Camera resolution is important for a surveillance system to be useful 

Resolution quality must be considered when assessing surveillance effectiveness

Surveillance cameras are becoming more and more commonplace, especially in busy metropolitan locales. Police and detectives hope to reduce crime rates by keeping a watchful eye on civilians but CCTV has only been helpful in solving a small percentage of crimes. Mike Lewis, Country Manager UK for CCTV manufacturer MOBOTIX AG, highlights key considerations for improving the efficiency of existing surveillance systems.

In May of 2008, Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville, head of Scotland Yard's Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) became the UK's first senior police officer to challenge the misconception around CCTV's role in reducing crime. Speaking at Security Document World Conference in London, the Chief Inspector said: "Billions of pounds have been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It's been an utter fiasco."  Neville also pointed out that only 3 per cent of London's street robberies had been solved using CCTV images. A low figure considering the capital is one of the most densely populated areas of CCTV coverage anywhere in the world.

Identifying problems with existing CCTV surveillance systems

Mike Lewis, UK Country Manager for CCTV manufacturer Mobotix AG believes that the problem stems from a fundamental issue of image quality. "For many organizations CCTV is treated as a ‘check-box' item with little thought given to how a CCTV installation can help the police solve crimes. Criminals are not stupid and a deterrent is simply not enough; the technology has to be able to gather evidence to help the police secure convictions."

Lewis points out that the majority of CCTV installations in the UK still use old analog technology with barely a fifth of the resolution found in a basic camera phone. "If a CCTV system, say covering a street outside a jewellers', captures a car pulling up and three men brandishing shotguns marching into the shop - unless you have the resolution to capture the license plate, or some distinguishing features of each masked robber, or audio capture to get a voice print - the system is pretty worthless."

Mandating changes in surveillance video resolution requirements

The industry also is "less than opaque"  when it comes to selling CCTV in his view. "Many vendors will play down high resolution as not necessary or too expensive to implement without actually explaining that it is exactly these high resolution images and audio capture that will help police make successful prosecution where a grainy image would simply be thrown out of court."

"Billions of pounds have been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court"

Lewis points to the continent as an example of where UK CCTV market needs to learn from.  In France for example, under anti-terrorism laws pioneered after the 7/7 tube bombings in London, all government building and high risk areas are legally required to have CCTV of a high resolution and retain data for up to 30 days. In Germany, all banks are required to deploy high resolution CCTV to monitor customers, staff and financial transactions in every branch.  [It will be very useful to define what is classified as "high resolution" or the minimum resolutions that are acceptable in these countries]

MOBOTIX, which only sells fully-digital high resolution CCTV camera systems believes that the potential of CCTV to reduce crime won't be fulfilled unless either the government, police or even third parties such as insurers, licensing boards or trade associations insist that end users deploy a better resolution capture, coverage and video storage and retrieval.

"There will be another wave of CCTV installation heading up to the Olympics, so as a nation, we have a perfect opportunity to set a CCTV standard that meets the needs of police, local government and end users to help us reduce crime and secure more prosecution off the back of CCTV evidence,"comments Lewis.

High resolution cameras are important for viewing potentially crucial details in crime solving
Lewis believes CCTV would be able to help solve more crimes if they had higher resolutions

"The technology is not the barrier and newer CCTV systems with hemispheric (360 degree) fields of view will allow end users to actually deploy fewer security cameras while maintaining better resolution and wider coverage - the problem is still trying to persuade people that CCTV can catch criminals and not just scare them away."

Optimising CCTV for solving and prevention of crime

Lewis offers some constructive suggestions on how to improve CCTV's effectiveness as a crime prevention and evidence gathering tool. "There are an estimated 4 million CCTV cameras in the UK but where they all are, what they record and accessibility to these video archives is mostly unknown - having a register of CCTV for use by the police would help them to quickly gather post incident evidence."

The idea of CCTV built into the environment was the theme of the 200 Secured by Design' (SBD) initiative that has been adopted by parts of the building industry to promote crime prevention measures like CCTV in development design. The initiative was endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and has the backing of the Home Office Crime Reduction Unit. However, for police gathering information after an incident, there is no easy way to locate CCTV installations in any given area.

