Trends in Surveillance Systems

Nov. 1, 2008

Strides in CCTV technology equal lower costs

Like most technologies, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance continues to emerge with more effective possibilities, and these changes are affecting the decision-makers who are responsible for installing these systems.

In the past (and now), the installation of a CCTV system depended on myriad factors, most commonly including:

  • The purpose of surveillance.
  • The cost of installation.
  • Personnel to operate and monitor the system.
  • Maintenance.

One of the greatest changes in CCTV-system use is the move from hard-wired to wireless systems. Penetrating walls, concrete, and other physical structures drive labor costs up tremendously. Now, wireless systems are often used. Depending upon the size of the location, IP-based systems require minimal drilling. Once that's completed, multiple cameras are added and operated by a system that recognizes wireless signals.

Camera features are also changing. First, the fixed camera was offered; then, the highly touted pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) system, which is still frequently used. PTZ cameras allow the operator to monitor certain fields of view at different times, as well as zoom in for better review of his/her target. PTZ cameras, however, require dedicated operators; if multiple events occur that need recording or immediate action, more operators are needed, which raises labor costs.

Rapidly gaining acceptance is the use of intelligent video (IV) (also called "video analytics"). Video analytics has the ability to detect motion, meaning that a system will alert an operator only when something enters the camera's field of view. Such a system may be programmed to alarm at the presence of a certain number of people, specific objects, or license plates. Since operator cost is always a concern, IV may reduce that cost. For example: If your video surveillance room traditionally monitors 30 cameras, it's possible that you need four or five operators to adequately monitor and provide real-time response to events. With the use of IV, operator costs should be reduced drastically since the system alerts users in real time.

Regardless of which camera system is used, maintenance is always a concern for any security equipment; in fact, lack of maintenance may lead to a premises-negligent security lawsuit.

Maintenance is important in a few ways. First, if cameras systems are allowed to gather debris, bird droppings, or other things presented by natural or manmade forces, the real purpose of the camera - to observe - is thwarted. Secondly, maintenance and other testing are necessary to ensure that the system is always properly working. There are instances where personnel never tested the system. Later, they found that a camera was malfunctioning and the picture seen had been the same for the past few weeks because of an embedded image. If someone is harmed in an area that should've been properly observed, a negligent security claim could follow.

In closing, great strides in technology have been made in CCTV systems, leading to lower installation costs and a reduced need for personnel. Don't forget, however, that, in all systems, proper maintenance remains important to ensure optimal performance.

Michael A. Hodge is president of security management firm Michael A. Hodge & Associates LLC.

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