Defence and defence industry applications for CSIR surveillance system


Surveillance and protection of assets, be they publicly or privately owned or managed, is ongoing with the brainpower of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) adding what it terms the smart physical security system (SPYSS) to the range of protection products.

SPYSS, according to the CSIR publication Sciencescope, is a camera-based imaging and alerting system providing wide area surveillance and intrusion detection. Pilot client for the system is the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) which experienced robberies of particularly agricultural equipment and stock at a chicken farm on an Eastern Cape Correctional Services facility.

“DCS needed an intervention to improve security at facilities, starting with the Eastern Cape one,” Dr Gugulethu Mabuza-Hocquet, CSIR research group leader for surveillance and counter measure systems, said.  A memorandum of understanding was entered into to guide the collaboration, with SPYSS the result.

The new security system was developed and deployed at the facility to detect intrusions and strengthen physical security. A computer vision application aids situational awareness of guards, improving confidence and morale, Sciencescope reports. Guards at different locations receive alerts via SMS or a mobile application and rapidly respond to intrusions. The software application analyses security imagery in real time and detects small targets on images. The software acts as a second opinion when predicting whether a target is a threat or not, CSIR researcher Dumisani Kunene is reported as saying.

Drawing on complementary CSIR command and control technology, the system detects and sends intrusion alerts at the monitored area. The platform can send alerts to mobile phones in two to five seconds.

“Recorded events can be used as evidence to study intrusion patterns and lessen future incidents,” Kunene adds.

Deployment of SPYSS helped protect the Eastern Cape chicken farm area and guided the specification development process for a permanent solution through research and development experiments with artificial intelligence techniques for object recognition at the site.

“In addition to SPYSS detection and early warning capabilities, we plan to expand the system to perform human recognition, vehicle number plate recognition and face recognition to offer a holistic security intervention at DCS facilities,” Mabuza-Hocquet said.

With security of bases and facilities primarily a boots on the ground job, both the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the local defence industry are in position to put SPYSS to good use.

One example is 6 SA Infantry Battalion at Makhanda in Eastern Cape. A mushrooming informal settlement on one boundary and cut fences resulted in people illegally accessing the base, particularly its training area, for scrap to sell. As live ammunition is regularly used, this is dangerous, proven by one man injured when an apparently dud mortar bomb exploded.

Another example in the SANDF is its Tek Base in Centurion where a number of weapons were apparently simply walked off base by a number of people, including some in uniform, over a period of time.

Other potential applications for the home-grown surveillance system are the Armscor building, where security is in the hands of a private contractor as well as other Armscor facilities including Alkantpan and Gerotek. The remote location of the Alkantpan test range in Northern Cape makes it well-suited to a camera-based rather than Mark One eyeballs as found on human beings.