For those of us that live in Britain, the CCTV camera (closed circuit TV) will be a familiar site on the high streets. Over four million cameras are in operation throughout the British Isles with every major city being monitored by state funded cameras which has cost the British taxpayer over £200 million ($400 million).
The reasons for use of such widespread surveillance have always been declared as to prevent and detect crime. However, critics argue that there is little evidence that CCTV cameras have done anything to dent the rising street crime on the UK’s streets and that the money could be better well spent.
One of the problems of CCTV is that many cities have both cameras controlled by local councils and privately controlled cameras. When it comes to crime detection the police often have to obtain as much evidence as possible which often means combining the different local authority controlled CCTV cameras with the privately controlled systems.
Many local authorities synchronise their CCTV cameras together, however, if the police have to obtain images from a neighbouring borough or from a private camera these may not be synchronised at all, of if so, synchronised to a different time completely.
This is where CCTV falls down in the fight against crime. Just imagine a suspected criminal is spotted on one CCTV camera committing a criminal act. The time on the camera could say 11.05pm but what if the police follow the suspects movements across a city and use footage from a privately owned camera or from other boroughs and while the CCTV camera that caught the suspect in the act may say 11.05, the other camera could spot the suspect minutes later only for the time to be even earlier. You could imagine a good defence lawyer taking full advantage of this.
To ensure their worth in the fight against crime, it is imperative that CCTV cameras are time synchronized using a network time server. These times servers ensure every device (in this case camera) is running the exact same time. But how do we ensure all cameras are synchronised to the same time source. Well fortunately, a global time source known as UTC (coordinated Universal Time) has been developed for this exact purpose. UTC is what governs computer networks, air traffic control and other time sensitive technologies.
A CCTV camera using a NTP server that receives a UTC time source from an atomic clock will not only be accurate but the time told on the devices will be provable in court and accurate to a thousandth of a second (millisecond).