In a new study that has potentially Orwellian implications, ABI Research projects that revenue for video surveillance software will quadruple over the next five years.
According to ABI vice-president and research director Stan Schatt, revenue generated from surveillance software will increase to more than US$900 million in 2013, up from current revenues of US$245 million. Schatt says there are several big drivers for this increase, including increased spending on security systems by the government, on theft prevention systems by retail outlets and on surveillance by market researchers. Additionally, he says that the advent of Wi-Fi has made it possible to place wireless cameras just about anywhere while still sending footage back to a central location.
Looking at the broader picture, Schatt says that technological advances are also increasing the scope and the potential uses of video surveillance. He says that one of the more disturbing uses is the ability of store marketing departments to actually monitor the eyeball movements of customers to figure out what products or displays draw their attention.
“When stores have the ability to observe you as you walk through a store, what I can imagine is that more and more stores will try to basically have a pretty in-depth knowledge of their customers,” he says. “So let’s say for instance the store issues you a discount card that also has a radio frequency ID that identifies who you are. And then let’s say they observe you looking at, but not actually purchasing, movies in the adult video section. Well, the next thing you know you’re getting all these promotional materials for racy movies you’re not even interested in.”
Schatt also notes that more and more banks are looking into installing cameras with face recognition ability to help prevent robberies before they even occur. Thus, when a known bank robber enters a bank, the camera can recognize his face and send out an alert. Casinos are already deploying this sort of face recognition software to monitor their employees, Schatt says, and using it to detect when certain employees enter into unauthorized areas and alerting the security team.
Schatt believes that as more surveillance equipment becomes increasingly digitized and software-reliant, it will increasingly move into the purview of IT departments. And because the surveillance software vastly broadens the extent to which companies and governments can watch people, it will inevitably create privacy concerns that will have to be addressed.