CCTV (closed circuit television), also known as video surveillance, is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, such as a monitor or a smartphone app, or to be recorded on a hard drive or in the cloud. The main purpose is for security monitoring in banks, retail stores and areas of public assembly, but CCTV can also be used in public transport and traffic management.
In the last decade, the size of video camera sensors (almost exclusively CCD chips today) have become so small that they can be difficult to identify, raising privacy issues as people being filmed are not aware that they are monitored.
As the cameras are now also very affordable, anyone can place CCTV cameras around their own home although others might object if cameras are placed facing or can be steered towards another property. Infrared allows camera to “see” through blinds, drapes and curtains, and low-light sensitivity allows cameras to observe at night.
A small business owner can place a CCTV security system throughout their store or factory premises giving rise to the issue of the workers’ right to privacy. In nursing homes, staff can employ CCTV to monitor the residents for their safety, also leading to a debate on privacy issues, how long recordings should be held, if family consent is required, and whether family members can request the footage if an incident occurs.
Surveillance of the public using CCTV is increasingly common in many countries. Some cities such as London have every street in their CBD covered from multiple angles, assisting police investigations in acts of terrorism, criminality, missing persons, theft, or anti-social behaviour. In the USA, CCTV cameras are commonly worn on the body of law enforcement officials who may be investigating call-outs and apprehending suspects. Any evidence collected may be later used in court. CCTV can also be deployed in police stations, holding cells for people in custody, prisons, and prisoner transport.
In factories and assembly plants, CCTV can be used to observe the manufacturing process remotely from a central control room, for example when the environment is not suitable for humans (e.g., extreme heat, cold, dark or radiation). CCTV systems may operate continuously or only as required to monitor a particular event.
Recent advances in CCTV allow cameras to record events triggered by motion, thereby automating the process so employees are not needed 24/7 to physically observe. Motion-triggered recorded events can alert users, who can be around the world and see the footage live or the next day on their portable devices, so long as they have an internet or mobile data connection.
The latest sensor technology in the CCD chips that CCTV employs has resolution of upwards of 4,000 lines by 2,000 lines, with image frame-rates of 60fps or more, so that motor vehicle registration plates can be read at distance and in the dark. Or if bandwidth is sufficient, one or multiple users can log in to the CCTV feed and monitor remotely in real time, commence recording or playback previous recordings. It can be assumed that the use of low-cost, high-resolution cameras will only increase in the future.
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Expertise in Action
The range of factual situations where the advice of experts in CCTV surveillance may be sought is very broad and includes disputes about privacy in the home, workplace, aged care facility, public venue, and in relation to law enforcement.
Experts can provide opinion regarding what the technology is capable of, how it is implemented and what the local regulations are that govern the implementation of surveillance devices. Different laws may apply at the local, state and federal level and whether users of the technology need to be licensed, such as private investigators.
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The overall cost of expert opinion depends on the services required. Some of the key factors that affect the cost of advice include:
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- Whether there are reports of other experts to be reviewed and commented on in detail
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