CCTV (or closed-circuit television) was first used in World War 2 when German scientists created a camera inside a box to safely observe the launches of A4 rockets.
It’s been more than 75 years since it’s first inception, yet CCTV cameras are still primarily used to record footage for surveillance and crime detention. Although the world has changed significantly since then with innovations like the internet and smartphones, not that much has changed in terms of CCTV architecture and utility. Almost all cameras today are used to record footage that has to be later analyzed by humans if something happens. Not only is this process very slow, but it’s also costly, as it requires human attention and massive amounts of data storage.
Considering recent developments in machine learning and camera quality, a lot will change soon. Instead of reacting to events after they have occurred, we expect hardware and software capabilities to reach a point where cameras automatically detect and notify people about incidents and important events happening within their range.
In this article we will briefly outline the most significant advancements in its transformation process and see what’s in store for the near future.
The first analog systems
The first documented CCTV camera to ever exist dates from 1942. Since it wasn’t able to record and store data, it required constant monitoring.
VCR analog cameras
VCR (videocassette recorders) were widely implemented in the 1970s. Images were stored in tapes that lasted for about 8 hours of recording and had to be manually replaced.
Hybrid systems: DVR analog cameras
In the mid 90’s the DVR (digital video recording) was introduced. This system digitized and compressed the video, storing information in a hard disk.
Network based DVR
Later on, DVRs were equipped with an Ethernet port for network connectivity. This allowed for remote video monitoring using a computer.
Video encoders (also called video servers) were the next big step in the technology. The most important innovation is that with this system the video management is operated through the software installed in a computer.
Fully digital IP cameras
This system is fully digital and doesn’t include any analog component. That has significantly simplified the installation and maintenance of the system. It has computer power built in, allowing for the use of preinstalled applications in the camera, and they can synchronize with other devices.
Ongoing development and innovation: the future of CCTV
Although the CCTV industry has experienced changes over the years, drastic improvements are just around the corner. Even to this day, surveillance cameras need a security operator to overview the footage and determine actions based on what they see. This needs to be rapidly automated, especially for larger areas where the sheer volume of footage and objects is impossible to be 100% observed by humans. In terms of security, automation would allow us to act on incidents happening in real time as opposed to using the footage for investigative functions. Not only would that save on costs, but it significantly increases the chances for us to save lives. Real time analytics could also be utilized in a variety of other sectors like healthcare,education and retail.
We expect to see massive leaps in automation and CCTV capabilities with the integration of several technologies:
Improved resolution and field of view - The most advanced cameras in the market will soon be equipped with sensors capable of capturing high quality images with a very wide field of view (360). This will benefit security as it allows for greater detail capturing. Even in very busy locations, high resolution imagery would improve face and object recognition.
Artificial Intelligence and 3D motion detection - By equipping these cameras with self-learning software, they will be able to analyse large data sets and learn behavioral patterns. Although motion detection itself is nothing new, 3D motion detection is the next iteration of this technology and drastically improves it’s capabilities. By using machine vision and motion detection, they will be able to identify and track people and objects. This built-in intelligence gives them the ability to understand what happens around them and focus on important events, having a dynamic field of view. When these cameras identify a suspicious activity or a breach in a learnt protocol they will send real-time alerts so a human can take further action. This is already being tested across various sectors and has massive implications. Imagine systems who are able to recognize shoplifters and send alerts to shopkeepers, or in prisons where guards can receive immediate signals about dangerous inmate activity.
The innovations happening in CCTV systems are going to completely reshape the way we view and use security cameras. AI will slowly take over the most tedious tasks and act as an assistant that will pass on all the important information to the relevant person.
There are many exciting products and solutions being developed for a variety of use cases. These cameras aren’t just a security tool. They can be designed to assist a variety of business use cases and be a valuable tool in sectors, such as hospitals, banks, offices, transport…the possibilities are endless.