The industry also is "less than transparent" when it comes to selling CCTV in his view

Most CCTV systems installed in the UK use a centralised approach. Each surveillance camera is effectively dumb with the image processing, access to footage and storage taking place at a remote location. In smaller environments, this could be a DVR simply recording everything on a 24-hour loop. In larger campuses or city centres, this is often a dedicated control room monitored 24 hours a day.

Instead Lewis argues that a decentralised approach that places more intelligence into the CCTV camera would allow greater accessibility by third parties such as the police and emergency services. "With a decentralised system, private companies could allow the police to quickly add their local cameras into a centrally managed grid." In this method, if an incident occurs, the police CCTV control center could patch an instant video feed from the nearest available CCTV camera. With a decentralised approach, each CCTV camera becomes an access point on an IP network and can be shared by multiple agencies in a more cost effective approach.

"This might sound a bit hi-tech, but it is technically possible," explains Lewis. To give an analogy, when the police receive a 999 call, the dispatcher is automatically informed of the location of the caller from the Caller Line Identification system which cross references a database of addresses of each of the 25 million public and private landlines installed in the UK. "A similar system where the police type in a post code and are presented with secure access to video feeds from all decentralised CCTV installations in an area would be a potentially society changing tool for fighting crime."

Some places are legally required to have high resolution CCTV cameras
High risk areas in France were legally required to have high resolution CCTV following London Tube bombings

Considerations for realising CCTV's full security potential

Lewis also believes: "All CCTV cameras should have a minimum mandated image quality with all information stored in a digital format for a minimum of 7 days that can be easily accessed by the police for evidence gathering."

Many police forces around the country already have voluntary guidelines for business deploying CCTV and several have made CCTV installation a condition of alcohol or gaming licences. However this policy has successfully been challenged by landlords and upheld by Information Commissioner as potentially in conflict with the data protection act.

Unfortunately, Lewis believes for any of these measures to work, there needs to be stronger backing from the government: "There is obviously a fear of creating an oppressive surveillance society but we have regulation for other areas like fire prevention, road safety, disabled access and a host of other health and safety issues - why CCTV, which has the potential to protect lives, is treated differently is a complete mystery to me."

 

Mike Lewis, UK manager for Mobotix

Mike Lewis
UK Manager
Mobotix  AG

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Be Our Guest: How to Manage Visitors With Both Safety and Service
Be Our Guest: How to Manage Visitors With Both Safety and Service

