What Terrorism Has Done to Surveillance

More cameras, more ways to justify cost


Since 9/11, security has been brought out of the private protection business and placed squarely into the public consciousness. Federal, state, and local governments, and all of their associated agencies, have released large amounts of money into the market for the development and implementation of devices, systems and strategies to better protect people, institutions, and all types of vulnerable infrastructure.

The first surge of funding went to first responder groups to address the communications and monitoring deficiencies brought out in the aftermath of 9/11. More recently, funding for state and city infrastructure systems has begun flowing. Many of these funding awards are for video surveillance and communications systems integrated back to central monitoring, most prominently in public transportation systems and educational institutions. Planes, trains, and automobiles, K-12 through university campuses are deploying camera systems and associated monitoring at a pace far in excess of anything that would have been normal pre-9/11.

Private No More

When the United States was thought safe and secure, CCTV cameras were deemed appropriate only for casinos, police, and roadways. Any other use would intrude on the privacy of the individual citizen.

Since 2001, that concept has turned on its ear. Where the highest camera counts were typically in the gaming and retail industries pre-2001, and analog cameras and VHS tape were the only perceived way to get high-speed, quality images, today's increased camera counts in all other market segments have caused a massive increase in R&D for digital imaging and processing, which is quickly pushing the analog approach aside.

Camera Counts and Integration

Where we previously installed systems to identify thieves and vandals after their damage was done, now we are trying to prevent incidents from taking place at all. The net effect of this paradigm shift in protection is a drastically increased requirement for both video coverage and intelligence. The full integration of this video with other systems is also more evident now than ever before. The bottom line is the rapid shift away from the classic, analog-only CCTV solutions to digital encoding and IP or network transport over open systems connections.

The impact of all of this on the industry is tremendous. Camera counts for transit, schools, city centers, and retail have increased by 50 to 100% per installation from what would have been considered typical in the year 2000.

Table 1 is a projection of the changes in camera counts for high-profile installations in the past few years. No two jobs are alike, but the overall trend is toward increased video coverage to help in prevention of incidents, not just post-incident justice.

As camera counts mount at each installation, the requirements for storage of the digital images are growing almost exponentially, and the size and quality of the video image is also increasing. Simple CIF images at one to three frames per second will not prevent much. As a result, there is a large increase in the cost of storing and retrieving one hour of video (CSRV).

Evaluate Cost of the Entire Process

I think the CSRV metric should be used to drive technologies to reduce this cost by understanding all of the components required to get the actual video image digitized, encoded, transported, stored, searched and retrieved. With this metric, you look at the entire process as the cost element, and you're not just comparing an analog camera with an IP camera, or a DVR with an encoder with storage and a server-based recorder with video management software.

New concepts in motion detection, intelligent video analysis and new compression codecs all will impact this metric in a positive way. Capturing, analyzing and storing video only during a recognized event should drastically reduce the CSRV. Camera counts can also be reduced through the use of new IP network cameras that have better than megapixel imagers. As the image resolution increases over 1 megapixel, the field of view can be greatly increased and still maintain a high-quality image, thus potentially reducing the number of cameras required.

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