Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow of Video Surveillance

The moment you pick up the subject of video surveillance, people will respond by telling you about CCTV, a technology as familiar as Newton’s Law of Gravity and accepted by all. But things were not so simple during earlier days. Surveillance cameras were commonly identified as Police Cameras. Way back in 1969, Police Cameras were reportedly installed in New York City Municipal Building near the City Hall that raised eyebrows all over the country.

However, the authorities never heeded such public censure, while the practice spread to other US metropolitan cities and duly watched by law enforcing officers of respective states. The issue was considered as a necessary evil that had to be endured as a bitter pill. So far, none could appreciate the beneficiary effects of CCTV, nor could any record be kept of the observations. However, let’s get back to the memory lane to assess how video surveillance reached its puberty, attained adulthood, as also how it will perform in days to come.

Analog technology lent new dimensions to CCTV

With the advent of video cassette recorders, video surveillance got a new lease of life. Taped video cassette recording via analog technology ushered in days when surveillance matters could be preserved on tape as evidence in a court of law. Needles to say, these were extensively used in family courts giving verdicts on divorce, sexual abuse and child molestation. By this time, people started appreciating the value of CCTV in public and personal life, while banks, store owners and shopping malls understood the value of this functional technology. However, it had its drawbacks too. Erring parties often forgot to replace  the tapes daily, while the tapes were susceptible to damage due to repeated reuse. Of course, some improvement became evident with the introduction of Charged Coupled Device (CCD) cameras that used microchip computer technology enabling them to perform video surveillance under poor or low light conditions.

Digital Multiplexing helped gain another useful feature

Video surveillance received another shot in the arm with the introduction of Digital Multiplexing during the nineties. It literally revolutionized the surveillance scenario by enabling recordings on a string of cameras simultaneously. It also included features such as Time-lapse and motion-only recordings, thus saving plenty of wasted video tape. Instead of changing tapes on a daily basis, the user could now record a month’s load of surveillance on hard drive because of compression facility, coupled with low cost. What’s more, the images were so clear that the police (and detective agencies) experienced no difficulties proving their case before appropriate authorities. It also helped people gaining faith on the efficacies of CCTV in day-to-day life.

Aspects that changed public view of video surveillance

People’s awareness of video surveillance received a hit on the head jolt through the 9/11 episode when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed by terrorists. While most people thought video surveillance as something that never bothered them, now became everything that needed extreme participation. They started appreciating the work of software developers that created programs to recognize key features of suspected terrorists, a practice that helped police identify such people at different airports and other places suspected of rendering help to such fanatics.

In May 2002, face recognition software on computer video surveillance cameras were installed at the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island where visitors throng on the majority of holidays. It’s no wonder that these cameras would prove most helpful in recognizing faces of people suspected of terrorism and creating violence in public places.

Incidentally, the Sydney International Airport in Australia, in the same year, installed SmartGate, a type of automated border crossing system practiced by all airline crew members. Utilizing photo biometrics, the system can scan crew member’s face against those appearing on their passports, confirming the report in less than ten seconds. It goes without saying that the process helps the airline schedule take offs on time.

Nanny cams made all the difference

As the nineties saw more and more parents seeking full-time occupation, leaving children under care of nannies or housekeepers at home, it became a great issue to know how they are doing at home. Nanny Cams (digital video surveillance cameras) as these were lovingly called, resolved the issue most successfully by providing a way for parents to observe how nannies and housekeepers were actually doing while at home with the kids.

Internet vis-à-vis video surveillance

The internet has not only enabled video surveillance to be installed anywhere in the world but also be watched from similar sites. With satellites transmitting signals around the our lonely planet, it’s a matter of seconds to catch them in your laptop, regardless of whether you are located in Paris or Popocatepetl.

No wonder that the ‘eye in the sky’  has proved itself over and over again as a reality in the case of digital streaming video, though often disgraced with touch or porn sites.

Present day status of CCTV

CCTV systems have become globally popular since the past decade as the technology has fully developed, while at the same time become quite affordable. Most of CCTV cameras in use today are meant for surveillance and security issues. You can find CCTV systems installed in almost every bank, casino, pub, shopping centre and large department store.


Types of CCTV Cameras that are currently used

There are several  types of CCTV cameras at present and so are categorized such as (a) Types of images they are able to capture; (b) The amount of frames they can take per minute; (c)  The type of connection to the monitor or video recording device; (d) If they are able to move position, and (e) Special functions they can provide.

Types of Images: CCTV cameras are capable of taking both black and white and color video images. Over and above, some CCTV cameras are endowed with night vision capabilities that permit them to  view and record low light images with the help of special know-how. Capable of producing mega-pixel super-sharp clarity along with ability to be connected to regular computer CAT5 network, IP cameras are the current craze among CCTV enthusiasts.

Tomorrow of video surveillance

Leaving aside all other minor characteristics, tomorrow’s CCTV cameras are acquiring artificial brain! In course of the last few years, all types of cameras, irrespective of whether they are cameras featured in smartphones or CCTV  surveillance cameras, these were provided with ’eyes’ with which they could ‘see’ and then capture whatever they have ‘seen’, with not an iota of what they have captured.

But the case is not so with the futuristic surveillance cameras. Since their ‘eyes’ are linked to an unit of artificial intelligence, they would not only ‘see’ whatever comes within their focal range, but will ‘judge’ how to capture the image, often disregarding common parameters. However, how far these iCameras will become successful in capturing images of culprits has to be seen . Meanwhile, we are keeping our fingers crossed while these futuristic cameras  will keep an eye on our homes to check if the kid has come back home after school and store its findings within it memory.