UKCW Birmingham: 1-3 October 2024 | NEC
UKCW London: 6-8 May 2025 | ExCeL


The Sad State of Residential CCTV Security

25 Jan 2022
Ranjith Suresh
Riverside Apartments

Security was a big selling point for the developers and with 200 video cameras monitoring 24x7, residents were told they could sleep soundly knowing they and their property were safe and sound.

The reality is we/residents are paying thousands of pounds to property owners for the maintenance and security in the developments we live in up and down the country.  Most property management agents outsource these functions to various partners to provide such services.  From a security perspective what the paying residents are receiving is sadly very poor. 

It is only when incidents happen that the truth comes out and residents understand the security systems that are in place are just not working.  Complaints to the building management generally result in sincere apologies and a promise to do better but over time these ring hollow and predictable.  Is there any wonder residents take to social media and the gossip rags in their frustration.  The downside for property managers is negative reviews and declining NPS.

Unfortunately in the last month, a couple of very expensive electric bikes were stolen from our neighbours from a so-called “secure bike shed” with 5 CCTV cameras in the vicinity.  When reported to the property manager, they were asked to get an incident number from the police so they can look into the incident and follow GDPR compliance. This took time and felt like they were just going round in circles.  In addition, we were informed informally that only 1/3 of the cameras on site are working at any one time.

Once they received the incident number the property manager authorised security to look into the investigation.  They spent hours scrolling through the footage not knowing when the incident happened in the last 30 days, and then realised at a certain period onwards the CCTV stopped functioning as it needed a software update.  The sad state of the residential industry at present is that residents are paying a lot and receiving very little in the way of proactive security that could prevent or deter criminal activity.   

Underlying Causes of the residential security problem

  • Part of the problem is low expectations for video surveillance and apathy from property managers in maintaining the systems.

  • Part of the problem is the design of these systems. While the current crop of CCTV installations is a big improvement on analog CCTV of the 70’s and 80’s, they are now showing their age.

  • In the residential complex cited above, there are 200 video IP-based video cameras networked back to a control room and connected to a Network Video Recorder and server which stores up to a month of video. Due to the inherent limitations of these systems, there is no way of knowing if a given camera is working or not.

  • In addition, because the cameras are simply monitoring 24*7 even when there is no activity, finding relevant security events means scrolling through hours of footage for each camera, trying to piece together evidence of what happened.

  • Another all too familiar problem is theft of the video recording equipment. If a serious crime occurs on-premises and the perpetrator realizes they may have their identity compromised on video, they break into the Server/security room and steal the network video recorder, thus removing the evidence.

A New Era in Video Surveillance is already here

With the advent of ubiquitous cloud connectivity, low-cost cloud storage, smart video cameras, artificial intelligence, and integration of subjective data (video), with objective data (events, triggers, metadata), a new era of video security applications and interesting new use-cases await exploitation.

Starting with a clean slate it's pretty easy to define the capabilities of a next-generation video surveillance system for the above apartment complex:

  • Only record events when they happen (people movement, doors opening, vehicles detected)

  • All events are stored directly into the cloud, and accessible from anywhere (to alleviate theft of the NVR), with the ability to create alerts for security personnel

  • The ability for forensic inquiry by filtering on all the events from a specific camera and for a selected period

  • Once a time frame is identified, show all related events for any of the 200 cameras in the development.

  • When the perpetrator is identified, how they entered and exited the complex along with the actual theft footage can be provided as complete evidence to legal authorities

  • Security and property managers get daily reports on the status of each of the cameras - so that they have visibility into their security operation and can enforce SLA’s on their outsourced partner

More importantly, it provides the residents in the development the service and security they are paying for and peace of mind they expect!

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