Project Overview

The main goal of WITNESS is to design a framework for urban surveillance and security to enable the detection, understanding and efficient response to terrorist threats and attacks.

It is widely accepted that the handling of the above reference scenarios requires a dedicated broadband communication infrastructure (e.g. LTE\5G technology) to be deployed in a very short time, so as to be promptly used to support the communications among security forces deployed on the field and used to gather and to process awareness data coming from monitoring devices (e.g. wearable sensors or mobile nodes) and to perform the command and coordination of the forces. In this regard, the underlying infrastructure plays a critical role in the security, processing, flow, supporting information requirements throughout the operational forces.

WITNESS proposes a distributed architecture to meet these operational requirements. Within the proposed methodology, WITNESS ensures that data and information are delivered to the right place on time and optimally encoded for use by their intended recipients to take the appropriate actions at the right time. This architecture is a key enabler of NEC (Net-centric Enable Capability) and is essential for “information superiority” and “decision superiority”: it will automatically enable the security units deployed in the area of interest to communicate with “whom of interest” and get an immediate perception of “who and where suspects and security forces are”.

The scope of WITNESS is to exploit the state of the art of the sensor technology and annexed video analysis algorithms to develop innovative solutions, methodologies and smart tools for the developing of a “pervasive grid” (e.g. context-aware and user-intention) in order to dramatically improve the situational awareness and threat detection in urban unpredictable scenarios.

Figure 1 – Depicts the reference scenario in which the WITNESS capabilities shall be fully exploited and where the information flow between all WITNESS actors, systems and components are highlighted. The proposed framework will be based on an integrating middleware infrastructure for intelligence sources, urban sensors – fixed (i.e. cameras installed in the city) – and mobile (police Helicopters, UAVs and connected vehicles). This infrastructure will incorporate a Sensor Data Fusion engine that dramatically improves the situational awareness and decision making at different hierarchical levels (from policeman to control room operator). WITNESS will also search for a new refined solution for video scene analysis. Challenges arise both on simpler functions such as localization, shadows removal when an application scenario has a high variability and higher intelligence functions as behaviour analysis and crowd dynamics predictions.

The WITNESS project Objectives

To improve the effectiveness of security forces in preventing and dealing with an urban attack.To identify, research and develop tools, technologies and methods that would best facilitate the countering to terrorist threats and attacks, including scenario awareness and rapid alerting of relevant authorities and responders.Demonstration based on realistic scenarios, as proof of concept.Assessment and evaluation of the capability improvement and its impact on doctrine (tactics, techniques and procedures) for future missions.

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The proposed framework in the project will facilitate security forces both in automatically acquiring, assessing and responding to situations that might relate to terrorist attacks. The pervasive and autonomic nature of the framework will facilitate the security forces to leverage information with multiple-sensors since it will obviate the need for manual surveillance and processing of the sensor streams (e.g., watching hundreds of cameras). The project will research the design and development of a novel sensor fusion system, which will be able to understand and react to terrorist threats/attacks in an urban environment. To this end, the WITNESS system will be designed as a “sensor fusion grid” that will leverage data from multiple sensor nodes, including cameras, microphones and UAVs.
With the above information at hand, WITNESS will employ advanced signal processing, sensor data fusion and visual computing algorithms, as a means to achieve short-term prediction of a concrete attack (i.e. based on the given/known threat). To this end, WITNESS will employ reasoning algorithms over information derived from algorithms such as people detection and tracking (i.e. including patterns of movement) and behavioural analysis (in conjunction with the terrorist profile information). The WITNESS “sensor fusion grid” architecture will also include actuating elements enabling the alerting of relevant authorities in response to the identification of an attack.
WITNESS will follow a Concept, Development and Experimentation (CD&E) approach, according to an iterative process where each iteration (or small step) requires feedback from the domain experts as input for making small adjustments on the requirements.
The functionalities will be verified by means of specified key performance indices and test procedures. Finally, test environments will be defined, which will be virtually simulated and/or live test flights to allow focus experiments depending on the nature of the investigated content.
Results originating from the experimental activity shall be evaluated and assessed by end-user experts, taking into account aspects such as training, doctrine and organization. Finally, the project will identify areas where concepts and technologies can be advanced.

The WITNESS project team has devised a work plan structured over 24 months with 6 work packages:

  • WP1 aims at providing a structured system for the full administrative and technical management of the project, addressing all methods of risk management, quality assurance and confidentiality including IPR handling.
  • WP2 aims at:
    • analysing the operational scenarios and technology of urban sensors/devices (including those to equip policemen, connected police vehicles and UAVs) to be used to meet the operational requirements;
    • developing innovative algorithms to detect, recognize and track potential threats through the analysis and interpretation of the urban environment, the changes in the environment, personal behaviours and crowd scenes.
  • WP3 aims at addressing the system analysis and design of WITNESS, which will be based on the operational requirements previously identified in WP2.
  • WP4 aims at developing:
    • innovative algorithms to combine data from different intelligence sources and urban sensors according to a sensor data fusion grid, to improve the global situational awareness through the Common Operational Picture- COP and the local situational awareness through the CROP (Common Reduced Operational Picture) in terms of spatial and temporal coverage of the area of interest, as well as the confidence with which the presence of a threats is declared;
    • developing innovative algorithms to detect, recognize and track potential threats through the analysis and interpretation of the urban environment, the changes in the environment, objects and object interactions, personal behaviours and crowd scenes.
  • WP5 aims at evaluating and assessing the WITNESS concept and architecture in the reference scenarios, as well as at promulgating a set of recommendations as initial contribution to the concept evolution roadmap.
  • WP6 is aimed at managing and facilitating the dissemination and communication to the scientific community of project results from the scientific and public understanding point of view.