You are being watched

Oct. 29, 2012 | by Richard Buckle

When it comes to ATMs, I am often left perplexed by how old-fashioned most of them are and how the technology lags behind just about everything else associated with financial institutions. Yes, they once were expensive devices that were expected to provide services for decades rather than for just a year or so. Even so, as educated as we are about technology, surely we can do a lot better?

An article in the Oct. 27 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper headlined, "Detectives tap into growing network of security cameras," noted that today in Sydney, "the city's growing network of CCTV cameras is proving more vital than ever to police investigating major incidents … the city's network of cameras has become so pervasive and high-quality that offenders can be spotted, reported, tracked and apprehended before they've finished committing a crime."

And just how extensive is this network of CCTV cameras? According to the article, "The total number of CCTV cameras in the city is unknown but it's estimated there are thousands more on railway stations, buses and roadways and in private businesses, all of which can be used for police investigations."

The deputy director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology, Garner Clancey, is quoted as saying "it is 'absolutely' possible to move around the city without being caught on camera, but most trips will be captured dozens if not hundreds of times."

While government agencies are reluctant to provide more comprehensive information about CCTV deployment across Sydney — a project initiated by then Prime Minister, John Howard, who was in London at the time of the terrorist bombings in 2005 and saw how big a role CCTV played in bringing the terrorists to justice.

Yes, the Australian federal government is involved and yes, a complex of NonStop systems is involved — the same NonStop systems that support so many credit and debit card processing networks around the world.

The ubiquitous eyeball cameras, aimed at ATMs in many locations are essentially passive — a tool to replay an incident at the ATM if so required. However, when there are still so many concerns about the use of cards and the management of PINs, isn't it time we consider an approach that's a little more modern?

How about turning cameras into an integral part of the ATM dialogue? As in scenes reminiscent of the film Minority Report, surely the technology exists, and cheaply enough, to allow the systems we interact with to know who we are?

Another article, "How to stop being a slave to technology" — also on Oct. 27, but in the Melbourne newspaper, The Age — noted that, "[I]t took Apple four years to sell 100 million iPhones, then just 2.5 years to sell 100 million iPads. Apple analyst, Horace Dediu, predicts the gap will close again with 100 million iPad minis sold by the end of 2013 — a little more than 12 months."

In other words, acceptance of technology by the general public is accelerating to the point that the integration of one technology with another is sure to happen and is likely to achieve widespread popularity more quickly than any of us would care to predict.

Can the combination of trickle-down technology — as it pertains to CCTV networks and our penchant for products that make it easier to interact with technology — help spark a change in the way we interact with ATMs?

Is the time fast approaching when simply being recognized is all that will be required to get at our cash? "If you see me at this location, take this amount of cash from this account. If you see me at this other location, then, yes, take it from a different account," and so on, all set up and managed from our favorite mobile device.

The technology is there, and the impact on the design of modern ATMs would be sizeable: Just a small hole-in-the-wall, capable of securely holding a cash cartridge or two. A simple touch-screen? Well, OK. Printer? No need — the network recognized me and sent me an SMS receipt.

The bandwidth needed by supporting networks would go up of course, but that's happening already, and for other business reasons. We simply are pushing out more motion pictures in real time than ever before; adding video capture will prove only a minor irritant, initially.

Convenience, coupled with safety, will trump almost any technology. And from where I stand, this technology is a lot less intrusive than current scanning solutions based on my fingerprints and my retina.

I can lose my wallet, forget my PIN and wear dark glasses, but rotate an image of me and it will not escape software's recognition. Software? It's come a long way and the trickle-down from other technologies will only continue to occur. And after all, we may end up considering being watched not a bad thing!

Topics: Components , Security , Software

Richard Buckle / Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator.
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