EXCLUSIVE: Intelligent security for critical infrastructure sites

Pylons - Critical infrastructure site

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Jon Carstensen, Business Development Manager – Utilities for Bosch considers how various technologies can be utilized by critical infrastructure sites to protect their perimeters.

Critical infrastructure

The perimeters of buildings and grounds can vary significantly – from industrial areas surrounded by concrete and fencing to remote locations with more challenging terrain and the potential for disturbances from wildlife.

Regardless of the location, perimeter security is essential to maintaining safety, safeguarding assets and ensuring continuity of business – especially at critical infrastructure sites.

Hundreds of thousands and even millions of customers rely on the essential services provided by critical infrastructure sites like electric, water and natural gas utility facilities.

As theft, vandalism and terrorism constantly threaten these high-security facilities, regulations are becoming increasingly stringent and the need to safeguard the perimeters of these sites is vital.

If critical assets are damaged or disabled, it can have a concerning impact on the communities and businesses serviced by the site and may pose risks to health and safety.

Maintaining security and compliance

For critical infrastructure sites, perimeter security is essential to meeting strategic and compliance objectives.

Regulatory bodies that provide guidelines and standards for these facilities include the North American Electric Reliability Corporation with its Critical Infrastructure Protection plan (NERC-CIP) that covers the US, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.

As part of these guidelines, critical infrastructure site owners and operators must be able to detect, assess and respond to objects approaching a perimeter, with the aim of safeguarding the facility.

Since threats come in many forms – from attempted perimeter breaches to shooters positioned outside of a facility as well as drones, a layered approach is essential to securing perimeters at critical infrastructure sites.

It starts with detection

Advanced detection is an essential component of perimeter security.

Staff responsible for the security of critical infrastructure sites need to know as soon as possible if there is a risk to the area or assets, so that they can respond faster.

Video security cameras with built-in AI or video analytics can understand what they are seeing to interpret scenes, monitor risks against a threshold and alert people if there is a real threat or situation that needs attention, the moment it happens.

Cameras enabled with on-board video analytics can offer advanced functionality designed to keep watch over perimeters and combat attempts to breach security.

These capabilities include sending alerts for intruder approach, line crossing, loitering, fence jump and more.

These tasks will trigger alarms if the camera detects a person or vehicle crossing an invisible line in the scene, a person or vehicle entering an area without leaving after a specified time or a vehicle parked or idling in an area near a perimeter fence.

The latest advancements in video analytics are even able to detect intruders who roll, crawl or hide in tall grass to breach fencing or entryways – even under challenging environmental and lighting conditions.

Cameras that offer this robust level of video analytics can alert to a person or vehicle at a perimeter while limiting false triggers from wildlife or environmental conditions, including rain, moving foliage and camera shake.

Accurate analytic alerts are important for efficiency when considering the time and expense of security operators investigating alarms across multiple locations, including remote, unstaffed sites.

It is essential to ensure that video analytics are leveraging AI-based classification in order to filter out false and nuisance alarms and provide alerts and alarms from actual threats.

Incorporating gunshot detection

While detecting people or vehicles is important, there are other ways that perimeter breaches can happen at critical infrastructure sites.

In remote areas, such as at electrical utility substations, attackers seeking to disable critical assets may be able to do so from outside the perimeter with long-range, large-caliber firearms.

When there’s live fire at a critical infrastructure site, security personnel need to act quickly. It is vital to detect events and identify the source as quickly as possible.

By integrating gunshot detection technology with an automated video security system, the gunshot detection system can utilize geospatial-based commands to mobilize pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras to verify events.

When a gunshot is detected, a nearby moving camera will pan, tilt and zoom to the precise location in less than one second to help security personnel view the source of the gunfire and capture video evidence of the shooter and their surroundings.

The camera can also automatically classify and track the shooter, dynamically adjusting the field of view to capture optimal clarity, helping security staff to respond quickly and appropriately.

Detecting and tracking drones

Drones also pose a danger for critical infrastructure sites with their ability to fly over fencing to breach physical barriers and the risk of a drone incident is increasing due to the growing number of remote-controlled drones for private use, including video-equipped aerial vehicles.

Operators need a visual perspective to assess these unmanned threats and determine whether a drone may be carrying cameras or even explosives.

By integrating radar technology with a video system, radar detection of the drone can trigger the closest ground-mounted security moving camera to pan, tilt and zoom to the location and begin tracking the drone to help security personnel react more accurately to the threat.

Deter to reduce the risk of damage or theft

Once an impending or in-progress perimeter breach is detected, there are several actions security personnel can take to deter intruders from inflicting damage or attempting to steal valuable assets.

As gunshot detection and radar technology can trigger intelligent tracking by a moving camera, video analytics can also trigger a camera to track an object of interest.

The latest deep learning AI technology enables cameras with on-board analytics to continue tracking an object of interest even if it stops moving temporarily in an attempt to hide from the view of the camera.

If the PTZ camera features an integrated white light illuminator, the detection can also turn on the illuminator to cast a bright white light on the possible intruder.

The object of interest is followed with this spotlight as the camera tracks the person’s or vehicle’s movement throughout its field of view.

Simultaneous to turning on white light illumination, video analytics can also trigger audio responses if communications capabilities are integrated with the system.

Audio messages can play automatically or be initiated remotely by personnel when an intruder is detected.

The message can be broadcast through a loudspeaker – throughout a facility or only at a specific location – warning the intruder they are under surveillance and that the local authorities have been contacted.

Messages can be pre-recorded or relayed through live talk-down capabilities by security personnel monitoring the site.

Together, the white light illumination and audio communications are powerful deterrents, which may cause the intruder to leave the area before causing damage.

More than detection and deterrence

Guidelines and standards for critical infrastructure sites may require solutions that do more than detect and deter threats.

For example, NERC-CIP guidelines look for security measures to enable the organization to not only detect and deter risks, but also to delay, assess, communicate and respond to potential physical threats.

As key components in solutions to help fulfill NERC-CIP standards, video security cameras acting as sensors integrate with security platforms that are designed to help security personnel monitor events, manage security policies and run investigations when perimeter breaches occur.

There are a broad range of technologies available for perimeter security solutions to match the equally wide range of needs critical infrastructure sites may have.

Intelligence is one key element of a layered solution that enhances capabilities by providing early warnings and automated triggers for secondary actions.

It is central to advanced detection and deterrence in perimeter security solutions.

About the author

Jon Carstensen is the Business Development Manager for Utilities for Bosch. He has a diverse background that lends to his ability to solve real-world problems with programs, technologies and operational improvements.

His focus is to bring scalable, sustainable and robust safety and security solutions to the energy and utilities market.

He understands the requirements for high up-time, cyber protection and maximum operational efficiency, which drive his passion for the energy and utilities space.

This article was originally published in the November edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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