Warehouse 22?
Picking a CCTV management system

CCTV has moved on a lot these days, and there are a lot of cameras now. Some use proprietary systems, and some have clever custom detection and face recognition and ANPR and hardware inputs and outputs. Some have low light colour. Some have infrared. The options are endless.

But ultimately, whatever they are, you want a management system to record and allow local and remote viewing, alerts and events, basically providing a way to see what is going on and what happened later.

At home

At home, a CCTV system is largely engineered to be a deterrent for theft. A house with a load of cameras should be less likely to be burgled than the next house with none.

But it has a load of other uses, and ironically the main one is deliveries.

  • Seeing a delivery in real time remotely, even "talking through the camera" to the delivery person when not there.
  • Proving they did not delivery when they said they did, or that they "chucked it over the fence and that is why it broke".

But also, police, and neighbours, may ask if your camera caught something. Yes, this surprising (police asking) as it is an issue with ICO guidance, which is very confusing. They work on the basis of a case law that somehow, even though the collection and processing of potentially personal information is for personal domestic use (so outside scope of GDPR), that somehow it matters what you are seeing with the camera - i.e. seeing a road or path that is off your land. The GDPR does not have that as a criteria, and the second you try to apply that logic it to dash cams and cycle helmet cams and the like it all falls apart. I.e. my cycle helmet cam is "OK" somehow (personal use) but park my bike by the wall of may house and put the helmet on it, viewing the road, is that OK? Then run a power lead to the helmet cam so it runs 24/7, is that OK? As what point does it become not OK as it is a CCTV on my house viewing the road, not a camera on my cycle helmet viewing the road. No logic to it at all.

Of course, even if camera covers public spaces, you can "mask" them on many cameras now, to meet ICO rules.

I also wonder about CCTV, especially the CC part. What if I made cameras open to the world on the internet, it is then OCTV not CCTV, so do any of the ICO rules on CCTV now apply?

At work

At work is different, not personal/domestic use, so needs proper ICO registration, privacy policies, and notices, but once sorted you can run CCTV. There are a lot of legitimate interests for any business running CCTV, for crime detection prevention, both external (break in) and staff fraud (eeeew, don't trust your staff?). As long as you are totally clear about the CCTV, and how and what is processed for what purpose you are probably OK, but don't take my word for it - get legal advice.

Back to the point - recording and management

Whatever cameras you use, and as I say - there are a lot, you need a way to view live, and record, and view and save recordings.

There are many systems, and I have used several. However, the latest I am using has impressed me, so much I feel I should share my fortune and tell you all about it.

The system is "NX Witness", and Simon (of Dedicated Programmes) is an expert at settings these up (and supplying a range of cameras). I am lucky to have got a system from him as a birthday present, thank you.

  • It is easy to use
  • It is slick
  • It is fast
  • It is so very responsive

I have used Synology previously, and once wanted to check a delivery (that did throw a parcel over the fence) remotely from mobile, and it took me like half an hour. It was so slow and unresponsive and hard to use.

NX Witness, just works. An app on my phone and on my Mac, but I understand Android and Windows are just as easy.

I had to ask Simon how I save a video clip, as on Synology it was a nightmare, and he was "Duh! draw on timeline, right lick, export video", and it was, and it worked, and that was it!

When I click a time in the past the videos all show it, instantly, no delay. When I click a motion event, the same.

And I have custom icons on my videos now that allow me to turn on lights, open gate, and so on, simply, from my phone.

I really an impressed, simple as that!

Record all

You could record only on motion or events, but hard disks are cheap enough, and recording all has advantages.

The NX Witness makes it easy to see the motion events, and the like.

But recording all allows you to also see when something didn't happen! When a delivery claimed to happen and you can send video covering 10 minutes either side of the time with no delivery happening.

So that is what I do, only for maybe a month's worth, but that allows me to find something if I need.

One edge case was damage to some rendering on a wall, on Synology it was hard to track down, and I imagine on NX witness it would be so much quicker. It was focusing on events for a small part of the image, and the NX witness lets me highlight an area and pick only motion events covering that area.

Don't use WiFi

This should not need saying, but so many cameras these days are WiFi, and even "only 2.4GHz". Just say no. Sorry. Apart from the ease of jamming the WiFi if you want to not be seen, WiFi is very much a shared medium, and a couple of cameras constantly streaming over WiFi can make it shit very quickly.

You need wires anyway for power to the camera, so use PoE, one wire, not that hard even if it means a few holes and cable clips.

Public space

A small follow up because of a comment.

