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CCTV Consultant, Lambert & Associates

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Simon gained a degree in Physics and Electronics; always immersed in a technical career. Elected a Director of the Association of Security Consultants for 12 years, he is also a member of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (formerly IEE) and an accredited Assessor for the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) on CCTV and related security systems. He is Technical Lead on the CCTV National Standards Forum and sits on the British Standards Institution CCTV committee. As an Engineer with 27 years’ experience in commercial, military & security systems design, including technical sales for large and small security systems companies, Simon’s work focuses on surveying, design, cost estimating, specifications, tender processes and managing projects. In addition, he has provided expert witness services in CCTV and forensic analysis of video and audio recordings. Simon has developed 3D graphics techniques and software for the CCTV industry, as well as accepting speaking invitations for conferences, television and radio, with many commissions to create articles and graphics for industry periodicals. In 2005 and 2011 he entered the Security Excellence Awards and was a finalist in the ‘Best Security Consultant’ category.
January 29, 2014


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

CCTV Guide – Setting your Objectives and Requirements

CCTV which doesn’t meet user’s objectives is a waste of money. Running it is a waste of time and effort. Relying on it could be a liability. The solution to this foolish situation has a simple beginning: Define or redefine your objectives. Remember that CCTV might not be the best, or only, solution!

Such objectives might be: prevention of theft, trespass, criminal damage, anti-social behaviour or many other crime-related activities. Maybe solutions are needed to help with the management of staff, the public, vehicles, licensing compliance, financial and public transactions, and alarm verification, to list just a few. Health and safety may be vital, including crowd management, life preservation (e.g. in swimming pools), lone worker protection, staff/public interfaces, or access control to secure areas.

Video surveillance resources

Operational Requirement

If CCTV is clearly the superior solution to achieve the objectives then the next stage is to decide what the system must do in order to satisfactorily meet those objectives. In CCTV jargon the must do factors are in the ‘Operational Requirement’ document. Put simply, this answers all key aspects of: why, where, what, when, how and who. More formally, this thinking process is detailed in the CCTV Operational Requirements Manual 2009, publication no. 28/09, by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (since renamed CAST) which is recommended as a freely available 55-page downloadable PDF.

Let’s summarise some vital knowledge from it.

The ‘Level 1 Operational Requirement’ reflects the ‘why’ as clearly considered objectives, as outlined above, including: a statement of the problem; list of stakeholders; risk assessment; criteria for success; and the most effective solution decided upon.

The ‘Level 2 Operational Requirement’ requires drilling down into much greater detail, as follows:

  • Define the Problem. Where needs viewing? What activity to view? What level of detail in video? What speed is the action?
  • Operational Issues. Who monitors CCTV? When is CCTV viewed? Where is CCTV viewed? Who responds to activity captured?
  • System Requirements. How are alarms indicated? How are screens arranged? How much data is stored and for how long? How is footage exported?
  • Management Issues. What regulations? What laws to comply with? How to maintain the system? What resources and training?
  • The Rotakin’ CCTV test target in action

    The Rotakin’ CCTV test target in action

    Since 1994 when the ground-breaking ‘Rotakin’ man-sized CCTV test target was introduced by the UK Home Office, the level of detail required in a CCTV image to meet its objectives has been well defined. Updated in 2009, these criteria are illustrated here using the 1.7 metre high target. Note that these figures are for PAL video from standard definition (SD) cameras which are still very widely used in 2012.

    For Identification: the figure occupying 100% of screen height should be sufficient to enable identification of the individual beyond reasonable doubt.

    For Recognition: the figure occupying 50% of screen height allows viewers to say with a high degree of certainty if the individual is someone they have seen before.

    For Observation: the figure occupying 25% – 30% of screen height shows characteristic details such as clothing while also viewing surrounding activity.

    For Detection: the figure occupying 10% of screen height enables a viewer responding to an alert to see with a high degree of certainty whether a person is present.

    For Monitoring & Control: the figure occupying 5% of screen height enables a viewer to monitor the number, direction and speed of people across a wide area provided their presence is known.

    It is important to note that the proliferation of High Definition (HD) cameras and multi-megapixel cameras does not change the thinking underlying these practical measures of image detail. For instance, identification using SD video needs the 1.7m figure at 100% (described above), but if using full-HD video with many more pixels from top to bottom the figure need only fill 38% of screen height to provide same level of detail, using straightforward pixels vs height calculations.

    Returning to our opening statement, if you want your CCTV system to meet your objectives and provide a proper return on your investment, you need to start with an Operational Requirement, It is not rocket science and the benefits are enormous.

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