Digital CCTV--An Easy Fix, But an Intrusive Option?
August 01, 2002

By Staff
Appeared in Consulting-Specifying Engineer

As the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon approaches, it's ironic that security upgrades have seemingly been pushed to the back of many building owners' "to do" lists. In assembling our annual "Giants" survey (p. 28), one of the questions we asked the more than 125 respondents was what significant items their clients asked for in the wake of 9/11. Some indicated clients engaged them to secure areas where they might be vulnerable. For work still in the design phase, some noted that distinct steps were being taken to secure HVAC and ventilation systems, particularly the location of air intakes. Others have seen some work in adding access control, alarms and monitoring, while others yet were commissioned to develop a plan for business continuity and disaster preparedness. What was surprising, however, was that most respondents noted no significant changes. "We have not seen a sea change," says New York-based Syska Hennessy Group Chairman John Hennessy. "If anything, it's the desire to make sure they're taking the appropriate steps."

Terry Gillick, vice president of Syska Hennessy Group's OnlinEnvironments division, specializes in designing failsafe security systems. He says the bottom line is that cost cutting, as a result of the faltering economy, has left little money for equipment upgrades.

Just a plan not such a bad thing
Still, Gillick claims security-conscious, but financially strapped companies can start an overall security upgrade by implementing policies and procedures. "A thorough threat assessment is the first step in protecting people and property against unforeseen threats," the expert explains.

But for those who may have some funds in their capital budgets, one relatively inexpensive technology upgrade is to go digital with closed-circuit television systems. The solution, he says, simply involves adding digital video recorders. "There's no need to change cameras, monitors or cables, and the power supply is already in place," explains Gillick.

One major benefit, he adds, is that archives, stored on compact discs instead of videotape, can be quickly searched.

For those clients actually in an equipment upgrade mode, digital CCTV could prove an easy sell. It already is, according to a recent study by the Frost & Sullivan research group. With technological advancements such as facial recognition, digital video and intelligent video software, "CCTV has become a more attractive solution than any other security application," claims the report, specifically conducted by the researcher's World CCTV-Based Applications Markets division.

CCTV, in general, according to the company's survey of the security industry, is at the forefront of a growing market. "Surveillance of important facilities around the world has increased, and CCTV applications are the most highly utilized," says Deepak Shetty, Frost & Sullivan's security industry analyst.

The industry, says the study, generated worldwide revenues exceeding $4 billion in 2001--a number projected to rise to nearly $11 billion by 2008.

Negative perception
Clearly, such numbers suggest security is on many facility owners' minds, but CCTV's role, despite impressive numbers, continues to be scrutinized. "Though the incidents of Sept. 11 have increased the awareness level of CCTV, it is still a disturbing notion to much of the public," says Shetty.

Indeed, the Frost & Sullivan study notes that some privacy advocates feel the innovations offered with digital CCTV encroach upon civil liberties. Facial recognition technology at the Super Bowl, for example, raised strong opposition. Shetty advices such concerns, even if based on misconceptions, should not be dismissed. "Industry participants must implement large-scale educational campaigns to inform the public about the actual uses and operation of these systems."

Gillick, however, cautions that strategic plans should not be overlooked. "The bottom line is that business continuity plans go hand-in-hand with security system upgrades," he says.