What Terrorism Has Done to Surveillance

Oct. 27, 2008
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.

Shifting from Analog

Recent market projections from leading research firms predict that between 2008 and 2009 we will reach a crossover point at which more IP network cameras will be sold annually than analog cameras. This shift to IP networked cameras is a natural progression.

Once video becomes a standard digital data file sitting on a network, it also can be merged, converged, and filtered against all other kinds of data for integration into other security systems. The data can even be used for sales, marketing, and cost-reduction initiatives not usually associated with this kind of video.

Who's Making Decisions?

The biggest change in video is in the person making the decision on what to buy and how to install it. The IT/IS group is now in the mix. As more IP-enabled devices are designed into the solutions, this group will decide just how it will be done; they will even choose the hardware and software. The security folks will still decide what and how to protect, but the choice of components will shift to the IT/IS group or security integrator.

Pete Lockhart is vice president of new technology with Anixter Inc. He was instrumental in the creation of the original Anixter Levels Program in 1989, and helped to create the Level 5 cable concept in 1991 that led to the Category 5 cables in the current ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A Standard. Mr. Lockhart is a member of BICSI and IWCS Symposium Committee, and past member of ACUTA, HIMMS, ATM Forum and EIA/TIA.