Smart CCTV becomes the eyes of the city

CCTV cameras and platforms are adding advanced features to bring capabilities far beyond traditional surveillance to the smart city

Panasonic Corporation, Axis Communications, NeXgen Group (, Surveillance, CCTV

Cameras have long been a part of the cityscape, although their use was mainly restricted to security and traffic monitoring. With cities looking to increase their ability to monitor their environment, the camera has become a primary source of data for many different projects, tackling everything from crime prevention to customer service.

The global market for CCTV solutions is set to grow by a CAGR of 12.7% from 2017 to 2025, reaching $23.32 billion, according to figures from Transparency Market Research (TMR). Estimates from 2016 put the global installed base of CCTV cameras at around 350 million.

The growth in the use of cameras has partly been driven by demand, especially from security agencies, but also due to changes in the technology, particularly the shift from analogue cameras that required their own cabling, to IP-based cameras that can run over data networks, and increasingly over wireless networks. Freeing cameras from dedicated cabling, and basing them on open standards, has reduced the price, increased flexibility, and opened up the ecosystem to new software developers and interconnectivity with other systems.

The shift to IP systems has also meant that images and video can be stored on standard hard drives, making it economically viable to have more cameras taking more footage, increasing the penetration of camera systems further.

In terms of the cameras themselves, manufacturers are enhancing devices in a number of ways. Improved image quality is an area of constant improvement, and technology to eliminate blind spots and deliver comprehensive coverage is another area of focus. Cameras that can operate in poor weather conditions or low light, have also become an important part of the toolkit, so that city cameras are able to operate around the clock in any conditions — a smart city cannot afford its sensors to stop working because of rain or fog.

Where the technology is really creating new opportunities, though, is the addition of analytics and intelligence.

Digital services consultancy NXN is offering Video Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS) as part of its smart portfolio. Khaled Charif, NXN Director, Digital Solutions, commented: “CCTV is not really a new topic, but the technologies behind it, mainly video analytics including facial recognition and AI-based detection/analysis of movement patterns, are relatively new and evolve at a much higher pace.

Charif: Cameras are taking on new roles in city deployments.

“Smart cities rely on live camera feeds, not only to gain situational awareness and respond to real-time safety and security threats but also to benefit from the video analysis to improve city operations for a variety of services related to security, energy, health, transit and transport as well as the development of additional smart city use cases and applications for commerce, entertainment and tourism.”

Analytics and intelligence is becoming pervasive in CCTV, both on the end devices, and the control platforms. To keep up with demand for greater coverage and the desire to use more CCTV in real time, the systems are having to provide a lot more intelligence ‘baked in’.

Axis Communications has recently released the seventh generation of its ARTPEC chip, which includes analytics on the edge capabilities. Ettiene Van Der Watt, Director – Business Development, Axis Communications said: “This chip features a real-time object detection engine that will make it possible for Axis and Axis partners to develop powerful analytics to automatically detect and differentiate between people, faces and objects.”

Van Der Watt: Manufacturers are adding advanced capabilities to CCTV platforms and edge devices.

Facial recognition is an obvious capability for cities to deploy in their CCTV solutions. Identifying known criminals is a desirable capability for law enforcement — it was used extensively at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals, to exclude known hooligans from the football matches.

Capabilities of facial recognition solutions are improving rapidly. For example, Panasonic has developed its FacePRO technology to enable high speed search and matching of faces.

“The Panasonic FacePRO is a breakthrough capability, which features a Deep Learning algorithm that can identify faces otherwise difficult to recognize using conventional video surveillance technology. FacePRO automatically matches a person’s face using live or recorded video from Panasonic i-PRO cameras to a database of enrolled faces and performs notification and alerting of face matches,” said Okawa Tetsuo, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager, Panasonic Marketing Middle East and Africa.

Other platforms are also offering automated detection and automated warnings. Huawei’s Intelligent Surveillance Warning Solution is an intelligent analysis platform supported by IoT solutions, which automatically detects “unsafe factors” in video images and generates real-time warnings. Automation in a city environment is key to improving efficiency, and make it cost-effective to monitor a large number of cameras at once.

Intelligence is also being injected into the data platform and storage environments, to give better capabilities for data retrieval and interrogation, data sharing and collaboration between agencies and entities.

Through IP-based systems, adoption of open standards, and collaboration with partners, CCTV manufacturers are also developing a far wider range of capabilities than simple surveillance. Development of advanced capabilities, tailored to specific sectors, or to provide much more refined role-based features, are becoming increasingly common. Platforms are being developed to identify and detect specific behaviours.

