The World's Most Demanding Surveillance Requirements

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Apr 01, 2013

Qatar, the world's wealthiest country, is known for its opulence and may soon be for its mandatory first-rate surveillance systems. While many countries struggle with low quality, antiquated systems, Qatar seems intent on making every business in the country have world class surveillance. Indeed, recently, the government took control of specifications.

In this post, we review the details and share experiences from an integrator with first-hand experience working under the country's new laws. 

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Comments (19)

"It looks strong enough" is the best reason I've ever heard for accepting a piece of equipment. If that's not highly technical, objective specmanship, I don't know what is!

Axis have a free cruise out of Qatar last year for the politicians?

Qatar government can buy all the cruise line, so there's no need for that, LOL! It will be nice to follow on their city surveillance specs

Somehow I doubt that a free Carnival cruise ticket will have much impact on the Qatari royals :)

But that said, this is certainly Axis' dream requirement (well except for no P iris requirement, they need to get that into the next version :)

The increased security measures in Qatar and the demand for clear identication and long term storage is the rationale behind their new video requirements. Not to forget the fact that more than 150 security integrators where asked to hold their business activities due to their inability or poor qualification to deploy high end professional video solutions.

"Systems must be secure with "the latest" encryption without impacting video quality" - Do they want the Camera to server/recorder link secured to? Which cameras over SSL or proprietary encryption protocols.

Actually this would not be a bad idea - if implemented via SSL then it can be interoperable between brands - it would be another reason to go IP vs HD-SDI.

Undisclosed manufacturer, while these requirements certainly will improve image quality and reduce poor quality integrators, hasn't Qatar gone to the other extreme? I can understand that, as people who sell surveillance, why this would be celebrated but as businesses, this is essentially a unnecessary tax. It's the equivalent of everyone being required to use MacBook Pros. They might be 'better' but at a radical increase in cost.

Carlton, thanks for this excellent summary and commentary.

This is a very interesting situation. In security, it has long been held that one needs to make one's protected assets harder to attack than other similarly attractive assets, so that the attacker will select a different target. What happens when all targets become harder targets? This is an unusual case of an entire small country being "hardened", on that is mostly surrounded by water.

High detection and recognition capability plus forensic quality evidence capture are significant things. Not guraranteed except by design and implementation, of course, but much more likely given the mandate for capable equipment and systems.

Additionally, the requirement for IP video and "no-coax" means that network infrastructure will be in place that can easily support access control, intrusion, communications and other security and business networked technologies. So the networked systems benefits should go beyond the scope of video.

I don't have enough in-depth knowledge of the country and the area to make any opinions about freedom and privacy vs. Big Brother. This will certainly be a topic of interest for quite a time to come, from both technical and social perspectives.

Ray, All, Am I alone in thinking that this is radically overkill? How much safer does this make Qatar at what cost?

I'm sure you are not alone in that thinking. Overkill was my first thought, but then I had a second one, because I have a number of clients whose successful approach to QoS on the network is overprovisioning.

I was thinking that Qatar's initiative could be more akin to that as a means to assure high quality and capability for video surveillance.

How bad could things get over there? I don't know. But if they could get "very bad", at the very point where threats have scaled up to warrant this level of widespread tech deployment, it will be way too late to get things in place.

Given the wealth of the nation and its general level of prosperity compared to others, this may not be overburdensome regulation.

The NFPA is working here in the U.S. to make its security system standards published as code, with the intention of having municipailities and other authorities adopting the code as law. "enabling enforcement" is a term used in their statements about the initiative. Insurance companies have been the principal driver, intending to reduce loss claims.

I've seen enough bad security systems that I can't completely oppose such measures. The question always is: Will the intended results be achieved with minimal unintended bad consequences?

Certainly the prevelance of video surviellance will have some deterrent effect. How much safer will people be? Time will tell.

It would be interesting to review the analysis that led to this initiative. Of course, if such an analysis exists it most likely would be highly confidential.

One point on this theory:

"In security, it has long been held that one needs to make one's protected assets harder to attack than other similarly attractive assets, so that the attacker will select a different target. What happens when all targets become harder targets?"

I think this is one of the most over-applied theories in the industry. It has a proven answer, though don't ask me for supporting information, because I have no time to go find it :) --

Two things happen:

  • Targets become hardened to the point where the majority of low-technology criminals just don't bother. Though a lot of folks would tell you otherwise, this is actually what happens in a lot of city surveillance systems. The crime moves, to a point, but once targets are outside of easy range (whatever that may mean), it just decreases. There are lots of places where no increase or minimal increase in crime is reported in surrounded, non-surveilled areas, and certainly not a proportional increase in crime.
  • When everything is hardened, and the target is valuable enough, sophisticated attackers adapt. This is the sad truth: some criminals you just won't stop. At least not within reasonable budgets.

