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About this Article
Written by: Keith Nogueira
Written on: December 6th, 2002
Tags: security & defense, computer science
Thumbnail by: Hustvedt/Wikimedia Commons
About the Author
During December 2002, Keith Nogueira was a senior majoring in Biomedical/Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, he plans to go into the biomedical industry.
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The Science of Time TravelWritten by: Mark Villanueva
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Volume V Issue I > A Look At Surveillance Cameras
When taking a look around a public place, one may observe an increase in the use of surveillance cameras. This is partially due to technological advances that have introduced new benefits for businesses and law enforcement agencies that implement video surveillance. Current technology allows an operator to view live surveillance footage from a remote location by transmitting the video over the Internet or through other cables. From the operator's room, digital analysis of the video lets the operator detect intruders, alert authorities of suspicious or violent activity, and possibly identify criminals. This article discusses the principles involved in bringing these newer capabilities to light, from obtaining video footage to discovering whether there is a potential intruder.

Introduction

On September 13, 2002, a department store's surveillance camera recorded a mother hitting her four year-old child after placing the child in her SUV - fortunately, the video from a surveillance camera also recorded the license plate on the mother's SUV [1]. As television stations broadcast the video footage of this event, viewers across the nation were shocked at what they saw. Within a month of this occurrence, the child was taken away from her family and placed in a foster home, while the story of the now-famous mother, Madelyne Toogood, was told repeatedly on network television [1].
That same week, police in Virginia Beach, Virginia began to use identification technology in conjunction with their surveillance cameras along Atlantic Avenue in order to assist the police in locating fugitive pedestrians [2]. A few weeks after these stories, an article in The Washington Times discussed the Metropolitan Police Department's plans for installing surveillance cameras that would allow them to observe monuments and major events [3].
Hustvedt/Wikimedia Commons
Figure 1: Surveillance cameras on the corner of a building.
In response to such events, news stories and organizations have expressed concern about the loss of privacy that results from the use of these cameras. Aside from their use in law enforcement, surveillance cameras are fairly common in metropolitan areas (Fig. 1 shows cameras in an urban setting). Large cities, such as Buffalo, New York, have cameras monitoring traffic flow so drivers and authorities can react to problems [4]. Local convenience stores and banks commonly use video cameras to prevent crime. A glance at the ceiling of a gambling floor in a Las Vegas casino reveals a huge network of cameras recording movements as tiny as a blackjack player's gesture for another card.
In observing public places, it seems that surveillance cameras are increasing in popularity. Part of this is due to technological advances that are providing new benefits for businesses and law enforcement agencies that use video surveillance. Current technology allows an operator to view live surveillance footage from a remote location because it is transmitted over the Internet or through other cables. From the operator's room, a digital analysis of the video allows the operator to detect intruders, alert operators of suspicious or violent activity, or identify criminals. This article discusses the principles involved in making such new capabilities possible, from obtaining the video to discovering a potential intruder.