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Condensed CCTV

January 24, 2011

Video analytics is the thing right now. With so much video information and the limits of human operators, what to do with all that footage? There are numerous answers mostly involving forms of algorithmic movement recognition. From the masses of press releases that come my way every day, I notice one Israeli company (Israel being one of the world leaders in security technology), BriefCam, is marketing a new automated system that not only recognises objects of interest but then condenses hours of video which feature the object of interest into a matter of minutes featuring all the salient points from the whole time, at once. Or according to their own website:

“BriefCam VS Online receives real-time feed from the DVR/NVR and processes data to produce a database that can be called on to create a video summary presentation, on demand.”

I’ve seen the technology at work, but one thing starts to concern me imediately is what is lost by way of this combined footage. Check the video here for example.

The blurb claims that it is ‘easy’ for operators to see something unexpected, yet this is not a ‘real’ image, or in fact it is a hyperreal image, multiple images partly overlaid on what is assumed to be a standardized background. Of course, given the original footage remains available contextual evidence can be sought. However, I do wonder what kind of decisions will result from fast-moving combined footage pre-selected to present to a human viewer… and of course, what exactly it is that the system is programed to recognise and how. It seems that operators of video surveillance systems will increasingly be watching is not reality, but combined, edited highlights, a part-simulated recreation. Jean Baudrillard would be having a quiet chuckle if he could see this…

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