MRU security first in Canada to use Artificial Intelligence for new system
By Christian Kindrachuk, Contributor
MRU has begun to implement the use of artificial intelligence with its new security systems designed to make the campus safer and security’s job more efficient. The university is the first institution in Canada to use this new technology during its upgrading.
“Most of our cameras dated between 2001 to 2011 and we did have some newer sites, but the technology was also somewhat old. Everything on campus up until 2016, was an analog deployment,” says Peter Davison, the director of security services.
With the new security technology available through iCetana, it has made MRU security’s job easier detecting important situations and changes on campus and then allocating the correct resources to deal with it.
“Being the dispatcher, I think when you do sit down and do the actual dispatch duties, it’s a lot easier to be able to prioritize what is actually important for us to go and respond to,” says Manisha Sidhu, a security supervisor at MRU.
The way the new camera technology works is fairly simple, it detects anomalies that are out of the ordinary. These anomalies then proceed to pop up on a security monitor screen to let security see what is happening.
Over a 14 to 28 day period the system learns what a given area looks like, and then notes if there are any anomalies that occur, says Davison. By having the capacity to trace patterns in the security camera system through pixels, all screens do not need to be on at once for security to spot an issue.
“The other term for this is ‘black screen technology.’ In our lower monitors, the [screens are] black, but when an anomaly comes it actually pops up,” says Davison.
It is also able to capture very specific things like lighting changes in the library and smoke plumes coming out of buildings, says Davison.
“My favourite capture was a windowpane popping off. [It was] 2 a.m. in the morning in a hallway … and just like out of a horror movie, it suddenly just shatters. It was just like a structural thing,” says Grant Sommerfeld associate vice-president and facilities management of MRU’s Finance and Administration Division.
While improving security on campus, the new system has the benefit of being cost-efficient, which was not initially on the university’s radar, says Davison.
“On top of all the operational ease, it’s going to lower the total cost of ownership of that system dramatically,” says Davison, adding the system runs on the same technology, but also helps with a maintenance cost that adds up with older systems.
iCetana itself was not made in North America, but is being used readily in the United States says Sommerfeld.
“The software was actually developed by engineers in Australia as a fluid dynamics exercise that they were doing to measure ocean currents,” says Sommerfeld.
While that may not sound applicable to a security system at first, it does benefit the overall system and campus safety. It helps to give security a force multiplier, says Davison, which is to boost the effectiveness of a response to an incident essentially.
“It really maximizes our system and often that’s what we’re trying to do whenever we pick a new module—or we pick something to add to the security level,” says Davison.
“I feel like the biggest change for us with the system, it’s really doing a lot of work for us, which really simplifies our work,” says Sidhu.
As mentioned, MRU is the first place in Canada to adopt this iCetana system and use it. This has brought interest from oil and gas companies and municipalities to come and see how the system operates and is used, says Davison.