In today’s fraught times, business continuity and success hinges on how you manage the visitors to your company. By prioritizing safety and security, and coupling them with top-notch attention and customer service, you win loyalty and gain a reputation that will serve you in years to come. An excellent way to accomplish this is by identifying and implementing the best visitor management system for your company. And visitor management systems go beyond ensuring the safety of your visitors and staff safety from your visitors. A feature-rich VMS will track your guests' activities, so you can better understand their preferences for future visits. That way, you can manage visitor experience and tailor amenities and preferences. Both customer loyalty and brand reputation benefit. Visitor management systems: who uses it, and why is it used? Visitor management refers to all the processes put together by an organization to welcome, process, and keep track Visitor management refers to all the processes put together by an organization to welcome, process, and keep track of all the guests daily. A visitor management system (VMS) is the technology used to manage guests for their convenience, safety, and security. Several features are typical in today’s applications. They include preregistration tools,  video intercoms, self-check-in stations, and health screening. In visitor management, the term "visitor" doesn't only refer to guests but also anyone without an authorized access credential. For instance, an employee without their access credential logs in as a visitor. The same applies to a delivery man or a technician carrying out routine maintenance. A VMS helps to account for everyone within the organization at any given time. Who uses visitor management systems? You need a visitor management system to manage a school or hospital, an office, or even a residential building. Here's why: Visitor management system for schools: schools are among society’s most vulnerable facilities. A VMS is almost mandatory in this setting. It helps to identify visitors, detect intruders, and alert security of any unauthorized access. Visitor management system for offices: A VMS accounts for guests at all times. They include clients, maintenance contractors, delivery men, employees without credentials, friends, and family, Visitor management system for hospitals: access control is essential in hospitals, and managing visitors plays a major role. Hospitals offer access to pharmaceuticals, medical records, newborns, and expensive equipment. It is crucial to monitor restricted hallways and sections with video intercoms and track unauthorized persons' movements. Residential visitor management system: tracking people's movement is a key VMS component. In case of a crime, knowing who had access to the building within a specific time frame can help in the investigation. Plus, tracking the activities of visitors can deter future crime. Why is the visitor management system important? A video intercom makes it much more difficult for a visitor to impersonate a known guest. VMS accounts for everyone within the organization in cases of emergency. VMSs can prevent intruders and alert the security department of a breach. A VMS creates a positive visitor experience, which shapes perception of the organization. With a trusted VMS in place, employees can focus on being productive. Health screening gives staff peace of mind. It increases employees' willingness to return to work in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. How does a good VMS address occupant and visitor safety? The necessary technology to ensure building safety The best visitor management systems contain the necessary technology to ensure building safety. To maximize occupant and visitor safety, a VMS should have the following features: Job one of a VMS is visitor identification. It also helps deter potential criminals. Some VMSs go beyond identification by running a quick check on the visitor's ID and alerting security of any discrepancies. By identifying and proving a visitor's identity, the VMS ensures the safety of employees and other visitors. VMS helps with compliance A good visitor management system helps the organization follow regulations, such as for occupancy. In the COVID era, some states may require health screening for guests. Health screening helps protect the building's occupants from exposure to health hazards. Information security VMSs also aid in information protection. It takes mere seconds for a rogue visitor to download files into a jump drive, photograph exposed blueprints, or copy customer lists. Visitor management systems restrict visitor access to parts of the building and track the whereabouts of guests. Visitor privacy With pen and paper systems, walking up to the receptionist often gives visitors full view of the visitors list. Visitor management systems seal that vulnerability. Visitors can check in without fear that anyone nearby can see their information. Emergency evacuation With a good VMS, the exact number of people within the building is always known. In the case of an emergency, first responders can use VMS data to identify everyone on site. This is a safety net for both the occupants and visitors to the organization. How to manage building visitors System features depend on the purpose and setting of the VMS. Yet certain features and processes are essential. Preauthorization and health screening The first step is knowing the visitors upfront. Preauthorisation allows everyone to know who is coming and when. Guests specify the time and purpose of their visits. You get to welcome and accommodate your visitors accordingly. Some systems may also be able to upload documents of interest, such as proposals, contracts, presentations, or agendas. Health screening is critical today. It signals that the organization cares about its guests. A visitor is more likely to visit an organization that prioritises health and safety. Health screening is a way to protect your staff and send the right message. Video intercom Along with health screening, video intercom is a key element of VMSs. It enables secure video identification with remote, touchless, and COVID-safe access into buildings. Intercoms are a safe and secure way to communicate with audio and video without physical contact. Video allows you to visually verify the visitor. The audio component enables spoken communication. Some systems even use facial recognition technology and mobile app unlock. When integrated with access control, visitor arrival is seamless. Upgrade to touchless access Touchless access is the safest and most secure VMS option Touchless access is the safest and most secure VMS option. It is more sophisticated because it receives visitors without them having to lift a finger. It's also convenient and effective. In this time of the novel coronavirus, the demand for hands-free systems is surging. VMS has pivoted to met this demand. Many organizations are finding how touchless systems increase safety in the workplace. Visitor logging is essential for managing guests to your building. Besides being a source for verification and data tracing, it also helps in real-time to know who signed into the building and who hasn't signed out yet. Tracking the movement of visitors within the facility makes it clear where they are at all times. This way, there can be an effective emergency action plan for visitors and other occupants. This feature has use in contact tracing, health investigations, and other investigations, such as for theft.

Why the Touchless Office is Another Argument for Going Passwordless
Why the Touchless Office is Another Argument for Going Passwordless

