Sensor-Triggered Video

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a news item that set me to wondering: A story of how a "crash sensor," part of a system within a police vehicle, had triggered a video recording that became key evidence in a dispute headed for court.

The police department of Pocatello, Idaho says video footage captured on the ICOP Model 20/20 served as evidence to exonerate a police officer involved in a traffic accident that occurred at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal. According to Major Michael Stayner, Assistant Chief of Police, "The officer claimed that he had the green light. The operator of the other vehicle was not sure if his light was red or green . . . The ICOP video not only vindicated the officer, but will be invaluable evidence against the other driver in a court of law."

Remote and In-Plant Applications
Looking for help in brainstorming other uses for this combination of technologies, I turned to two advisors, Cynthia Gefvert of the South Florida Water Management District, whose work involves remote sensing for water quality monitoring; and Tom Ales of Kimberly-Clark, whose work involves in-plant monitoring.

Gefvert's reaction was, " darn cool." She says, "I'm assuming you could also have this hooked up to telemetry to see things real-time," but notes that even without the telemetry aspect, she would still like to have it. Triggered by weather conditions, the video would let us see what is happening, she explains. Triggered by a set of readings taken by water quality sensors, it could reveal a leak or site damage. And triggered by sound, it could be useful in monitoring animals (for instance when a cage snaps shut) or for security.

Ales notes that sensor-triggered video capture is already in use for things like traffic monitoring, but he also sees an application closer to home:

"Typically in our online applications we will use imaging to record location, presence, proximity, etc. of certain components of a product," he says. "In cases where there is a random event of unknown origin, this would be extremely useful. This could be anything inline with our process where it affects one in 10,000 of our products rather than a process setting that would produce a series of poor quality products." This "record on demand" function could trigger on the byproduct of the random event and would be a lifesaver in finding the event that is, essentially, a needle in a haystack.

And Then Some
Ales also riffed on some other possible applications: Using RFID as the trigger technology could enable a pharmacy to be sure prescriptions are properly filled and get to the right people, and to help marketers understand consumer behavior either in store or in home (when consumers interact with the product, how or how quickly they make choices, how they use it and what for, etc.). And any physiological condition could trigger monitoring of human behaviors to help reveal specific conditions, say at the time of a child's bedwetting.

If you watch the three-minute ICOP promotional clip you'll see that a key aspect of the product is that it records video digitally at a resolution high enough to enable helpful zooming. Of course high resolution means cost in terms of initial outlay and also large volumes of data. And that's not the only gating factor.

So we're at an early stage with this combination of technologies. But it's an interesting start.