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Security cameras - from passive monitoring to machine learning

Security cameras - from passive monitoring to machine learning

Security cameras have changed society forever, drops in the crime rate and increased convictions can be attributed to this technology. According to a Northwestern University study, parking lots that added security cameras saw a 51% drop in crime. The drop in crime is across the board, from public transit to home and small businesses, installing security cameras is a significant way to decrease crime and aids in the conviction of burglars. Below, we discuss the history of security solutions and how the technology is shaping the American landscape.


CCTV first started gaining traction during World War II. Cameras were put at military installations to record the events and showcase them to the world. Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the home security system and received a patent for it in 1969. The early device has a single camera that could slide up and down to designated areas to record. The video was transferred to a tv for local viewing. During the 70’s, as VHS technology became mainstream - home security did as well. Allowing users to record the images from the camera went a long way in dropping crime and securing the home and public areas. As security cameras became more adopted and the public became comfortable with a rise in surveillance, companies began to expand their offerings and incorporate this new technology.


ADT is a legacy security company that has stayed true to what has made them successful. ADT protects from the most common threat - a burglar breaking into your front door while you are away. They provide door and window sensors for a monthly fee and extensive professional installation. ADT is the golden brand for security companies and operates on a distributor-independent contractor model. The representatives and installers are decentralized from ADT, this bridge from corporate to independent contractor creates a difficult time holding contractors accountable to the corporate brand’s standards. The minimum contract ADT offers is 36 months and canceling before then could incur fees. Their limited adoption of technology has created problems for customers that expect greater user centered designs in this day. The average price of an ADT system over a 36 month contract is near $6,000 USD.


The NVR/DVR IP camera filled the gap that ADT never sought to close. This period of security camera technology was focused on taking quality video and analyzing the data through off camera software. Users of Lorex and Hikvision are able to install the cameras themselves running through PoE switches or cat5, giving a reliable picture that is sent to a hard drive or computer with local storage. As the trends in the security industry gravitated towards IP cameras, it became burdensome on a consumer grade router and data caps had consumers selecting which hours they needed the cameras to function. The ability to analyze the recordings with software allowed users to have a more personalized and focused experience. Dedicating variables such as who, when, why, and what the recordings showed the users. IP cameras are a long term investment upfront but do not have monthly fees, unless using advanced software to analyze the recordings. The average camera setup (3 cameras and local storage) starts at $500 USD and can go through $3000 for the top tier 4k cameras. The software is often under $15 USD per month. IP cameras are for technically savy-users, the requirements and constraints on the wifi router and advanced analytical software alienated a number of people from setting up their own networks.


As we move into a mobile based, everything that can be connected-will be connected world; we see the emergence of cameras, such as Butterfleye. As IP cameras have to download locally, analyze, and then upload data, Butterfleye does the workflow on the actual camera. This is a big step forward addressing the limitations of the early 2000’s IP cameras that took huge amounts of network bandwidth and was not efficient in allocating resources. Processing the information on the camera allows the user to choose what he or she would like to see. This crucial step in identifying information before it is collected and shared is critical in saving resources and addresses the user’s need for instant, on device (iPhone, iPad) access to the security threats. Butterfleye has facial recognition and advanced thermal imaging sensors, allowing it to identify and differentiate what it is monitoring. Butterfleye is able to analyze face, shapes, and heat sources with computer vision that uses algorithms to create models of the security threats and give accurate information to the user. As theft from packages rises, new technology built into Butterfleye allows it to identify the postman or FedEx driver delivering the packages to your home and alerting you. Where ADT has 90% false alarms, Butterfleye has the capability one day of having zero false alarms. The more the camera learns, the smarter it will get, creating a highly secure and identifiable environment.


The history of “security solutions” has come a long way from motion and sound sensors (ADT) to static IP cameras (Lorex & Hikvision) to wireless cloud connected security cameras (Butterfleye). The emergence of technology in this field has allowed people to protect themselves from emerging and age old threats. As the technology gains hold, consumers are saving monthly and being able to set up a personalized security experience. With mass adoption of security cameras, we have the ability to document and unbiasedly share our experiences, giving an accurate assessment of events that cause us joy or anguish.

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