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CCTV and the Age of Digital

CCTV and the Age of Digital
Video surveillance evolves for better facility protection

By Van Carlisle

In an increasingly competitive industry, selfstorage owners and operators strive to make the process of storing goods as easy and convenient as possible for customers. Unfortunately, this convenience often accommodates the legitimate consumer as well as the criminal. For tenants, self-storage provides easy access to furniture, archives, appliances and other goods. From the criminal perspective, storage units offer expedient access to valuables.

As facility owners and managers well know, self-storage is not just about providing extra space. Tenants want to know who, or what, is keeping eye over their possessions. Nothing can outright prevent all incidents of theft and vandalism; but a major deterrent is a network of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras designed to monitor a facility. CCTV is not only necessary from a security standpoint, it serves as a way to investigate accidents on the property and discourage employee theft.

A Bit of Background

Although surveillance-camera use dates back to the 1950s, cameras first became widely used in commercial security applications in the early 1970s. They have been steadily expanding in use since. After 9/11, every element of the security industry has intensified, and CCTV has been one of the leading categories in terms of growth. Much of the research and development and many of the product advances for CCTV come from Asia, where low wages and expertise in electronics create a very competitive environment with a constant flow of new products and features.

Since the 1980s, the most commonly used surveillance setup includes time-lapse video recorders that allow the compression of many hours of recording time onto a single videotape. These days, the video-security industry is evolving from the use of analog videotape to fully digital recordings. VHS video recorders are becoming obsolete in a security context, and for good reason. Tapes are costly, inefficient to store, and wear out relatively fast. Picture clarity is not the best. Also, better integrated systems are a driving trend.

According to security-industry consultant Joseph P. Freeman, organizations are merging their security electronics into centralized controls, and systems are being merged into integrated information-technology networks. As Freeman explains, this is all part of the effort to reduce headcounts and organizational cost structures.

The Age of Digital Video

So what does this mean for self-storage operators? Many of you have disposed of your home VCRs in favor of a DVD player. Similarly, if you are still using a time-lapse videotape recording system, now is a good time to evaluate and upgrade your current CCTV setup.

First introduced in the 1980s, the digital video recorder offers features unavailable to videotape users, such as advanced search capabilities. Other advantages of digital recording over videotape are: better system flexibility, extended record times, better image quality (allowing viewers to identify a suspect), future expansion ability, and a large capacity for data storage and reproduction. One of the greatest benefits of digital video is it eliminates hours of pouring over VCR tapes looking for particular incidents.

Digital CCTV technology also allows for the monitoring of multiple facilities from a single location via telephone, wireless technologies and the Internet. Systems that allow computer-based access are referred to as IPbased CCTV. This option is popular among absentee owners who like to keep tabs on their operation anytime from anywhere. This type of system can be integrated with other security features, such as point-of-sale, EAS (electronic article surveillance) alarms, access control and even robbery buttons to ensure important images are properly captured and stored. A security consultant or vendor can help you determine if this solution is right for your operation.

Finally, police love digital CCTV because it allows them to begin an investigation immediately without having to wait for a lab to process images. More law-enforcement agencies are using digital recording as criminal evidence. In one case, suspicious activity noticed at a storage unit led police to $1.2 million in cocaine that was stored inside. Because digital CCTV produces high-quality video, law enforcement has approached facility operators when problems occur in their areas, hoping to get leads from external cameras.

Ask your security vendor to provide you a return-on-investment study for digital CCTV implementation. In most cases, installation of a digital, IP-based, video-surveillance system earns back every bit of its cost.

Van Carlisle is president and CEO of FKI Security Group, a premier security and loss-prevention company, where he has worked since 1975. Mr. Carlisle studied criminal justice at the University of Louisville and served six years in the Air National Guard Security Police Force. For more information, call 800.457.2424; e-mail; visit

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