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Forecourt Video System Gets Innovation Boost

Forecourt Video System Gets Innovation Boost From Young Scientists/Tech Co.

As petrol prices continue to escalate, so do the number of service station incidents of drivers fuelling their cars and fleeing without paying - a problem proving costly for oil companies world-wide.

However, innovative technology from bright young students at Massey University's Institute of Information Science and Technology, and Palmerston North-based technology development company R&D Solutionz, has led to a breakthrough they believe to be a world first.

'Gnome' is a forecourt video system originally designed to give service stations the ability to monitor fuel dispensers using CCTV. It has now been integrated with other forecourt technologies to evolve into an intelligent forecourt surveillance product that has the potential to reliably identify vehicles involved in 'drive-off' incidents on service station forecourts.

The ground-breaking 'next generation' phase has been assisted by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, which funded two student projects through its Technology for Industry Fellowships (TIF) scheme, in conjunction with Massey University.

The problem facing the industry, according to Andrew Rushworth, Managing Director of R&D Solutionz, is that conventional video footage has been of dubious quality and relies mainly on improving the captured image for identification purposes.

"Current video-surveillance systems are mostly analogue and the events and alarm images are not indexed and have to be searched for on a time-sequencing basis. Gnome, on the other hand, improves the image at the time of capture through intelligent camera control, and indexes them within a searchable database," he says.

"With the emergence of digital video recording systems, we saw we could improve Gnome's performance and capability, as well as reduce the cost and complexity to the end user.

Andrew Rushworth says having access to 'bright brains' through Technology New Zealand's TIF scheme, meant the company could fast-track the prototype of a new generation video surveillance system, which he believes is the first of its kind.

"We've able to develop the technology to direct the camera to frame clearly an object of interest in the field of view, for instance a car number plate, as well as recognise the registration number which can be ultimately associated with forecourt events such as fuelling and payment.

" While images captured will be of use to companies in building features into their customer loyalty programmes, we believe the vastly improved images will be helpful in identifying a range of activities on the forecourt from staff performance through to criminal activities not necessarily related to the oil retail business."

Mr Rushworth says these new developments for Gnome are being integrated into Gnome v2.0, to be displayed in the USA later this year, and hopes to fast track it to market soon after. Although targeted mainly at the large world-wide oil retailing market, the system also can be used in other situations, such as drive through banking.

R&D Solutionz is a five year old company which employs 25 people and exports more than 80% of its products and services.

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