Earlier this year, the open access fibre provider Vumatel announced plans to launch a CCTV platform in selected Johannesburg suburbs which aims to make the streets of eGoli just a little safer.

Dubbed Vumacam, the platform incorporates more than 800 cameras, fitted in 48 Johannesburg suburbs. They plan to expand the network of CCTV cameras to over 3,000 cameras, installed on 980 camera poles all over the city, and ultimately setting Jozi up with a network of 15,000 cameras in the next 12 months.

How it works

Unlike traditional CCTV cameras, Vumacam’s surveillance cameras come with a number of smart features. License plate recognition software allows the cameras to analyse footage when looking for specific vehicles. The number plates of every vehicle that passes a camera with this capability is checked against numerous databases (including the SAPS’s list of stolen vehicles) in order to identify verified vehicles of interest, which may include stolen vehicles, perpetrators that are on the run and forged number plates.

Vumacam provides access to its video feeds to enforcement agencies and security companies at a subscription fee, making for a “video as a service” platform that can be accessed by companies after they have been properly vetted.

The CCTV footage captured by Vumacam cameras is transferred to Teraco’s Tier 3 data centre, from where it is distributed to companies that have subscribed to the service. These companies are able to view the feeds, as well as overlay intelligent software on top of it to look for specific vehicles or subjects of interest.

What about your privacy?

Vumacam’s system is compliant with the PoPI (Protection of Personal Information) Act, and the company has said that companies that subscribe to have access to the service will have to agree to be audited once every often to ensure that they also adhere to the Act.

Speaking to 702’s Eusebius McKaiser, Vumacam’s Managing Director Ashleigh Parry said that some of the companies that have already signed up to gain access to the service include ADT, CAP Security Beagle Watch and 7 Arrows.

The lobby rights group Right2Know (R2K) have raised privacy concerns over the installation of Vumacam’s cameras, stating that the collection and sale of information to third parties without their consent infringes on the law.

What do you think? Are you willing to sacrifice some privacy in order to have a safer neighbourhood, or does it all feel a little too much like Big Brother is watching? Let us know.

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