Heightened security concerns in India are escalating the desire to more quickly respond to and prevent security threats, and technology innovations are helping.

New networked digital cameras combined with intelligent video analytics software are changing the nature of surveillance from reactive, human-based monitoring and replays after events, to sophisticated, automated threat detection and rapid responses.

Human element

As technology has improved and adoption rates have increased, the cost of modern video surveillance equipment has reduced significantly, leading many organisations to deploy more video cameras. However, adding more cameras is only effective if you can accurately and effectively monitor and analyse the images they generate. Just hoping that a security guard will notice a change when an image cycles through a bank of monitors leaves too much to chance.

What’s more, even if someone is actively monitoring the screens, studies show that a person’s ability to constantly monitor a screen rapidly decreases after just 20 minutes. The good news is that analytical software does not tire the way we, mere humans, do.

CCTV market

A recent study by ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) forecasts that the video surveillance and CCTV market in India will grow at about 30 per cent annually to reach Rs. 2,200 crore by 2015.

To best leverage this opportunity, here are some points to consider.

Intelligent surveillance

Video analytics allow organisations to monitor and manage multiple video surveillance cameras by automatically recognising changes in activity to generate an alert or trigger a response, such as automatically locking a door, sounding an alarm or notifying the nearest security officer. This may identify a potential threat before it has actually happened.

The action generated by these analytical tools can be as simple as on-screen alerts of suspicious behaviour, or as complex as using biometric facial recognition technology to grant or deny a person access to a high security area.

Even simple video analytics can increase an organisation’s security. These include motion detection (to notice when a person enters or leaves an area), virtual tripwires (to detect when someone or something enters a secure area), object recognition (to identify when a particular object is removed or added), and license plate recognition software to scrutinise cars entering and leaving a facility.

Mobile technology

Surveillance systems continue to evolve with new and better devices that are integrated into the organisation’s ecosystem. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones enable security professionals to view real-time footage while on the move, allowing them to respond to security threats as and when they occur.

Organisations can leverage specialised functions such as biometric identification and behaviour pattern recognition. Using facial recognition and gait recognition technologies, it is possible to match surveillance subjects against a watch list of “persons of interest”. As these biometric technologies continue to evolve, we are likely to see even greater convergence between surveillance and identification.

What about privacy?

While implementing video surveillance technologies, the government should develop definitive policies and guidelines to ensure that the public understands the need for them, and the benefits and implications. The policies must include, among others, where and how many cameras will be installed, how often they will be operated, whether some or all will have recording capabilities and where the data is stored.

This holds good at an enterprise level as well, especially from the perspective of building an employee’s trust. Balancing security with an individual’s right to privacy is critical, while deploying video surveillance.

Video surveillance in India has come a long way. Given its importance in preventing and resolving crime and with the advancements of technology and mobility, it is the foundation of any security initiative. The good news: if implemented effectively, video surveillance has endless possibilities.

(The author is security programme director for Unisys Asia Pacific.)