Advanced surveillance technology specialist Digital Barriers is marketing two innovative solutions designed to improve safety and security in the passenger shipping sector.
Most cruise ships have a large number of CCTV cameras on board, to provide information to crew members and keep a record of any incidents that might occur. There is no doubt that CCTV is a valuable tool for keeping passengers safe and secure, and it can provide a record of many types of incidents that may occur. However, there are times when real-time video would be more useful to shipowners and operators, allowing decisions to be taken more quickly if an incident were to occur in the middle of a voyage.
But, as David Smith, Digital Barriers’ vice president for the Americas, observes: “Obtaining usable video content from vessels at sea is problematic. Communications are generally based on satellite communications systems. Not only are these very expensive, but they have limited bandwidth. Video, too, is very bandwidth hungry. Because of bandwidth constraints and the costs involved, real-time video is rarely used at present within the passenger shipping business.”
UK-based Digital Barriers has developed a solution called EdgeVis Live, which is designed specifically to overcome the limitations of congested and low bandwidth wireless networks. The company claims that the technology can ensure usable and continuous video streaming, even over GPRS 2G satellite systems, and will continue to work when bandwidths are as low as 9 Kbps. As it uses around 60 per cent less data than standard video transmission technology, Digital Barriers says that it makes video feeds from vessels at sea viable and cost effective.
Mr Smith says: “Real-time video transmission and distribution has huge benefits in terms of security and safety for passenger ships at sea, but at present the cost is prohibitive. With real-time transmission of operational video, shipowners and operators may, for example, be able to avoid having to send a team to a ship to investigate an incident, and could start interventions, and implementing solutions, more quickly.”
The primary benefit of EdgeVis is to offer passenger ship operators significant cost savings compared with conventional technology. But Mr Smith emphasises: “There are benefits beyond just cost savings. It allows shipping companies to manage safety and security related incidents better, and make a much more instant assessment of any incidents.”
EdgeVis-linked cameras are portable, require no infrastructure and can be set up in minutes. Video streams can be imported into existing video management systems, offering simultaneous remote access for a control room and, via mobile devices, crews on other vessels.
Mr Smith adds: “Real-time streaming for vessels provides better situational awareness in times of emergency. Teams are able to access live feeds, full resolution images and recorded footage, even where network bandwidth is low or variable.”
Digital Barriers is currently in discussions with a leading cruise ship operator about deploying EdgeVis on one of its vessels as a pilot. Trials and technology evolution are currently in progress and it is hoped that a decision to install a full scale, test bed system on board a cruise liner will be taken some time this year.
Digital Barriers is also promoting its ThruVision system to the passenger shipping industry. This is a body heat scanner that can be deployed in places such as cruise and ferry terminals where there may be large numbers of people congregating, and where scanning individually would cause major delays. ThruVision is, Digital Barriers claims, able to check for concealed weapons, explosives and contraband while passengers go about their normal business.
ThruVision is based on the use of terahertz cameras which gather images without the use of radiation, so there are no potentially harmful effects to the human body. There is also, the company contends, no invasion of privacy because anatomical details being scanned are not revealed.
Mr Smith says: “It has been difficult up to now to set up body scanning in a cruise or ferry terminal environment that does not create delays or require compliant screening. This technology can safely and effectively scan a lot of people at one time, without disturbing them. We think this could be a big step forward in terms of safety and security by scanning passengers before they board a vessel.”
Cruise and ferry companies are aware of the technology, Digital Barriers says, and a number have expressed interest.
According to Digital Barriers, ThruVision will spot hidden explosives and liquids. In tests, at a range of up to 15m, it was 100 per cent successful in identifying anyone wearing an explosive vest or carrying a hidden weapon.