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Video surveillance through history: Back then, right now, and what’s to come

May 8, 2024 Eagle Eye Networks

You’ve probably had a smartphone in your pocket capable of capturing video on a relatively tiny device for the better part of a decade now. It’s strange to think we started out in quite a different place, with the creation of the first motion picture video camera in 1879. This blog takes a look at the fascinating journey of cameras through the ages right up until today and beyond.

The first commercial CCTV

It wasn’t until 1949 that the first rudimentary commercial CCTV (aka closed-circuit television) security cameras came along – and they couldn’t record, so they required constant monitoring by a human being. Not the stealthiest addition to the lineup, but a solid start, which led to the videotape recorder just two years later. And before you think this product could fly under the radar, you should know it was roughly the size of a desk. (And cost a whopping $50,000 – which would be more like $650,000 in today’s dollars.)

The spread of CCTV, from Westminster Abbey to Times Square

CCTV was used for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, but as you can imagine, given the size and cost, they took a little time to catch on and become more common outside of the Royal Family. CCTV continued to spread in the United States, popping up in new areas over time. A few cameras were placed in Times Square in New York City. But the first main street to install security cameras was Olean, New York, in 1968. These cameras broadcast to the local police station, where they had to be continuously monitored.

Game changer: video cassettes 

So what was the first real game changer? Video cassette tapes. Sony was the first to sell commercially available video cassette recorders (VCRs) in 1971. When put together with CCTVs, customers could record video footage for later viewing. This was enticing to banks and retailers, who realized this was a genius security solution. Given time, cameras got smaller and less obtrusive, and video quality got better. 

Enter: the digital revolution.

For years, consumers’ camera choice was: analog or analog. That all changed in the mid-1990s, when the first Internet protocol (IP) cameras were released.  IP cameras worked amazingly well with another new technology, digital video recorders (DVRs), which contained hard disc drives that captured recorded video. Almost instantly, these  digital options became all the rage. DVRs stored large amounts of digital video and could capture and retain video from more than one camera. 

The Cloud changes everything.

The cloud entered the picture as IP cameras improved in price and quality. Now there was a way to connect these cameras to the internet as a way to get rid of on-site maintenance and extra equipment like servers. Starting in the 2010s, customers could access their surveillance video anywhere at any time. In addition, the scalability and reliability offered by the cloud for video surveillance has provided unparalleled value and growth for all companies of all sizes.

evolution of video surveillance inline - Video surveillance through history: Back then, right now, and what’s to come

With the advent of the video security cloud, cutting edge technologies are available at a moment’s notice. Previously unimaginable AI features like smart video search, which allows users to search for people, vehicles, and objects using natural language, is now available. Regular downloads from the cloud also future-proof security systems by providing continual cybersecurity updates. 

Another cloud-enabled advance ise license plate recognition technology, allowing users to monitor what vehicles enter and exit from their parking operations, which can help keep unwanted visitors in check. Thanks to cloud tech, video surveillance now can even be placed in open fields and areas without power or wifi access. And one of the very latest advances is the ability of designated cameras to share live video directly with 911 Emergency Call Centers (ECCs) in an emergency. 

Not to brag, but Eagle Eye Networks is the leader in cloud surveillance, offering AI-enabled video and multiple camera viewing through our true cloud VMS. Eagle Eye Networks remains at the forefront of these advances, seeking to deliver peace of mind and ease of use to customers while also investigating and implementing cutting-edge technologies. Reach out to learn about how we can help you. The past, present, and future of video surveillance promise many more exciting advances still to come.

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