Is CCTV at fault for Missing Airport Bomber?

By John Honovich, Published Aug 14, 2009, 08:00pm EDT

In July 2009, a guy with a fake bomb shut down a NYC airport. This caused massive delays and certainly millions in costs. This week, news come that the surveillance video either was no good or did not exist of the incident [link no longer available]. Of course, this resulted in criticisms of the airport and the value of surveillance systems.

Such criticisms miss the reality of specifying and deploying systems in airports. For instance:

While megapixel cameras would certainly help cover the large areas within airports, deploying new systems takes years. These are huge projects that are usually only done every 7 - 10 years, and as such, tend to reflect technology from years ago.

While critics mentioned that they could only see the tops of people's heads, this is less a design flaw than a reality of the layouts of airports. In an large area with lots of people gathered, cameras have to be put high and at a downward angle. Otherwise, people near the front of the camera would obstruct everyone else. Unless a technology is developed to see through people, placing cameras high in crowded large areas is the best available approach.

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