Problems in Designing Public Surveillance Systems

By: John Honovich, Published on Sep 02, 2009

A CNN video segment [link no longer available] demonstrates critical problems in how governments and integrators design and set expectations for public video surveillance systems.

In the segment, the overall tone is negative and critical. The focus is how terrorist attempts continue despite the installation of over 100 cameras inside Baghdad.

This is absurd. Any video surveillance that covers a city cannot possibly be used to prevent or stop terrorism.

Watch the video and see the example of the truck exploding in the middle of a road. There's not even anything that a human can conclusively determine is a threat. If a human cannot categorize it, there's no change for a video analytic system. And even if the operators identify lots of vehicles as suspicious, the key is still in positioning and dispatching responders in the field to get to the vehicle before it explodes (and even then if its a suicide bomber, the bomber is likely to explode the vehicle even if intercepted).

The key focus and significant value that the system provides is in reducing the time to respond. Reducing response time saves lives and in incidents where the attacker lives, helps the authorities find and track the suspect.

This should be the focus. If so, public perception would improve and the value of the system would still remain.

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