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Redefining security and surveillance through sensor fusion

Using edge computing and assistive AI, the Leica BLK247 can autonomously detect and report physical changes within a space — extending what is possible to see with human eyes alone.

KR: Through sensor fusion, autonomous reality capture, and assistive AI, innovations in security and surveillance technologies will inspire the evolution of smart cities and smart-building management. From HxGN Radio, I’m Kevin Rinaldi-Young. And today I’m joined by Juergen Dold, President of Hexagon GSI, to discuss some very cool breakthroughs in the security and surveillance industry.

Juergen, thank you for being here.

JD:  Thank you for having me, Kevin.

KR:  So, can you tell us a little bit about why Hexagon is uniquely positioned to solve problems and fill gaps within the surveillance and security market?

JD:  Well, we believe that the surveillance and security market is underserved with technology, and we know that Hexagon technology can improve business processes in that market by improving productivity, efficiency, and quality through rigorous digitisation of processes so that we not only automate manual processes, but also accelerate the path to autonomous. And therefore, we lately expanded our portfolio with a 3D security surveillance solution that consists of an innovative and award-winning 3D surveillance sensor, our Leica BLK247 family, and the unique expanded parametric 3D surveillance software solution, our Accur8vision software. This 3D surveillance will change the way surveillance will be done in the future. And in addition, this 3D surveillance solution will be connected with our established Safe City framework from our public safety business, and brings critical information systems and organisations together to improve operations, increase city-wide collaborations, expand engagement and modernize services. So, that’s Hexagon has now an attractive portfolio from sensors to connected enterprise solutions for the security surveillance market.

KR:  Excellent, yeah. So really, the BLK247 all the way through to these other software solutions create this end-to-end solution for the surveillance industry. It’s incredible.

So, what was the motivation for Hexagon to develop the Leica BLK247? Where did the idea come from, and how does it support the strategy you’ve discussed?

JD:  That’s an interesting question. So, where does the idea came from? And you’re right, there’s always an idea at the beginning of every great new innovation or innovative solution. In the case of BLK247, the idea began with a technology push and was then later combined with market research.

Let’s start with the technology push. The BLK247 journey actually began a while ago when I asked the engineer, how small can we make a new scanner, small and light enough to hold the scanner in your hand for 3D mobile reality capture with enough range to efficiently scan the surrounding environments for relevant applications and accurate enough for faster data processing, so less noise so that the data has good quality and need less processing.

When our engineers came back with the solution to this challenge, I was truly excited about the potential. We then decided to not make only one scanner. We decided to make three scanners—two scanners to expand our existing portfolio for reality capture, the well-known BLK360 for tripod use and the BLK2GO for mobile scanning applications. In addition, we recognized that the new form and size factor of this next scanner generation, this BLK scanner generation, is an opportunity to mount small scanners to ceilings and walls for real time 3D surveillance applications in and around buildings, factories, facilities.

We then also did some research of the security surveillance market and we quickly learned that there is a real need for such a 3D security surveillance sensors. So think about the guard that must watch a wall of monitors to detect in video images intruders. Are we really sure that he looks at the right time at the right monitor to 100 percent detect an intruder? What if a 3D surveillance sensor that can detect any change in space every second of the 24 hours of the day would support him autonomously? The service would then be without doubt more efficient and the results would have better quality. So, we believe making this world machine readable, using a scanning sensor and scanning and digitizing the world that’s making the world machine readable and subject to analytics that we take this data and run analytics over this has a tremendous potential in the security surveillance markets, not only making the process more automated, which is one fact of the benefit, but also more autonomous and with that increase the quality.

KR:  So, it’s, I mean, it sounds like the core of that is just, you know, the spirit of innovation and seeing the opportunity to adapt existing technologies or even brand new technologies to a new market. It’s really, really cool.

JD:  Yeah, it is. It is also kind of these new technology will change the way we operate in the future. So, you could identify a market need, but the technology is not available. But, you know, having the idea that technology can be now used for an application, you can think about how to change the way these market works. So, that’s basically the beginning of that journey.

KR:  Wow. So, how will this technology benefit the evolution of smart cities and nations and really society at large?

