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Leaps and bounds in video surveillance technology

I’ve been working with a piece of software and hardware for Windows 2000 called Geovision over the last few days to set up a CCTV system. It’s quite a simple piece of kit for someone technical to set up and use. But it seems to be incredibly well designed and written by an anonymous group of Taiwanese people by the looks of things. It’s not that expensive to implement either – you could set up with two cameras for less than GBP 200

The feature-set is quite something. It allows streaming over the Internet, audio recording, motion detection, two-way audio, control of pan-tilt-zoom cameras and alarm system, email and phone alerts, and lots of other things. The Internet streaming is really well done. You really can sit at the other end of a DSL connection and keep an eye on what’s going on. It’s designed so it will work with any broadband connection without needing a static IP.

That all said, the user interface is a bit primitive. It’s not designed along standard Windows lines at all. The configuration options can be very difficult to find (although that’s nothing new). It can be tricky to get it to do exactly what you want, and features like playback can be hard for an inexperienced user.

There are definitely loads of ethical issues around surveillance and recording, and these are issues I’ve been grappling with over the last few weeks on various fronts. I think we have to deal with these issues, and not simply stick our heads in the sand and ignore them or dismiss the benefits of electronic monitoring out of hand. The fact is that there are proper, ethical types of surveillance, and surveillance is sometimes justified by the circumstances. Privacy is not absolute – it has to be balanced with another party’s needs. And sometimes the other party really does need to know.

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