Intelligent video surveillance on the rise:

But how do you balance safety, efficiency, and privacy?

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Malou Toft
Vice President, EMEA
December 07, 2020
The global pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation across sectors and presumably triggered the tipping point for the 4th industrial revolution. This is great news for people and societies. But it requires a sufficient level of transparency, trust and maturity in using technology.
In August this year, I came back from six months of maternity leave. It was indeed an ambivalent time. Six fantastic months getting to know my little new daughter and taking the courage to go offline for real. But also, a time of a global pandemic of unimaginable dimensions.

When I got back in business, one of the things that struck me was how fast the adaption of new technologies had taken place to facilitate new remote ways of working. It was mind-blowing. The health crisis had derailed all plans and forecasts but at the same time made things happen that were not deemed possible before.

This was not only the case at Milestone. In fact, some experts estimate that the overall digital transformation was sped up by two years in the first two months of the global lockdown. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical infrastructure and security.
"Necessity is the mother of invention”
A recent McKinsey study found that for the case of remote working, companies moved 40 times more quickly than they thought possible before the pandemic. Before then, the estimate was that it would take more than a year to implement the level of remote working that took place during the crisis. In reality, it only took an average of 11 days to establish a workable solution.

Some may have felt forced to it to ensure their survival, while others may have followed the Churchillian maxim of not letting a good crisis go to waste, rather use it to get ahead of the curve.

Either way, the implementations of new technologies accelerated greatly in a few months, and the development indicates a tipping point for the 4th industrial revolution – mass digitization.

McKinsey’s research shows that changing customer needs reflecting new health and hygiene sensitivities are among the greatest changes during the pandemic, and that the shift is very likely to continue after the crisis.
The balance act between safety and privacy
The shift has also created a rising demand in the surveillance industry, as many organizations are repurposing existing video tech to address health-related issues. E.g., devices that track people movements, people counting, monitoring of social distancing violations, thermal cameras that can measure a temperature from afar, and facial recognition tech to allow access to secure areas without ever touching a pad.

Video tech is undoubtedly playing an important role to keep people safe and healthy. But it also reinforces the need for organizations to have proper data protection policies and standards in place to prevent privacy violations.

Research shows that privacy is the most important consideration for people when they think about adopting these new surveillance measures. In general, they are willing to trade away some privacy for safety, but only up to a limit, and the acceptance level tends to go up with stronger privacy protections.

This trend also shows in a recent Milestone study indicating that protection and privacy regulations are required to sustain the overall acceptance of video technology.

This tells us that establishing consumer and public trust must continue to be top-of-mind, even as video technologies and contact tracing become increasingly prevalent. The accelerating adoption of video solutions does not give businesses a license for misconduct. Instead, they must work together with regulatory bodies and technology partners to respect individual privacy and comply with data protection regulations.

The good news is that there are plenty of video tech solutions with the ability to anonymize data through meta data aggregation, privacy masking, data purging and much more, and thereby they can help keep people safe without compromising data privacy.
Without trust, your strategy will fail
Personally, I am excited to see how technology has come to the fore as a major support for businesses, governments, and citizens in these challenging times. As a true technology fan, I am convinced that it will continue to enable huge advancements for people and societies.

That said, technology, as it stands today, is not fully trusted and accepted yet and being part of the industry, we must acknowledge our role in building trust and developing new technologies responsibly. At Milestone, we co-authored and later signed the Copenhagen Letter, a manifesto also signed by various entrepreneurs, designers, and philosophers to call for better practices in technology and design.

As we look ahead, the adoption of new technologies is set to accelerate further as the wireless infrastructure (e.g. 5G) will continue to expand. Therefore, building long-term trust must be a key focus for all developers and buyers of new technology. If people don’t have confidence in your new processes and technology, they will not engage fully with it, they will find ways to avoid using it, and your strategy will fail.
The original article was published on LinkedIn.

Learn about how video technology can help societies to reopen safely: COVID-19: Reopen Safely.