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Horizon scanning the national strategy

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: National surveillance camera stratgey

It’s been about a year since I last blogged about the horizon scanning strand of the national surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales. It’s a really important area for me and if you’ve read previous blogs you’ll have seen that ‘futures’ has been a constant theme – what will the future of surveillance hold, what innovations will we see? Only this week Security Minister, Ben Wallace, announced a new competition for innovators to develop new technology to keep people safe – some of this will surely look at surveillance cameras.

Back on the strategy the Home Office Centre for Science and Applied Technology held a horizon scanning workshop last week. Horizon scanning techniques can’t predict the future, there is no crystal ball. However, it can point to towards possible situations that may occur and identify signals that indicate the direction changes may take.

What's on the horizon?

So, where did the workshop point to in terms of what we should be look at? Here are a few of the topics it threw up:

Cloud storage – it’s becoming cheaper and more freely available so will we see more surveillance camera imagery stored in ‘the cloud’. There’s also a trend in technology to create ‘total mesh networks’ with all devices able to connect and communicate with each other. CCTV will just be one part of the connected network.

Cyber security – following on from that is cyber security. It’s currently poorly understood by end users, but also by many suppliers, who if they consider it at all think of it as an add-on, rather than a core requirement. In an age of interconnected devices, a poorly secured CCTV system could provide a route for a criminal through to a businesses general security system. This is an issue right now with recent cyber attacks and will continue to be in the future.

Cameras – the quality of images that cameras capture is getting better. Analogue cameras are being replaced by multi-megapixel cameras, and potentially will have capability to record beyond visible light using infrared or ultraviolet wavelengths. What will this mean for the potential for privacy intrusion (deliberate or accidental)? Will there need to be any changes to regulation?

Advanced analytics – facial recognition technology is now a reality, police forces are beginning to deploy it and it’s being used commercially too and facial recognition is just one analytic that can be used with a camera. As the capability and availability of advanced analytics technology continues to develop how will Government regulate it? Is it advancing at a speed that regulators can’t keep up with?

What's next?

You may have read this blog and thought ‘so what’. Well, this type of work is important – it may well result in more questions than answers but we need to ask those questions to truly understand what the surveillance camera capability of the near and far future could be.

All of these topics and more will be discussed at my next Advisory Council meeting in September. It’s clear that technology is developing quickly and whilst I may not be able to influence technological developments I do have a role to advise Government on what the future could hold and where they may or may not need to tighten up regulation.

If you have any ideas of areas we should look as part of this strand then please get in touch.

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