JD:  Yeah, I mean, I think at the end, there’s a basic need, so security and safety, a basic need for the society. Everyone wants to work in a safe environment and so thus protecting valuable assets in a nation, in a city, in a building, in a factory or any critical infrastructure, this is a fundamental challenge to solve, to provide security and safety. So, our technology with its 3D surveillance technology makes the security and safety solution not only more reliable, better quality, but also more affordable. So, now you could say, well, technology costs something upfront or you could say those upfront and higher investment in technology versus the other approach or the people intense guard approach. But our data and technology driven approach empowers automation and autonomous operations that bring significant cost advantage for the total operation cost over time. So, you have the beginning initial investment, but then when you run that facility for 10 years with that technology, you tremendously save money. So, it’s really kind of over time you look at that. And we, with our technology, help to drive that change.

KR:  Wow, yeah. So, at the macro level, you’re just getting that value out of the system over the life of the system, but also on the micro, it sounds like you mentioned reliability and, you know, actually getting your system to do what it’s supposed to do is where you find a lot of value.

JD:  Exactly.

KR:  So, what does the BLK247 bring to surveillance that was previously unavailable? What’s the unique combination of sensors or sensor fusion in the BLK247?

JD:  Well, the Leica BLK247 offers several very smart advantage, and they are all based on kind of empowered by the technology. So, it fuses LiDAR video and thermal imaging sensors in one sensing device. And with that, it is capable to detect any 3D change, even in complete darkness. So, that’s a very unique feature. Traditional video and thermal camera systems without LiDAR are much more sensitive to ambient light conditions than our LiDAR enabled solutions, and they have only 2D capabilities. So, if you look in a camera, you’re going to see a person. You don’t know how far away he is. You don’t know whether it’s a one meter tall man or one and a half meter person or a two meter person. So, you could only overcome that in these video and thermal cameras if you would combine multiple cameras together, which then increases the installation costs and the complexity of the system versus kind of an all in one BLK247 sensors that can basically get all these 3D information from one sensor.

And the other advantages that the BLK247 has is that with its 360 degree horizontal, 270 degree vertical view, it’s a really broad view that it has, it monitors the entire space in 3D with a unique benefit that specific spatial areas of interest can be defined by geofencing. That means so if you monitor, for example, a big room, like a data center, right, you could detect whether somebody walks in a data center, but maybe that is not the most interesting thing, is it? Is it the person that goes too close to a computer tower? Then you can basically fense the computer tower and detect whether the person gets too close to computer towers. So, that is an, it’s a very interesting benefit that increases efficiency and gives you more valuable data when you monitor areas.

And in addition to these capabilities, there is additional on board edge computing capabilities. So, it is not only a sensing, but also, not only sensing, but also analyzing in real time. So, it can differentiate between threats and non-threats in real time and that reduces false alarms, which at the end decreases overall confidence in the security system. And there are many more advantages that we have. But let’s maybe conclude here and we are very proud that the BLK247 won the top honor as best new product of 2020 from the Security Industry Association and the partnership of the ISC West International Security Conference, proving that the experts of the security surveillance market recognize this technology and the potential of these innovative solutions.

KR:  Wow. Yeah, I mean, this is just a really fascinating technology, and it reminds me of a conversation I had with a security professional recently who said, I’m really tired of solving 3D real world problems with 2D sensors. And, you know, the technology that is built into this 247 is solving exactly that problem. But you also mention that along with this huge field of view that the sensor has, that there’s the analyzation of the data, the analysis of the data, that’s happening at the same time. So, how does the BLK247 leverage artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies? How does it support Hexagon’s vision of empowering an autonomous future?

JD:  Artificial intelligence will basically be the enabler of autonomous solutions or making these systems more autonomous. The utilization of artificial intelligence is just beginning, but we are real excited that we can already offer our customers first functionalities that autonomously detect whether the changes in space are caused by a moving person, which might be a threat, or just by a moving animal or a moving vegetation that shouldn’t cause an alarm because it’s not a threat. Right? So, using these AI technology helps to understand much better the data the sensor sees. And so, it’s a key technology in these surveillance solutions to reduce false alarms, which again increases the efficiency of an entire security organization dramatically because every false alarm that you can avoid reduces the efforts to protect a facility or building.

