Wireless IP CCTV: When will the Public Sector learn?

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Wireless IP CCTV: When will the Public Sector learn?

The UK has more CCTV cameras per capita than any other European country, and CCTV in the public space has developed at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. In conjunction with this increase, CCTV technologies have changed and continue to evolve rapidly. The transition from analogue to IP CCTV has been difficult for the security industry to communicate to end users, something which is demonstrated by the slow uptake of IP (or network) based security systems. This has been further complicated by some security companies which haven’t been entirely straightforward about whether their CCTV systems are either analogue or IP based, referring to both as homogenous systems, which can operate on networks. Ultimately, this is a considerable challenge for the public sector and they often rely on informed civil servants or consultants to help them make these choices. If you combine how poorly we articulate this difference, with the budget cuts required of the public sector, then do we have the perfect storm which prevents the public sector making substantial savings in this area?

To further complicate these issues, the way the Public Sector buys security services and systems builds in the likelihood that the migration from analogue to IP CCTV will not be smooth or even happen at all. The overwhelming majority of large security companies are often the slowest to change, adopt new technologies and approaches to support this sector with migration and to help them make cashable savings. However, they are usually a safer bet with the public sector, with a strong record of delivering these projects in the public space. But is a good record a clear indication whether a company could leverage emerging technologies to save money?

Leased lines

One of the key areas, where large savings can be made is leased lines. For example, most CCTV cameras in town centres are located near cabinets and possibly not in the most advantageous position for surveillance. In addition, Local Authorities often sign long term contracts with telecoms companies to deliver surveillance to monitoring stations, which can be as long as three years and as we know that is a long time in the technology sector. In contrast, some small security companies have seized upon the transition from analogue to IP, often marketing this USP to end users by demonstrating the features and benefits of this cutting edge technology. Also, to compete with larger companies, who often have the commercial advantage, small companies are often working harder to deliver systems which improve provision and drive down costs. Invariably, this approach has served to level the playing field and give the Public Sector choice in the market.

Wireless networks

For example, the reasoning for reducing dependency on leased lines or removing them completely from our system design is overwhelming. Wireless Point to Point bridging equipment has drastically reduced in price, while performance has increased significantly to 99.9% uptime. This means for a one off cost, the footage from CCTV cameras can be relayed (either by point to point or via mesh network) ‘free-to-air’ to monitoring stations. Additionally, with advancements in compression techniques (like H.264 and more recently H.265) means that high definition surveillance can be streamed over the wireless network without affecting bandwidth. Also, if the monitoring station is a significant distance from the wireless camera network, then multiple cameras can be relayed to a single leased line and then streamed to the monitoring centre.

Saving money

For many town centres, there is one leased line per camera and over 3 years this cost can be substantial to the public purse. In this way, reducing the dependency on leased lines can deliver savings, while improving both the infrastructure and quality of the surveillance. In addition, wireless IP cameras can deliver better image quality and higher resolution than analogue cameras and they include built-in features such as motion detection, audio detection, active tampering alarm and advanced analytics. Also, edge storage allows a wireless camera to record video directly to an SD/SDHC card, creating a more robust, reliable and flexible system. The cameras can record video locally if the wireless network is not available, or continuously record at the same time.

Also, wireless IP CCTV systems can be easily changed or adapted, to move cameras anywhere (with available power) where they are required, providing much needed flexibility to meet the demands of surveillance in the night time economy. To overcome some of these challenges, the security sector needs to really work on improving how we explain these technologies to end users and more specifically the public sector. It would be lazy to just blame those professionals in procurement with ‘buying the wrong thing’ or writing tenders which block SMEs from competing with larger companies.

Better communication 

We need to get better at engaging with the Public Sector, working in partnership to ensure they are informed about what is possible or how they can get best value using the latest technologies. So when will the public sector learn? When we are clearer about what technology can do and then how it can help them save money.