Govt Tool Automates Surveillance Requirements

By John Honovich, Published Nov 06, 2013, 12:00am EST

What if an online tool could generate specific recommendations on meeting high quality surveillance requirements? This is the objective of a recent tool from the US Government's Department of Commerce. In this note, we review the tool, demoing it in a video screencast and explaining its strengths and weaknesses.


The "Recommendations Tool for Video Requirements" was developed by the Public Safety Communications Research laboratory.

The user answers a series of 7 questions on topics like on usage, discrimination level, target size, motion, lighting level and storage. The tool then generates a series of recommendations for the right camera types and bitrates.

Our video shows it in action and breaks down the tool:

Well Meaning But Deeply Flawed

Clearly this tool has noble intentions, and if it worked, would help security users tremendously. Unfortunately, the questions overlook fundamental drivers of surveillance (like how wide and how dark the scene is specifically, to start). Indeed, even a PPF calculator would likely have more practical value (though still obviously limited in its own right).

The challenge is that there are so many factors, not least of which is the wide variance in product performance (within categories) and product options (just in low light, you have d/n, super low light, integrated IR, external IR and thermal), that any calculator reduced to a few basic questions will be hard pressed to recommend optimal solutions.

It is unfortunate because the government could be a useful provider of fundamental information but struggles to provide even useful basic recommendations.

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