CCTV stands for closed-circuit television and was first used in World War 2 when some German scientists created a camera inside a box so that they could safely observe A4 rocket launches.
More than 75 years since they were created, CCTV cameras are still mainly used to record footage for the purposes of surveillance and crime detection. The world has changed massively since then with technological leaps like the internet and smartphones, but not that much has changed in terms of CCTV utility and architecture. The vast majority of cameras today are used to record footage that then has to be analysed by humans if an incident occurs. This is a very slow process, it’s also costly and requires human time, attention and huge amounts of data storage.
Recent developments in machine learning and camera quality mean that this is all likely to change soon. Instead of reacting to events retrospectively, we expect hardware and software to soon be capable of automatically detecting and notifying people of incidents and important events happening within the camera’s range.
Let’s have a look at the most significant advancements in the transformation process of CCTV and see what’s in store for the near future.
• The first analog systems
The first documented CCTV camera to ever exist was in 1942. It wasn’t able to record and store data, so it required monitoring constantly.
• VCR analog cameras
VCR (videocassette recorders) were widely rolled out in the 1970s. Images were stored in 8 hour long tapes and had to be manually replaced.
• Hybrid systems: DVR analog cameras
In the mid 90’s the DVR (digital video recording) came about. This system digitized and compressed the video, storing the information in a hard disk.
• Network based DVR
Later DVRs were fitted with an Ethernet port for network connectivity. This allowed videos to be monitored remotely using computers.
• Video encoders
Video encoders (or video servers) were the next big step in the technology. The most important modernisation 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 has no analog component. This has significantly simplified the installation and maintenance of the system. It now has computer power built in, allowing for the use of preinstalled applications in the camera. These systems can synchronize with other devices.
The future of CCTV
The CCTV industry has experienced some changes over the years, but drastic improvements are just around the corner. To this day, surveillance cameras require a human security operator to view the footage and determine appropriate actions. This should be rapidly automated, especially in larger areas where the sheer volume of footage means it is impossible to be 100% observed. 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. It would save massively on costs, but also significantly increase the chances of us preventing incidents from taking place. In some cases, this would save lives. Real time analytics could also be utilised in a variety of other sectors like healthcare, education and retail.