Back to Basics: Where Did the Video Security System Come From? Post 90s

Last week we discussed the evolution of the video surveillance system up through the 90s. The late 90s introduced the digital, computer age, revolutionizing the security industry. Advancements include: the Internet and remote monitoring, VCRs to DVRs, facial recognition, IP technology and more. We will also discuss how the attacks on 9/11 changed our view on security, as we approach the 10th anniversary this year.

Technological Advancements


Access to the World Wide Web spread quickly, and more and more homes and businesses began to gain Internet access. For the security industry, this now meant a business owner could remotely view their camera, from anywhere they could access the Internet. Remote monitoring, larger hard drives, and higher compression for storage made video surveillance faster, clearer, easier, and more efficient. “The Internet has truly revolutionized video surveillance by removing all boundaries for viewing anywhere in the world. ”

Today, we can even view our security cameras on our Smartphone, and receive text or email alerts for specific security actions.


Although some businesses still use tapes and a VCR to record their surveillance footage, it is becoming obsolete today. VCRs could record about 72 hours of footage, and only from one camera at a time. “If you use more than one surveillance camera, the images from each is recorded sequentially, with each camera waiting in line to have several seconds of its images committed to tape….the problem is, while you’re capturing video from one camera, you lose the images from the others.”

With the computer age, brought about the Digital Video Recorder, or the DVR. The DVR was first invented in 1965 in an experiment by CBS, and was released commercially by Ampex in 1967. The HS-100 only held 30 seconds of video, but it was revolutionary. Today, it is debatable if this was the first DVR because the “signal was recorded to a fixed, spinning disk in real-time” and this “signal being recorded was analog–like the signal recorded with a VCR. The idea of a digital video signal did not exist in the 60s.” Honeywell obtained a patent for the DVR in 1988, and although RePlay TV released a DVR in 1997, it wasn’t until 1999 that the DVR hit its stride. TiVo came out with a 14GB DVR that could record up to 14 hours. For the security industry, the PC-based DVR now allowed for surveillance footage to be recorded onto hard drives instead of tapes, and “while a VHS tape will degrade in quality with each subsequent recording, the quality of the digital video stored on a hard drive never decreases.” With some DVRs, you can record up to 90 days of footage, from multiple cameras.

Today we have the Network Video Recorder, or the NVR. Some of the benefits of the NVR include: ability to connect multiple PCs and no additional licensing cost, secure, direct access to the video feeds, repairs and upgrades can be made quickly and easily, supports power over Ethernet standards, can implement multiple IP, analog, or PTZ simultaneously, low cost installation costs, and long term reliability. Depending on your hard drive space, some NVRs can record up to months of footage.


Facial Recognition


Facial recognition has been an important advancement for surveillance systems. Although facial recognition software was developed in the 1960s, it wasn’t as effective as it is today. Early software “required the administrator to locate features (such as eyes, ears, nose, and mouth) on the photographs before it calculated distances and ratios to a common reference point, which were then compared to reference data”, which wasn’t always reliable. The technology has become more refined to identify 80 facial nodes, or specific facial features such as cheekbone shape, eye socket depth, distance between the eyes, etc.

The technology first captured the public’s attention from a trial implementation at the January 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, FL. Police used Identix’ facial recognition software, FaceIt, to search for potential criminals and terrorists in attendance at the event. The software captured surveillance images and compared them to a database of digital mugshots, where it identified 19 people with pending arrest warrants.

In May of 2002, the United States Parks Service installed facial recognition software on the video surveillance cameras at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. That same year, facial recognition software was installed at Sydney International Airport in Australia. The software implements photo biometrics, where “the video surveillance systems scans the crew member’s face and compares it to the passport photo and confirms the match in less than ten seconds”.

Although privacy issues are a big concern with using facial recognition technology, it is still implemented in large, public arenas. Pictures taken for IDs are also entered into a national biometrics database. Today, it is used to “combat passport fraud, support law enforcement, identify missing children, and minimize benefit/identity fraud.”

IP Technology


In simplest of terms, Internet Protocol, or IP cameras can send and receive data via a computer network and the Internet from a unique address. “IP surveillance offers clear advantages over analogue CCTV or DVR deployments with significant savings as a result of sharing existing network infrastructure, computation and storage.” Besides improved image quality, this technology can save you money and help the environment. Click the image above to see one of our IP cameras in action!

Read the 8 beneficial factors of using IP technology here.

September 11, 2001: A day that forever changed us, as a nation, and our view on security and safety. Unfortunately, this attack on the World Trade Center opened many eyes to the importance of extra security precautions. Some call it “Big Brother”, but here at VinTech, we think security camera surveillance is necessary for the public’s safety, and after that fateful day, many others started to agree. As we approach the 10th anniversary this year, we reflect on how this tragic event has shaped the security industry.

Post 9/11, cities from around the world increased their surveillance network by installing more and more cameras. Tune in next week for the Top 5 Cities with the Largest Surveillance Camera Networks. What is your guess? Let us know!


The most important development to come from the 9/11 attacks is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This cabinet’s primary responsibilities include protecting the U.S from attacks, threats, hazards and responding to natural disasters. “Employing emerging technologies, integrating response teams, assuring accountability, and applying risk assessment programs are some of the other primary principles of the DHS.” DHS also helped to unify US organizations, such as NASA, the FBI, etc. and open up the line of communication between them for a better, secured nation.

The Department of Homeland Security was developed to protect the safety of the nation, and here in Chicago, VinTech is here to protect you. If you have any questions about security, feel free to give us a call!