You Are Being Watched

As the CCTV technology advances, threats to individual rights and privacy increases too

Smruti D

In current times, Close Circuit Television (CCTV) is not a novelty. They are a common sight at traffic signals, offices and residential complexes. While CCTVs do not always prevent crime, they do help in keeping vigil and subsequently in the investigation of a crime. However, as seen at commercial spaces, the notion of people being under surveillance does help prevent crime.

CCTV camera outside Prime Minister’s residence in Delhi

Only recently, Delhi police solved a case of snatching within four hours of it being registered. The snatchers were arrested with the help of the CCTV footage. Another incident which gained much traction around the world was that of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Investigating agency identified and arrested the two suspects in the bombing after sifting through several hours of the video recordings captured by cameras installed in the city.

The CCTV, even though widely used now, is an old invention. It was first used in 1942 in Germany to observe the launch of V-2 rockets. While the system became commercially available in the late 1940s, it was only in 1968 in Olean, New York, that the first security camera came to be used for surveillance. After 9/11 though, the technology not only became widespread, but evolved rapidly too. For instance, earlier one couldn’t save the data obtained through the camera, hence constant monitoring was required. Now, data can be recorded.

In the camera’s category alone, there are number of types such as dome camera, bullet-type camera, C-mount camera, day/ night camera, infrared/ night vision camera, varifocal camera and wireless camera. The camera technology now is both handy and remote. Some cameras are so small that they can easily be hidden from human sight.

Today, security establishments rely heavily on data gathered through technological means. CCTV cameras is a common tool that is used by individual, communities and law enforcement agencies. The versatility of the security cameras can be gauged by the fact that they are a common sight not only in most cities but are also deployed on the national borders. The camera-based surveillance system has evolved in such a way, that the smallest device is able to detect the minutest details, including those which the human eye may overlook.


Video Management System

At the very basic, the CCTV system consists of a camera, a lens, a monitor and a recorder. The camera acts as an eye and does the work of watching. The visuals are in turn transmitted to a recording system, which further sends them to a monitor. The data captured by the camera is then stored and can be revisited multiple times, which gives the investigating forces the benefit of observing the procured visuals carefully repeatedly in order to gather proof or to draw a seamless picture of the perceived criminal activities.

Even as the said components are sufficient for surveillance, technological innovations have introduced new competencies for the system to be used more efficiently. Video Management Software (VMS) is a prominent and essential part of the surveillance system that enables the users to manage the camera, access real time videos, record, store and playback recorded videos collected from multiple surveillance cameras.

Several CCTV manufacturers offer video analytics capabilities in a set which can be used in different areas of operation for surveillance within the country such as city verticals and in the border areas. This software also gives the user the benefit of setting-up alerts for tampering and motion detection. This technology is useful to keep a close eye without having to monitor constantly, in private and public spaces alike. VMS can either be an appliance or Windows-based and can be used either with Internet Protocol (IP) or analogue cameras.

An American firm, Safe and Sound Security while explaining how VMS works, says, ‘Appliance-based VMS typically utilises a variant of a Linux operating system to function. Newer embedded appliances generally require a network drop and a web browser that communicates directly with the Linux-based software running on the appliance. VMS running on a Windows-based server, on the other hand, functions like other Microsoft-based tools. The Microsoft Windows Server runs the host application and communicates with either proprietary software or web-based client software over a client network.”

A server-based VMS gives end-user the benefit of centrally controlling the surveillance system. This means that even though the system may have servers located in different cities, it can be operated from one place, generally known as the ‘centralised management server’ for the user to watch the collected footage at the same time. The person operating the central server in Delhi, for instance, can talk to recorders in different Indian cities. A server-based VMS gives user the benefit of access control, analytics, motion detection and trigger alarms.

Windows-based server platforms does not require the system to have a specific hardware manufacturer; any server meeting the minimum specifications set by the video platform manufacturer can be used. During the third Presidential debate in 2013 in the US, the Boca Raton police in Florida set up 200 cameras, license plate camera recognition and dashboard cameras in patrol cars for law enforcement to get enough data using ‘robust’ VMS. Honeywell Commercial Security in 2020 came up with the MAXPRO VMS Server powered by Intel Xeon processor family that has a 16 GB RAM and Server 2016 Operating System.

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