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City Surveillance e-Guarding Lives

City Surveillance e-Guarding Lives
Rapid urbanization occurred during the 20th century, with the percentage of people living in urban areas rising dramatically from 29 percent (732 million) in 1950 to 49 percent (3.2 billion) in 2005; this will rise to 60 percent (4.9 billion) by 2030. While cities provide better job opportunities, education and healthcare, they also suffer from social problems. As police are often not able to address these problems, 24-hour e-bodyguards are taking their place.

Rapid urbanization occurred during the 20th century, with the percentage of people living in urban areas rising dramatically from 29 percent (732 million) in 1950 to 49 percent (3.2 billion) in 2005; this will rise to 60 percent (4.9 billion) by 2030. While cities provide better job opportunities, education and healthcare, they also suffer from social problems. As police are often not able to address these problems, 24-hour e-bodyguards are taking their place.

Terrorist attacks, traffic control and crime are three major reasons for city surveillance systems, but nowhere in the world have surveillance systems been used so widely as in the U.K. ¨Britain started installing CCTV systems in the 1980s in major cities such as London, Manchester and Liverpool due to threats from the Irish Republican Army,〃 said Danny Weber, Product Marketing Manager at Nice. Even today, Britain still suffers from the threat of terrorist attacks. The lesson of the London underground bombing attack in 2005 is that strengthening of city surveillance networks is still needed.

Managing traffic is another important issue. ¨In Malaysia, surveillance systems were first implemented by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall in the early 1990s to monitor traffic in the city center,〃 said Samin Wahid, IT Manager at Turbine Technique. ¨In 2003, the Integrated Transport Information System (ITIS) project was initiated within the larger Klang Valley area to monitor traffic, along with other ITIS subsystems such as those for vehicle detection, traffic control and surveillance.〃

Third, high crime rates are common in developing countries. Take China. Migrant workers from inner cities have caused severe security problems in prosperous cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. The Chinese government, therefore, implemented a nationwide e-Police project in 2004. The aims are threefold: to inject the police force with much-needed manpower and financial resources, to make extensive efforts in the areas of IT and IT security, and to install electronic surveillance systems.

Some 180 cities have been divided into the three following tiers: economically developed and densely populated cities are Tier I; less significant cities are Tiers II and III. In 2006, the Chinese government initiated Safe City projects along the same lines to make cities safer through installation of surveillance systems and e-security networks.

Funding and Implementation

In Britain, the central government is responsible for providing funding for such projects. ¨In the last 10 years, the Home Office has spent more than three quarters of its crime prevention budget on recording technologies with US$500 million spent since 1994 on surveillance systems alone,〃 said Vibeke Ulmann, Partner and Director at Catalyst Communications.

In Malaysia, surveillance systems are affordable only to well-to-do local councils, mainly in the Klang Valley; Kuala Lumpur is the main market for city surveillance. In China, the central and local governments work together. The central government sets the guidelines, with local governments paying for major construction.

Telecom corporations, system integrators and surveillance manufacturers install the systems. In Malaysia, system integrators are responsible for most installations. ¨When surveillance systems were first introduced in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1990s, black-white cameras were connected with direct cables and leased lines," said Wahid. "Now, in line with the maturity and affordability of outdoor wireless systems, more and more installations are using IP-based surveillance systems running on wireless networks.〃

In China, local telecom companies in Dongguan are responsible for installing and maintaining surveillance systems, with the local government footing the bill. The authorities in Dongguan have taken a holistic approach. Not only do local police bureaus conduct surveys with regard to city surveillance needs, but also city hall regulates purchase and deployment. Implementation of Safe City projects in Dongguan, therefore, is both efficient and cost-effective.

National Policies and Standards

Not all countries have national policies and unified standards. Money and manpower, however, can be saved if authorities adopt holistic approaches, standardizing product and installation specifications.

Initially in the U.K., there was no overall strategy linking systems; each was the responsibility of a local authority. Not until September 2005 did the Joint Association of Chief Police Officers and Home Office Project Team finally publish its National CCTV Strategy Report that was first endorsed by the (then) Crime Reduction Delivery Board. No fewer than 44 recommendations were proposed, encompassing standards, inspection, training, police use of CCTV, storage, archiving and retention.

For inspection, the National CCTV Strategy Report recommends that the role of information commissioner needs to include greater powers to enforce licensing requirements of both systems and people. The Home Office ought to be considering development of more legislative powers to inspect CCTV systems, it said.

