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While tackling crime is central to the role of any residents' association, Goodwin Community Vision in Hull has gone one step further by using wireless technology to develop the world's first IP-based CCTV system.
According to Goodwin's project director John Marshall, a key benefit of wireless technology is its flexibility. Whereas standard CCTV cameras are fixed and visible, often merely displacing crime instead of reducing it, wireless cameras can simply be unbolted and moved to another "hotspot".
With Goodwin's system, CCTV camera images are converted into data files and sent to a control centre across an Ethernet backbone. Real-time images are then sent to the local police station via e-mail.
The files are stored on a 7.3Tbyte hard drive and can be retrieved by entering the time, date and camera number. This negates the need for an extensive videotape library.
Locating archive video footage is labour-intensive and problematic, with police routinely seizing any videos containing footage from a crime scene. Goodwin can simply cut and paste its digital images onto CDs, which are then admissible as evidence. Images can even be encrypted or watermarked for added security.
The total cost of installing and running the system for the first year will be about £800,000. After that, the annual running cost should be about £250,000. But Marshall claims the project has saved £2.1m in the first five months alone due to the reduction in crime in the area.
The project was not without its problems, however. Marshall says that in the beginning the local police did not even have e-mail and their computers were unable to read CDs. And because it was a new area there was no software available. In the end, Goodwin used software from Peterborough firm Farsight that was still under development.
For the next stage of the project, Goodwin hopes to gain backing from the CCTV Challenge Fund. It aims to install 300 CCTV cameras across the city of Hull, rising to 1,000 "in a couple of years' time". Marshall believes this could cost up to £15m. Goodwin also intends to make use of intelligent software in areas such as car number plate recognition.
"What we have produced here is a world first but the last thing we want to do is stand still," says Marshall. "We think we have developed the future of CCTV."