Friend or Foe?

The world’s first closed-circuit security cameras have the unfortunate distinction of helping to bomb London during World War Two. Walter Bruch was a German scientist and engineer who created the cameras used in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Just a few years later, Bruch’s expertise was used to create closed-circuit cameras for the German military’s V-2 program.

The V-2 was a ground-based rocket used to attack London. Walter Bruch’s closed-circuit cameras allowed German officers to observe the launch from a safe and remote location, which in turn helped them learn how to optimize future V-2 launches. Without this new technology, the German war machine would not have been as effective in it’s bombing raids of Western Europe.

It is deeply regrettable that surveillance cameras were originally used for such a nefarious purpose. Fast forward years later and that same technology is used today to protect property instead of destroy it.

Recording equipment makes security cameras viable for law enforcement and big businesses

Until the late 1960s, the biggest problem with security cameras was the inability to reliably and affordably record their footage for future playback. This meant that security cameras were almost exclusively used by the U.S. military to watch dangerous events – such as nuclear testing – live from a safe location.

The development and proliferation of the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) in the 1960s helped solve the recording problem. In 1968, Olean, a small town in western New York, installed the first security cameras on public streets to deter crime. By 1973, the New York City Police Department had installed cameras in what was then one of the highest crime areas of the city, Times Square. As the years went on, security cameras were used in an increasing number of cities across the country. In addition, some high-risk businesses, such as banks, started using security cameras inside their buildings to help deter criminals, or at the very least make it easier to identify criminals later.

Digital innovations make security cameras more efficient

Until the 1990s, one of the biggest issues that prevented widespread use of security cameras was the sheer amount of stored data that was required for 24/7 recording. While law enforcement and large companies could sometimes afford the storage costs of all that data, the costs were often prohibitive for small businesses and homeowners. To give you an idea of how daunting it was, Las Vegas casinos regularly employed personnel for the sole purpose of changing video tapes for hundreds of cameras placed throughout the betting areas. Starting at one end of the dedicated security room, walls of VCR’s from head to toe had to have each tape rewound, replaced with a fresh one and set aside for storage. This procedure was repeated continuously over a 24 hour period and the tapes were stored for the next 30 days. Fortunately, a number of recording technologies were developed during the 1990s that significantly reduced the cost of security cameras for everyday users.

Multiplexing – Multiplexing is a technology that allows multiple streams of data to occupy one channel by interlacing an individual frame side by side with other cameras. In plain English, this means that information from multiple cameras could be stored as a single recording on a tape or hard drive. Instead of having 9 separate videos, you could have one video with 9 video feeds. If you’re still confused, just think of the opening theme to The Brady Bunch.

Motion sensors – Recording 24/7 is expensive, wasteful and boring in that the vast majority of time there is absolutely nothing to record! Imagine that rear door that should never be used except in an emergency. If no one approaches the door, why record it? Incorporating smart technology, motion sensing software allows security cameras to use a fraction of the space by only recording when there is action in front of the camera. Most Digitial Video Recorders (DVR’s) are set to archive 5 to 10 seconds before AND after it sees motion in the area to give a consistent view.

Time lapse – If you’ve ever seen a video of a flower growing in under two minutes, you are familiar with time lapse videography. Time lapse recording takes a snapshot in regular intervals, and condenses the images into a video stream. A 24 hour day can be reduced to a few minutes, while still providing details about who is coming and going.

Hard drives – The dramatic reduction in hard drive storage costs has contributed to the viability of security cameras as well. In 2000, a Gigabyte of data was about $11.00/Gig. In 2013, that number has been reduced to about $0.05! And now with the Cloud, events can be viewed from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.

Communication — Live versus archived video. Just as the first German militia used the live video to ascertain how to better their launch program, our customers are able to view live or archived video at their desktop, tablet or on their smartphone at the touch of a button. Using a simple App to look in on the front lobby, kids playing in the backyard pool or prior to answering the front door, video security is here to stay for the betterment of mankind.

Be sure to check out next month’s series, when we will discuss the 2014 International Security Conference and some of the exciting new security technologies on the market!

For more information about how Mijac Alarm can help you install security cameras for your home or business, or to learn about the other security services we offer, visit the main Mijac Alarm website by clicking here, or call us at (909)982-7612

Written by Ian Eckstein and Steve Sopkin

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