First responders rely heavily on video technology to increase their situational awareness – whether they respond to an incident onsite, monitor an incident from afar, or conduct day-to-day response operations. As video technology has evolved, equipment options have become increasingly complex. The Video Quality in Public Safety program (VQiPS) provides information and support to first responders so they can articulate their requirements and ultimately purchase products to support their own unique video needs.
VQiPS Leadership Team and VQiPS programmatic staff at Seattle 911 Center enjoying a site visit. Photo courtesy of Bill Shrier.
Often smaller agencies do not have the resources needed to have technical video expertise on staff; that is the gap VQiPS attempts to fill. Through unbiased guidance and educational resources, VQiPS assists the first response community in assessing their use cases and providing access to expertise that can help the agency clearly define and communicate their video quality needs to industry. VQiPS provides practitioners with knowledge products to aid in the purchasing and deploying of the appropriate video technology solutions to support their mission.
Since its inception, the VQiPS Program has successfully developed and disseminated numerous key best practice and lessons learned knowledge products in support of its mission space. As well, through close collaboration with the public safety community, VQiPS has ensured its focus areas are in lock-step with the community’s interests.
“The program offers technical reports, decision making/guidance resources and tools, but another key benefit is that it brings together a group of video experts who earnestly value this cohort, knowing they have a forum to turn to as they face similar video-related challenges or that will share anecdotes and solutions around challenges they’ve yet to face,” explained VQiPS Program Manager Cuong Luu.
Nearly 100 members gathered for the recent annual VQiPS Workshop. Prior to the workshop, Luu and members of the VQiPS leadership team identified key strategic themes and actionable ideas to guide VQiPS’ strategic direction. The strategic themes included: expanding on video analytics and forensics, diversifying first responder and industry represented in VQiPS, and increasing outreach and education to grow VQiPS user base. The two-day event consisted of several panels, case studies and presentations including a Body Worn Cameras and Wearables panel, a session focused on the new Policy Considerations document, and several sessions around emerging technology updates from industry.
“Through great discussion and practitioner feedback that occurred during our recent VQiPS Workshop, I’m excited about the prospect of more formally establishing video analytics as a thrust area for the VQiPS Program. This thrust area will entail an ongoing, close partnership between S&T, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR),” said Luu.
VQiPS highlights several recent contributions to public safety video community:
- Standing up video analytics as a programmatic focus area. Video analytics is an emerging technology area focused on automating the laborious tasks of monitoring live streams of video, streamlining video communications and storage, providing timely alerts, and making the task of searching enormous archives of video more manageable. Public safety video analytics research and development (R&D), and standards activities have lagged behind such developments in other domains. Given the explosion of video in public safety, the strategic incorporation of next-generation video analytics into public safety systems and workflows is important. Recognizing this, NIST, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program Video and Image Analytics Working Group, and VQiPS joined forces to foster the creation of a technically diverse Video Analytics in Public Safety (VAPS) community of interest (CoI). The VAPS CoI aims to develop a national R&D strategy in this emerging area and begin critical collaboration, R&D, measurement, and standards activities. The VAPS 2016 Workshop at the PSCR annual conference reflected the formal kickoff for the VAPS CoI.
- VQiPS’ development of Policy Considerations for Video in Public Safety document. This product assists practitioners by providing guidance for government agencies crafting written policies and procedures for the use of video in a variety of public safety applications. The purpose was not to provide a template or best practices document, but instead to highlight policy considerations for agencies in the process of establishing or implementing recently established video systems. These considerations might also be useful for agencies that have older video systems but want to examine whether their established policies reflect the current social and legal environment.
- Successful series of Datacasting pilots and associated After Action Reports. The datacasting technology provides public safety users with the capability to transmit secure data, including voice, text, files, images, and video over existing broadcast television signals to a targeted audience. Even in an emergency situation, where other wireless services often fail due to network congestion, datacasting still provides a reliable platform to quickly send large files. S&T conducted three pilots of the datacasting technology with the cities of Houston and Chicago and released test reports with information on how it was used and what capability gaps it filled. The technology was also used during several major events, such as the NCAA Final Four National Championship Games in April 2016 in Houston and will continue to be used to support day-to-day activities.
Other notable VQiPS contributions include:
- Digital Video Quality Standards Handbook. This resource links a design process with real life situations that use video in public safety applications, called use cases, to the product classes, network infrastructure, and display devices in the solution.
- Defining Video Quality Requirements: A Web Tool for Public Safety (Version 1.0 & 2.0). The first iteration provided public safety agencies with a self-assessment tool to help identify individual video quality needs and included application-independent usage scenarios and a glossary of common terms. The updated version of the tool helps agencies align their video quality needs with existing technical performance specifications and standards by matching a video user’s unique needs to use cases and providing a video system requirement recommendation