We here at ENS are no strangers to surveillance products. After all, we are one of the nation’s top distributors of CCTV products and technologies. But what is CCTV? What does it stand for, where did it come from, and what are its implications in the world today? Well thankfully my inquisitive friend, I’m here to answer those questions and more for you in today’s article.

So, What is CCTV?

CCTV is an acronym that stands for “Closed Circuit Television”. Nowadays, it is interchangeable with the phrase “video surveillance”, but CCTV denotes the basic relationship between a network of security cameras and the dedicated series of monitors used to display their footage, hence, the “closed circuit television”. This “closed” relationship between camera and monitor is different from say, broadcast television, in which a camera captures footage that is then transmitted publicly into television receivers across the globe. CCTV footage isn’t known to be terribly interesting…so maybe it’s a good thing it isn’t part of your routine tv scheduling!

When Was CCTV Invented?

Nowadays, CCTV cameras are fairly ubiquitous in modern society. After all, there is a 47% reduced crime rate in areas where security cameras are visible, which explains why one-fifth of American households have at least one security camera installed in their homes. But where did this amazing technology come from?

Inventor Leon Theremin and the instrument named after him. 1920’s.

Strangely enough, the concept for security cameras came from the same mind that developed the first electronic instrument, the theremin (yes, that strange instrument you hear in old sci-fi flicks and the Beach Boy’s song “Good Vibrations”). Leon Theremin was a bit like a Russian Nikola Tesla, a brilliant mind with ideas too advanced for his time. Aside from his musical innovations, in 1927 he developed the idea for a surveillance system to monitor objects from far away, a concept he called “distance vision”. This early mechanical CCTV system of Theremin’s was commissioned by the Stalin’s Soviet government and used to monitor the courtyard of the Moscow Kremlin for unwanted visitors.

Walter Bruch, official inventor of the CCTV camera system. 1960s.

In 1942, whilst in the middle of the Second World War, German electrical engineer Walter Bruch would gain official credit for the fully realized development of CCTV systems with his pioneering technology primarily being used by the German Nazi Army. German commanders and scientists would use Bruch’s surveillance units to safely observe the test deployment of Germany’s other new world-changing technology…the V-2 missile, the world’s first long-range ballistic projectile.

CCTV Goes Public

Even though early CCTV systems were large, clunky, and required complex wiring, that didn’t stop U.S. company Vericon from purchasing the technology and making it available to the public in 1949 with “no government contracts required”.

Advertisement for early CCTV system in Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1949.

However, in these early days, CCTV footage could not be recorded, and therefore required 24/7 monitoring to actually be useful as a surveillance system. It wouldn’t be until the 1970’s when VCR technology became the dominant form of media recording that surveillance systems would become more widespread and utilized as a security tool. The ability to record CCTV footage had a massive influence on criminal trials, as security camera footage could now be recorded, placed on a VCR tape, and given to a judge as evidence in a trial.

The First Home Security System

In 1962, Queens resident Marie Van Brittan Brown would develop the first home security system as a way to help her feel safer during late nights when her husband was at work. Using a rather complex system of peepholes, cameras, television monitors, and even a two-way microphone, Brown could see and communicate with visitors at her door from a safe distance. Brown also installed a mechanism by which she could lock her doors remotely, and set up an emergency button that would send an alert to police or security whenever she felt she was in trouble. Brown would receive a patent from the US government in 1969 for her incredible technology. Pretty advanced stuff for her time!

The patent submitted by Marie van Brittan Brown for the first home security system, 1969.

From VCR to DVR

While the introduction of VCR allowed for some advancement in the usefulness of CCTV, the memory storage system was far from perfect. VCR memory space was very limited, and if not replaced consistently, could result in the degradation of the film. CCTV use was therefore rather limited except in places like banks, stores, and other locations where crimes were most likely to take place.

A VCR casette tape being ejected from a VCR player.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when multiplexing functions became available (multiplexing is where multiple feeds from several cameras can be displayed on a single monitor) and the revolution of digital technology at the turn of the century when CCTV became much more optimized. Digital video recorders (DVR) were far more efficient than VCRs, and digital cameras were cheaper, had better picture quality, and were overall far more efficient than previous generations. This new technology allowed for new functions like zooming, enhancing imagery, and adding light to the footage. CCTV cameras were installed in public places, government facilities, and used far more in police investigations than ever before.

Multiplexing camera footage greatly increased the efficiency and convenience of CCTV systems.

9/11 and the Internet Revolution

While surveillance cameras were becoming far more ubiquitous with new more efficient technologies, nothing changed the public’s perception of security cameras like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States. In the midst of newfound fears of terror attacks instilled across the nation, surveillance companies rapidly developed advanced technologies such as facial recognition programs that could match and record facial data and compare it to mugshots of potential terrorists and criminals.

The 9/11 terror attacks greatly changed the way Americans perceived surveillance technology.

The nascent rise of the Internet Age also changed the way surveillance footage could be accessed as recordings could now be seen on a global stage, with live-streams and wireless access becoming more prevalent methods of displaying camera footage. The previously defined parameters of “CCTV” have certainly faded at this point in its technological development, as information and data becomes far more shareable beyond the “closed-circuit”. Like every other industry it touched, the internet vastly changed the scope and power of surveillance technology in rapid time.

Surveillance Today…and Beyond

Currently, the surveillance industry is valued around $50 billion dollars, and is projected to rise to $120 billion by 2030. This is largely due to the continual advancements in computer processing, AI softwares, and lower manufacturing costs. With the advent of IP cameras in 2013 allowing far more optimal and efficient camera setups, functionality, and network capabilities, more and more people turning to surveillance camera technology to provide real and immediate solutions to their security problems.

The HNC5I789-M1N1-36-E2 Panoramic Camera is a unit offered by ENS full of A.I.-assisted features

Artificial intelligence seems to be the hot topic not just in the world of surveillance, but in the world of digital technology overall. This new technology is able to adapt quickly and methodically to changing situations, is able to record and analyze vast amounts of data, and can “think” through problems to mitigate errors. ENS Security has a vast inventory of security cameras with built-in A.I. features like Smart Human/Vehicle detection, Facial Recognition, License Plate Recognition, and much more. As safety becomes a more prevalent concern in our nation today, we can be grateful for all the ingenuity, passion, and tenacity our predecessors invested into developing the security technology that’s all around us. The world is surely a much better, and safer place thanks to the quiet and watchful sentinels provided to us by the people who cared enough to make the surveillance industry the relevant and necessary presence it claims today.

About the Author: Aaron Avila

Aaron J. Avila is a digital designer, social media marketer, and security professional with ENS Security.

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