With all the changes in CCTV technology over the past five years, it is interesting to speculate about the shape of technology in the next five or ten years. Based on current trends, this is what we expect to see from developments in key aspects of security infrastructure.
Modern CCTV cameras are extremely efficient recording devices. While older devices were capable of recording and transmitting grainy, unclear images, the quality of modern images is quite breathtaking. However, quality isn’t the only strength of the new generation of smart CCTV. Modern cameras are equipped with complex algorithms that allow them to respond to threat priorities using bespoke analytics which make smart recording decisions. The data gathered by such cameras, when processed by the ‘brain’ of interconnected data management systems (see below) is smart enough to accurately identify individual faces, personal features, textual signs and even behavioural signals. Expect more advances in intelligent cameras over the next few years.
Classic CCTV infrastructure is heavily dependent on mains electricity and wiring. This in itself made it very expensive to deploy, and limited its use in isolated areas. New wireless solutions allow cameras to be deployed with almost no supporting infrastructure. Rechargeable batteries or PoE (Power Over Ethernet) minimise the number of power points required, while Wireless technology means that data can be securely transferred to and from the camera without using hardwired connections.
More and more, cameras are not stand-alone systems in their own right, but are the sense organs for large, interconnected security systems. These interconnected systems include wireless transfer of data to control and access devices, advanced compression algorithms that allow greater video storage, and analytics software that allows systems to identify details such as alarm detection through motion or line crossing, objects detected or removed, facial features, vehicle license plates or even tattoos.
Video analytics will play an increasing role in CCTV camera systems, using insightful business intelligence to help companies optimise warehouse and retail floor plans, the effectiveness of product displays, queue management in nightclubs, traffic management on business parks – and much more besides.
The idea of the Internet of things is based on the growing number of devices that have Internet connectivity, from kettles to vacuum cleaners. This has some very interesting connotations for commercial surveillance, whether for security or process management purposes. Internet connected office devices, for instance, could be very effectively managed through a modern security system, while IP connected cars could make vehicle recognition or even personal identification easier. The growth of the Internet of things has been far slower than commentators had initially predicted. While Internet connectivity is certainly the wave of the future, it isn’t an immediate concern that affects businesses investing in new CCTV. However, this could very well change over the coming decade…
This optimistic vision of new technology is overshadowed by two prevalent problems: the growing concern about cyber security, and public perceptions of ‘big data’. The potential for cyber criminals to directly hack CCTV technology or to breach data storage archives is very real, with no sign that the threat level is likely to decrease any time soon. This is something that technology developers are working hard to guard against. It is telling that among the high profile security breaches of the last couple of years, no surveillance networks have successfully been hacked, but that is no cause for complacency. All businesses should remain vigilant about data security.
Big data is another concern entirely. We suspect that, like initial public concern about CCTV cameras, the current unease about commercial and public data storage will die down. Nevertheless, it is likely to give birth to ever stronger data protection regulations, which CCTV operators will need to accommodate.
Of course, one of the main change factors is the fluid, dynamic state of CCTV technology at the moment. So many changes are happening at once that it can be hard to keep up. For some businesses, this is an argument against upgrading to the newest technologies – adopting a wait and see attitude may seem the best course. However, in most cases this argument doesn’t hold true. Choosing not to adopt new technologies widens the technology gap between your current capacity and newer models coming onto the market. This makes it more expensive when you do come to upgrade, as well as more disruptive. A great strength of modern CCTV systems is their decentralised structure, with alternative power supplies reducing your dependence on an ungainly wiring network, and modular cameras that can be upgraded individually.