Smile, you're on hidden camera: How does video surveillance system work in Kyiv

Author : Ksenia Tsyvirko

Source : 112 Ukraine

For 2 years, more than 6 200 surveillance cameras have been installed in Kyiv as part of the Safe City program. In addition to the viewing streets, they can recognize faces and car numbers, as well as fix traffic violations and determine the level of traffic jam. So far, the video surveillance system is at the stage of development and scaling, but has already become a kind of support in the work of the police, law enforcement agencies and communal services.
20:47, 13 March 2019

112 Agency

A live broadcast from thousands of Kyiv "event places": subway stations, streets and crossroads, bridges, schools, hospitals, parks and squares could be viewed on 15 screens of a huge 6-meter video wall installed in the city data center. Here you can follow the life not only of Kyiv, but also of 49 settlements of the region, which transmit a signal of about 300 of their cameras to the servers of data center. Thousands of people and cars continuously flow past the cameras, not suspecting that they are not only watched, but also their faces and license plates of cars are recorded in the archive. This is done not to satisfy curiosity, but to help law enforcement and security agencies: on the server of the video surveillance system, objects from the video stream are compared with search databases, which helps detect the criminal in time.

In addition, smart cameras can make conclusions about traffic jams on the road section, violation of traffic rules, identify objects left there and respond to the intersection of the conditionally designated perimeter (for example, a security zone around the monument). This functionality was also useful for public services and municipal bodies.

Despite the fact that in the future, the video surveillance system should become fully automated and notify operators of the detection of wanted objects in real time, at the moment, in operational work, they mainly use metadata search in the system archive. So, by downloading a photo of the criminal or specifying the state number of the stolen car, you can find out their last place of stay, the trajectory of movement and make a plan of operational actions.

“There is no need to exaggerate the effect of the video surveillance system. There are no such“ cosmic things ”as in Hollywood films, so that the camera jumped from the stand itself, put handcuffs on the criminals, took them to the police and jumped back onto the stand. However, the system really helps in operational work. Last year, for example, out of 10 thousand solved crimes, 2.5 thousand used data from the city video surveillance system, "explains the head of the Kyiv police communications and telecommunications Serhiy Magdiy.

As stated in the KP "Informatyka" data center which operates with video survelliance system in Kyiv, 6200 installed cameras - this is only the beginning: over the next 3 years it is planned to expand the system to 20 000 cameras.

The initiative to cover the capital with a network of video surveillance is included in the Safe City program, which is being actively implemented by more than 15 settlements of Ukraine. However, only in 5 cities, data processing centers (DPCs) are deployed, which allow you to automatically manage the system and scale it. So, according to experts, the purchase of cameras is the smallest item of expenditure. But the server hardware and data center equipment is an expensive pleasure, which takes the lion's share of the total budget. So, Kyiv had to spend about 500 million hryvnias (18.5 million USD) to create the entire system, from installing cameras and organizing a closed channel of the data network to equip operators' workplaces.

One of the users of the video surveillance system - the police - has his own opinion about the amount of expenses for the purchase of the necessary equipment. Thus, according to the data of the pre-trial investigation (No. 42018100000000352 and No. 32018100110000069), some tender purchases were made with prices overestimated by 30-40%, which led to the waste of extra 12.6 million UAH (466 000 USD), and the attraction of fictitious companies to the "scheme" led to an overestimation of the tax loan for KP "Informatyka" for a total amount of 5.65 million UAH (209 000 USD).

Many experts also criticized the performance of the video surveillance system. Firstly, there was no plan for installing video cameras, which is why the characteristics of some cameras do not meet the requirements of the terrain. Secondly, there is no intellectual search in the archive by metadata, that is, the declared “video analytics”, which the officials defamed, actually turned out to be inoperative. "In the archive, the search is performed by simply rewinding the archive. There is no search in the archive by motion recorded in the frame or a search for metadata from smart cameras. If we search for something in the archive, we take, we rewind and look at it with our eyes", writes in his report on the Facebook page an expert in the field of security systems and video analytics Anton Meshkovyi.

