Does your VMS need a Map-Based User Interface?

There are many pressing needs in today’s security environment including how to do more with less, managing a vast array of increasing complex sensors and ensuring verification of security events before committing resources. A map-based graphical user interface used in conjunction with a video management system, can help address these issues.

What is a map-based VMS?
So what is a map-based GUI (graphical user interface) anyway?  A simple way to understand the idea is to compare it against a traditional video management user interface.

Interface Comparison

User Interface 1: Traditional VMS                      User Interface 2: Map-Based Geographical Interface

In looking at the traditional interface on the left, can you determine what has just taken place? There are many cameras displayed. It appears one is in an alarm state and has a textual alarm description.

How about the map-based interface on the right? Even on this small image, chances are you can see that there is a person in the parking lot, which has triggered an alarm. The human is walking north while being monitored by a camera. It also appears to be a textual description of the alarm and images / video displaying the target.

Which interface provides a more complete picture of the event? In a security situation, where seconds count, which interface would be most valuable to your response team? Chances are, from an effectiveness standpoint, the map-based GUI would win out. So let’s take a closer look.

Key Attributes of Map-Based GUIs
Just as the name implies and our example highlights, a VMS with a map-based user interface, utilizes a map with the area of interest as a primary means to monitor and react to situations.  In much the same way using a map when driving to a new location can be much more informative versus merely having a textual description of the route, a map-based user interface presents a wealth of information in a very efficient and understandable manner.  Although functionality varies between manufacturers, systems typically provide several key capabilities:

Display of static site data
The ability to have a reference map of your facility as part of your monitoring operations is, in itself, very valuable. Adding key items, such as, camera locations, fence sensor locations and even door entry points, greatly improves your understanding of security events as they happen.

Real time target identification and tracking
The use of video analytics to provide video detection and detailed target information is not a new technology, however, what is new is taking this data and animating it in real time on your site map. Target animation can include attributes such as current target location, target type (person, car, or truck), speed, direction and historical path. These systems can also be used with GPS-enabled security assets to display real-time locations of friendly assets, such as, officers on foot or car-based patrols.

Real time sensor control and animation
Map-Based GUIs also include the capability to control sensors directly from the map, and provide real time animation. This precludes the need to change to a different interface or user screen to interact with sensors during security operations. For example, PTZ cameras are controllable from the map by selecting the desired camera then clicking on the location of the map where you want the camera pointed. Likewise, doors or gates can be locked/unlocked using this same point and click method. In all cases, the real time state of the sensor is displayed, including camera frustum, zoom level and/or door state.

Ability to add and display operator data
There are many other visual aids that can be accommodated within a map-based GUI. Items like detection zones, special landmark indicators, temporary event locations, paths / routes, etc.  These types of aids may be of interest system wide, or just to an individual user.  The ability to add these types of graphical elements to aid in both day-to-day operations or in event response is easily accommodated by map-based systems.

Map-Based user interfaces provide wealth of visual information, to allow quick operator assessment of events.

Map-Based user interfaces provide wealth of visual information, to allow quick operator assessment of events.

Map-Based Value Proposition
All new technology has cool features, but what are the key value propositions that you can leverage when considering the upgrade to a VMS with a map-based user interface?

Situational Awareness

Traditional GUIs can be lacking in timely situational data.

Traditional GUIs can be lacking in timely situational data.

Situational Awareness refers to your ability to understand an event, in relationship to other factors. Increased situational awareness results in a better understanding of event in less time. For example, with a traditional VMS, the communication of an event may go something like “I have a motion alarm on camera number 34.” This involves several follow up actions to gain the appropriate level of information to react efficiently. Where is camera 34? Which direction is it looking? How far away from the camera is the target? What is the target? Which direction is it moving?

Conversely, aided with a map-based system, this same communication would be slightly different.  “There is a person located 50 m southwest of building 5, running to the east toward the side gate.”  More importantly, this information would be obtainable via a single glance at the map interface.

Operator Clutter Reduction
Another important value proposition of a map-based system is the reduction of operator clutter. Its’ ability to convey a large amount of information through a map-based display and animation means that there is no need to have a large wall of monitors showing camera feeds that are currently not reporting an event. Controlling sensors directly from the same map-based interface also reduces the number of additional interfaces or monitors a user must interact with when reacting to an event. This not only makes the operator more efficient, it also facilitates a cost savings through the reduction of display monitors and extra workstations.

Affordable Upgrade Options
When considering a map-based system, it is not an all or nothing proposition. In most cases, there is no need to part with your existing security system. The addition of a new head end server with geospatial software capability can utilize all your existing sensors, including cameras, access control, GPS, radar, fence sensors and provide a full suite of map-based display and control. This eliminates expensive changes to wiring and physical infrastructure. Alternatively, many existing VMS systems already have the capability to accept and display some map-based attributes. Although they may not have the ability to animate a target’s path, many can display the origin of the alarm on the map, with an icon indicating the type of intruder (person, car or truck), etc. Gaining this capability merely requires adding upgraded video analytics to your existing cameras via an edge device or add-on server.

It is easy to see the value of location-based data in today’s world.  Most software and apps ask for the ability to know your location and then use that data to make the application smarter and more valuable to the end user.  Sometimes you may worry that apps know too much about you, but in the case of your security system, that’s exactly what you want. Use of location data and geospatial attributes utilized by a map-based user interface provides a frame of reference, instant visual cues and quickly communicates a large amount of detailed information.  When a security incident occurs, this enables your security team to react quicker and more effectively.

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