Body-worn cameras (BWC) have been around for a long time, but have not been as successful as many thought they would be in Africa. In this year’s Residential Estate Security Round Table, however, the security managers surprised us by noting that BWC are becoming an important tool in estates’ security operations.
In this article, we look at what is happening in the market and at the latest in BWC solutions. We also look at areas where these devices are well suited and what communications solutions are provided with them and if these allow for live streaming or only transmitting video in emergencies (or not at all).
Gaining ground with reservations
Vaughn Tempelhoff from Forbatt SA says BWC are starting to gain traction in the marketplace, however, there is still a large disconnect to purpose-built body-worn devices and products used for sporting and recreational use. Purpose built BWC offer a lot more and should be seen in a different light, as they are purpose-built for their specific application and not intended for broad and extended usage as one would expect in the security industry.
Hein Kern from Secutel Technologies adds that his company sees customers are interested in BWC for their guards, but it depends on the application or business case.
One of the reservations to the adoption of BWC is connectivity. For remote guards, it would be ideal to use 3G or 4G connectivity to monitor patrols and events, but as Tempelhoff notes, mobile data is still very expensive. In areas covered with a local Wi-Fi network the situation is different, but in other areas, live monitoring is the exception rather than the rule as streaming only happens when the guard sends a panic or some form of alert.
With Secutel’s SecuTraq BWC solution, Kern says connectivity is provided via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (indoors) and/or a mobile connection. The SecuTraq caters for seven to eight hours of battery-powered operation (or 12 to 16 hours depending on the model). However, he says it is more practical to allow on-demand surveillance of video or photograph capturing via button on the bodycam or directly triggered from the control room. In other words, video is only sent on request and not livestreamed.
Kedacom’s BWC, adds Tempelhoff, does compensate for connectivity issues with the ability to failover from Wi-Fi to 3G/4G and vice versa, reducing network costs.
Features available in new BWC
The Secutel BWC (which is a locally developed solution), features a number of features apart from the camera, such as panic alerts, call-me, geo-fencing, photo requests, 4G push-to-talk, LPR (via the cloud) , 4K video recording, H.265 compression, GPS tracking, a 2,8-inch capacitive touch screen, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, as well as IP68 dust- and water-resistance. Kern adds that it is also drop resistant up to two metres. Moreover, Kerns adds that AI and video contents analytics are continuously being developed to expand the uses for Secutel’s BWC.
The SecuTraq product compresses the video once it has ended and then sends it to the cloud platform. If snapshots are taken, these are also sent immediately after the photograph has been taken. The system can handle dual mobile connections and will failover to the connection with the best signal.
Tempelhoff notes that face detection has started making its appearance in Kedacom BWC on top of the other functionality. “This gives you the ability to capture faces from your BWC, transmit them to the Kedacom Falcon Server and cross reference faces to your database. In terms of battery life, we are slowly getting to the 12-hour shift ideal, however, this all depends on how you use the unit. Kedacom overcomes this by having car chargers as well as dash-mount accessories available for the units, giving the BWC the ability to act as a dashcam as well.”
Within the Kedacom BWC range, Tempelhoff highlights four products. In the actual camera space, the Kedacom IP67 body-worn camera features a Qualcomm processor, 2 MP HD recording with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G built in. It records all your audio on the device with expandable storage options available. A Kedacom earhook camera is also available. Tempelhoff says these devices don’t record in the direction your body is facing like normal BWC, but in accordance with your line of sight which can offer better coverage of an incident. An optional button camera for discreet applications is also available.
For transferring data from the camera to your servers, assuming live streaming is not on the cards, the Kedacom body-worn docking station solution supports six cameras, expandable to 24. Featuring a touch screen windows tablet for ease-of-use, the unit charges and synchronises all attached BWC devices to a server. It can also be set to make backups from the docking station to a cloud service or even to a USB drive. You simply insert the BWC into the docking station and the whole process is automated.
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