How surveillance cameras facilitate a smarter and safer world

Axis Communications Pty Ltd

By Mats Thulin*
Monday, 22 April, 2024

How surveillance cameras facilitate a smarter and safer world

The proliferation of urbanisation and population growth has increased the demand for effective monitoring and management of public spaces, transportation systems and critical infrastructure. As cities grow, public spaces such as parks, squares and pedestrian areas become hubs of social activity and commerce, necessitating measures to ensure safety and order. Moreover, population growth can place significant pressure on the environment, exacerbating environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change.

With Australia’s population projected to grow by 4 million to reach approximately 30 million people by 2032, the need to ensure public safety, effective city operations and sustainable development becomes even more pressing. Luckily, there are several ways that advances in surveillance technology can help to prevent crime, keep citizens safe and minimise environmental damage.

How surveillance cameras can prevent crimes, detect threats and improve emergency responses

The population concentration in urban areas can increase the risks of criminal activity, as well as the possibility that incidents and emergencies will endanger large numbers of people. In previous years, surveillance cameras were typically used to deter criminal activities such as vandalism, theft and assault. However, advances in surveillance technology mean criminal activities can be managed proactively, rather than simply post-incident investigation. By deploying surveillance cameras strategically, city authorities can not only deter unlawful behaviour, but also detect potential threats and respond swiftly to emergencies, thereby enhancing overall security and public safety.

Rather than relying purely on manual monitoring, increasingly intelligent video analytics can monitor multiple video streams, spotting anomalies, unusual patterns, specific objects or suspicious behaviour and quickly bring an operator’s attention to the scene. Intervention can then be triggered through emergency services or via audio speakers onsite, either warning criminals that they’re being watched or offering assistance, advice and guidance to bystanders. Such rapid reaction can stop a crime before it is committed, prevent the escalation of an incident, help to evacuate a specific area or provide direct assistance before emergency services arrive.

The role of surveillance in enhancing sustainability

Beyond security use cases, surveillance cameras can facilitate operational efficiency, sustainability and data-driven decision-making in smart cities. Video surveillance, coupled with video analytics and IoT sensors, can be used to monitor traffic flow, air pollution, noise levels and vibrations. With this information, city authorities can plan ahead and make decisions to prevent congestion and optimise transportation routes, thereby minimising pollution. To be clear, reduced congestion means vehicles can move more freely, leading to smoother traffic flow, reduced idling time and lower emissions per vehicle.

Video surveillance and video analytics can be also used to help reduce carbon emissions across industries such as retail, manufacturing and transportation. Over half of Australian consumers consider sustainability an extremely or slightly important decision-making factor for purchases, compelling businesses to increase efficiency and minimise their environmental impact.

Keep in mind there is a societal expectation that sustainability initiatives cover all areas of an organisation, including its operations and suppliers. This highlights the importance of choosing a surveillance partner that is aligned with sustainability values. An environmentally sustainable surveillance partner will ensure that all manufacturing, distribution, installation, management and use of their products and solutions are sustainable and responsible.

Privacy protection in relation to surveillance

While surveillance technology has a vital security role, it’s important that any surveillance technologies used do not contribute to the violation of human rights or personal privacy. Without adequate safeguards, surveillance systems risk intruding into private spaces and capturing sensitive information, leading to potential violations of privacy laws and ethical principles.

To mitigate privacy concerns, organisations must adhere to regulations laid out in the Australian Privacy Act 1988 and choose surveillance technologies that help prevent the unauthorised collection of identifiable personal data. For example, cameras with static privacy masking can help organisations remain compliant when using surveillance at scenes with fixed areas that aren’t allowed to be monitored. Static privacy masking shows the selected area in very low resolution or with an opaque mask, allowing for observation of activity in the masked area without revealing personally identifiable details.

There are also AI-based methods for masking humans, faces and registration plates in near-range indoor or outdoor scenes. Otherwise, thermal cameras may be preferable for use cases with high privacy requirements. The type of surveillance used should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Facilitating a smarter and safer world

As Australia’s population continues to grow, surveillance technologies will be crucial to minimise crime, enhance smart city operations and revolutionise sustainability. Data aggregated from video surveillance, video analytics and IoT sensors will alert city authorities to any criminal, operational and environmental events, enabling swift and effective responses. And advances in surveillance technology mean all this can be achieved without encroaching on the privacy of citizens.

All this is to say that surveillance technologies have come a long way and can now play a critical role in helping to create a smarter, safer world.

*Mats Thulin is Director Core Technologies at Axis Communications. In his current role he is responsible for several teams in the Axis Core technology development department, developing a technology base for future products in the areas of video analytics, media and security. In this position he is active in forming the Axis long-term agenda in relation to video analytics and AI.

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