Cameras where cameras have never been before

Erik Mårtensson

In many scenarios, the size and visibility of a surveillance camera is of little importance. Indeed, visible cameras can often act as a useful deterrent to potential criminals, and therefore high visibility is a benefit and desired. And when surveillance cameras need to withstand harsh conditions and poor weather, in being robust they also naturally become necessarily bulky.

But with advances in technology, it is now possible to shrink high-quality cameras to a size which makes them incredibly discreet and, in some scenarios, almost impossible to detect. This is achieved through separation of the image sensor and optics from the bulkier electronics, and opens up a whole new range of potential applications and the ability to place cameras where cameras have never been – and seen – before.

Your immediate thoughts might turn to secret filming and covert surveillance – with the associated negative connotations – but this isn’t where the real opportunities lie. The principal benefits of small, modular cameras come in environments where a large, visible camera would be intrusive, or where it’s simply been impossible to place a camera previously, due to an inaccessible location.

Enhancing the customer experience

Take, for example, a retailer of expensive jewelry. We’ve all seen (and most often walked past!) these beautiful emporia lining the streets of London, Paris and New York. They’re all about delivering the best, most exclusive customer experience, from the welcome of the smartly-dressed security guard, to the design of the store, to the deferential politeness of the staff.

Cases full of expensive, glittering jewelry fill the store and, of course, the store management will be very keen to keep an eye on their valuable assets. But, let’s be honest, large, visible surveillance cameras very obviously watching the customers’ every move don’t add to the overall brand experience. With the latest pinhole cameras, however, surveillance can be built in to the jewelry cases themselves, providing a highly effective solution and peace of mind for the retailer, without disturbing the customer’s dreams of diamonds and pearls.

Keeping machinery moving

To highlight the versatility of the latest modular cameras, let’s move from the classy jewelers of Bond Street to a wood mill in Sweden. Far from the traditional view of checked-shirt lumberjacks hacking away at tree trunks with axes and saws, today’s wood mill is a facility filled with advanced, automated machinery working around the clock to process wood for use in building, furniture and decoration.

As with any technologically-advanced industrial environment, any downtime is expensive, both in terms of disruption to the supply chain and in maintenance and repair. The extremely compact size of many senor units today allows them to be placed inside industrial machinery, helping to identify the cause of issues when they occur but, more importantly, to prevent them happening in the first place and allow for maintenance ahead of any issues.

Improving security

A final example which demonstrates the versatility and cost-effectiveness of modular cameras is their use in the banking sector, specifically where pinhole cameras are embedded into Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). The ability to have several pinhole sensors connected to one main unit means, for instance, that the bank can see an overview image (to capture someone looking over a customer’s shoulder to see a code being entered), while also capturing a clear view of the customer’s face, and a close-up of the cash being taken from the machine.

The above are just a few potential applications for modular cameras. But with cameras now being able to deliver high-quality images from literally any location – however small, tight, or inaccessible – and with the additional benefits of video analytics, thermal imaging, and infrared, the potential is almost endless.

Whether retail, industrial, banking, transportation or any other sector, if you looked around your own organization, and asked yourself the question: “If I could put a surveillance camera anywhere, where would it be?” I’m sure you’d come up with one or two great answers.

Read more about: Axis modular cameras