The problem with body cameras: what to capture?

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By Danny Rowark, SUSE

It was announced this week that teachers in two UK schools will be given the opportunity to wear body cameras to help monitor and moderate behaviour in the classroom. In a survey commissioned by the Times Educational Supplement (TES), one third of teachers said they want cameras in classrooms – so what is a small-scale trial today could well turn into widespread use in the future.

Teaching isn’t the first profession to turn to body cameras. With more focus than ever before on frontline policing across the world, body cameras are the latest technological advance being implemented by police forces seeking greater transparency and accountability. London’s Metropolitan Police will equip some 22,000 officers with body cameras by this summer, after watching successful trial periods in various police across the US.

Some cameras are capable of capturing up to 12 hours of footage at a time, with data uploaded at the end of the wearer’s working day. For police, any relevant footage is tagged as evidence, and all video content is kept on file for a defined period in case it becomes pertinent at a later date.

So let’s do some quick maths. Assuming that each of the Metropolitan Police’s 22,000 camera-equipped officers undertake one shift in a 24-hour period, that’s 264,000 hours of video being uploaded and stored in a single day. Now multiply that by five working days per week for each officer (which might be generous: it could well be more during peak periods). Now multiply that by 48 weeks per year to allow for some holiday time.

All of which gives an estimated 63,360,000 hours of video per year. Which needs to be securely stored – at least in the short term, and some perhaps indefinitely. And that’s just one police force…

Unsurprisingly, storing this video data is proving to be a big problem for some forces.
In fact, Pleasant Grove Police Department in Utah, US, switched off its cameras due to storage challenges. The cost and complexity of storing the footage from officers’ body cameras was too great, and the volume of video footage being uploaded by officers crashed the force’s database. If body cameras in schools become more widespread, schools will face a similar problem.

Storing exponential volumes of data in a dedicated data centre or more secure private cloud can get very expensive, very quickly. Video content in particular can quickly take up a huge amount of space, with volume storage requirements increasing much more quickly than storage budgets.

To help deal with this challenge, police forces, schools and any other organisations using body cameras should consider software-defined storage (SDS). SDS provides a highly scalable and resilient storage environment, designed to scale up and seamlessly adapt to changing data requirements.

For police forces and other organisations facing static or falling budgets, software-defined storage allows IT to reduce costs while simultaneously providing an intelligent storage management solution perfect for the bulk and large data storage requirements which are a consequence of the use of body cameras.

After multiple successful trials, we are starting to see larger-scale rollouts of body cameras and this means an exponential increase in storage requirements. Software-defined storage is the natural solution.

Danny Rowark is Country Manager, UK and Ireland at SUSE

 

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