The ‘Vigilant Eye System’, The Video Surveillance Answer To Crowd Trouble In Germany

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Written By Chris Azzopardi

For the most part, times are good in German soccer. The Bundesliga is a model of financial responsibility, attendance is excellent, Bayern Munich looks like a legitimate contender for the Champions League title, and the rest of the world eyes the Teutons with a sharp edge of jealousy. Even the Premier League is taking notice. But nothing is perfect, and Germany is dealing with a small wave of recent fan trouble along with all of the success. Late last year, German Home Secretary Hans-Peter Friedrich urged clubs to endorse a “Paper on Safety” that would demand greater investment in making the stadium experience across the country’s 36 professional clubs safer. One potential solution is video surveillance.

Enter Fraundhofer FIT, one of the many institutes operating under the venerable Fraundhofer name in Germany. Fraundhofer has developed the Vigilant Eye System, a video surveillance system that included algorithms for spotting flares and other mischief to aid stadium security in identifying—and subsequently banning—troublemakers.

A basic system uses a fixed surveillance camera, which covers a certain section of the stadium, and either one or two active dome cameras, which can very quickly pinpoint and zoom into scenes in the surveillance area. The Vigilant Eye System synchronizes the cameras with each other. If the operator chooses a certain spot in the overview image using the touchscreen, both cameras immediately lock onto this position. By properly positioning the zoom cameras, situations obscured from the front can also be recorded, such as where flags or crowds of people obscure the view. In other words, where the operator manually adjusts one active camera, the other active camera moves accordingly to provide the best image.

Because the system is scanning the entirety of the stadium at all times, it is fundamentally more effective than a pair of human eyes. People can only focus on a limited area at a time.

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The Vigilant Eye System specifically helps security personnel to investigate suspicious scenes by automatically identifying suspicious situations in the overview image in real time and drawing the operator’s attention to these incidents. The system is far more capable than a human observer in this respect, who by their very nature can only scrutinize limited sections of the entire area and may quickly suffer the effects of fatigue.

The idea is to pick out individuals for identification so that mass bans on fans can become a thing of the past. There’s not doubting that whole scale bans on traveling fans and certain supporters are effective, but they’re also needlessly punitive if only a few individuals are responsible for starting trouble.

The Vigilant Eye System is specifically built with the idea of picking out those troublemakers so they can be prevented from making future trouble.

The system is also specifically programmed to pick out flares and fireworks. All the image data from the active dome camera is recorded in high resolution at 12 frames per second. “The image resolution meets all the requirements for proof of identity and the preservation of video evidence. The achieved zoom levels are currently unrivaled on the market,” says Dr. Martina Kolesnik, research scientist at Fraunhofer FIT. The exact position of the individual zoomed images in the overview image is also stored.

The Vigilant Eye System has been successfully tested in a a real life football stadium environment at the AFG Arena in Switzerland.

Image © Fraunhofer FIT

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