The Telangana government wants more eyes on the streets to upgrade Hyderabad’s safety. It has asked enterprises, public sectors, residential associations and individuals to install closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) in and around their premises.
More than a lakh CCTVs are expected to be installed across the city in the next few years. The initiative is part of the Nenu Saitham (Telugu for Me Too) project — being promoted by Hyderabad Police, which will monitor the feed. To ensure that lowquality CCTVs are not installed and the project is sustainable, the police has asked citizens to only buy from selected vendors.
With this move, launched in November 2017, the Telangana govt joins a growing list of governments, corporations, educational institutes, residential buildings and small businesses across the country that are buying such technology.
According to industry estimates, over a million surveillance units were sold every month a couple of years ago. Now it is two million. The Indian market is growing 20-25% annually, say experts. Industry source estimate the security & surveillance market was worth Rs 8,200 crore in FY2017, reached Rs 11,000 crore in FY2018 and is expected to touch Rs 20,000 crore in FY2020.
The rise in CCTV coverage can also be observed anecdotally. There’s a steady uptick in CCTV clips circulating on Whatsapp, capturing crimes or funny events that would otherwise have gone undocumented. Many of the sensational crimes recently, including multiple incidents of murder in Tamil Nadu, were captured on CCTV cameras, distilling the pure horror of those moments on our mobile screens, and also offering valuable proof to nail the culprits.
The surveillance and security boom is fed by several companies, ranging from homegrown firms such as CP Plus to joint ventures such as Prama Hikvision to multinationals such as Bosch, Panasonic, Honeywell and Axis. The Telangana project, for example, helped Sweden-based Axis Communications widen its India market. It has already installed 1,500 cameras, and more will be installed soon. Other state governments have or are in the process of placing orders.
The Swedish company says it recently installed cameras and associated technology across a range of large corporate and government establishments across India. “We are at the beginning of a five-year boom cycle for these devices,” says Sudhindra Holla, sales director (India & Saarc), Axis Communications. “We are catering to a rush of orders ranging from large companies with complex security infrastructure to deals from government agencies in small towns such as Nanded and Kolhapur.”
Multiple factors are driving the growth in the CCTV segment, says Manu Tiwari, programme manager (automation and electronics practice), Frost and Sullivan. A strong government push to enhance security; purchases for initiatives such as the Smart City project, which covers 100 cities, and the Rs 2,219 crore allocated under the Nirbhaya Fund for women’s safety, which covers eight cities, are some of the growth drivers.
According to Sanjay Kaushik, managing director of security consultancy Netrika Consulting, there is a push to better use CCTV feeds to improve security across India. “While the focus hitherto has been on post facto scouting of footage to find perpetrators, organisations are now trying to be more proactive with their monitoring to spot suspicious people and packages before crimes occur.”
This could involve closely looking at footage to spot suspicious movements at places such as malls or airports or using technology to spot suspicious objects left unattended for long periods. Then, there’s also a focus on making sure the cameras are installed correctly. “Recognisability is key. Organisations are being pushed to ensure simple things like camera feeds are free of obstructions, licence plates are visible in feeds and there is adequate lighting,” adds Kaushik. Advances in technology have ensured that CCTV systems are cheaper and more accessible.
While large enterprises had taken to such technology earlier, even smaller commercial establishments and private residents now can afford to install security systems. The prices have practically halved over the last couple of years. An entry-level camera is now available for a little over Rs 2,000. “Even the cost of an integrated solution, which was as much as Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 three or four years ago, is today available for as little as Rs 15,000,” says Yogesh Dutta, COO of New Delhi-based CP Plus. “A rapid increase in the number of CCTVs sellers and technicians has also helped widen access.” The devices have become popular as it helps law enforcers to tackle crime, he adds.
CP Plus’s customers include Vedanta Power and Odisha Police, which has also decided to use e-surveillance to enhance security. Frost and Sullivan says small & medium enterprises and large corporations were together the biggest end-user segments in FY18. This segment had a market share of 33%. Residential had a 28% market share; the industrial segment had 18% and the government 13%, it said. Other major end-user segments are hospitality, education and healthcare.
