More and more companies are putting their faith in surveillance systems for security and crime prevention. Adam Dawson takes a look at the benefits and what the future has in store for CCTV.
Technological advances coupled with a desire for greater security measures have meant that the use of close circuit television (CCTV) is increasing throughout the world.
In 2002 it was estimated that the UK had 4,000,000 surveillance cameras in operation, one for every 14 people and that the UK government had spent £450m (AED 3.3bn) on the country's CCTV infrastructure over the past decade. Singapore is currently implementing a strategy of covering every block of streets on the island with cameras. It appears that the rest of the world and the Middle East are catching up fast.
CCTV is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a limited set of monitors and is often used for surveillance in areas such as banks, airports and military installations.
It has also long been used by industry to monitor processes taking place under conditions too dangerous for humans to observe personally. Smaller companies are now commonly using CCTV as a means of crime prevention and increased security and facilities managers (FMs) should take advantage of the new technologies that are being developed.
"The use of video surveillance is very common in this region," explains Giles Ortega, country manager, Axis Communications. "With a recent increase of thefts in the public sector in Dubai, there have been raised concerns among the Middle East logistics community. These [thefts] highlighted the lack of proper security systems or measures in place and as a result video surveillance is becoming increasingly important in both private and public sectors."
Dubai is already in the process of installing a citywide CCTV network that will be linked up to a police control centre. The installation of cameras has already begun throughout the marina and will follow on throughout the rest of the city.
CCTV allows FMs to monitor large areas cost-effectively, using the fewest number of people. "CCTV can watch over entrances and exits of buildings 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Dr. Peter Ryan, group director, critical infrastructure security and resilience, Hyder Consulting. "This is something humans can't do as effectively. CCTV can do it better and you can cut down on the amount of staff you require, saving money."
It has been argued that CCTV installations act as an effective crime prevention tool. "CCTV is being used by governments and companies throughout the world. It has been proved it cuts crime and helps to prevent it also. It's human nature for people to stop doing things they shouldn't be if they know they are being watched.
"But it only deters crime if people know the cameras are there," explains Derrick Hong, general manager of energy and environmental management services, CPG Facilities Management.
The most measurable effect of CCTV is not on crime prevention but on crime detection and prosecution. Several notable murder cases have been solved with the use of CCTV evidence in the UK. "Video and image verification is being used in courts around the world," says Ortega. "How the video evidence is handled is important. Providing a clear audit trail to show that evidence is not compromised is vital."
But controversy surrounds the use of CCTV with many people believing it has a negative impact on civil liberties. Others claim that putting cameras in offices creates an environment of mistrust within the workforce and that CCTV systems don't actually prevent crime, merely causing displacement of the offense somewhere else.
"There is also the problem of over reliance on the technology," stresses Ryan. "Companies use CCTV instead of guard patrols. The problem is that it doesn't physically stop people doing things. A camera isn't going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you not to do something."
Technological advances might not enable cameras to tap people on the shoulder, but voice emitting cameras now exist that allow monitor operators to talk to people directly through the camera. The technology was recently introduced into cities in the UK and is popular in Singapore.
Intelligent video surveillance has also been developed. This is the monitoring of video feeds to detect suspicious activities and behavior. Intelligent video surveillance software is designed to rapidly scan through video feeds to monitor and detect suspicious activities, such as a person entering an unauthorised area, a bag being left unattended, or an individual loitering.
"CCTV technology is becoming more advanced," says Ryan. "FMs can link up cameras to motion sensors and track objects or people automatically. They can track movement across a scene of busy people and if the cameras are linked you can track the object between cameras. There are also cameras available that do not start recording until something moving triggers them."
Using microphones in conjunction with CCTV is another technology being investigated. "You now have listening devices that can identify an explosion or the sound of a gunshot. The camera will point in that direction and zoom in to pinpoint the individual. They also respond to raised voices and shouting," adds Ryan.
Software programmers have also developed facial recognition programmes to compare key facial feature points, in order to match recorded faces to known mug shots, or photographs of criminals. "This type of technology can be incorporated into access control. Giving you extra security. Having said this iris recognition seems to be more common," states Hong.
All this is a long way from the original analog and videotape technology of CCTV. Although this was fine for recording what was going on, it didn't record real time and was not practical for monitoring purposes. With the digitisation of the camera in the 1990s and the replacement of analog camera tubes with charged coupled devices (CCD), video surveillance could go live over the internet or to a closed network for the first time. This was followed by the digitisation of the recording, which effectively meant no more changing of tapes and easier storage and recorded event searches.
"The very latest in CCTV technology, IP-based video surveillance has digitised the link from the camera to the recorder," explains Hong. "The coaxial cable has been replaced with standard computer networks (ethernet networks), internet or even wireless technologies, meaning you can be extremely flexible in where you actually place the camera."
Standard wireless systems also include advanced encryption technologies making it difficult for anyone to break-in to the network.
Setting up of an IP-based video system is easy. All you need is an IP address and you are up and running.
"The new CCTV technology means that cameras can be easily integrated to other systems including the BMS and access control," states Ryan.
IP systems are also cost-effective. Many facilities are already wired with twisted pair infrastructure, so no additional wiring is required. For those with no infrastructure, installation of twisted pair is a fraction of the price of coaxial wiring and wireless networking can be used where cabling is expensive or impractical.
IP surveillance is also based on open standards, allowing use of products from different manufacturers, such as switches, routers, servers and application software, which reduces cost and increases choice.