Security experts have discussed the demise of the passwords for years. As early as 2004, Bill Gates told the RSA Security Conference that passwords “just don’t meet the challenge for anything you really want to secure.” Change has been slow, but the sudden increase in remote working and the need for enterprises to become touchless as they try to encourage teams back to the office is increasing traction. Here we look at the future of passwordless authentication - using the example of trusted digital identities - and share tips on choosing a solution that works for your organisation. The move away from passwords was beginning to gain momentum pre-pandemic. Gartner reported an increase in clients asking for information on ‘passwordless’ solutions in 2019. Now Gartner predicts that 60% of large and global enterprises, and 90% of midsize enterprises, will put in place passwordless methods by 2022. This is up from 5% in 2018. The many limitations of passwords are well-documented, but the cost of data breaches may be the reason behind this sharp upswing. Stolen credentials – usually passwords – and phishing are the top two causes of data breaches according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Incident Report. Each breach costs businesses an average of anywhere between £4M to £8M depending on which studies you read. A catalyst for change As in so many other areas, the pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Newly remote workers using BYOD devices and home networks, sharing devices with other family members, and writing down passwords at home all make breaches more likely. And seasoned home workers represent a risk too.  It also means that enterprises are developing new procedures to mitigate the spread of disease. This includes a thorough examination of any activity that requires workers to touch surfaces. Entering passwords on shared keyboards or touchscreens falls squarely in this area of risk. As does handling physical smart cards or key fobs. Enterprises are expanding their searches from “passwordless” to “passwordless and touchless,” looking to replace physical authenticators. In the quest to go touchless these are items that can be easily eliminated. The future of passwordless authentication Using fingerprint or facial recognition often only provides a new front-end way to activate passwords Common alternatives to passwords are biometrics. But, using fingerprint or facial recognition often only provides a new front-end way to activate passwords. Passwords are still required for authentication after the biometric scan and these live in a central repository vulnerable to hackers. With one successful hack of the central repository, cyber-criminals can swipe thousands of details. In other words, biometrics on their own are not an improvement in security, only a better user experience. They need to be combined with a different approach that adds another layer of security. A more secure option is to move away from the centralised credential repository to a decentralised model. For example, one based on trusted digital identities. This is where digital certificates are stored on users’ phones. Think of encrypted digital certificates as virtual passports or ID cards that live on a worker’s device. Because they are stored on many separate phones, you are able to build a highly secure decentralised credential infrastructure. A solution that uses people’s phones is also compatible with touchless authentication systems. You can replace smart cards and key fobs with a phone-based security model and reduce the number of surfaces and items that people touch. This is especially beneficial for workplaces where people have to visit different sites, or for example in healthcare facilities. Replacing smartcards with a phone in a pocket reduces the number of items that clinicians need to take out and use a smartcard between and in different areas, which may have different contamination levels or disease control procedures. How do trusted digital identities work?   Workers unlock their mobile devices and access their trusted identity using fingerprint or facial recognition Here’s an example installation. You install a unique digital certificate on each user’s mobile device — this is their personal virtual ID card. Authorised users register themselves on their phones using automated onboarding tools. Workers unlock their mobile devices and access their trusted identity using fingerprint or facial recognition. Once they are authenticated, their device connects to their work computer via Bluetooth and automatically gives them access to the network and their applications with single sign on (SSO). This continues while their phone is in Bluetooth range of their workstation, a distance set by IT. When they leave their desk with their phone, they go out of range and they are automatically logged out of everything. Five tips on choosing a passwordless solution More automation means less disruption Consider how you can predict and eliminate unnecessary changeover disruptions. The task of onboarding large or widely dispersed employee populations can be a serious roadblock for many enterprises. Look for a solution that automates this process as much as possible. Scalability and your digital roadmap Will you maintain remote working? Having a high proportion of your team working remotely means that passwordless solutions will become more of a necessity. Are you expecting to grow or to add new cloud apps and broader connectivity with outside ecosystems? If so, you need password authentication that will scale easily. Encryption needs and regulatory requirements If your workers are accessing or sharing highly sensitive information or conducting high-value transactions, check that a solution meets all necessary regulatory requirements. The most secure passwordless platforms are from vendors whose solutions are approved for use by government authorities and are FIDO2-compliant. Prioritise decentralization Common hacker strategies like credential stuffing and exploitation of re-used credentials rely on stealing centralised repositories of password and log-in data. If you decentralise your credentials, then these strategies aren’t viable. Make sure that your passwordless solution goes beyond the front-end, or the initial user log-in and gets rid of your central password repository entirely. Make it about productivity too Look for a solution that offers single sign on to streamline login processes and simplify omnichannel workflows. For workers, this means less friction, for the enterprise, it means optimal productivity. Security improvements, productivity gains and user goodwill all combine to form a compelling case for going passwordless. The additional consideration of mitigating disease transmission and bringing peace of mind to employees only strengthens the passwordless argument. The new end goal is to do more than simply replace the passwords with another authenticator. Ideally, enterprises should aspire to touchless workplace experiences that create a safer, more secure and productive workforce.