CCTV solutions are now capable of meeting specific challenges for different vertical segments, says Okawa.

Okawa Tetsuo of Panasonic explained: “In the retail industry, for example, theft, product tampering, inventory mismanagement and multi-store management tracking are just a few of the most common challenges. Panasonic security and surveillance systems can effectively address all these problems.  Key solutions that can be applied can include our 360-degree Network Camera for monitoring without blind spots.

“Our security solutions also offer face recognition, matching, and searching to detect repeat shoplifters and wanted criminals, as well as multi-site /multiple store monitoring with a network, among others.”

Other retail-specific uses include image recognition cameras, which are deployed by US supermarket Walmart in some 1,000 stores, to monitor checkouts and self-service checkouts, which can even detect if an item is placed in a shopping bag without being scanned first.

These new capabilities are also enabling the use of cameras in other roles. Dubai’s Road & Transport Authority recently announced it is using smart cameras installed at its service centres to assess customer’s happiness. The smart cameras use facial recognition and AI-driven analysis to read a customer’s face and gauge their happiness. The cameras are used to assist in compiling reports about customer’s experiences, the authority said, enabling them to improve service delivery.

While the deployment of cameras is booming, the rise of surveillance technology is not entirely accepted by the public. In some cities in the US in particular, there is a growing push back against surveillance technology, in particular the use of facial recognition, which is seen as an invasion of privacy.

In May, San Francisco’s city council banned the use of facial recognition, over privacy concerns and also concerns that the technology performed badly on detecting non-white faces, leading to inherent racial bias. Now two other cities in the Bay area are also considering bans.

In Europe, a police force in the UK is facing a court case over its use of facial recognition to screen crowds. The situation in Europe is further complicated by the introduction last year of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which includes restrictions on collecting and storing personal data — including CCTV images.

Ettiene Van Der Watt said that Axis is keen to educate is partners and customers on privacy and cybersecurity through its Academy & Learning offering. He does not think that the CCTV sector will suffer from the backlash: “The backlash is not on the industry or the technologies but rather directed to components, brands and manufacturing processes.”

The industry is working to ensure that solutions will support privacy where required however. One of the main points for privacy protection, is ensuring that legitimate uses of CCTV devices and data is kept just to authorised agencies, and that the solutions are not vulnerable to hackers or other data leaks. Encryption of data and CCTV platforms is increasingly becoming a requisite to ensure data is protected.

Some manufacturers are also taking a privacy-by-design approach, to ensure that their systems can support customers in meeting their obligations to the public and to be legally compliant. South Korean CCTV company Hanwha Techwin has even developed a set of personal information protection solutions, and created a guide on how to ensure that CCTV systems are GDPR compliant.

“Video surveillance, including CCTV, has long been essential to ensure the safety and security of people.”

Solutions include restricted access levels so that a surveillance system can only be accessed by operators with proper permissions, and so that operators can be restricted to the minimum functions required to do their jobs. Enhanced logs and search capabilities enable users to be able to find and remove unnecessary surveillance footage if a member of the public asks for its be deleted as their right under GDPR, while automated deletion ensures that limits on the time data can be stored are respected.

Other features to protect privacy included advanced masking, so specific areas can be excluded from coverage, even across multiple cameras, and capabilities to blur faces or identifying feature from video that is being collected for uses that do not require such identifiers.

Panasonic’s Okawa said that there has to be a balance, between the need for CCTV to protect the public and serve smart cities, and the privacy rights of the public.

“Video surveillance, including CCTV, has long been essential to ensure the safety and security of people from internal and external factors. It is integral to national security, especially in preventing crime. It is also acknowledged as one of the key strategies for building Smart Cities. As with most technologies, video surveillance has its pros and cons, but with the correct application and state-of-the-art technologies, the benefits of using CCTV (crime prevention, ability to immediately respond to emergencies etc.) could be argued to outweigh the disadvantages,” he said.

“The key for the CCTV sector to continue to grow is to achieve the right balance between effective surveillance and privacy guaranteed, and for Panasonic, these are very important when we develop new security solutions. We see growth opportunities for the sector, especially in the UAE because of the government’s vision to build smart and sustainable cities. In addition, the country has laws and regulations in place relevant to privacy and data protection, so this is another positive trend that can help the sector develop further.”

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