also considering how to deploy mobile cameras most effectively to ensure officers have access to the best possible images of a developing situation, wherever they are in the country, said Prof David Bull, head of the department of electrical and electronic engineering atBristol.

‘If you have a siege or terrorist event, you may wish to rapidly deploy a network of cameras, and optimise the position of thosecameras to get the best overall video quality and the best transmission,’ he said.

The team is also developing video-coding techniques to get the most out of a limited number of cameras. These will include the fusion of images from a number of cameras to gain a more comprehensive view of the scene. ‘The idea is if you are constrained as to where you put the cameras, you can get views of spaces that are actually between two cameras, so they act as a virtual camera.’

To do this, the researchers are developing algorithms that are capable of combining sections of pictures taken from the twocameras and using disparity estimation techniques (the analysis of differences between the two images) to determine depth, and the system’s prior knowledge of 3D geometry, to develop a completely new image.

The team is hoping to demonstrate the network in 2006. Possible sites for a demonstration include those likely to be the target of any terrorist attack or siege, such as airports, courts and city centre locations.

The NSBTU is providing advice on possible scenarios in which the technology could be used, and one or two actual scenarios in which the researchers can test the system. At the end of the project the NSBTU will evaluate the systems developed, which it is hoped will contribute to the organisation’s Information Management and Supporting Technologies (iMAST) project.

‘The police and NSBTU have ongoing strategy programmes, which this will feed into. They are very keen to improve communications to allow officers to communicate with each other wherever they are – so clearly wireless technology is a key factor.’

The EPSRC-funded project also involves Bristol University spin-out ProVision Communication Technologies, which specialises in wireless multi-media communications, and digital signal processing company Snell & Wilcox.

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