It is nearly 80 years since CCTV first came to the UK , and in that time the prevalence of cameras, appetite for systems and the sophistication of technology has advanced immeasurably.
CCTV has become part of the furniture and we are often cited as one of the most watched nations in the world.
And with a burgeoning demand for connectivity, the commercial market for CCTV is only set to expand further.
In this article, we take a look at what the future holds for this rapidly-evolving industry.
Better Video Management
Video Management Systems (VMS) or Software go beyond the basic observation functionality provided by the camera manufacturer’s own software (which is often only compatible with their devices).
Over the last two decades the main players in the global market including Milestone and Genetec have seriously refined their offerings to deliver open platform IP video surveillance, capable of working with cameras from a large proportion of the World’s top manufacturers.
These platforms give users a single interface for the simplified management of not only CCTV, but other electronic security systems too. Full of the latest features such as interactive video walls and multi-layer maps, push notifications for alarms, smart search technology and access from anywhere, they allow users to become much more efficient in their day-to-day handling of security operations.
As smart technology further develops, VMS will no doubt help to deliver greater automation and more powerful data processing to enhance the decision-making of their human users, aided by equally intelligent cameras.
Intelligent CCTV Analytics
The evolution of video software has driven the development and incorporation of analytics in cameras, which can now automatically read vehicle number plates (ANPR), recognise faces, detect new and missing objects and notify when predetermined ‘lines’ have been crossed.
Such is the strength of the artificial intelligence being cultivated, in the USA last year Police were able to solve a murder investigation  by building a multi-faceted profile of the victim (including her clothing, height, build and hair colour) to automatically identify her in a sea of video footage. Ordinarily this would have required hundreds of man-hours to sift through the available CCTV recordings.
The gathering of vast data, from multiple sources, is beginning to be put to even better use through advanced real-time analytics. By combining this with historical data, machine learning can predict and potentially prevent crimes (with human intervention) before they take place.
It is clear why this will be of interest to crime agencies and Governments (provided budgets can be made available), but within the private sector, industries such as retail are likely to be hot on their heels, given their costly, continual battle with shoplifters. Algorithms can be created to flag up where shoppers are displaying certain traits, to indicate that a theft might be about to take place, so that store personnel can check in with, and hopefully deter, them.
Used alongside other analytics that are starting to be used commercially, such as social media monitoring, they are powerful tools in anticipating criminal or other disruptive activity - for example where protestors are planning to mobilise at the premises of a specific organisation.
The uses for analytics don’t end there, and the ability to track human behaviour is increasingly being adopted to give businesses valuable information about their customers. Once again retailers spring to mind. The tracking of shoppers in-store can help retail managers better understand consumer shopping habits and make informed decisions as to the most effective layout for the shop floor. Cameras can even monitor queue lengths to ensure that customers are not kept waiting and additional workers are only brought to the tills when required, to improve customer service and optimise staffing levels.
This processing of huge volumes of data has only become possible with simultaneous advances in bandwidth, video compression and data storage.
CCTV Data Consumption & Storage
Traditionally, storage of footage and images could only be done using a DVR or NVR (Digital or Network Video Recorder) - on-site recorders which would need to have enough built-in capacity to store the required volumes of video data. How much footage can be stored all depends on the memory capacity of the individual recorder, however for efficient use, most recorders are set up to store approximately 30 days’ worth of footage, which then overwrites itself to enable smooth 24/7 recording.
The evolution of The Cloud
In the last few years, storing video footage in ‘The Cloud’ has gained serious traction. Cloud-based CCTV systems facilitate the storage of data off-site, in servers maintained by third parties. This remote approach to data consumption is known as VSaaS (Video Surveillance as a Service).
With most modern systems now featuring IP-based cameras and equipment, they can maximise this technology. Instead of sending video data to a recorder, cameras connected to an IP network send the footage directly to the Cloud, giving business owners much more flexibility when it comes to storing, accessing and managing their surveillance footage. This can be done from anywhere using a desktop or mobile device with an internet connection.
Security Versus Privacy
In society today, you don’t have to go far to witness CCTV cameras in action. In fact, you probably don’t realise just how much coverage there is likely to be in the areas in which you live and work. In the interest of public safety, the use of video surveillance has fast become an unassuming part of our lives, transforming the way in which the Government, Police, businesses and even homeowners approach security and monitor criminal behaviour.
However, not everyone is happy to have their day-to-day lives recorded on camera, meaning there must be a considered approach to privacy and how and where this technology is used.
GDPR & CCTV
The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into effect across Europe on 25th May 2018. Its introduction enforced stricter rules for the way in which businesses process personal data, ultimately giving individuals greater control of how their information is handled.
As surveillance via CCTV involves the recording of personal data i.e. images of identifiable individuals captured in the footage, it falls under the GDPR regulations. And whilst the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) are still yet to publish any definitive guidance on what a GDPR-compliant CCTV system must include, there are several clear requirements within the existing Data Protection Act 1998 which are already established practice. These include:
⚠️ Displaying appropriate signage inform people CCTV is in operation and for that purpose.
⏱️ Ensuring recorded images are not retained for longer than necessary.
Shortly after the GDPR was introduced, we wrote an article entitled Operating CCTV under GDPR which contains some further guidance on what actions you can take to maximise the compliance of your video surveillance systems.
The term ‘Privacy Masking’ when referring to CCTV means the need to conceal a specific part of an image being recorded by a security camera. For example, there is a requirement to provide surveillance of the area, but Privacy Masking is needed to blur or block out a sensitive piece of information that is within its field of view.
Privacy Masking can be achieved by altering the positioning of the camera itself. For cameras that are linked to Video Management Software, it is also possible to block out areas of a camera using analytical tools within the software itself. This is likely to be the subject of fast further development, as organisations look to balance their need to identify certain individuals, with the duty to protect the privacy of others.
All of these tools are set to help businesses achieve yet another level of productivity, protection and cost-saving, particularly as more and more sector-specific benefits come to the fore. One thing that’s certain is that CCTV is undergoing a major transformation, which is seeing it become much more than just a security measure.
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