This afternoon I took a very unusual call. The request was for wireless cameras, which is nothing that uncommon, but the caller wanted to install the cameras all across a little island in the Florida Keys. Unfortunantely the caller was not with the local government but was instead calling from a Home Owners Association (HOA).
I say unfortunately because the caller had apparently been watching to much CSI and spent to much time in the U.K. Which is where he told me he kept his primary residence. To confess after a five minute update on life in the CCTV obsessed British Isle, which was proceeded by a five minute gripe about our phone system, I was ready to say "thanks for your call and have a nice day".
But somewhat like a dear in the headlights I just kept listening. With the history lesson and grandiose dreams aside the caller impressed me in so many ways as a classic uneducated consumer who wanted some one to come out and tell him how it "all works".
Not having the time to explain it "all" I just took the callers name and number and offered to get him in touch with our local affiliates.
However had I had the time I would have pointed out a few problems with a HOA installing cameras all across a six mile long island.
First lets start with the budget. Quality outdoor wireless CCTV hardware capable of spanning one to four miles has it's place. And in the right context it can be a very affordable solution. But spending tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars to watch cars cross the bridge as they dive onto and off of your island is not something most HOA's are going to have in the budget.
Secondly a HOA with such a grad project has a problem with infrastructure. That problem is quite simply they don't own the infrastructure. They don't own the light pole with the best view of the bridge, they don't own the land that is immediately borders the road, they don't own the land over which power lines would have to be run to get to the land that somebody they know owns with the cruddy view of the bridge, etc., etc., etc.
What HOA's do however own are homes. But is there really anyone on a HOA Baord that would trust thousands of dollars worth of CCTV hardware being placed in the home of a HOA member? Or is there an HOA member that would really want to have the responsibility of that expensive hardware? Or is there a home owner who really wants who knows what number or size of antennas or wireless receiving equipment mounted to their house our installed on their property? Or for that matter does anyone who owns a well kept property in the Florida Keys want to have an industrial grade camera, and transmitter mounted to the side of their house? Is there anyone who lives in what looks like their own little paradise who want to turn that look into something more akin to a maximum security detention fatality?
This goes back to something the caller said about his time in the U.K. and how big brother was always watching. Well perhaps this was lost on the caller but in effect he and his HOA are tying to be, on their own little island at least, their own version of "big brother". And that is where in my opinion CCTV security camera systems fail.
Instead of trying to put cameras all over the island in some grand scheme that will never get funded or implemented the HOA should use it's power to recommend a standard CCTV technology that all HOA members could purchase on their own to make the right security choices for their own needs. If the individual HOA members saw fit they could share internet access to selected security cameras with other HOA members and create a web of watchful neighbors.
But to centralize such a project through an ever changing membership in an HOA would only lead to problems and ineffective use of funds.
As evidence to this the story ends with me taking the time to get the contact information for 4 local CCTV installers in the area and calling the customer back to pass on the information. My calls have gone unanswered and and my messages unreturned. That's no surprise and no problem from where I sit.