Sunday, May 11, 2008

Can you have Useless IP Video Security?

"Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe."

An interesting thought considering how much money was spent, and how much money IS spent every year on CCTV in the US. The truth of the matter is that, YES, CCTV Security can be useless. We have seen many times in The Industry a customer make extravagant requirements in the RFQ/ RFI, and throw MUCH money at the project with no clue as to WHY they need it.

The truth is, an educated end user is a happy customer. If an end user has made decisions based upon knowing the reality of the technology and its capabilities, then when the system is installed, they are happy with those decisions. Success, and specifically success for a particular technology, breeds success. This means the end user population will talk (or perhaps, boast) about there great new IP Video System (that WORKS!), and the Security Insdustry will grow.

In contrast, if the manufacturer or installer (software or hardware) has made false claims or tried to hide certain limitations for which they know the customer is looking, then when the system is installed, it fails to meet expectations. The customer is dis-satisfied and, basic rule of retail here, they tell 10 others. Next things we know, the Security market is trying to re-educate the customer in what really can be done with new technologies.

One simple case of this is with some of the new wireless technologies, many assume that since wireless is becoming all the new craze in the internet market, that it's natural to use that same bandwidth to carry IP Video systems for traffic, and city surveillance. True, it COULD be done, but the sacrifice Joe Q. Public would make on his Internet connection would likely not be worth it. Perhaps a better suggestion for the Cities and Counties looking to add Surveillance and Traffic Cams, is to add a designated Wireless infrastructure for that purpose, and leave the Public Wireless Infrastructure alone.

Another case where the industry saw some tremendous buzz, but in addition, large amounts of false data, was with Analytics. Based upon initial speculations, many companies tried to jump ahead of the curve and tell people what could be done with Analytics. Unfortunately, by letting the mind imagine what could be done, the industry started trying to press wrong technologies into impossible scenarios. Analytics failed terribly, and the IP Video market took a beating due to this issue. Some things in Analytics are easy to deal with; Tripwires, Objects left behind, Loitering, and People Counting. On the other hand, Analytics cannot distinguish between a person being attacked in a park, and two people playing Football or Rugby in that same park.

Back to the original question "Can you have Useless IP Video Security?" Absolutely! But what usually causes this is an end user who does not know what they are really trying to get out of the system, so they install one system cheaply and expect it to do everything.

Recommendation: Always make a camera have a purpose. Get the end user to focus on that purpose of the camera(s) being installed. It's even OK to make a camera have multiple purposes, just as long as those purposes align properly. For instance, in a bank, a teller camera, should be focused on a teller. Don't try to use the teller cameras to also capture activities going on in the lobby of the bank. By focusing the camera on the areas around the teller and that teller's customer, the bank has a much higher likelihood of capturing the necessary images to catch a theif, or prove a fraud case.

Another example is a group of PTZ Cameras to cover a City Park area. Consider each camera's placement, yes, but also be sure the camera has the ability to "return to HOME" after a certain period of inactivity. Many Analytics (like loitering, people counting or tripwires) can be run, even on PTZ Cameras, as long as they have a preset or home position to which they return in a tour, or time-based event.

Just food for thought...

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