If you have driven around Johannesburg recently, you might have noticed a significant number of grey domes mounted on poles around the city.
Some of these installations have cameras mounted below them, while others do not. Additionally, some of these poles are branded while others are devoid of signage.
These fixtures are security installations deployed by Vumacam, Vumatel’s connected camera security division, which aims to crack down on crime in Johannesburg by effectively tracking vehicles and helping security companies to facilitate arrests.
Vumacam saw the proliferation of fibre networks in Johannesburg as an opportunity to address the problem of crime in the city, using Vumatel’s existing broadband infrastructure to deliver a reliable and efficiently-managed surveillance system.
“The cameras have most often been commissioned on request by a security company and placed in locations determined, in conjunction with the security company, to provide optimal camera coverage,” the company said.
“Vumacam has had unbelievable demand for services, and endorsements from many engagements, including communities, Community Policy Forums (CPFs), Residents’ Associations (RAs), and the SAPS.”
Once an organisation such as a security company has been signed up, they pay Vumacam for access to the camera feed, and Vumacam promises them a minimum of 96% camera uptime.
“This means that Vumacam is responsible for equipment, storage, maintenance and fault fixing and eliminates the need for companies or organisations to build out their own camera network infrastructure, leaving them to concentrate on their core business, dealing with crime,” Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock told MyBroadband.
How it works
Each Vumacam has a unique internet protocol (IP) address, and vetted security companies can access the feed in their particular area to help provide alerts for their reaction vehicles.
They can review the footage, but they cannot download it.
“LPR (Licence Plate Recognition) and overview cameras are installed in various configurations on our poles which are connected to our dome structures,” Vumacam said.
These LPR cameras capture each licence plate they see and reference it against the vehicle-of-interest database, checking if it has been involved in any criminal activity.
If the camera algorithms pick up something strange, such as a licence plate linked to a crime, the security companies that rent the data will receive an alert in their control room and can react in real-time.
“480 car registrations per minute can be scanned and matched to the police database for stolen vehicles,” Vumacam said.
The overview cameras are alerted to suspicious events using behaviour analytics software named iSentry, automatically sending alerts to security companies when they detect unusual behaviour.
“The Black Screen Monitoring with our iSentry integration essentially removes the need for live viewing of video footage, by only displaying system-flagged events in the control room and as a result, operators are only viewing short flagged events. The rest of the time, the screen is ‘black’,” Vumacam said.
Branding and cameras
When asked why some poles are branded and others are not, Vumacam said that this depends on whether security companies absorb the extra cost of the surveillance or pass it onto their clients.
“Business owners or security companies that sign up have the option to purchase the rights to brand the dome which partially subsidises the cost of the solution to respective communities,” it said.
“In addition to the dome branding initiative, all our active live poles have circular signs installed on them, to notify the community who the surveillance/security company is that is monitoring the particular camera as this is a POPI requirement. ”
In some areas, Vumacam has planted poles which are not yet camera-ready due to the lack of a fibre or power connection.
“Cameras are only installed once a vetted entity has subscribed to that particular pole location,” Vumacam said.
“A pole and dome with cameras attached means that the pole is live and footage is being monitored.”
Crackdown on crime
Vumacam said its clients have noted a sharp decrease in crime since the cameras became operational.
“In the City of Joburg, one of our clients, a security company, is monitoring only 150 Vumacams over the course of only one month they responded to 20 Licence Plate Recognition alerts,” Vumacam said.
“These resulted in 33 arrests by the SAPS; 12 stolen vehicles recovered; the drivers of nine of these vehicles linked to various other crimes were apprehended.”
It added that since the cameras were implemented in the Doornfontein area, crime has dropped by more than 40% and multiple arrests have been made.
Images of the Vumacam street pole domes are shown below, along with an infographic detailing the mechanics of the system.