Public transport is an important service to citizens in any country. But, before commuters start using and trusting, the system has to be reliable and secure, which is where CCTV monitoring plays its part, writes LAURENCE SMITH.
Public transport is a vital service in any country, as ensuring people can move around freely to and from work and school is essential in creating economic sustainability. However, the best public transport infrastructure in the world will never be fully leveraged if security is not of utmost priority and will become a wasted investment if the security of commuters cannot be guaranteed. CCTV camera solutions with remote monitoring capabilities offer a number of benefits in the public transport sector, from deterring crime to providing evidence in identifying perpetrators, as well as providing operational advantages. CCTV monitoring can assist the transport sector greatly to actively monitor public transport systems and ensure incidents such as theft and injury are minimised or prevented.
Buses and trains are an economical, cost effective method of mass transport, enabling many people to get to work, school and other areas on a daily basis. According to Statistics South Africa (March 2014), of 15.3 million workers surveyed, 3.7 million workers make use of taxis, 3 million make use of trains and 1 million get to work via a bus. This equates to approximately 7.7 million people relying on public transport to commute to their place of employment on a daily basis.
However, crime is an unfortunate reality on public transport, which can deter commuters from making use of this service. Theft is a common challenge on public transport around the world, as well as unruly passenger behaviour, violence and so on, and South Africa is no different in this regard. In addition, South Africa is subject to frequent public transport strikes. These strikes may turn violent, which can endanger the lives of passengers, cause accidents, increase liability and more. In order to ensure the wellbeing of citizens using public transport, and also to further drive the use of these services rather than private vehicles, it is imperative to ensure the safety and security of commuters.
On-board CCTV systems with remote monitoring capabilities offer an intelligent solution to improving security on public transport systems. In the case of transport strikes, where violence often ensues and vehicles are damaged, the culprits can be easily identified and action taken against them, even if acts are perpetrated on the road in remote areas. Remote monitoring enables incidents like theft and violence on board public transport to be identified immediately. This will allow for the correct emergency services to be contacted, so that the criminal can be apprehended before they leave the vehicle or train and medical assistance can be provided where necessary. Panic buttons can also be installed to alert security control rooms if the driver or any passengers are in danger, further enhancing security.
In addition to security, remote monitoring and CCTV offer a number of operational benefits. In the case of accidents, footage is recorded live at all times and can be reviewed on demand, meaning that evidence of who is at fault is readily available. This assists with insurance claims, reducing liability and so on. Vehicles can be monitored for driver behaviour, so that unsafe practices can be identified and driver training can be conducted where necessary. This also acts as a deterrent for unsafe practices such as drinking and driving, and can be used to monitor passenger flow, passenger payments and more. CCTV thus increases safety as well as efficiency.
Proactive monitoring is not a new technology, however, in the past its use was limited within the transport sector as large amounts of bandwidth were required to transmit footage. In South Africa, where much of the available mobile coverage is EDGE or less, this is not viable. Advances in technology have solved this challenge, enabling high-quality live video streaming using any available mobile data connection, from 3G right down to GPRS, which is available practically everywhere in South Africa. These solutions are able to stream at as little as 8 Kilobits per second (kbit/s), using a quarter of the bandwidth usually required to ensure streaming even in areas without 3G coverage and reducing data costs dramatically in the process.
Implementing CCTV with the ability to actively monitor situations in any bandwidth environment, with cameras placed on buses, trains and even taxis, can help to reduce crime as well as assist to apprehend perpetrators should an incident occur. Not only does this increased security provide peace of mind for commuters, which may help to boost user numbers on public transport networks, it also bolsters the reputation of the transport provider, irrespective of whether this is a public service or privately owned company.
* Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies
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