June 5, 2024 by Kreg Christoff

Advancing Substation Physical Security with Video AI

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Industries: Energy Industries

Topics: Analytics APX Two-Way Radios & Accessories Human-Centered Design Situational Awareness Video Solutions

Substation physical security leaders face a changing and challenging landscape, and their success hinges on finding proven security solutions while allocating budgets to drive the right technology adoption. To rapidly adapt, physical security teams need to shift from reactive problem solvers to proactive security strategists who can provide a strategic security vision and demonstrate the value of their investment. 

Electric power substations are critical components of our infrastructure, delivering electricity from high-voltage transmission lines to lower-voltage distribution lines that supply our homes and businesses. However, these substations are experiencing an alarming increase in physical security threats. Criminals target substations to steal valuable equipment such as copper wiring or damage transformers to cut power to wide areas. Not only do these situations cause power disruptions in the community, but they can also cause significant financial losses. Additionally, these types of situations expose the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure which can make them more attractive targets for future bad actors.

Leveraging technology to detect, analyze and respond to threats

With the increase in attacks on critical infrastructure, finding an effective solution to mitigate future risk  is top of mind for security professionals. Video monitoring that combines advanced artificial intelligence (AI) can provide immediate detection of an incident in progress and automatically alert the right contacts for an incident to be intercepted before it escalates. 

Detecting risks

A key differentiator for video AI’s use in substation security is its ability to leverage analytics to identify potential risks and active events. By analyzing historical data, existing sensor networks  and other relevant factors, AI-powered systems can identify potential threats such as targeted attacks or natural disasters such as flooding. Most importantly, AI can recommend proactive measures to mitigate those risks.  These AI analytic capabilities enable utility companies to allocate resources effectively and implement preventive measures to safeguard their critical infrastructure.

Analyzing activities

Advanced video AI monitoring helps prevent physical security threats to substations. AI technology uses state-of-the-art cameras and analytics to detect suspicious activity and can automatically alert security personnel of these findings in real-time. With advanced Video AI monitoring, security personnel can monitor substations remotely and intervene immediately if suspicious or unusual activity is detected, thereby helping to prevent an incident before it occurs.

Responding quickly

In the event of a substation attack, advanced video AI monitoring can significantly enhance incident response and recovery efforts. Leveraging sensors (line break, fence, motion, RADAR and thermal imaging) the technology can automatically execute workflows that generate alerts, notify security personnel and provide real-time situational awareness to facilitate quick decision-making. Advanced video AI monitoring can assist in prioritizing workflows, optimizing resource allocation and coordinating a response with law enforcement agencies. This streamlined incident workflow process minimizes downtime, reduces the impact on customers and can expedite the restoration of power.

Future-focused technology investment

While the benefits of advanced video AI monitoring solutions are evident, utility companies may face certain barriers to their adoption including concerns about cost, interoperability with existing systems and institutional resistance to change. However, the increasing frequency and sophistication of attacks on substations demands a new approach. The risks of not embracing advanced AI video monitoring solutions far outweigh perceived challenges.

Utility executives are experiencing these challenges and many are proactively addressing these barriers to ensure the security and resilience of their critical substation infrastructure. Externally, utilities may also see increased regulatory pressure as lawmakers in multiple states have proposed bills that would mandate better security requirements for electrical systems.

A single substation attack can cost a utility tens of millions of dollars in repairs and environmental damage, while also negatively impacting their community reputation. Advanced video AI monitoring systems can provide a significant return on investment by minimizing downtime, preventing equipment damage, and avoiding potentially costly legal and regulatory consequences.

Implementing AI at your utility

At a minimum, the adoption of advanced AI video monitoring solutions requires compatibility and integration with existing security systems and infrastructure along with integrated access control and critical voice communications. With proper planning, it is possible to integrate advanced video AI monitoring solutions seamlessly into the existing security ecosystem. Utilities that embrace AI technology can leverage the benefits of analytics to provide better anomaly detection than data contained in a silo. These integrations can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of a utility’s overall security architecture.

Ultimately, the success of a substation physical security program will come down to a well designed system with new technologies and integrated third-party equipment, successful systems implementation and maintenance, leverage technology, and consistent operator training. Regardless of the size of a utility or its physical security system, lifecycle management will always be a crucial component of a physical security program. 

The Motorola Solutions safety and security ecosystem can provide you with the security you require, as it has been rigorously tested and proven effective in a variety of scenarios. Contact us today to find out more about our unique substation physical security system offerings.

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