In a university, corporate complex or other campus environment, video cameras help security officers see what's going on around corners and behind walls. But when a suspicious image crosses a TV screen, only a few get the whole picture. When the dispatcher in the central office radios a guard with instructions to investigate, that guard "has no further intelligence on the situation, other than what dispatch has told him," said Jordan Serlin, chief operating officer at Cenuco in Boca Raton, Fla.
Is there an intruder? Is there a weapon? Is the figure on the screen just an employee working late "or is it somebody stealing computers out of the warehouse," Serlin said.
Cenuco is one of several companies trying to bring the full benefits of video surveillance to officers who patrol campus facilities, along with others on the move who need to monitor security cameras. The company's Mobile Video Transmitter System lets users view surveillance video on wireless hand-held computers or cellular phones.
Demand is growing among security professionals for systems that transmit video images to hand-held devices, said Alan Matchett, security project development engineer at Johnson Controls in Minneapolis and author of the book CCTV for Security Professionals. If they have wireless access, officers who patrol a large venue don't need to return to the CO to view an image before responding to an incident or rely on a dispatcher's description of a suspect, he said.
"A second-hand description of somebody is not necessarily the best," Matchett said.
"Without a question, one of the hot areas of the market is wireless cameras," said Joseph Freeman, president of market research and consulting firm J.P. Freeman & Co. in Newtown, Conn., which discussed wireless cameras in a recent report. Although the market for wireless access to security video is still very small, Freeman said sales of such products for business, government and consumer applications are growing by 35% to 40% per year.
Other companies that offer wireless access to images from security cameras include Sweden-headquartered Axis Communications, which has offices in Boston, San Diego and Sunnyvale, Calif.; Pocketmultimedia of Mystic, Conn.; and Verint Systems of Melville, N.Y. Integrators also design systems of this kind for customers, using off-the-shelf technology, Freeman said.
Although few have been installed, wireless video systems are generating "a lot of talk" among security professionals, said Matchett, noting that he expected to see new products in this category at the annual meeting of ASIS International, the industry's trade association, conducted last month.
Cenuco got its start by creating systems for distance learning. In the late 1990s, its engineers developed a process for transmitting video to the Nokia model 9290 cell phone. "Then Sept. 11 occurred," Serlin said. Executives at Cenuco decided that if they could enhance their technology, encrypt the data and make it available to a variety of wireless devices, it had great potential in security applications.
"We've entered a new era of security," Serlin said. "Everybody wants to have just-in-time, real-time information, irrespective of where they are." And in large corporations or homeland security organizations, several different facilities would have to be monitored simultaneously.