Vumatel CEO Niel Schoeman. Picture: SUPPLIED
Vumatel CEO Niel Schoeman. Picture: SUPPLIED

Security cameras have become a regular sight in suburbs around SA, but they are often installed by security firms or neighbourhood organisations in an isolated way and offer poor quality images.

Vumatel, which kickstarted fibre-to-the-home in 2014 in the Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst, unveiled its own network of cameras on Thursday, which offer high-definition images and intelligent monitoring, using its own fibre infrastructure.

Previously, CCTV monitoring was typically put up by resident associations, security companies or schools in a disparate and unconnected way, says Vumatel executive chair Niel Schoeman. These “isolated islands” did not share information with each other, and often supplied grainy, poor quality footage. When there is a power outage, or they stopped functioning, nothing was captured — which was often only discovered when trying to retrieve the footage, he says.

“These traditional CCTV suburb solutions acting in isolation, ensure that once suspects or known perpetrators move outside the covered suburb, they ‘ghost’ or disappear unless they happen to cross into another ‘island’ that hopefully has both surveillance capability and licence plate recognition software. Even then, the chances of these being linked and on the same network, are slim to none,” he said in a statement.

With Vumatel’s fibre network, which covers parts of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, the company realised it was possible “to make public-space CCTV surveillance a truly effective tool to address crime, contribute to safer environments and bring neighbourhoods together”.

By partnering with security firms and residents’ associations, Vumacam, a joint venture between Vumatel and Imfezeko Investment Holdings, hopes to add a “significant layer of security” to neighbourhoods and cities.

“Privacy is a hot topic of debate and we have built our solution to ensure that concerns are respected. Our feed is only available to vetted security companies that enter into a contract with us, including agreeing to periodic audits, to ensure they abide by our strict terms and conditions to monitor public space and track so-called vehicles of interest,” Schoeman says.

“Private individuals are, in fact, unable to access recordings other than by following the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) process. Further, we ensure that we adhere rigidly to the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act and have acquired various legal opinions to ensure we are compliant.” 

The cameras also have licence plate recognition functionality that scans passing cars and checks multiple databases of verified vehicles of interest. These include stolen vehicles listed by the SA Police Service and forged plates.

Ultimately, these cameras could be used to help make cities smarter and tackle congestion by giving city managers detailed information on traffic flow and congestion points.

• Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff.