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Hardly a company to shy away from different technologies, IBM  today rolled out digital video surveillance (DVS) services, which the company claims is a convergence of physical and IT security.

The Smart Surveillance Solution monitors and gauges events with video cameras, radar, chemical sensors and audio inputs. The platform, designed to replace aging analog videotapes, uses a video analytic technology called the Smart Surveillance System (S3) to analyze video sequences in real time or from recordings.

Jeanne Jang, IBM global leader for digital video surveillance, said IBM Smart Surveillance Solution can do things that traditional video analysis solutions can't.

For one, Jang said, the product provides real-time alerts to anticipate incidents by identifying suspicious behaviors. The surveillance software uses indexing and attribute-based search of video events to classify objects into categories, such as people and cars. The platform also does license plate recognition and face capture to finger suspects.

For example, Jang said the platform can monitor the front of a building for a set period of time. If any vehicle stops for more than five minutes at a time, the platform can be programmed to send an alert to people who monitor the security system for that building.

"Real-time alert capabilities are not necessarily unique," Jang told internetnews.com. "What makes the Smart Surveillance Solution technology unique is that it can go back through video and data you've collected and do searches on the video without having to specify parameters in advance."

Users can use the system to conduct searches for specific license plate numbers, or even anyone wearing, say, red hats.

IBM expects the software will play well in retail, public sector and financial services fields. Retail is an especially good candidate for such software as this market reports nearly $50 billion most annually to fraud, theft and administrative errors.

To wit, IBM is bringing the IBM Smart Surveillance Solution into a broader portfolio of offerings called the IBM Retail Loss Prevention solution, which connects surveillance video with point-of-sale systems, inventory, customer and employee data.

The goal of this action is to help retailers analyze store activity, view and record live action, recall previous recordings, and trigger alerts when anomalies are detected.

For example, the software is installed on cash registers to alert the digital camera to what Jang said is "sweethearting" by cashiers. In sweethearting, cashiers illegally give their friends a discount on a product, or don't even scan products to give friends a break on the bill.

With Smart Surveillance Solution installed on cash registers, the computers can detect anomalies in scanning cadence, and send an alert to the camera to snap a photo for red-handed evidence of the sneaky crime.

Smart Surveillance Solution may be offered as a standalone application, but is also supported in some scenarios with IBM BladeCenter, System x servers and IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager. These products support access to video, real-time video analytics and implementation of an enterprise video system.

The Smart Surveillance Solution is available now in the U.S., with global availability in the second quarter this year.

This is hardly IBM's first foray into digital video surveillance; the company introduced a system in 2003 to help phase out tape-based systems that require video recorders for each camera. Moreover, the searching through tape recordings is time consuming.

Networking giant Cisco Systems is another company into surveillance systems, as it bought video surveillance vendor SyPixx Networks for $51 million in cash and stock last March.