Almost 30 years ago when I was first entering the security industry, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras weren’t terribly different from the cameras that were being used to for movie and television production. They were smaller, typically had less resolution and no audio, but the basic principles were the same. Charged Coupled Device (CCD) cameras were fairly new, and if you wanted low light performance, you were resigned to use tube cameras. Yes, tubes. As in vacuum tubes. Tube cameras actually used a vacuum tube for the imager, and the tradeoff for low light sensitivity was a shorter life span, higher power requirements, and reduced reliability. Later, Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) cameras came into play and helped overcome some of the limitations of both tube and CCD technologies.
Since then, digital Internet Protocol (IP) cameras have come into play. These newer cameras offer increased light sensitivity, much higher resolution, and new enhancements like video analytics and flexible communications options.
While all of these advancements make for better security, the most important enhancements are the video analytics and IP communications. These two technology advances increase the likelihood of detecting activity and being able to monitor and record that activity from almost any location.
For most small and medium sized businesses or municipalities, the thought of a comprehensive video management system seems not only unnecessary, but impractical from a monitoring and timely intervention standpoint. “Video cameras don’t stop crimes, all they do is record it”, we often hear. This is not necessarily true. CCTV video serves three important roles in security:
- Deterrence – Sometimes just the sight of a video camera will deter criminal activity from ever happening in the first place. Because being watched means being held accountable, this is a strong enticement for on premises security cameras. No, this doesn’t mean adding “dummy cameras” is a good idea. In fact, installing dummy cameras can make matters worse in premises liability cases for incidents occurring on your property.
- Detection – Having all of the campus CCTV cameras monitored in a single location allows for an operator to spot potential negative events during or even prior to them actually happening. IP enabled cameras offer increased detection capability in two ways; first they allow for cameras to be placed anywhere within the corporate network infrastructure (or even further away via hybrid cabling or wireless networking), and second they permit remote monitoring from anywhere there is network or internet access, including smart phones and tablets. This allows for remote monitoring and recording at an off-site or contract monitoring facility, and also allows the ability to feed recorded or live events to first responders almost in real-time. It also means that cameras can be located just about anywhere in your corporate footprint, including on-board vehicles.
- Assessment – Being able to discern what, where, and when something is happening on camera is critical to determining how to respond to a particular event, and also aids in evidentiary requirements for later prosecution. With the advent of video analytics, that can now be taken a step further with things like video motion detection, face detection, traffic movement, object removal, and facial recognition. These tools increase the reliability of the observer (or recording device) to actually capture useful video information for use in timely intervention or for evidence in prosecution. For example, with the right software, imagine a disgruntled employee situation where the former employee’s photo is setup to trigger an alert if the video system “recognizes” his face when he tried to re-enter the campus. The authorities can be notified and other emergency precautions can be taken much sooner than previously possible.
Each one of these roles is an important piece to the overall security strategy for a business or government entity, and when used with common sense security practices like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) and other industry best practices, CCTV video becomes a powerful tool to both deter, detect, and defend both persons and property in a timely and effective manner.