KR:  So, sensors are one half of the equation. The other half is what you do with the data that they produce. And to that end, Hexagon recently acquired Tacticaware and their Accur8vision platform that you mentioned before. And that platform is able to natively process 3D surveillance data. Can you tell us how the combination of BLK247 and Tacticaware software will change how people experience surveillance technology?

JD:  Absolutely. Let me begin. I think with our approach we combine the best of both worlds, the leading and highest quality sensor like sensor technology with modern edge computing and cloud based software architecture. And before we go on Tacticaware software, I would like to highlight that we have choose the design concept that gives the highest flexibility for different size of installations, whether it is a single or multiple sensor installation. I think this is very important because not every time it needs to be very complex or large.

So, let’s assume you would need only one sensor to monitor your critical infrastructure. Then, it is exciting that the installation is incredibly, it is just a sensor and the mobile device, like your iPhone, that then connects directly to the sensor and receives alarms or is able to control the parameters of the sensor without any heavy IT infrastructure. Right? So, there is already a lot of software embedded in the sensor, but also kind of to run mobile devices.

However, if you would need to do a multi sensor installation, then it is an advantage to use a 3D security surveillance platform that displays the digital twin of your entire infrastructure and overlays this digital twin with the result of your security system. This visualization increases dramatically the ease of use in the case of a large security installation. And through the acquisition of Tacticaware or with through the acquisition of Tacticaware, we added Accur8vision, that is the software name, to our portfolio. And we call it Accur8vision, in short, A8V. This is modern cloud based security surveillance platform with the unique advantage. It is an expanded parametric security system, which means that A8V guards the entire area of a patrolled space and not just the border, not just checking whether somebody went through the border. So, if an intruder enters the guarded area, the system notifies the operator with an alarm. The operator will have information based on exact location, the size of the intruder and the speed of the intruder. This aligns in the digital twin. So, even the trajectory of the intruder’s movements will be known. So, it is a full 3D solution.

And in addition, A8V contains simulation capabilities, which is with helps to or with this simulation capabilities it is possible to navigate through the map or 3D digital twin, with the virtual intruder to simulate the real movements of intruders and thereby verify the accuracy of the system settings all before the installation of the system. This is very helpful to ensure that the system covers the entire critical infrastructure. But this simulation technology can be also used to test the entire system while it is in operation using virtual intruders several times through the day. This test run in the background and the system administrator is alerted to any possible failure or faults of the system. So, it’s basically through the self, through simulation software, it is basically a self-checking system, which again increases the confidence that all parts of the system are operating as societal type. Thus, we are very excited that with A8V we were able to expand our portfolio with the backend platform that combined with BLK247 provides a full end to end solution.

KR:  I have to say, this is so cool. When I first saw this combination of the actual 3D reality data coming from 247 and going into this virtual environment, it just for me it resonated because security surveillance is such a visual medium. And here you said it perfectly that it’s all this data combined into this 3D world. And the first thing that came to my mind was like this gamification of security and surveillance.

JD:  This is exciting. This gamification is basically the acceleration of ease of use of an acceptance of such a system because it’s much more intuitive in understanding what is happening in the system.

KR:  Yeah. So, okay, last question. How do you see this technology being leveraged by Hexagon’s customers in different industries?

JD:  Well, with the new Hexagon 3D surveillance solution that consists of the Leica BLK247 and the A8V, we enter not only the classical security surveillance markets to make buildings, facilities and critical infrastructure safer. We also see interest for smart facility applications in several other industries in which the BLK247 is capable to provide general spatial awareness beyond detecting intruders. These are truly very exciting new market segments and we will speak about this as soon as we are ready to announce these new market solutions. So, it’s not getting boring in that department to further develop new solutions. And you can see, it all started with the idea to miniaturize our scanning technology to a minimum. And as a result, we enter new market segments to help customers, today’s customers, future customers, to be more efficient and productive and at the same time reach better quality in their operations.

KR:  Exciting times ahead, for sure. Juergen, thanks so much for joining today and sharing your insights into this exciting market.

JD:  Thank you for having me.

KR:  A big thank you to Juergen Dold, once again, for joining this episode of HxGN Radio. Please make sure to check out all of our latest episodes at HxGNSpotlight.com or on Apple Podcast and Spotify. Thanks for listening.