Deploying Video Analytics for Contact Tracing During COVID-19
Deploying Video Analytics for Contact Tracing During COVID-19

Developing an effective contact tracing system in the UK to monitor the spread of COVID-19 has proved to be problematic. The trials of the app developed by the government and its partners encountered numerous challenges, and despite the reopening of restaurants, pubs and shops, the current approach to contact tracing is inconsistent, with recent reports suggesting not all establishments are following the government guidance.  At the same time, businesses are being encouraged to ask employees to return to the workplace as lockdown restrictions ease, and the lack of an effective contact tracing system is only going to become more of an issue. Responsibility now lies with employers to ensure social distancing measures are adhered to in the workplace, trace any contact that a person infected with COVID-19 has had with others, and communicate consistent messaging across their organizations. Considering all of these challenges, it is not surprising that technology is being turned to for the answers.  Turning to technology  However, it is not just cutting-edge technology that can support measures to address health and safety issues related to COVID-19; the use of existing infrastructure is vital too. Consider the ubiquity of CCTV in workplaces and public spaces, especially in densely populated cities. Recent research has shown that London, for example, has 627,727 cameras for 9.3 million residents - the equivalent of 67.5 cameras per 1,000 people. The data collected from these feeds will play a key role in effectively tracing interactions and monitoring the adherence to social distancing measures. Tracing interactions and monitoring the adherence to social distancing measures As useful as this data is though, the sheer volume of it is enormous. Sifting through hundreds of hours of video footage collected from networks of thousands of cameras will be far too time-consuming and inaccurate to complete manually. This is where more advanced technology such as A.I.V.A. (Artificial Intelligence Video Analytics) is required. A.I.V.A. solutions use existing camera networks and geospatial algorithms to determine an individual’s location in the camera field of view in real-time, automatically learning the perspective of the scene and calculating the GPS coordinates of individuals in real-time based on their location in the camera field of view. Social distancing algorithms For example, with regards to social distancing, an algorithm can detect when two parties are within a meter proximity of each other. This will trigger an alert in the system and log the occurrence in a dashboard report. If government recommendations change and the suggested distance is 2 meters, the algorithm is easily adjusted. This approach will help to reinforce changes in behavior to encourage social distancing and, in the worst case, establish an effective contact tracing system for those who have been infected with COVID-19 and have come into contact with others. An effective contact tracing system for those who have been infected with COVID-19 Firstly, in terms of how this can be used for social distancing, AI powered video analytics can be used to identify particular hotspots where breaches occur. While isolated incidents of a breach in the 1m rule may not be particularly useful, when a series of occurrences is identified from thousands of hours of CCTV footage, vital insights can be gained into localised clusters of COVID-19 infections. The reports generated from this type of analysis can be extremely useful; for example, pinpointing particularly busy areas of a job site, identifying queues at a coffee station at a certain time of the day, or the most frequently used exit of an office building. Breaching the rules Armed with these insights, businesses can implement measures to try and alleviate such bottlenecks. In practice, this may involve implementing one-way systems or moving people from one congested area to a quieter one at particular times of the day, to help reduce the chances of breaching the 1m social distancing rule. There is even the capability of triggering an automatic alert when a breach is observed to remind employees of their responsibility to adhere to the guidelines. If a business is informed that one of its employees or a visitor has contracted COVID-19, the use of A.I.V.A can support in helping to identify areas that the person has visited and whether there were any other people in that area at the same time. Instead of informing others directly, the business can issue a notice to say exactly where that person was and advise employees who may have been present to be tested. This is particularly useful for businesses with large sites, who need to manage each building and facility on a case-by-case basis. Workforces can be protected by decreasing the chance of social distancing breaches Although simple to implement, AI powered video analytics can play a key role in helping businesses implement solutions that allow employees to safely return to work. With such technology in place, workforces can be protected by decreasing the chance of social distancing breaches occurring and effectively tracking those who have it. The technology does not rely on the identification of specific individuals nor their personal information or mobile phones, but rather recognises behavior patterns and uses this approach to provide accurate information to groups of people that need it. AI has long been touted as the technology set to revolutionise life as we know it, and now it has the chance to unlock its potential and protect people in a world significantly affected by COVID-19.