First responders rely heavily on video technology to increase their situational awareness while at an incident, monitor an incident from afar and conduct day-to-day field operations. As video technology has evolved, equipment options have become increasingly complex. Many first responder agencies lack the tools and subject matter expertise needed to make informed video system purchasing decisions, so they often turn to manufacturers to direct them in their purchasing decisions. The Video Quality in Public Safety (VQiPS) initiative provides information and support to first responders to help them articulate their video-quality requirements and ultimately buy the best products to fit their unique needs.
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The VQiPS initiative, which started in 2008, is a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate and the Department of Commerce’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program. Through the creation of unbiased guidance and educational resources, the initiative assists the first responder community in clearly defining and communicating their video quality needs. VQiPS empowers practitioners with the tools and information needed to purchase and employ the right video technology solutions to support their missions.
The mission of VQiPS is three-fold: gather requirements from public-safety stakeholders; use those requirements to drive research and policy discussions; and feed back the results into the video user community at large.
The first task is accomplished via annual VQiPS working group meetings held throughout the United States. The second and third tasks are accomplished by members of the VQiPS leadership team, composed of public-safety practitioners, researchers from PSCR and private sector representatives. This past year members of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) video technical advisory group (VTAG) assisted the VQiPS leadership team as well.
To date, the VQiPS initiative has concentrated its efforts on the following tasks:
• Assess video user needs and develop a set of application-independent usage scenarios or generalized use classes (GUCs)
• Develop a common library of test clips that represent GUCs
• Determine the areas where specifications have not been developed and guide the current research to these areas
• Assess and compile an inventory of existing standards and specifications that address various components of the video system for specific GUCs
• Develop a glossary of common terms
• Deliver a guide to assist agencies in mapping generalized requirements to existing specifications and standards that might apply to them
• Match needs to technical performance specifications and standards to support procurement
• Share video quality information with public-safety practitioners via conferences and trade shows
PSCR conducts the research and development tasks set forth by the VQiPS leadership team and working group. Located at the Department of Commerce labs facility in Boulder, Colo., PSCR’s focus is to design and conduct subjective viewing experiments and participate in the assessment and drafting of global video standards. PSCR’s work helps define and validate performance parameters, ensuring video implementations by manufacturers will meet the operational needs of public safety.
Further, PSCR helped develop a rigorous methodology for subjective testing, many of which have been incorporated into International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-T standards. In 2008, PSCR helped get assessment methods for audiovisual quality in multimedia services published. P.912 is a significant global recommendation that affects the way people test for recognition tasks. PSCR is also working to develop cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) with leading video technology vendors.
Since its inception, VQiPS has followed through on its promise of working deliverables. The following are some of the deliverables highlights:
• Completed release of Defining Video Quality Requirements: A Guide for Public Safety.
• Released Phase 2 report “Video Quality Tests for Object Recognition Applications (Live)” in February 2012.
• Uploaded a glossary of video terms to Wikipedia.
• Released an upgraded version of the Recommendations Tool for Video Requirements, which provides recommended bit rate/total storage size.
• Presented on VQiPS at numerous conferences throughout the year and hosted the 2012 VQiPS workshop with a 30 percent increase in attendance and participation.
• Completed version 2.6 of the Video Quality for Public Safety and Security Handbook. DHS and the Security Industry Association will jointly release the final version later this year.
The DHS S&T Directorate VQiPS working group will hold its sixth annual workshop from March 25 – 28, 2013, in Houston. The purpose is to gather public-safety practitioners, industry representatives and researchers to discuss video quality as it applies to operational effectiveness. The workshop will feature a number of breakout sessions that will allow participants to learn the basics of video quality, explore new technologies and investigate case studies that illustrate how video is currently being used by different agencies and how its use affects an organization’s ability to respond to routine and major incidents.
Email VQiPS_Working_Group@sra.com for more information or visit the PSCR VQiPS website.
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