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Over the past few years, the implementation of video surveillance across public transport has rapidly increased; as a result, the level of security within cities has become more stringent. In other words, it is becoming safer and more secure for passengers to use and for businesses to operate. Union Internationale des Transports Publics (UITP), together with industry expert Axis Communications, have conducted a new survey among public transport organizations to get an understanding of the latest trends regarding how video surveillance is being used in public transport.

Rise of digitalization

Digitalization is transforming various operational aspects of our economies and societies, especially public transport. For example, increasing efficiency, enhancing quality, improving the customer experience is among the main opportunities brought to life by the digital era. Digitalization has also led to meaningful shift in the public perception of video surveillance between 2015 and 2018. Initially, the use of video surveillance was measured through the positive impact on the “perception” of security among passengers and staff. Now, the improvement is monitored from the actual security provided to passengers and staff at 80%.

The latest report from UITP revealed that compared to 2015, the number of public transport networks with only analogue cameras has decreased considerably (from 25% to 18%) as upgrades and new installations are increasingly digital. The shift towards digital video surveillance systems becomes obvious with 82% of businesses having a digital component to their systems.

Increased investment in real time technology and analytics

Movements towards IP video surveillance is helping operators use real-time analytics to enhance decision making. This includes common platform changes to more infrequent critical scenarios (responses to a security threat or emergency). For example, machine-learning technology identifies what is a ‘normal’ activity within a scene, automatically creating an alert if ‘abnormal’ activity is recognized.

Despite analogue cameras still being used in some parts of public transport, cities are seeking more secure and smarter solutions. The report discovered that, in 2015, a handful of analytics such as ‘graffiti detection’ were being used by a limited number of respondents (less than 10%). By comparison, in 2018, all 17 analytics examined in the survey were being used, with some of the most popular ones approaching 50% or more usage among respondents: intrusive, perimeter breach and rail track access detection. The growth in this area is no doubt driven by the maturing development of analytics, which makes network cameras more usable and reliable. The growth clearly indicates that analytic cameras are rapidly increasing, and it will soon be necessary to invest in more intelligent management systems.

Growing support from businesses to passengers

Passenger acceptance of video surveillance for security has always been rather high. The report revealed public support for video surveillance has grown since 2015 (from 65% to 73%), whereas, by way of comparison, support from staff is stable at 78%. This may be due to the fact that investigation into some major high-profile incidents involving public transport have been assisted through useful surveillance footage. For example, following the Brussels bombings of 22 March 2016, the metro bomber as well as an accomplice who left the network before the bomb were quickly identified using live video streams, through facial recognition software, which gave valuable, timely information to the police. In comparison to the conventional CCTV systems, facial recognition was able to capture high quality images of the suspects, thus allowing for faster and more efficient identification process.

Although issues on personal data and privacy are often a source of debate across the globe, it seems today that the security benefits video surveillance offers are outweighing the loss of privacy for a growing majority of travellers. This increasing acceptance has also been seen through the massive growth in the sharing of video, both internally and externally. The recent report revealed that respondents shared videos with an average of 3.04 parties in 2015, while in 2018, the average rose to 3.4. Moreover, compared to 2015, the increase of sharing videos was shown in the following department: “City surveillance centres” (10% to 22%), “Fire departments” (4% to 28%) and “Regional/national security centres” (5% to 12%). These figures also suggest a deeper level of cooperation, whereby businesses are coming together for the safety and security of the broader society. As more parties become involved, through trust, acceptance and cooperation, video surveillance within public transport will continue to serve the meaning purpose for which it has been deployed.


As this collaborative survey clearly demonstrates, staff as well as passengers increasingly appreciate the value of video surveillance technology in public transportation, especially in terms of the positive impact on safety and security. As a result, innovation in technology surrounding video surveillance is maturing rapidly. The potential to assist public transport organizations in real-time, as noted in 2015, is quickly becoming a reality in 2018. Video surveillance will firmly remain the foundation of any public transport to flourish upon and set an encouraging example of how the digitalization of the sector displays its success.

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