Skip to main content

Standardising video surveillance outputs

Hello all, Alex Carmichael the Chair of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Standards Strand of his National Surveillance Camera Strategy here again (and Chief Executive of the SSAIB as a day job). The Commissioner tasked a working group from my strand to look at the issue of video data produced by surveillance camera systems and ability of this video data to be easily played by the police and the courts.

What's the problem?

You may say, what’s the problem? Just download the video data and then upload to view! If only life was that easy. Speak to any of the police forensic science surveillance experts or the courts service and they can let you know thousands of reasons why this is not the case.

So, why is it such a problem? Well to start with, the surveillance camera systems market is a fragmented market, with respect to exporting of video data, and the move to digital surveillance camera systems the complexity of evidence collection has grown exponentially.

Most manufacturers have bespoke systems with proprietary software and the current speed of technology change means that manufacturers are looking to be first to market with new innovative products. This is understandable, but one of the vital aspects of any surveillance camera system should be its ability to provide the right surveillance data in the right format, at the right time and to be easily transferred. In our view, to law enforcement agencies. This is not always the case in surveillance systems.

If you want your surveillance camera system images to be used by the police and the courts, then your system should meet principle 11 of the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice:

When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value.

Easy to say, but can the images from your surveillance camera system be removed easily by the police and can the police view your images easily? Is this a question you have thought about? Is this a question you asked when you bought the surveillance camera system? If not, why not?

What do we want to achieve?

So, what is the Commissioner’s video surveillance systems standard output working group up to and what does it hope to achieve? Well the working group is looking at condensing the issues the police and courts have with video data from surveillance camera systems and put them into a document which, will set out the current situation and problems, possible solutions and recommendations. The intention is then is to sit down with surveillance camera manufacturers and discuss with them what the issues are and, hopefully, work with them to resolve the issues by getting a level of agreement by different manufacturers on common agreed video outputs.

The video surveillance systems standard output working group is made up of National Police Chiefs’ Council and individual police forces, the Courts and Tribunal Service, police forensic experts, the Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure, the National Association of Surveillance Camera Managers and others. The group has a wealth of experience in video output data issues, but understands it is only by talking and working together with manufacturers will real change happen and this can only be of benefit all those involved in, and those who use surveillance camera systems. As somebody once said, it’s good to talk!

This new project is one part of the Commissioner’s drive to ensure all surveillance camera systems are fit for purpose and meet the government’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.

For more information about the Commissioner’s work make sure you sign up for email alerts for Tony’s blog and also follow him on Twitter.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Andy McDonnell posted on

    I hope this group is successful in its ambition. Having spent 16 years in police forensic imaging work and been involved in at least two similar projects previously with Home Office and the British Standards Institute, its a difficult challenge you face.
    Stay strong and do not lose impetus and you could achieve something which has been a thorn in all our sides for many years.

  2. Comment by Sarah Doyle posted on

    Great news that this is being addressed. The cost is excessive in time and delays across the criminal prosecution service. Unfortunately, it will take a lot of stakeholders to pull together to address it- Insurance companies, business owners, local authorities, law makers. But the business case is there to make the effort worthwhile.

  3. Comment by Mark O'Shea posted on

    As a Senior Investigating Officer who is responsible for complex homicide investigations the standardisation of CCTV operating systems is long overdue. The cost to the tax payer in terms of Police and court time to resolve technical issues is significant.
    I wish the team well with this endeavour.

  4. Comment by Emma Dowell posted on

    I also am interested in this Strand as a CCTV manager with Conwy LA.
    We are currently trialling a secure platform with North Wales Police where we upload video evidence in MP4 format - where it is then embedded in the software with an audit trail going forward to CPS (as I understand it)
    Procedurally very simple, time saving and cost effective for us.

    My concerns are over whether the process is tried and tested and meeting digital evidence requirements - as yet little feedback?

  5. Comment by mahendra posted on

    Great information thank you.

  6. Comment by Anthony Steven Richard Adnitt posted on

    This sort of initiative has been long awaited since the industry moved from analogue video. The biggest issue is commercial as a lot of companies try to “lock in” users by using both proprietary protocols and compression formats. The companies will try to protect their market domination. I wish you fortitude.


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.