JERUSALEM (Reuters Life!) - Just because a crime is caught on camera doesn't mean the criminal will also be caught.
As the world becomes increasingly saturated with closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, security experts say offenders can easily slip away simply because no one has the time to find the incriminating footage.
Israeli company BriefCam hopes to change that with a new computer program, called video synopsis, which automatically analyzes surveillance video and picks out the relevant action from countless hours of video.
A recent article on CCTV in Jane's Defense Weekly asked the question what happens to all that footage.
"Often nothing, because there's no one to sit and sift through the endless hours of video," wrote Joe Charlaff.
Video synopsis, BriefCam says, solves this problem by allowing events that are filmed over several hours to be viewed nearly simultaneously. They say on average they can summarize an hour of video into one minute.
The method is already being tested in dozens of pilot programs around the world, including in a safe city initiative in Europe and by a U.S. supermarket chain.
The program identifies moving objects -- their start time, end time, location -- isolates them, and then repacks them in a condensed video, said Hebrew University professor Shmuel Peleg who co-founded the company in 2007.
In the condensed video, all objects that passed in front of the camera are shifted in time and seen almost simultaneously. The user can click on any object and be taken directly to the original footage where the suspicious or desired event occurred.
"We are very pleased to see what it does," said Paul Koot, a consultant for innovation and security in Utrecht, Netherlands, where BriefCam's technology is used in a Safe City project. The city is home to more than 300,000 people.
"It's a pilot so there is still room for improvement, but overall it is a great development in CCTV technology. There are lots of opportunities and possibilities," he said.
Matt Fabian, security manager of a Stew Leonard's, a small supermarket chain in the northeast United States that uses BriefCam's system, also said it was like nothing he had seen before.
He said he can now watch all the overnight surveillance tapes in minutes without the risk of missing important events, as can often happen when trying to fast forward manually.
BriefCam CEO Dror Irani said the programme costs several hundred dollars per camera for high-end security teams, but the idea is to reach home users who will pay a few dollars a month in subscription fees.