Emerging Technology (Enhancing, Engaging, Connecting)

Video Surveillance Systems

Video surveillance, primarily in the form of security cameras or closed circuit TV (CCTV), has been around for some time. But as is the case in many areas related to campus safety and security, video surveillance has seen a rapid evolutionary development. This is a result of several factors, led by greater functional needs as well as technological advancement.

Technological Evolution

Today’s video surveillance, defined comprehensively, has evolved in capability and efficiency. Many institutions are implementing newer systems. These newer systems are typically based on digital technology that is network-based and web-accessible. Current-generation video surveillance systems also have a number of different kinds of cameras that can be controlled remotely. Campus personnel who use these systems can monitor numerous cameras from single consoles, control the system and individual cameras on demand and access the system from anywhere over the Internet by laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Numerous types of cameras are available to support a variety of needs and capabilities. They are in the general categories of standard- or high-definition, and interior or exterior installation. Specific camera types include fixed, dome, covert, thermal/infrared/night vision and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ). Taken together, there is a camera for nearly every location and every need.

The cameras that enable video monitoring are best placed strategically, and this requires thoughtful planning based on well-defined goals. These include the promotion of safety, deterrence of crime, protection of property and assistance with investigations that could become necessary. Often locations are places where previous problems have occurred, as well as areas defined as at-risk.

Video surveillance can involve several operational procedures. Cameras can be monitored in real time, video streams can be stored digitally on servers while being viewed, or the recordings can simply be retrieved for viewing if an incident occurs or an investigation requires it. In the past, fake or dummy cameras were commonly used because they were thought to deter criminal activity. But questions arose concerning the false sense of security engendered by them, and criminals are often smarter than assumed.

Historically, security cameras could be implemented by nearly anyone acting individually. Today, effective video surveillance systems can only be achieved by professionals acting collaboratively. This collaboration must involve groups such as campus safety, student life, facilities and information technology. These systems involve advanced technologies that run on campus networks. IP cameras are network nodes that must be managed, and they can even be powered through power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology. All of this makes for far more capable and cost-effective systems.

Policy and Procedure

With the great advantages delivered by these systems come numerous challenges involving policy and strategy. Policy and procedure formulation is a fundamental requirement. With robust video surveillance capabilities have come challenges based on allegations concerning obtrusive invasion of personal privacy. The power of these systems much be balanced against public concerns and opportunities for misuse.

An important, recent development in the area of safety systems has been the synergistic integration of different systems with one another, including video surveillance systems with other technologies. Today, these integrations include access control, nextgeneration wireless networks, biometrics, GPS, mobile devices, access cards, proximity chips and smart building systems, among others. Companies such as Siemens, Interlogix, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Cisco, Axis Communications, Genetec, Amag Technology and Aruba Networks are not only working with partners to advance video surveillance technology, but also working toward advanced integrations of comprehensive security systems.

As a result of these advances, it is possible to use geolocating capabilities of advanced wireless networks to track the location and movements of individuals and wireless devices, to record their activities, and to build “big data” repositories of activities to enable multivariate analysis and predictive capabilities. To reiterate, with this technological power comes the requirement for careful policy development and compliance monitoring.

Video surveillance is a fast-growing and rapidly evolving field today. Video surveillance technology, particularly highly capable systems that are integrated with other robust security technologies, can play a central role in ensuring campus safety.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

David W. Dodd is vice president of Information Technology and CIO at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He can be reached at 201/216-5491 or david.dodd@stevens.edu.

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