CCTV – Don’t get wooed by the latest technology
I am not necessarily an advocate for CCTV but as a 20 year veteran of the security industry, I understand how and where CCTV can add value. CCTV is just one available component of a good risk management strategy and exactly where CCTV fits, if at all, depends solely on the application.
CCTV is being promoted as the answer to all things security. Through recent industry articles and promotional material I have learnt that the installation of CCTV cameras will do everything from stopping terrorist attacks to eliminating shoplifting and preventing burglaries.
This is simply not the case and let me explain why.
The key elements of any good risk management strategy are based on six well-known, guiding principles which are deter, detect, deny, delay, defend and lastly respond. This means that for a security treatment to truly add value to a risk management plan, whatever treatment is implemented should perform one of those key functions.
In their simplest form, CCTV cameras can fit into one category only and that is to detect. Most CCTV cameras will have some form of Video Motion Detection (VMD) incorporated that allows them to work as motion detectors. But even with VMD, the cameras still need to have some level of active or passive monitoring associated with them otherwise that functionality is wasted.
CCTV vendors will continue to argue that CCTV can be a deterrent but my opinion is that is also wrong. There simply is no evidence to support that claim other than industry opinion.
I have seen one example where CCTV has contributed to a planned terrorist attack being defeated. The cameras in this instance provided some exceptionally well trained and alert operators, blanket coverage of the shopping centre they were overseeing. The system operators understood exactly what sort of activity to look for and over a period of hours were able to detect and track an individual of interest.
The CCTV system was just one component of the overall counter-terrorism strategy. Of equal importance were the operators, the training undertaken by them and the processes they followed. CCTV in isolation would have been good for just evidentiary value and nothing more.
In every security application, some level of intelligence must be applied to CCTV deployments for them to truly impact criminal activity. This can be through VMD, analytical packages that are more common now and even the Video Management System (VMS) that connects the cameras. They can also be integrated to Point of Sale (POS) programs when used in retail environments or perform more complex applications like facial recognition.
In all instances, there must be a level of intelligence supporting the application, otherwise the CCTV will not contribute in any meaningful way to the risk mitigation process.
The other factor associated with CCTV that is being over-hyped right now is high or ultra-high resolution cameras, and in particular, 4K. I am the first to admit that 4K video looks unbelievable, but it is not for everyone. 4K video seems to be well suited to large open areas like sporting stadiums, car parks and the like. It has a place in the market, but it is more of a niche application right now.
In most cases, there simply isn’t a need for such high resolution recording and typically the same outcomes can be achieved with lower resolution cameras and an appropriate lens.
CCTV componentry should always be selected based on the specific criteria of the application. There are several thousand cameras to choose from, hundreds of digital recording platforms and many bolt-on applications to achieve nearly anything you need to.
Choose wisely and implement properly, and you will most likely get outstanding results from whatever systems you choose. If you buy into the hype or get wooed by the latest technology, you could just end up with a very expensive headache.