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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

The rapid growth of body worn video surveillance

12 September, 2007
The recent US defence win for UK based Audax to supply body worn surveillance equipment prompted me to look closer at the advantages this technology offers.
UK based Audax have recently announced that they have won an order from the US Army for body worn surveillance systems, namely their Cylon head cameras. This potential 2 million dollar order is a significant coup for Audax in penetrating the difficult US defence market which was undoubtedly eased by the widespread field trials and operational usage of the system by other agencies around the world.

After undergoing initial trials in local UK police forces, the system was deployed more widely throughout the UK and gaining endorsement from the UK Home Office. Remaining predominantly in the domain of civilian police forces, the geographical spread of operational usage of the system extended to South Africa, Australia and the US. With such widespread acceptance of the technology, it was only a matter of time before the defence agencies decided to make the most of this snappy piece of sci-fi technology.

This is impressive progress for a surveillance system that has essentially only been on the market for two years so what does it offer?

The answer is probably more than you think. Initial UK police trials yielded some interesting results. One of the main items was the predicted evidence gathering advantage with an increase in conversions of violent incidents into prosecutable crimes of nearly 10% indicating that a tenth of the incidents attended couldn't have been prosecuted without the camera. More significantly there was a 7.3% increase in offences that were successfully brought to justice which suggests an improvement in the quality of evidence.

Another significant find was that complaints against the police reduced overall by over 14% with no complaints having been brought against police wearing the camera. Two things can be inferred from this â€" police wearing cameras stuck to procedure and didn't break any rules and potential complainants thought better of speculatively complaining in the hope of leniency when they realised a camera was present to refute their claims.

The Home Office also reports that officers wearing the cameras also benefited by cutting out around 22% out of their admin time.

On the downside, the only issues related to comfort and ergonomics with a small number of users complaining of discomfort with sets worn on the head and some complaining of inconvenience particularly when driving â€" nothing that can't be overcome by a good industrial designer.

With applications extending to man guarding, close protection, airport security, dog handlers and customs to name but a few, it seems that head cameras or other body worn surveillance systems have a future in many areas of the security sector.
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