PhD student develops camera technology to combat bicycle thefts

December 23rd, 2007 - 6:18 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 23 (ANI): A PhD student at the Leeds University has developed a technology that could prevent bicycle thefts and may also be useful in flagging suspicious events in public places.

Dima Damen, from the university’s faculty of engineering, has created a computer system that recognises individuals parking their bicycles so that if a different person tries to collect it, security staff can be warned. Bicycle theft is a huge problem in the UK, especially as more people are turning to bikes as a greener mode of transport. More than 500,000 are stolen yearly and only five per cent of these are returned to their owners. Many local councils have installed closed circuit TV cameras to prevent crime, but according to Damen this is not always effective. She said: “Currently lots of thefts are happening in front of CCTV cameras, but they go unchecked. Cameras are installed in many locations but sometimes three people are observing 25 cameras and this makes it very ineffective.”

The system works by taking colour information from CCTV images when a bike is parked and storing it until it is retrieved. It then marries the stored information with the new image and if there are big differences, it notifies security staff. Currently the system is still at the prototype stage, but initial tests proved successful as 11 out of 13 simulated thefts were detected. A spokesman from Sustrans, a UK sustainable transport charity, said: “Any kind of new technology that could prevent bicycle theft would be welcome. Theft is a big problem in many UK cities and people need to make sure their bikes are safe.” Damen is now developing her technology to identify suspicious events in public places, such as the problem of baggage - especially in airports.

Someone intending to leave a suspicious package wont leave it in full view of a CCTV camera, but may choose to leave it in a toilet or behind a pillar, she said.

We think we can engineer this technology to recognise people who enter flagged areas with a package or bag, but then leave without it, raising an alert for security staff. Thats my next challenge, she added. (ANI)

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