Under the watchful eyes of privacy proponents, video surveillance technology has proven its mettle in helping to limit access and social-distancing.

Video surveillance technology is often seen as a double-edged sword. For many years now, it had been under the spotlight with significant social, privacy, legal, and technological implications on society.

Yet, this year’s turbulent pandemic has given video surveillance and monitoring a leg up as an effective tool in identifying people with COVID-19 symptoms. 

Worldwide, when visiting most places, we will be subjected to temperature checks on cameras equipped with thermal scanners. Regulatory frameworks, data protection initiatives and stricter legislation have also been either relaxed or tweaked to sanction such video surveillance technology for the greater good.

Does this mean the pandemic has given such technology more clout amid concerns of potential abuse and breach?

Addressing problem gambling

From restricting problem gamblers to controlling the spread of a pandemic, video technology for surveillance and identification is not a new development. 

For years now, casinos have been employing facial recognition technology through closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) to detect ‘problem gamblers’. It was a solution that addressed the deficiencies of manual surveillance relying on employees to memorize and identify the long list of problem gamblers.

Through facial recognition technology, people who are not allowed to access restricted areas will be flagged by the security system accordingly. 

While the use of video technology is no silver bullet, when used well, it contributes towards a solution. Beyond serving as a simple passive asset that monitors visitors, it is also an active one that can help counter the potentially damaging effects of problem gambling. 

Now with a pandemic to control, these cameras are further layered with analytics to generate heatmapping and occupancy statistics, crowd counting, and social-distancing detection. The very same video management platform is doing much more to drive business continuity during the pandemic.

Controlling the customer experience  

Retailers are not blind to the benefits and pitfalls of this technology. By layering video cameras with analytics to detect if diners and shoppers are maintaining proper social distance, they save costs in deploying extra staff to patrol the premises. 

Beyond this, some retailers have also explored the use of video technologies to offer and personalize customer service experience. For example, some drive-through restaurants have started utilizing an open-platform video management software solution with license plate recognition (LPR) technology to register cars entering the carpark.

This integration helps restaurants to predict orders from regular customers who consent to share their data and include their car plate information in the restaurant’s database. The restaurant can then start preparing their favorite meals even before customers reach the counter, offering a more efficient and personalized drive-through experience that also resolves traffic congestion at pick-up points during peak hours.  Leveraging these technologies offers not just business continuity, but also a strong competitive advantage though safer and smarter customer service delivery. 

When non-video tools do not apply

In a small country such as Singapore, video technology solutions have been in place for several years now. Back in 2015, CCTV cameras at bus stops with high commuter traffic were installed to monitor crowd levels, enabling the necessary adjustments to bus schedules in a year-long trial. 

Today, the same video technology tools can address other rising concerns pertaining to public transport—the need to close the contact tracing gap. Non-video technology tools such as apps and SafeEntry check-in systems play a big role in managing contact tracing efforts. But on public transport where such check-ins are not made compulsory, video technology tools can bridge the gap. 

Intelligent video technology can go a step further with facial recognition, making it possible to detect faces even through a mask. These smart monitoring systems of the future also come with a masking and or component to protect privacy, ensuring that consumers remain anonymous unless there is security breach. 

Discovering untapped potentials

Video surveillance technology has come a long way and is now more functional and capable than ever before. As the pandemic pushes for tight movement and behavioral control, more public and private agencies are diving in to explore the vast, untapped potential of video capabilities.

Whether the public likes it or not, video technology has earned extra credo during a global crisis. However, this also places greater emphasis on organizational responsibility when it comes to data protection and privacy. The public sector, technology partners and businesses will all need to collaborate to make that a reality.

As we adapt to this new landscape, we are beginning to see an unusual phenomenon—organizations and consumers are coming together to push the limits of video surveillance technology beyond its original purpose.