Surveillance industry responds to Bruce Schneier

Do cameras make us safer? Industry thought leaders offer their takes on the question

Ed Troha, marketing chief for video content analytics firm ObjectVideo:

Because the video they produce is ubiquitous, plentiful and easy-to-understand, it's no wonder there are so many cameras out there and not nearly enough people, let alone trained and qualified people, to process this incredible amount of information. But if we use technology to turn all of that information into data, we can begin to understand, more effectively, what's really happening out there, and therefore, keep people safer. The cameras alone don't keep people safe because, in an analytics-enabled surveillance environment, it's more of a team effort. The camera provides the basic information, the intelligent analytics present the human with data – in the form of alerts – that subsequently allow the human to make a more informed decision about what's going on and what to do about it. Without the technology assist, it's truly just a lot of cameras and information all dressed up with effectively no place to go.

Francis D'Addario, former security chief for Starbucks, now with the Security Executive Council as a faculty member:

Bruce is likely right that cameras alone do not keep us safer. No singular approach will. Contrary to his assertion cameras have played an important role in deterring, detecting and depriving criminals since their inception. Moreover, when adequately integrated with all-hazards risk awareness, other technologies and processes, they have proven both effective and ROI-capable. Unfortunately that data is seldom shared. End users believe that communicating success invites attacks or obviates controls. Manufacturers and integrators are often constrained from sharing proprietary information. One dimensional analysis is an issue. All might be resolved in a collective knowledge approach with an eye to measuring year over year risk and performance indicators.

This is just one of our people, process and technology opportunities. It doesn't take a seer to estimate that networked, risk-based interoperable image intelligence (formerly known as cameras…only smarter) will play a key and more persuasive role in effective multi-layered access control, risk detection and casualty suppression. When coupled with other analog and digital inputs, combinations of image, acoustic and other transactional analytical outputs increasingly enable organizations.

Surprise and delight may overtake skeptics when improved image and other analytics boost exception-based hazard reporting, mitigation response, and compliance capabilities for loss avoidance and cost containment. Higher stakeholder confidence, influencing incremental investment with scalable results would be a welcome relief. We are just now repurposing security cameras with greater analytical intelligence for facility management, staffing efficiencies and product throughput. Our real opportunity as thought leaders, practitioners, end users, manufactures, and integrators is to measure innovative good and best practices. Cherry picking data cuts to both sides of the road.