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Out of Body Experience

April 17, 2024 by Chris Allcard

Body worn cameras are being utilised across an ever expanding range of applications and although they provide an excellent level of safety and security, the cameras are only part of the picture. Chris Allcard, lone worker services director at Reliance Protect, explains how the company’s cloud based VideoManager online portal offers complete control.

If the first few weeks of 2023 are anything to go by, this could be the year that body worn cameras reach mass acceptance. Reliance Protect has already been inundated with enquiries from a wide range of organisations, which believe that these devices, which are essentially personal safety devices, will help keep their employees safe and improve their business operations. As a pioneer in the use of this technology and a leading provider of lone worker personal safety devices in the UK, we are pleased that our message is having such an impact.

On the record

Applications including police and other emergency services, retail, healthcare, hospitality, logistics, car parking and public transport are now using body worn cameras. Just this year, under new rules from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), driving test examiners will wear them to help tackle abuse.

We see the same question a lot; ‘what is the main purpose of a body worn camera?’. The answer being that the main function of body worn cameras is to provide an audio and visual record of events from the wearer’s perspective. This technology has developed significantly over the last decade, with smaller form factors, lightweight construction and features such as high definition images and sound, the ability to live stream, as well as Global Positioning System (GPS), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi location capability, now the norm.

Deterrence is key

Body worn cameras are highly effective as a deterrent, as people tend to be far less aggressive if they know they are being recorded. When confronting someone who is exhibiting antisocial behaviour, people can be trained in how to calmly but firmly inform them that they will be filmed, and what the evidence will be used for should they decide to continue. Police body worn cameras are now associated as a standard piece of an officer’s uniform, issued to all who come into contact with the public. This is just one example of how body worn cameras can be effectively deployed to not only collect footage but to work as a deterrent against situations of escalated risk.

If a situation escalates, footage provides objective evidence to support the wearer’s version of events and protects them against false accusations. Live streamed footage can be viewed by authorised individuals within a customer organisation or by an alarm receiving centre (ARC), where incidents can be monitored as they happen, enabling faster decisions on the most appropriate and effective course of action.

Traditionally, the challenges have been around how to manage the media files created from the body worn cameras. These solutions typically pose information security risks, have inefficient and time-consuming media handling processes, and are ultimately very expensive over the medium to long term.

Often media is uploaded from the camera straight onto a local computer. There is typically no security with the upload process and access is dependent on the access to that computer. Maybe the files are held on the organisation’s network rather than locally on a computer? Again, this poses challenges in terms of managing access and deletion of the footage.

Software packages often need to be deployed either locally on computers or at a network level to allow the files to be viewed. These often come with license and maintenance fees, but are limited in terms of functionality. Many organisations need to send their video files away to a third party for editing or redacting services. This incurs additional time, cost, and 3rd party data sharing arrangements.

Consideration therefore needs to be given to the amount of storage required both in the short term and longer term. Managing storage space on a local computer or at a network level requires resources and costs just from an IT maintenance perspective. Storage requirements may not be easily scalable.

Many organisations are increasingly adopting web-based video management portals to manage their cameras and the videos created. These come with cloud storage which offers a cost effective, secure, scalable and resilient solution.

Leading the way

Reliance Protect’s VideoManager solution makes the creation, management, deletion and sharing of evidence ready footage simple. Media files are automatically and securely uploaded from the cameras when they are docked, and stored securely in the cloud, in UK data centres, for access via the VideoManager online portal.

No software downloads are required and files can be remotely accessed via desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. VideoManager’s easy to use editing tools can be used to redact or crop video, blur backgrounds, add text, zoom in, and mute sections of audio, while the original video master copies are retained in secure storage. There is also the option of importing videos from other cameras, such as CCTV. Being cloud based also means that it is fully scalable and flexible, negating the need for organisations to invest, monitor and continuously maintain in-house media storage solutions.

Hierarchies of users and permission levels can be configured. So, for example, hospital ward managers can only access video footage from their respective wards, while central security management staff can be granted access to footage across an entire estate and redeploy body worn cameras as required. Likewise, deletion rights can be carefully controlled.

Due diligence

Although the security industry was slow to recognise the advantages of the cloud, mainly due to concerns about data protection, that has now changed. That said, organisations must still ask the right questions about how a prospective security partner deals with and processes data, where it is stored, who has access to it and what it is ultimately used for.

The answers to these questions should become apparent through the completion of a data protection impact assessment (DPIA), which is designed to identify and minimise the specific data protection risks of a project. Only Reliance Protect staff with enhanced security checks to Non-Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV) Level 3 are allowed to access customer VideoManager accounts to help and support them.

Joined up thinking

The use of body worn cameras as a way to keep individuals safe while at work should be welcomed and encouraged. Although the deterrent effect of these devices alone should not be underestimated, the ability to access, edit and archive footage via a secure online portal utilising cloud storage is highly attractive. It offers significant financial savings by enabling more cost-effective deployment and scaling, security and resilience of data, along with a vast reduction in IT hardware maintenance and management costs, thereby maximising the return on a body worn camera investment.