When it’s not rude to stare

The next time you’re strolling down your local high street, don’t forget to look up and smile. Because the chances are a CCTV camera is watching your every move.

There are literally millions of security cameras dotted around the UK supposedly seeking out crime. The success rate tells a different story though and results aren’t convincing. With individual operators given the task of
watching a huge bank of screens even the most enthusiastic of operators must still shut off and miss most of what’s going on.

So where do we go? Step forward Video Intelligence.

Video Intelligence uses software to compare images with pictures of the same empty space. It searches for clusters of individual pixels that don’t change over time or ones that change very quickly. Systems like this are already at home in some American cities and have proven their worth by spotting acts of vandalism, graffiti, prostitution etc. It’s even capable of spotting people wanting to end it all by throwing themselves under a train.

And the latest big city to go camera crazy is New York, where an incredible 3,000 cameras watch over the streets.

You won’t be surprised to find that new software is always being mulled over, with systems like face recognition making their way off the conveyer belt. Anything that helps identify suspects gets a tick from us.

The only downside is the invasion of privacy issue. So in response to our right to remain anonymous, new software has solved the problem by blurring faces. But be warned. Act suspiciously and your face will be revealed – warts and all.

Other developments in video surveillance technology are here:

You could be improving security or developing video intelligence as:

  • computer programmer writing image analysis software to recognise suspicious behaviour or to pick out and obscure faces
  • security guard operating new technology
  • An electronics engineer designing security cameras that incorporate analysis software, so they can operate alone, without needing to be connected to a computer
  • An electronic engineering technician installing and maintaining networks of cameras
  • sales representative selling analytical surveillance software to governments and companies
  • An occupational psychologist analysing the concentration of security guards watching video footage, to calculate how many screens they can reliably monitor
  • forensic psychologist analysing what constitutes suspicious or criminal behaviour in the street
  • police officer responsible for security, choosing whether to invest in an intelligent video system
  • A technology writer publishing articles about the latest developments in surveillance technology