Learn the system in person

The “brain” of the video surveillance system consists of 56 servers, signaling about their work by the silent flashing of blue light bulbs. All equipment in the data center server room is manufactured by the Chinese corporation Hikvision. Most cameras too.

All photos, metadata and video are stored on servers for 30 days according to the "Regulations on the integrated video surveillance system in Kyiv". According to the staff of the data center, the volume of this data takes about 3 petabytes (1024 terabytes in 1 petabyte) per month.

The system itself consists of a cloud platform that processes streams (designed for 11 thousand streams, that is, 11 thousand cameras); analytics modules that allow you to select objects from the video stream and compare them with objects from databases and search for the required information in the archive using the specified parameters; 3.36 petabytes storage itself; and video surveillance cameras, which themselves, depending on the model, already possess analytical “skills”: highlight faces, car numbers, record the intersection of conditional persons, detect left objects, detect traffic violations (for example, driving through a red light, driving in the opposite lane, speeding) and generally report on traffic jams.

At the same time, analytical modules for recognizing faces and license plates can work with any cameras, even without embedded analytical functions, since objects are captured from the video stream directly to the server itself. But to reduce the load on servers that are much more expensive than cameras, it is more efficient to use metadata and photos already prepared.

"If we talk about how the smart camera with face recognition function works, it happens as follows: the camera takes about 30 pictures per second, from which the top 5 are selected at the discretion of the system, and they are put on the server, which compares the images of faces in 94 features. At the same time, the system is able to process 1,100 photos per second, that is, to save and compare," Mykola Pyhtin, director of the data center, informs on the details of the video surveillance system.

Before the video gets to the wall screen and operators’ monitors, the data has to go a long, but very fast way. At first, the cameras transmit their signal at a speed of 1 Gb /sec via cables of different providers to the data center of Kyivteleservice, where the UA-IX traffic exchange point is located, and from here directly to the data processing center at 10 Gbit /sec.

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As explained in the KP "Informatyks", you should not worry about hacker attacks: a fully closed network channel is built, and on the physical level no one has access to the cameras. “We built a VPN tunnel, the communication channel is completely closed. People may try to get through the firewall - this is the only place where we“ look into the world. ”No one had made it through,” explains Mykola Pyhtin.

However, experts of the market for video surveillance systems express concern about the security of the cameras themselves: according to them, the Chinese company Hikvision laid a pre-prepared backdoor in them that facilitates the hacking procedure. For this reason, last year, US President Donald Trump signed the “National Defense Authority Law”, which prohibits the purchase and installation of cameras from Chinese manufacturers (Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei), and also obliges to dismantle them on the territory of all government agencies. The fact is that Hikvision is 41.88% owned by the government of the People's Republic of China, and in the USA they are confident that their citizens are being monitored illegally. France and Australia also began the process of abandoning Hikvision cameras due to suspicion of espionage.

Vulnerabilities in camera firmware and Hikvision's global cloud servers allowed hackers to hack thousands of cameras around the world and put their broadcast into open access. In Ukraine, there are more than 14.3 thousand such "hacked" cameras.

However, Hikvision products are still a leader in the global market, mainly due to the pricing policy. According to experts, for the expansion of the consumer market, the company often sells goods even below cost.

According to experts involved in the organization of an integrated video surveillance system in Kyiv, cameras from different manufacturers were not tested before the purchase: Hikvision equipment was purchased almost immediately.

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“I think an important factor is that there are more teams that implement projects at Hikvision in Ukraine - and in particular in Kyiv - than any others. Because this is the so-called “mono-brand solution. ”That is, everything is supplied by one manufacturer - from a video camera lens to a video wall monitor, which makes it possible to avoid compatibility problems at the system construction stage. A simple example is to try using an iPhone with an iOS smartphone, a Samsung tablet with Android and a desktop PC with Linux at the same time and require them to be complete and operational, synchronize of all your data is technically possible, but very difficult," says editor in chief of Security UA Information Bureau Olexander Krasnopyorov.

