Tech in Surveillance Timeline

Video surveillance is one of the most common ways to deter criminals and should the crime be committed, bring the wrongdoers to justice. Though few are suspicious of this technology, those of us who know how to ethically and efficiently operate the systems are committed to safety and security and know the importance of having this technology flourish.

The method uses closed-circuit television (CCTV) to monitor actions in real time. CCTV signals are broadcast to a limited number of specific screens, unlike news and entertainment networks, that broadcast to the public at large. That means one point for privacy. Only those vetted will have access to the information. 

But where did it all begin? Let’s travel through time to see how we got here. 

1942 – CCTV was first used when the German military needed to observe rocket launches from inside a bunker. The action was witnessed as it happened. This technology also allowed scientists to observe the potentially dangerous effects of any experiments from a safe distance away. That’s another point for safety.  

1949 – The German technology is sold to an American company named Vericon. The company sees a lot of value in this tech and begins to take steps to introduce it to the commercial market. Making CCTV and video surveillance available to the public.  

1960 – A turning point. The British police force realise that this technology can be utilised in to ensure public and private security. During a high profile visit of the Thai Royal Family the police force installs two security cameras. A new way to apply CCTV is born and its role in fighting crime is cemented.  

1961 – Public safety again takes center stage. London Transport decides to make CCTV a permanent fixture throughout the train stations. The public start feeling safer already. 

1969 – The first public security cameras in the United States. The first city to take this stride? New York. NYC police install CCTV cameras in the Municipal Building near city hall. Also, this year the home security system was pioneered and patented, and video cassette tapes (invented 1950) become publicly available allowing CCTV footage to be recorded. 

1970’s – VCRs replace video cassette tapes as a simpler and more user-friendly way to preserve the data captured by the CCTV cameras. This meant that even more cameras could be put up in problem areas around busy cities, so that police could more effectively tackle crime.  

1980’s – CCTV cameras and VCR footage were being used by both the public and law enforcement to watch both live and recorded video. But the process of reviewing footage was still clumsy, because of the limited storage space of the VCR tapes constantly needed to be manually switched. What is the next big leap going to be? 

1990’s – Digital is here! Browsing through video footage became a breeze. A device called a multiplexer was designed to combine several feeds into one monitor, and by the end of the decade recording systems would be able to do this automatically. Along with the increase in storage this gives us our hat-trick – one last point for convenience. 

What a journey this has been. And we can only continue to thrive from here. Where can surveillance technology go next? Facial recognition? Cloud software? What is science-fiction and what is science fact? Follow us for more on the leaps and bounds in this fascinating industry. 


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