Digital video recorders are used in security and surveillance. The technologies used here are way more sophisticated than you might have known.

John Sires, an old friend, is CEO of Silicor, a company the manufactures DVR security equipment. He detailed to me today the latest in the technology.

The DVRs record from cameras set up anywhere and then transmit the data offsite. The data is encrypted, so it can’t be hacked and thus can be used as evidence in court. The cameras, which can be teensy impossible-to-find pinhole devices, can be voice or sound activated. Thus they only record when something is happening.

Now it gets interesting. With the correct password, you can view any of your cameras remotely from any net connection. You can view up to 64 cameras on one screen, zoom to one, do close-ups, review historical videos, etc. The data is sent compressed, so viewing several dozen real-time cameras on a laptop is quite doable.

There can also be 24/7 monitoring of the cameras for clients. With two-way audio. A supermarket manager pushes his literal panic button and says, apparently into thin air, “we’re being robbed.” Not only are the cameras recording everything, the person monitoring his store can reply to him directly through hidden speakers saying, “We’ve called the police.”

It’s pointless to ask if this is Orwellian. Cameras already are everywhere. Look around up high in banks, malls, subways, airports, etc., you’ll spot them – the ones they want you to see, that is. Many cameras are so small and can be so well hidden that you’ll never see them. I was in a Kinko’s tonight and counted six cameras. They are omnipresent.

I’ve heard that some smaller cities have such cameras and allow them to be viewable by anyone, a good idea which makes sense. Get people involved in their neighborhoods and crime drops and community increases. In “The Death and Life of Great Neighborhood Cities“, Jane Jacobs explains how some of the supposedly “most dangerous” streets in big cities aren’t dangerous at all. Why? Because these streets have an active life on the sidewalks, with lots of small shops, people sitting on the stoops talking and watching the kids play, and places to hang out. On such streets, no matter how “dangerous” the area, crime is usually quite low. So maybe, just maybe, free access by anyone to community cameras could be a plus. Like I said, the cameras are already here, let’s use them to benefit everyone.

PS Trying to rip off casinos by cheating, grabbing someone’s chips, etc. is really dumb nowadays. Some Vegas casinos have literally thousands of cameras, yes, thousands.