Part One: Our findings on 4000+ CCTV cameras – What have we learnt?

CCTV Camera researchLast week Matryx reached a milestone. Following a CCTV review of three major shopping centres in Sydney, the total number of cameras we have now evaluated passed the 4000 mark – 4023 to be exact!   In this article we will share our CCTV research and what we have learnt from the data we have collected in the last four years.

As you might know from reading our newsletters and staying up to date with industry news, Matryx are regular commentators on CCTV.

CCTV is a growing part of the global physical security industry and we are often engaged to advise on CCTV technologies across a broad range of industries and applications. These commonly include major CBD buildings, larger industrial sites, data centres and street surveillance for local councils across Australia.

A large percentage of our work is undertaking security risk assessments. With these engagements, the existing CCTV systems are evaluated as part of a broader strategic security review.

We have seen CCTV systems with just a handful of cameras to some that involve several hundred. As you can imagine, we have seen the very best and very worst over the journey, and after so many years in the industry, there were few surprises.

At Matryx, we have very strong views on what constitutes “good” CCTV. Some will disagree with us at times, however we hold firm in our beliefs that for CCTV to be truly effective, it must follow two fundamental design principles. They are:

  1. The CCTV system as a whole should be implemented with a specific purpose or function in mind; and
  2. Each and every camera must be installed with this purpose in mind.

Recently, we acted as an expert witness on CCTV for a large retail group. This client knows their business better than anyone and has an intimate understanding of exactly where cameras should be positioned in order to reduce the likelihood of loss. While some of their infrastructure was dated, the design philosophy was sound and met their operational requirements perfectly.

How many businesses can say that about their CCTV systems? The answer is not many.

So let’s look at our CCTV research and the raw data from all these CCTV systems we have evaluated over the last few years and see what it tells us.

In total, we have evaluated:

  • 89 CCTV systems
  • The smallest system had just 7 cameras
  • The largest system had 343 cameras
  • The average number of cameras was 45.2

Each CCTV camera we review is graded according to the following scale:

Excellent (5 points) – the image quality and camera placement is excellent with no changes required.

Good (4 points) – the image quality and camera placement is good and appropriate for the application.

Fair (3 points) – the image quality and/or camera placement has some performance issues and can be improved.

Poor (2 points) – the image quality is poor and and/or the camera placement is inappropriate for the application.

Unusable (1 point) – the overall image quality is unusable and providing little or no value.

No Image (0 points) – the camera is not functional.

When evaluating CCTV systems, we never get hung up on the type of camera being used – whether it is megapixel, 4K, digital, analogue or a particular make or model does not particularly matter to us.

Our concern is whether it is performing its intended function.

A 0.5 megapixel camera can watch over an entry door just as well as a 4K camera can with the right lens and placement.

We do consider camera placement, focus, field of view, backlighting, color reproduction and the cameras ability to deal with motion and artificial lighting.

Cameras will typically rate poorly because the subject matter is poorly framed, the camera is out of focus or the camera is simply inappropriate for the application. We see this regularly when indoor cameras are used externally and they can’t cope with the varying light levels.

Cameras will typically rate poorly because the subject matter is poorly framed …

So, after evaluating 4023 CCTV cameras of various makes, models and capabilities, and gathering all our CCTV research, what was the average score across all cameras?

2.92 !

Which according to our scale, places all CCTV systems at slightly under “Fair” which feels about right. There would be very few (if any) CCTV systems that could not be improved in some way with a little thought.

The 4023 cameras we have assessed have been connected to a vast array of different video management systems. Mostly, they were digital video recorders (DVR’s) which is disappointing in my mind, particularly for the larger systems.

The use of DVR’s to me says that CCTV is important, but not critical. Because DVR’s are prone to failure, particularly with hard drives, and usually when the units are poorly ventilated and get too hot.

And DVR’s rarely offer any level of redundancy which means that all the data is lost when the hard drive fails. For any application where data retention is important and the camera count means more than two DVR’s are required, a server with the appropriate redundant storage built in will be a better solution every single time.

The use of DVR’s to me says that CCTV is important, but not critical.

CCTV ages and deteriorates over time and like all assets, needs to be refreshed and improved to ensure it continues to perform as intended.

If CCTV is important to your organisation, perhaps it’s time to revisit it and see if you can improve on the 2.92 that you probably have today.

 

About the author

Luke Percy-Dove

Luke is one of the most respected and highly regarded Security Advisers and Security Design Consultants in Australia and has been a trusted key player in the security industry for more than two decades, delivering security solutions for hundreds of businesses and organisations nationally.