CCTV systems is an acronym for closed-circuit television systems. Video cameras transmit signals to a particular location using a limited set of monitors. In other words, they transmit on a closed circuit. This is unlike a broadcast television system which transmits on an open circuit to limitless monitors.
Modern technology has seen a huge improvement in CCTV equipment. The original cameras were crude and conspicuous in appearance, producing poor quality, low-definition, black and white images. Also, their usefulness was limited by an inability to pan and zoom. However, technological advances mean that today’s cameras are small and discreet, filming in high-definition full colour, with an ability to focus on minute detail. In addition, they can be linked to computers to track objects semi-automatically.
But despite all this wizardry, they are still subject to criminal damage, such as spray painting over the lens, or being shot at. Some cities in the United Kingdom use bullet-proof casing to counter the latter problem. CCTV camera can also be blinded or damaged by lasers pointed at the lens, and it has been reported that broadcasting a wireless signal of the same frequency as the CCTV network can jam it and put it out of action, at least temporarily.
The CCTV systems is vast and growing rapidly. They are now used by everyone from the private citizen, through private companies, to local authorities and governments. Individual citizens use them to monitor and protect their homes and families. While they are at work and the property unattended, or at home watching TV, they can keep track of any legitimate callers as well as the movement of any uninvited visitors within the grounds of the property.
Local authorities and governments use them in cities for crime prevention. However, there is scant evidence to indicate that they are successful in doing this. A United Kingdom police chiefs ‘ report in 2008 said that only three
percent of crimes were solved by CCTV.
The cameras are also widely utilized for traffic monitoring, both in cities and on motorways or highways. They can detect congestion and spot accidents, thereby enabling the authorities to take action. It is also possible for such information to be transmitted to drivers’ GPS systems, enabling them to avoid upcoming situations.
Public transport uses the cameras to improve passenger security and safety. It is now very common to see CCTV being used to monitor railway stations where there are few or no staff to call on.
In industry, they are commonly used in industrial processes. For example, the chemical industry makes use of such cameras to supervise areas which are too dangerous for human beings.
On a negative note, it is not unknown for criminals to hide tiny cameras by ATMs, or automated teller machines, to capture the PINs, or personal identification numbers, of customers without their knowledge. These numbers are then transmitted wirelessly to the criminal for his nefarious purposes.
Ever since the introduction of CCTV, people have argued about privacy and civil liberty infringements. Many say that it has lead to a loss of privacy for the general populace, and a negative impact on civil liberties with cameras being used as a form of social control, while others retort that there has to be a balance between individual privacy and public security, and sacrifices should be made and accepted.