An increase in such surveillance, however, may be double-edged, say privacy advocates. While a blanket coverage using CCTVs may give citizens a feeling of security, India’s rudimentary legislation around who can access these feeds is a problem. Some countries such as the UK and UAE have stricter guidelines on this. Law-enforcement agencies can access such feeds while following up on their investigations, says Supreme Court lawyer Karnika Seth, without procuring a warrant. “As long as it is for this purpose, it is within the purview of the law. However, with the new judgment on privacy, anything more would be a no-go area.”
The use of CCTV can potentially impinge on the rights of an individual, says Elonnai Hickok, who heads privacy research at the Centre for Internet and Society, an advocacy outfit in Bengaluru. “Technically speaking, the feed can reveal personal information about an individual, including identity, location and daily patterns. Because the feed captures individuals in public spaces, it is not possible for people to have an opt-out option. The access and use of the data are often unclear.” Regulations are starting to address the use of CCTV imagery in some places. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, for example, has recognised that imagery that identifies an individual is personal data and thus requires lawful, fair and transparent processing.
The draft data protection bill by the Srikrishna committee also says CCTV imagery would be considered personal data. If CCTV cameras are put in place by a private actor, Hickok contends, they would need to adhere to the principles laid out in chapters II and III of the draft — which covers fair and reasonable processing, purpose limitation, collection limitation, lawful processing, notice, data quality, data storage limitation, accountability and consent.
For feeds used by the state for reasons such as public safety, the consent clause will not apply. But state actors will still need to adhere to the principles laid out in chapter II. If CCTVs are used for the purpose of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of a crime, it will be exempt from adhering to the requirements of the bill. However, this use must be backed by a law passed in Parliament and the data cannot be retained once its purpose has been met.
There are more legal restrictions if the CCTV application is integrated with capabilities that capture biometrics. “Clear responsibilities and reasons should be enunciated, the policies should be clearly documented and publicised and, importantly, the cost and benefits should be ascertained,” Hickock argues. ¡§It is important to have technical safeguards like encryption and procurement guidelines.
Legal and privacy issues aside, the commercial aspect is clearly looking bright. Prama Hikvision, a Chinese-Indian joint venture, has invested Rs 100 crore in a factory in Bhiwandi to make 500,000 cameras a month. A second factory, possibly in Telangana, is expected to go on stream soon, with a monthly capacity of 1,50,000 units. “CCTVs have gone from being used by a sliver of companies, primarily banks and jewellers, to being adopted by a much broader audience,” says Ashish Dhakan, MD and CEO, Prama Hikvision. “Our client list includes companies in the sectors of transportation, power, petroleum, oil and gas and retail.”
Another trend market players have spotted is a shift from analog, which used tapes to record footage, to digital systems, where recording time and storage space are not major constraints. “We see continuous enhancement to megapixel (displays) from low-resolution, improved compression technology. This allows more data, more storage capacity, and overall lowering of cost for storage recording devices,” says Sharad Yadav, general manager, Honeywell Building Technologies, India. Frost and Sullivan analyst Tiwari lists emerging offerings – including intelligent video surveillance, wireless systems and higher resolution of visuals – as features that will define the next-generation devices.
But digital also comes with some dangers. As CCTV cameras go from standalone devices to being digital and connected ones, experts say there is a risk of hacking. Hackers may also be able to use the network as a gateway. This could give hackers access to much more than just the camera feed. “Cybersecurity is a constant focus for us,” says Holla of Axis Communications. “While no camera is hack-proof, we believe we have built enough capabilities to react to these hacks and quickly release patches to secure them.”
Others such as Hickok of CIS say more safeguards are required. “Technical safeguards like encryption and procurement guidelines are also important, as has been highlighted by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office,” she says. Keeping the cameras safe may be as important as safeguarding the lives these devices monitor.