Surveillance when you need it, privacy when you don't
In today's business climate, tracking and surveillance are the norms and you "opt in" to privacy.
So, when I learned about SituCon equipped cameras, I was intrigued. The SituCon surveillance system is built around dome cameras with sliding "eye lids." The eyelids remain closed until an emergency situation necessitates surveillance.
Under normal circumstances, the protective cover on a SituCon camera is noticeably closed. It's only after a trusted user presses a wireless alert button that the cover slides open, exposing the camera. Once this happens, video can be simultaneously transmitted to a dispatch center, to police cruisers and to smartphones.
SituCon is the brain child of Seth Cirker. In 2006, Seth, like much of the world, was stunned by a brutal shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. It was the nation's third deadly shooting in the space of just one week. But what made this incident so horrific was the location: a one-room Amish school house.
The killer, a milk-truck driver named Charles Carl Roberts, barricaded himself inside the school with a 9mm pistol, a shot-gun, a rifle and about 600 rounds of ammunition. Roberts had no apparent grudge against the Amish. He chose the school because he knew it would not be secured.
Because of his technology background, Seth's friends began to ask him how he thought that schools could be protected. In considering an answer, Seth realized that schools face a multitude of threats, and not just the danger of a single type of attack. To complicate the situation, 24/7 surveillance in schools raises serious privacy concerns.
Seth's answer was to develop an "on demand" surveillance system that can be triggered by a trusted individual from within a facility. The system gives first responders the ability to look inside of a building before entering. This situational awareness results in potentially life saving information.
SituCon: How it works
A typical SituCon deployment consists of four components: a wireless alert button, privacy protecting cameras, management software and a wireless access point.
Each wireless Instant Alert button is registered to a specific user. Pushing the button initiates the surveillance system and sends an alert to a dispatch center.
The Instant Alert button interfaces with the SituCon Manager software application. Information including the distressed individual's name, location, photograph, telephone number and a floor plan of their area is immediately displayed at dispatch centers.
The wireless alert also activates the SituCam privacy camera, signaling its protective cover to retract. And because the wireless alert button and SituCam's communicate via RFID, the system can follow the individual who is holding the button.
Finally, a SituPoint wireless access point transmits video outside of the protected building. This allows law enforcement or other first responders to view real-time video before entering a potentially dangerous area.
Brookline, Massachusetts: A case study
Brookline's police department installed 11 cameras at town intersections. The cameras were a cooperative effort with eight other towns. The camera network was intended to monitor evacuation routes in the case of attack or disaster.
Folks got miffed. No one likes looking up at a camera and wondering who's peering in at the other end. Due to privacy concerns, the people of Brookline voted overwhelmingly to remove the cameras.
Enter SituCon. With mechanical eyelids installed over the intersection cameras, townspeople can be assured that Big Brother isn't watching. But in an emergency, police officers can open the cameras, monitor the intersections and record activity.
Eyes wide openI can't watch these cameras slide into action without thinking of the Eye of Sauron. (Sorry, it's the geek in me.) Only this time, it's not Christopher Lee in a Johnny Winter wig on the other end. It's a law enforcement professional who can now walk into a potentially deadly situation with eyes wide open.