Voyeurism for the benefit of society

The possibilities of the city video surveillance system were appreciated by an impressive number of state structures. “Our system is used by authorized officers of the Security Service of Ukraine, the National Police, the National Guard, the prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Directorate, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. In addition, the municipal services are also connected to them: district administrations, structural divisions of the Kyiv City State Administration, the State Emergency Service, Kyivavtodor and the Center organization of traffic. Now we are negotiating on the possibility of connecting the border service," says Pyhtin.

In general, the system allows you to connect to cameras from 100 workstations at the same time. There is a clear hierarchy between users: if the employees of the SBU and the National Police can follow the trajectory of a person’s movement in their operational work and look for a car by number, for example, there is no such possibility for the staff of district administrations or Kyivavtodor. Administrators of the data center pre-set the priority levels of access to cameras and a list of features that can be used by "clients".

According to officials, there is no need to worry about your personal data and privacy: there is no linking of photos and license plates to passport information, unless this object is included in the official search base. In addition, the system keeps a log of actions and events, so that even if someone uses the information for their own selfish purposes, the culprit will be found and punished.

“God forbid someone incorrectly uses information. We initiate a check ourselves. All our actions in the system are logged and recorded. We can use the system of recognizing faces and car signs clearly in criminal proceedings and during secret investigative actions,” says the head of Communications and Telecommunications Department of the Kyiv Police Serhiy Magdiy.

According to him, license plate recognition cameras are a great help in detaining criminals, since "85% of grave crimes are committed using vehicles."

But the servants of law and order cannot fully use the cameras with the function of face recognition: so far only 30 of these specialized cameras are working at 6 metro stations.

"Face recognition can work effectively in confined places where all entrances and exits are viewed on cameras. Currently, 198 cameras have been installed at all 52 metro stations, but not all of them are connected to the system. When this happens, the object will become closed and we can use cameras to search for criminals in real time. To do this, we have police officers at each station. In case the camera detects the face of a person who is wanted, the corresponding notification will be sent to the police tablet, and he should stop the suspect already on the spot. At the moment, not a single serious criminal has been detained operatively using a face recognition camera according to this algorithm, but now it’s good for us to work with cameras with face recognition instead to search in the archive - from detecting people, taking photos and putting them into a database. Then you can find similar people in a photo of a criminal and find out where and when they appeared,” explains Magdiy.

According to him, the enormous potential has an analytical module of face recognition, since it is possible to connect to it robotic cameras that cannot recognize faces by themselves. But in tandem, they can help to prevent massive clashes. "Robotized cameras are very good, maneuverable, with high zoom. The new module allows robotized cameras that are far away to detect people's faces due to the zoom and immediately identify those people who were originally on the black list. In crowded places - for example on Independence Square, European Square - when holding public events in this way, you can remotely monitor the situation, "says Serhiy Magdiy.

However, connecting other cameras to this analytic module does not make sense: the improper height and angle of the camera, the level of lighting and the quality of the shooting itself do not allow effective detection of faces.

In addition, according to the head of the Kyiv police’s communications and telecommunications department, it’s impossible to fully rely on the capabilities of the face recognition system, since not all photos from the search base help to correctly identify the faces obtained from the cameras. “For example, if we have a picture of a criminal in the form of a screenshot from some camera, this will not help to find him with high accuracy. Even an ordinary camera does not take a photo of the quality necessary for searching. And in order for the camera to recognize faces, you need a photo in a certain quality, "adds Magdiy.

Nevertheless, even this, still imperfect and immature work of the urban video surveillance system has recently helped increase the detection rate of crimes by 48%.

“For full-fledged work, Kyiv needs at least about 20 thousand cameras, given the area of the city. Within three years, we must increase the number of cameras to this number. The ideal option is a London style with no dead spots - about 100 thousand cameras,” notes Mykola Pyhtin.

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