4 key steps to take video from data to insight to action

Analytics Solutions Social Specialist, IBM
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. How much insight, then, does a video provide? What if that video were compounded with an intelligent analytics platform that could identify patterns and predict trends? The value of such a system would be remarkable.

Imagine, for a moment, a typical morning commute in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. On the drive from your home to the closest metro station, you pull up at a four-way stop where the commuter traffic turns into a mess of slow, tangled pauses and waves. A few minutes farther down the road, you draw near to an elementary school and are stalled by the lines of parents turning to drop off their kindergarteners. Finally you make it to the metro station and board—only to learn that another metro car got halted in the tunnel and is blocking the path. Sound familiar?

The insight of intelligent video analytics (IVA), combined with a command and control solution such as IBM’s Intelligent Transportation, can untangle this all-too-common jumble of traffic. How does it work? Four key steps can proceed from video data to insight to action.


Video sources are numerous: traffic cameras, fixed or pivot cameras, cameras attached to vehicles—even body cameras. These can supplement or even replace radar systems or road sensors. Managing video data in this way allows the greatest rate of return on resources, for cities are often unable to afford personnel to monitor all video sources. Moreover, it also provides more accurate insight. Human operators can be highly ineffective at managing video data insights over extended periods.

Ingest, analyze and manage

The video is managed in real time, tagged and catalogued into a searchable database. It monitors the feed for user-defined alerts, notifying the user about key events as they occur. This makes the information available to multiple departments for a variety of practical applications. A staple of the Smart City system is the ability to break down information silos. As intelligent analytics are continually applied, the video data provides information on three key contexts: real-time context, providing situational awareness; forensic context, identifying why or how long an event took place, including its root causes; and predictive context, enabling managers to plan for likely future events.

Consider and decide

An IVA system is most effective when paired with a centralized command and control platform. A platform such as IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center allows integrated data visualization, real-time collaboration and deep analytics capabilities for application in complex settings. By following standard operating procedures (SOPs) and responding to key performance indicators (KPIs), the system can improve the effectiveness of resources or response teams deployed to manage a situation.


The visual and contextualized information gleaned during the evaluation phase allows the command center to determine the best course of action and communicate it to the parties who control resources and organizations—for example, managers who activate traffic lights. The strength of this insight empowers system managers to evaluate traffic patterns, dynamically manage public transport, alleviate congestion, predict traffic flow and manage event route planning, among a number of other applications. Thanks to the capabilities of the analytics program, managers are able to initiate action based on a vast scale of information and on an extremely detailed level.

Managing a typical traffic flow such as the one already described involves a great number of factors interacting in complex ways. IVA can be employed to improve traffic flow, producing happier commuters. But what happens when, for example, the president of the United States decides to leave the White House for a lunch date? Once again, an IVA system’s predictive capabilities can be used for more effective event management. By employing the knowledge gleaned from known data, the system can predict how traffic will be operating during the hours when the president’s motorcade needs to cross the city, and it can minimize adverse effects on city traffic. The system can also be used during the event itself to monitor for security concerns, including atypical movements.

Intelligent video analytics can be successfully applied to resolve chronic congestion or public transportation woes. But it also has impressive applications beyond that—in particular, use in the public safety sector.

To learn more about how IVA works, and see how it can also be employed to aid public safety officials, access this on-demand webinar: “Hidden in plain sight: Use analytics to find the insights buried in video