Fixed security systems ensure safety in a single location, but portable devices provide more flexibility to help protect people across an area. A&S takes a look at the latest developments and applications for today's portable security devices.
More people understand the importance of keeping visual records for forensic evidence. Since law enforcement requires evidence, the use of body-worn cameras and portable identification readers is gaining traction.
Body-worn cameras provide real-time video. "The device is suitable in any situation where instant playback and feedback is required for increased safety, refined techniques and quick adjustment to rapidly escalating and constantly changing operational conditions," said Patrick Myron, Inside Sales Manager at V.I.O. "Primary uses include training, after-action review, situational awareness, and lessons learned or best practices."
Law enforcement has adopted wearable cameras. "In the U.K., all 43 police forces have body-worn cameras in use," said Paul Jarvis, Director at Video Vest. "Security guards, enforcement officers, parking officers and local council authorities are also using this technology."
However, body-worn surveillance raises objections, such as privacy for law-abiding citizens. "There is a general reluctance to the universal adoption of body-worn video capture technology due to a fear of increased scrutiny of practices, procedures, protocols and use of force," Myron said. "However, there are also statistics showing that in nearly 90 percent cases where video is involved, the content exonerate the officer and conduct."
Along with wearable cameras, portable readers increase security flexibly. "Customer volumes for such technology typically range from 10 to 60 units, which is much less than the number of standard fixed-wall readers in a system," said Philip Verner, Sales and Marketing Manager at CEM Systems (a Tyco International company). "This device is usually used as an added tool to increase security or to make a system more flexible."
A niche market exists for portable biometric readers. Its current rate of deployment is less than 2 to 3 percent, said Michael Smith, Director of Business Development at Biometric Associates. However, driven by federal requirements for two-factor authentication in sensitive applications, the market is growing.
Body-worn cameras enable effective patrols. With cameras rolling, security guards can enforce minor regulations on public transport with reduced risk for violent attack, Linnell said.
The immediate availability of video shortens investigation time. "Interviewing a suspect with the video evidence makes the interview process easier, especially if the interview is done shortly after the crime took place, with the suspect still wearing the same clothes" Linnell said. "Early guilty pleas save money and bring offenders to justice more quickly."
Portable readers enhance existing access control systems. They are used in environments where standard access control cannot be used, such as large construction sites, airports and ports, Verner said.
"Portable handheld readers can validate identity at remote sites where standard access control cannot be used or temporary entrances with no power. They can also be used as mobile devices for random checks within predefined zones," Verner said. Other applications include construction sites, bus and train stations, and large commercial sites.
For sensitive areas such as military bases and hospitals, portable biometric readers confirm identity faster and provide higher security than other methods, Smith said.
Three categories for body-worn technology are all-in-one, wired and wireless cameras. CCD cameras or IR cameras are available for different user requirements.
Lightweight cameras can be worn on vests, duty belts or turnout gear. They can also be mounted to headgear, ballistic shields, firearms or vehicles to accurately document critical incidents, Myron said. Built-in storage ranges from 1 gigabyte to 4 gigabytes, with SD cards or microSD cards expanding storage up to 16 gigabytes.
The court credibility of the video requires watermarking, indicating the time and date. "Most systems have the time, date and serial number embedded within each frame," Jarvis said.
Advanced mechanisms such as remote control and motion detection enables a wide range of usage. With motion detection, the camera can be worn by officers or placed for temporary video surveillance in vehicles or buildings, Jarvis said.
Wireless remote control improves ease of use. "The device can be controlled within a 10-foot radius of the unit," said Clint Slack, Marketing Manager at V.I.O.
Portable readers now support multiple card technologies and biometrics. Some readers can store information for more than 10,000 cardholders, Verner said.
User-friendly design is essential for portable readers. "A large full-color TFT touch screen provides quick and easy navigation with onboard menu options," Verner said. "It also provides information about card validity."
Handheld devices require sufficient battery life. "The reader operates online over an encrypted TCP/IP link or offline using a secure local database with up to 200,000 cardholder details," Verner said. "Having the portable reader online at all times will greatly reduce the battery life; therefore, when the portable reader is in use, it operates with its internal database."
"Many digital services require different logins to access control panels at different sites, which makes the technology cumbersome and inefficient," said Dean Mason, Product Marketing Manager at Honeywell Security and Communications. "The software streamlines operations to allow users to log on once and use the same account to arm or disarm multiple systems and view video feeds from facilities at various locations."
Body-worn cameras should produce high-quality images with good resolution. A sturdy design and IP67 casing enable constant usage. "For critical use of body-worn cameras, the whole system must be built to withstand operation in harsh environments," Slack said.
"The health and safety of the operator — particularly strangulation by the cable linking the camera to the recording device — is the main concern," Linnell said. "The cable should have a suitable physical break point."
Body-worn cameras are not reviewed in real-time, as most control rooms cannot cope with 500 officers transmitting video simultaneously, Jarvis said. Onboard storage is essential, as transmission interference could result in data loss.
Not all readers are easily portable or can support all card technologies, Verner said. The device should be lightweight, IP67-rated and rugged. On top of that, battery life must be considered.
When officers record video, they must notify the subject being recorded. "Regulations such as the Data Protection Act of 1998 regulates the processing of 'personal data,' including images of a person recorded on body-worn cameras," Linnell said. "These regulations define how long images are stored, and Article 6 of The Human Rights Act provides for the right to a fair trial."
While many American police departments are testing portable cameras, there are few large scale deployments. User uptake is hindered due to recession and budget constraints, but the U.S. is likely to be the largest user in the future, Jarvis said.
With hardware, battery life and the length of time for continuous recording are issues for body-worn cameras, Jarvis said.
Developers must design open systems that integrate with third-party hardware, Verner said. This must be balanced with fitting the right components, biometric modules or card technology modules into a portable unit.
For body-worn cameras, more features will be added. "The systems will become more sophisticated with analytical offerings embedded within the devices," said Jarvis. "Facial recognition, thermal imaging and ALPR will be made available."
Wireless handheld identification readers will be more widely deployed, Verner said. Image quality for portable cameras is improving. High-definition recording is a trend in body-worn cameras, along with longer recording periods, Jarvis said.