So what will happen in Qatar? I'm guessing exactly the above. Small time crooks will find the opportunity cost too high, or they'll try and fail. The Oceans 11/12/13/14 crews will still find ways to penetrate.

I'm not going to comment on the cost vs. benefit of these specs at the moment, though. I have no idea what it's like in Qatar now, though I thought not very bad, so it would be a pretty uninformed response!

Ray, I am not opposed to minimum standards for security systems but what do you pick as minimum? Do you outlaw analog cameras like Qatar has done? It seems too far.

I am another person who likes the idea of minimum standards, but this is just overkill. 120 days of recordings? Everything vandal and Ik10 for everything? Seems very extreme, I feel bad for all those people who already have working systems. At the very least the government could have grandfathered older installs.

If you grandfather existing installs, the minimum mandates are pointless - especially if there are already large numbers of existing installs.

With their wealth, if they want to make the sweeping mandate, they should also provide a scaled platform of reimbursements to existing surveillance users. i.e. if you installed it the day before the mandate takes effect, you get most of your cash back. If your stuff is 320TVL crap you've had for 5 years you get nothing. Everything between is scaled.

Ethan, I know of an airport that upgraded security in the baggage claim area because of an increase in baggage theft. The criminals moved to the nearby hotels and started working there. When they improved security at the hotels, they tried again at the airport. It was the same metro police working both locations back and forth (hotel strip and airport), and finally the thieves moved off to other territory.

The "common criminal" element left both locations, but the high-end thieves (much less frequent) upped their game or left.

The results of the seucirty efforts of course were acceptable to the airport and the hotels.

John, Daniel amd Marty - I have heard stories of installations in India and other Middle East locations where a lot of money was spent on what we would consider outdated equipment. The worst cases were characterized as "legacy product dumping". In India it is common for the sale to be made directly to the customer, who then engages an installer after the fact of purchase. This has often been done with no security design plan to guide things. The criticisms were about (a) overpricing of the outdated technology and (b) insufficient address to actual security needs.

How much of this is an element of the situation in Qatar? I have no idea.

We're looking at requirements that are a mix of functional and technical. To have miminum standards and a grandfathering program, a selectoin of functional standards would have to be utilized, and maybe some additional functional standards implemented. Perhaps with an age limit to the installation, like what Marty was describing, grandfathering could work--even without rebates if the age line was drawn appropriately.

In the U.S. the approach most widely used for security regulations has been to require a site security plan that covers people and process as well as technology. Most facilities I have worked with don't need to rip and replace whole systems, just upgrade. In some cases existing systems have been fine.

I haven't had the time to read the entirety of the Qatar spec docs, but many of the specifications items are general enough that they wouldn't negatively constrain an appropriate design. The situation could still come out alright if common sense prevails, which is not usually the case. But then setting the bar this high for security requirements is not the usual case, and neither is the country's overall financial status.

We're stating opinions and making assumptions with practically no Qatar-specific knowledge to back us up. Dangerous territory unless you are just talking in a discussion forum, as we are.

Hello. One thing to clarify here. I am from Qatar and I am an integrator. MOI bans analog cameras for projects under its scope, which is 90% of commercial projects. However they will not ban a homeowner for buying analog for his personal use, from consumer places like Carrefour. Only commercial projects like the buildings specified in the six specs above fall under MoI scope. Iqf you notice, private villas are not mentioned in the specs - only compounds of villas for the sake of monitoring compound premises. The side effect though is that it means homeowners who are insisting on analog (if there is such a person) need to import cameras if they want analog, because we integrators wont stock it, and Qatar's consumer market is not active in cctv at all like how Costco is in the US. WILL a costco type store here begin stocking analog for homeowners? No one has so far. And if someone does, who know how risky such a business activity is...what if MoI extends the laws to home use also. Thats why I dont see anyone stocking analog here just for the small non-MoI market, time will show though

Undisclosed Integrator, Thank you for providing these insights.

This reminds me of how some coutries who were lacking in telecommunications infrastructure began their major infrastructure initiatives with cellular technology rather than wired infrastructure. It was faster and less costly, and so they skipped a generation of legacy technology and went directly to current-day tech.

It is going to be interesting, and probably enlightening, to see how all this unfolds for Qatar.

A perfect storm of huge amounts of money to burn, an un-democratic government, and concerns about civil unrest in the middle east. Is anyone really that surprised? Come on. Sorry I got a little polictical, but the question of "Is it overkill" has answers with deep polictical motivations. Sometimes I think we really miss the polictical aspects when I hear conversations about surveillance and other security measuresd in places like China, Russia, and the Middle East.

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