CCTV – Where Is It All Going?

By Les Simmonds.

To many in the security industry, the specification, design and installation of a CCTV system is seen as being very complicated. But, is it really, or is it perceived to be complicated because of the lack of CCTV-educated and/or trained personnel in the security industry? Furthermore, what really constitutes training?

In an earlier article, I discussed CCTV system planning and design and CCTV lenses, both of which are fundamental CCTV requirements and are often the stumbling blocks for many electronic security personnel. I suggested that if the security industry doesn’t get itself trained to a reasonable level of competency, there might not be many security personnel in the CCTV industry in the future – especially at the rapid rate at which CCTV technology is developing.

Finding someone in the Australian security industry with formal or recognised CCTV or television qualifications (as opposed to on-the-job training or other forms of non-accredited learning) is like looking for hens’ teeth. I have even had some serious e-mail exchanges about this matter with a few risk-assessment gurus who call themselves CCTV consultants, but have no formal or recognised CCTV or television qualifications.

What may not be apparent to many in the security industry is that 85% of a modern, medium-to-large CCTV system is made up of IT technologies including the network and associated servers and other hardware. The cameras, lenses, camera mounts, camera housings and software such as the Video Management System (VMS) represent about 15% of the whole CCTV system. The rest is Information Technology (IT).

It is unfortunate that there are elements within the security industry who believe that CCTV should be the sole domain of security experts – with a security expert being anyone who falls within a broadly-defined group of people possessing a loosely-defined set of skills. Without wishing to sound off-handed, it is reasonable to say that just because one might be licensed to restrain an unruly offender, or know how to pick a lock, or screw an intrusion detector to a wall, it does not mean that person is qualified or competent enough to design and install a CCTV system. CCTV is a highly-specialised field. The effective design and installation of a CCTV system involves a great deal of understanding and knowledge of smart technologies, CCTV standards and design criteria — indeed, a greater understanding than many in the security industry would care to admit.

That said, not everyone in the security industry believes they can design and install a CCTV system just because they have a basic understanding of security principles. There are a growing number of security practitioners who understand that CCTV training and certification will not only provide them with the knowledge to do the job properly, but will also provide them with a career path, industry recognition and appropriate internationally-recognised qualifications. That said, it must also be noted that, until recently, properly-structured and recognised CCTV training and certification was largely non-existent.   This is slowly changing, however, and those requiring formal qualifications will soon be able to achieve them.

One might ask what this rant has to do with the security industry. In reality, a lot. CCTV, and most of the electronic security technologies used in the industry, are fast becoming IP–based, running on IT networks. Given that the IT industry is extremely professional, with very good training and certification programmes already in place, it may not be long before CCTV will be absorbed into its training syllabus if the security industry does not act quickly.

Since the late 1990s, IP (internet protocol) technology has been applied to many medium and large CCTV surveillance systems in Australia and, more recently, to some small systems. Networked video technology is becoming the solution of choice for CCTV systems. Wireless networks have also been used successfully.

Digital and IP technologies have made CCTV easier to integrate with other technologies, making it  a more operationally-responsive and effective tool. The transition from analogue to digital has improved the quality of both archived and retrieved CCTV images, as well as improving the speed at which images can be recalled from an archive. Furthermore, newer digital systems are less costly to repair, cost-effective across the board and, in some cases, capable of integrating into existing network infrastructure. The digital nature of the newer, IP-based systems make them much more scalable and flexible than traditional analogue systems. This means the size of an IP-based CCTV system is less restricted by the number of cameras, sites and control areas.

The user interface for an IP-based network CCTV system is typically more user-friendly and a new wave of CCTV equipment and software, which utilises open communications standards, is making it much easier to integrate non-proprietary equipment. This allows system designers to tailor solutions to the specific needs of the client rather than having to attempt to reconfigure a particular system to the needs of the job.

IP CCTV networks often include technologies such as intruder alarms, access control systems (including access card and/or manual door and gate controls), tamper alarms fitted to camera housings, equipment racks and cabinets and equipment failure alarms. These systems can also integrate with and manage a range of communication options such as panic alarms and communication, intercoms (including any-point-to-any-point, emergency or communications), public address systems, IP phones, laptops, PDAs, smart phones for response and control and many more.

Any proposed CCTV system should include a real, open-platform Video Management System (VMS) with IT network compatibility capable of including all current and future, security/CCTV equipment and technologies across all client sites.

The VMS should also include features that allow for tight control over local and third-party access to the system. The VMS server should include a DVD/CD recorder to download any required CCTV system video or stills, while the VMS and monitoring system should allow for the easily-targeted monitoring of any area or any individual’s activities, when required.

The VMS may also be a forensic-type CCTV system which operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The usual procedure is to store images for thirty days at eight images per second.

It is now accepted as a fairly-well-established fact that not only are digital systems the way forward for medium and large CCTV systems, but open platform, non-proprietary, IP-based systems are also the real future of CCTV.

Despite popular belief, IP systems are surprisingly affordable. This can be attributed to the fact that any initial higher costs for components can be counterbalanced by savings in installation and maintenance.

This article is not a how-to piece. It is not a step-by-step guide to designing, installing and maintaining a CCTV system. It is written, and should be interpreted as, a piece about the future direction of CCTV systems — for the reader to ponder and, hopefully respond to, in order to keep pace with the developments of both the CCTV and IT industries.

 

Les Simmonds is a fully-qualified broadcast television and radio professional and a graduate of RMIT and ABC TV Australia. Les has been involved in broadcast television engineering since 1959 and closed circuit television (CCTV) technologies since 1982, and he is considered to be one of the leading, innovative CCTV/IP consultants in Australia.Les is recognised as an industry leader. Services include innovative CCTV system design, CCTV testing and project management, including the creation of contracts that bind system installers to delivering to agreed outcomes.

Les Simmonds is Chairman of the Standards Australia Non-Broadcast Television Committee which has subcommittees for CCTV, medical video, industrial video, professional camcorders, consumer camcorders and non-broadcast video testing.More comprehensive information is available at: http://www.cctvconsultants.com.au/index.html.

Les Simmonds can be contacted by email: les@cctvconsultants.com.au

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