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Hina Keval, University College London Human Centered Systems. “Watching the Watchers,” Operator Performance. Spring 2006 Seminar & Exhibition – “CCTV Imagine.” Liverpool Marriot South: Tuesday 4 th April 2006. Overview of talk. PhD Focus Describe research problem(s)

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Watching the watchers operator performance l.jpg

Hina Keval, University College London Human Centered Systems

“Watching the Watchers,” Operator Performance.

Spring 2006 Seminar & Exhibition – “CCTV Imagine.” Liverpool Marriot South: Tuesday 4th April 2006.

Overview of talk l.jpg
Overview of talk

  • PhD Focus

  • Describe research problem(s)

  • Report on security control room field work

  • Summarise research findings

  • Future directions for my PhD

  • Question and answers

Overview of research focus l.jpg

Previous work: “Does CCTV deter/reduce crime?”

e.g. McCahill (2002) Gill (2005)

Privacy and data protection issues highlighted

My research takes user-centered approach to assessing effectiveness CCTV

Overview of Research Focus

Questions: “It is usable? It is effective, efficient

& can we achieve high performance?”

(1) Modern Control Rooms

(2) Video Quality for post-recorded CCTV

Motivation l.jpg
Motivation …

  • My background in ergonomics – improve systems -> increase usability…

  • CCTV is timely project (9/11, July bombings)

  • Increase in funding in CCTV (public & private)

  • Technology developing fast (analogue to digital)

  • Gap in literature about assessing CCTV technology with end-users

My approach l.jpg
My Approach

  • Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) – Operational Requirements (Aldridge, 1993)

    • Covers analogue systems not digital systems

    • More specific requirements for video quality needed

    • Risk analysis needed

Stakeholder Risk Analysis Approach:

Identify stakeholders, goals & tasks

assess risks and conflicts

Stakeholder risk analysis approach l.jpg
Stakeholder Risk Analysis Approach


-Public or Private?

-Pub/club, casino, hotel

-Indoor, outdoor

-Weather impact


-Local authority, private business

owners, police...


Analogue, digital, value, capabilities...


-What owners want to achieve


-What users required to do



Cctv control room field work l.jpg
CCTV Control Room - Field Work

  • Objectives:

  • Understand processes, tasks, technology used, structure

  • To identify operator problems with tasks & technology: assess performance

  • Activities

  • Visited 5 London Borough Control Rooms

  • Interviewed 5 control room managers & 26 operators

Field work interviews l.jpg
Field Work - interviews

Some observations permitted, 26 operators were interviewed:

  • Please describe your role as a control room operator

  • What hours of work are you assigned? Are you happy with your working hours?

  • What tasks & activities do you carry out on a day-to-day basis?

  • Tell me exactly how you do your work?

  • Does this control room use analogue or digital technology?

  • What tools do you use to help you carry out your tasks?

  • What problems have you found with the technology you use?

Survey of operator tasks l.jpg
Survey of Operator Tasks

  • RESPOND TO REQUESTS – cued information

    - radio calls from various groups (businesses, LA, police force, PCSO’s)

    - Respond to neighbourhood problems via telephone

    - Responding to email enquiries from LA


    - Monitoring CCTV camera activity

    - Monitoring traffic enforcement cameras


    • Tape labelling and preparing copies for police

    • Creating incident reports

Operator performance issues l.jpg
Operator Performance Issues


  • Street cameras poorly sited

  • Signal loss – microwave transmission & bad weather

  • PTZ controls didn’t work – created ‘embarrassment’ when sharing imagery with police


  • Low operator to screen ratio

    - Information overload – too much going on, too many communication systems, noise, activity


  • “We’re too busy for lunch breaks”… “CCTV is priority.” Poor social & work set-up = fatigue

Barriers to task search and select camera l.jpg

Search for Camera/Street Location















Barriers to task: Search and select camera

  • Majority of operators don’t live in surv. area

  • All control rooms visited – no maps linked to cams

  • Staff drew their own maps for newcomers

  • Need to memorise camera locations, numbers & screens

  • Paper maps can go astray & need updating

2. Map of Area i.e Camden

with Cameras No.

1. CamerasDatabase

Conclusions recommendations l.jpg
Conclusions & Recommendations

  • Crucial existing technologies linked well - best support operator tasks

  • Simple solutions i.e. visual maps connected to database & monitor views allow for faster/efficient way of search

  • Regular breaks, standard hours of work balanced with operators no’s matched with workload

    Early findings published:

    H.U.Keval and M.A.Sasse. “Man or Gorilla? Performance Issues with CCTV

    Technology in Security Control Rooms,” to be presented at the 16th World Congress

    on Ergonomics Conference, Maastricht, Netherlands, International Ergonomics

    Association, 10-14 July, 2006.

    Future visits are planned – Open participation for control room managers

    Please sign up!

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Metropolitan Police (Heathrow Airport command & control room)

  • Spent 10 hours observing work and activities at Heathrow

  • Visited the Hendon Control Room – still new and not in operation

  • Looked at the workplace equipment layout and functions

  • Compared two centres and identified potential usability problems, made severity ratings and provided recommendations:

Heathrow Control Room

Hendon Control Room

Technology used l.jpg
Technology Used

  • Police radios

  • Telephones

  • Computer Aided Dispatch systems (intelligent systems linked to Scotland Yard)

  • Logging information systems

  • ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems

  • CCTV monitors

  • Sky News TV screen

  • Alarm systems (airport alert)

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HCI Problems Identified


    - Potential cognitive overload from radio

    - Excessive audio input could be managed based on priority

    - Confusion when various alarms ring, affecting task flow


    Touch screen & mouse input used together for 1 system

    - Bad ergonomics practice -> Health & safety issues

    - Too many input devices

    - Colour code devices? Use selection switch/pre-selects


    - Too many screens

    - Supervisors couldn’t see operators

    - Overload of information input

    -Merge systems? Use pre-selects

Field work conclusions l.jpg
Field Work Conclusions

  • Technology changing – need for assessment

  • More investments in CCTV (digital)

  • Lack of system integration

  • Poorly linked with human resources (no.) & skills

  • Design should be focussed on the operator tasks not the technology

    “If only 1% of the hardware budget is spent on requirements analysis & designing for usability, you can probably get 2x as much performance out of the system.” Prof Sasse (UCL).

Overall Contribution:

Usability framework to improve

control room design

Future directions l.jpg
Future Directions

“Biggest problem in reality with

The CCTV footage we get is

reading faces & number plates.”

[Claire Summers Digital Video

Expert, Metropolitan Police labs

October 2005].

  • Empirical work – assessing observation task performance when post-recorded digital CCTV video quality is poor - 2 tasks face identification & number plate verification

    (1) Which compression schemes suitable?

    i.e. MPEG-4 vs Wavelet

    (2) At what compression level?

  • Contribution:

    • Provide users with ideal compression settings for CCTV

    • Useful for design & implementation for digital systems

    • Useful for automated surveillance: detection & retrieval

References l.jpg

Aldridge J. [1994]. CCTV Operational Requirements Manual Version 3, Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB), report no. 19/94.

Gill, M, Allen, A, Jessiman, J, Swain, D, Hemming, M, Kara, D, and Little, R. [2005], "Methods in assessing the impact of CCTV", report no 17, Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB), UK.

McCahill, M and C Norris. [2002], "Literature Review (Working Paper No.2), in on the Threshold to Urban Panopticon? Analysing the Employment of CCTV in European Cities and Assessing Its Social and Political Impacts. Berlin: Technical University Berlin: European Commission.


Peter Fry, all control room managers so far participated academic advisors

(Prof. Angela Sasse) and also: