Video surveillance plays an important role in the security of cities. In particular, it should be noted that medium-sized and even small cities are in the process of being equipped.
In an urban video surveillance system, it is necessary to integrate different methods and technologies to form a unified management ecosystem and thus a powerful security service.

The characteristics of an effective video surveillance system are discussed in this article.

What does an urban video surveillance system consist of?

City surveillance equipment is not just about cameras; it is about the whole picture: the control room, the operators, the technology, the software that manages the video processes, the network, the support of the response teams – private and police – and the processes put in place to deal with crime in all its forms.

However, a video surveillance system can be classified into three categories: hardware, software and services (VSaaS):

  • Video surveillance hardware includes IP cameras to capture video footage, recorders and storage, encoders, video controllers, video wall and operator console monitors.
  • The software segment includes video management software (VMS, IP and/or video controller) and video analytics software.
  • Depending on the service delivery architecture, VSaaS types include hosted, managed and hybrid services.

Characteristics of public security surveillance systems

  • Proactive alerts and notifications: A security camera system that proactively alerts city officials and law enforcement when unusual activity is detected is a very powerful feature. In any emergency situation, shortening the time between incident and response can make a crucial difference in the outcome.
  • Remote Accessibility: The majority of incidents that require immediate or delayed response are unplanned. Therefore, the ability to easily access camera images remotely is essential to gather the necessary context to respond to situations in real time.
  • Scalable installation and deployment: Whether it is a densely populated city or a large metropolitan area, implementing public video surveillance for crime prevention, crime analysis and emergency management is no small task. It is important to find a system that is intuitive and quick to set up and deploy in order to expand coverage according to the needs of the city.
  • Access for multiple users: A safe city relies on teams working together to make public safety a shared responsibility. Therefore, different profiles may need access to the city surveillance system.
  • Audit logs that track system activity: Documenting all activity that occurs on the monitoring platform (i.e., time-stamped access logs, login failures, camera downtime) simplifies monitoring management for any administrator responsible for maintaining security and system health. With automatic audit logs, you prioritise privacy, safety and security simultaneously.
  • Reliable performance in remote areas: Deploying cameras over a large area of public space can be a daunting task, as some equipment is far from the central buildings that provide connectivity. It is therefore highly recommended to find systems that work reliably with limited bandwidth or LTE connections.

Criteria for choosing an urban surveillance camera

With more than 3 cameras per 1000 inhabitants, a city like Paris faces considerable expenses to equip its streets with video surveillance systems. In this context, it is crucial to choose the right equipment.

Important factors to consider when choosing city surveillance cameras are:

  • Environmental factors (heat, humidity, indoor or outdoor). Particular care must be taken to ensure that cameras function optimally and continue to do so over time. Especially for outdoor use, the housing is an essential link in the chain. Particular attention should be paid to IP cameras as they are sensitive to heat and humidity.
  • Lighting: Determine the lighting conditions at each camera location, taking into account all artificial light sources, such as street lighting, but also natural light, such as backlighting. Additional lights or infrared (IR) lights may be required.
  • Should the camera be discreet or visible? This is an important factor. Do you want the public to see the camera? Sometimes it is useful to have visible cameras to deter offenders and build public confidence. Some municipalities even use dummy cameras that are really just boxes.
  • Risk of vandalism. Most camera ranges offer a vandal-resistant housing.
  • Mounting position. Special attention should be paid to the mounting position. For city surveillance, most cameras will be mounted on the outside of buildings or on street light poles. In general, the mounting height is between three and five metres. The viewing angle should be determined in advance.
  • Price & value for money. With all the options available, the benefits of using a more advanced camera must be carefully weighed against the additional cost.
  • Software built into the camera or not. There are two options: to purchase cameras with integrated video analysis software or to outsource this process to a central server in the control room.

Surveillance systems become part of the Smart City concept

Controlling and monitoring the environmental aspect

Monitoring air, water and soil quality is a necessity for modern cities. With sensors that can provide real-time data and alerts, your monitoring system becomes a strategic ally in improving the environmental quality of life for residents.

Through comprehensive environmental monitoring, it will be possible to track air pollution particles, weather conditions, measure temperature and analyse water and soil quality.

Data management

Data management is a great tool for mayors and municipal technical services. By collecting information and data on the ground and from citizens, faster and more effective decisions can be made on the most pressing needs of the population.

With a modern VMS, it is possible, for example, to set up a number plate recognition system (via optical character recognition, or OCR). This can be particularly effective for regulating and controlling mobility in the city, but also for security purposes.

Capacity mapping/control

The control of the maximum capacity of people in a place has developed with COVID-19, but is also useful for security reasons.

Video surveillance allows for access control and capacity management measures in public places.

Thanks to video surveillance cameras, it is possible to count the number of people located in the same area, to identify the most suitable spaces, as well as to detect less frequented access routes to relieve congestion.

The control room at the heart of the action

The control room (or in the case of Urban Supervision Centre) is the heart of the process – a place where all the data is collected, visualised and analysed for informed decision making.

The key function of the control room is to centralise in one space the skills and information important for safety and mobility in the city.

Do you want to implement or optimise a control room?

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