Dome Cameras – A blessing or a curse?
The development of dome cameras over the last twenty years or so, from huge enclosures containing conventional, analogue pan, tilt and zoom units to the miniaturised, network-based devices of today mirrors the commodification of technology and engineering skills seen in many industries. This quiet revolution can, as much else in life, be framed in a positive or negative light depending on personal perspectives.
The aging engineer in me mourns the passing of hard-won engineering skills, from an era which required ingenuity simply to enable different devices from disparate manufacturers to work together in an integrated manner. I miss my oscilloscope and my “Brick” cellphone in equal measure. The same engineer, however, is able today to appreciate the impressive pace of evolution that allows so much capability to be packaged in such small, inexpensive units. No longer do we push the laws of physics daily. Security technicians may now stand on the shoulders of their forebears and offer solutions that were previously the reserve of Orwellian fantasy alone.
However, therein lies the rub. Security equipment, and notably CCTV, is now comparatively so inexpensive and simple to integrate that it is quite possible to provide constant, all-pervasive coverage. In such circumstances we may forget the essence of good practice; that a design must be fit for purpose and must meet the Clients operational needs. In other words, just because we can do something does not mean that we should. This is the point at which the professional security practitioner in me stirs and begins to question. Is there a legitimate reason for that device to be used in that manner in that location? What is the criminological theory of crime prevention that this deployment supports?
Now, I can hear the hoots of derision. How, in this modern, connected world, where everybody exists as much online as in reality, can too much coverage possibly be a bad thing? Once more we must recall that, as professionals, we have a duty to provide best advice on security, both to protect the individual client and society as a whole. The creation of the role of CCTV Commissioner under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 suggests that society is not yet ready to inhabit a metaphorical Panopticon, and forcing such a move, whether by malignant intent or benign negligence, will not reflect well on our industry.
But here too we find commercial opportunity - the unique selling point of the UK security industry, if you will. For if society wishes the deployment of security equipment to be legislated and managed, who better to provide such services than the industry practitioners themselves, and their representative bodies. For this reason I welcome the current discussions underway to widen the licensing remit of the SIA to include security consultants. Likewise I welcome the advent of standards of education which are beginning to form defacto barriers to entry for certain levels within the industry. Such professionalisation can only enhance the industry reputation and provide welcome career progression paths that have hitherto been absent.
So as the commodification of engineering and design skills becomes ever more entrenched, the UK security industry has, as I see it, a binary choice. It can continue to manufacture, install and maintain electronic equipment that happens, amongst other features, to fulfill a security function. Down this path lies deskilling and market saturation. Or it can choose to nurture the specialist knowledge required to ensure that all security equipment is designed and installed to rigorous, defensible standards, that produces evidence that stands up to legal challenge and which is effective in reducing crime. Choose wisely my friends.