E-Police and Safe City projects are national policies in China. With clear objectives and guidelines, the plans were executed in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The central government, however, is responsible only for making overall plans; the local governments are in charge of implementation, installation and most funding. Due to lack of standards and experience, Chinese municipal governments face many challenges.


Although the U.K. government has achieved a unique level of support from the public, there are critics, especially from human rights groups because of the prevalence of surveillance systems. Their opposition stems in part from a survey by Martin Gill, a criminology professor at the University of Leicester. His 2005 study of 13 CCTV community initiatives found that, in a majority of neighborhoods, criminal activity actually increased. The astonishing result has led to calls on the government to figure out more effective ways of protecting people rather than monitoring them. Striking a balance between security and privacy has become a critical issue.

In Malaysia, system integrators are struggling with transmission systems. Most modern outdoor surveillance systems are comprised of three major parts: cameras, control systems and transmission systems. Cameras and control systems are tested by designers and manufacturers. Not all transmission systems, however, are. ¨A few sites have tried using broadband Internet, but without much success. Quite often, bandwidth fluctuates beyond the minimum requirement, giving bad video or no video at all,〃 said Wahid.

¨Some sites,〃 he continued, ¨are using point-to-multipoint wireless, others mesh wireless, but the latter has yet to be proved in large-scale implementations. Most sites that implement point-to-point wireless transmission acquire the best-quality video.〃 Good solutions can be provided only by people who fully understand the systems.

In China, both the Safe City and e-Police projects are brand-new experiences for most of the people involved. Due to lack of knowledge of product functions, it has not been easy for the authorities to make sound purchasing decisions. It is no surprise that some have found that new security systems do not correspond to expectations. Consequently, trial and error has been one of the most common approaches.

Insufficient technical backgrounds have also plagued the projects. Chinese municipal governments have never been exposed to the security industry to this extent; they are unaware of the ins and outs of cost-efficient security systems. Take integration. Old systems cannot integrate with new ones because of different standards. In a worst-case scenario, different cameras installed on the same street block may be controlled by different government agencies, causing unnecessary waste of both new and old equipment, funding and manpower.


City surveillance projects by their very nature are huge, costly and time-consuming. The Scottish Office conducted research on Airdrie  a town of 36,000 people  in 1993 to evaluate the effectiveness of CCTV in combating crime and the fear of crime in town centers. The survey indicated 21 percent fewer offenses, a 48 percent reduction in crime, 19 percent fewer fires and a 16 percent improvement in cases cleared. Interestingly, the survey showed no evidence that crimes were displaced from the town center to areas without surveillance systems.

Statistics from Kuala Lumpur are similar. There was a more than 30 percent reduction in theft in areas installed with CCTV cameras on a year-by-year comparison. One interesting phenomenon, however, was that criminals migrated to the other areas without CCTV surveillance systems, which is very different from the case in the U.K.

The Future: Integration and IP -based Technology

No doubt, integration and IP-based technology are two key trends. The U.K. has made great efforts on traffic management and monitoring. The Highway Agency (HA) has assumed responsibility for managing traffic on Englandˇs 5,800 miles of motorway and truck roads. In doing so, it replaces 33 independently managed police control rooms with seven linked regional control centers to consolidate data.

The centers will be linked with the National Roads Telecommunications Service (NRTS)  a $1 billion scheme that forms a major part of the governmentˇs 10-year plan for transport. When completed, the NRTS project will provide a national digital system linking more than 14,000 roadside devices, including message signs, emergency telephones, and up to 4,000 cameras and traffic monitoring systems to the Highway Agencyˇs network of traffic control centers.

A Safe City project in Shenyang faces similar problems. Each district is responsible for implementation and installation of surveillance system with projects divided into sectors such as schools, communities, streets, and command and control centers. One installer is responsible for one sector. To ensure all installers involved are using the same standard, Shenyang city officials have required that all use the same brand of network DVRs so that different districts have the same compression and transmission formats.

¨City surveillance is increasingly about IP-based systems running on wireless transmission systems, with video recording first done at camera sites then centralized," said Wahid. "Additionally, automatic network recovery has been proven crucial when networks are down." Malaysia is now installing IP-based transmission networking nationwide so that data can be transmitted back to Kuala Lumpur for storage and analysis.

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