The issue with GDPR is that it covers the purpose of the processing, being domestic/personal, not what you are processing, which is why the case law on CCTV covering a public space makes no sense. And so why trying to draw a line makes no sense. The fact that helmet cams and dash cams are OK, even recording public space, but not fixed CCTV, is a totally mental and wrong interpretation of the law.

I have a couple of good examples. One relative has a doorbell camera, but the house is directly on the public pavement. So to record anything they are recording public space, even when it is a delivery person ringing their door bell. That clearly should be allowed as personal/domestic purpose. (I am lucky to have a small (maybe 1m) space from public pavement).

On the other hand I have a corner that is tarmac'd along with the pavement. I was careful to ensure the tarmac has a clear line for the border of my properly, but lots of people, almost everyone, cuts the corner, walking over my properly when simply walking along the public road. So, in my case, I can record them, under ICO rules, as they are on my property. I have no real reason to, other than I am allowed to as they have not jumped over my gate, etc.


  1. Some police forces now say cameras make your house more likely to be burgled as it shows you have stuff worth stealing. The criminals all wear balaclavas so don't care about the cameras. Ring doorbells are particularly bad for attracting breakins.

    1. That was my (late) father's justification for not having a burglar alarm (in the 80s). That house still does not have one (or cameras etc) and has never been robbed so maybe....

  2. "As what point does it become not OK as it is a CCTV on my house viewing the road, not a camera on my cycle helmet viewing the road. No logic to it at all."

    That *is* why we have judges and a court system and the whole "reasonable man" concept. Software developers keep trying to view the law as a computer program or a formal system designed to come up with optimal outcomes: it's not, even though its attempt to aim for a degree of consistency might make it look like one. Looking for logic in edge cases of laws is a category error: those are the very cases where judgement is required.

    In practice trying to run a power lead to your alleged helmet cam so you could leave it on 24/7 would almost certainly be seen as an attempt to end-run round the law, and would probably damage the rest of your case because you're not acting in a reasonable fashion (honestly, who does that? nobody, that's who, nobody who isn't looking at the law and trying to edge-case it) and honestly you're acting like you think you're in the wrong. The legal system does know what bad-faith actors are, it deals with them all the time, that's the point of it.

    1. I see your point, but what if the camera happened have a battery life of a month, then what? At the end of the day GDPR covers the "purpose", which is domestic/personal, not what the "data" is, so saying it does not allow recording "public areas" from a home CCTV is wrong if the "purpose" was domestic/personal. Just like my recording a friends mobile number in my personal phone book is allowed even though they happen to not be on my premises at the time. The case law is broken, and that is what any attempt to apply logic breaks it.

    2. GDPR may say one thing, but its reification in UK law may say another. (I'm not sure, I haven't looked, but at the very least this is verging into dodgy territory where checking first might seem advisable. Friends know when they've given you their phone number. Someone walking down a main road cannot be presumed to have given everyone living in all the houses there permission to film them and store the images, what, forever? Nobody expects that when walking down the street, even though the streets are littered with disregarded security cams. Edge cases, edge cases...)

    3. There is no "expectation of privacy" when walking down the street, and as you say, people are filmed by lots of CCTV all the time. If the "purpose" of the recording is purely domestic/personal it is out of scope of GDPR. But even where this is seen as controversial, somehow nobody questions it when it is a car dash cam or a cycle helmet cam, that is the weird bit - if they come under domestic/personal use (and nobody seems to suggest every car with dash cams registers with ICO and has a notice on the car, so they must think so) how does a home CCTV differ. Indeed a home CCTV is even more clearly "domestic"!

  3. I assume this software gets installed on a Linux or Windows PC?

    Wonder how it compares to say BlueIris and it's pricing 🤔

    1. Given their pricing is available by application only NX Witness is a hard pass, I'll stick with my Blue Iris installation which just works and integrates nicely (via MQTT) with my home automation.

    2. Around £130 per IP based RECORDING SOURCE (i.e. camera) but it's a perpetual license.

      Companies like use-ip.co.uk offer it (https://www[.]use-ip[.]co[.]uk/nx-witness-recording-license-l01-nxwi.html). Got 5 cameras that you want to record? That's £650 please.

      Unfortunately I don't trust the sales pitch of 'free updates forever' as that's rarely true.

  4. Thats certainly an interesting option, it didn't come up in my search when I was looking some time ago for systems. The vast majority I found were either the usual Dhauah/Hikvision or rebrands, thats problematic for me for a number of reasons, including the webclient being 'flakey' in the past even post the ActiveX days, also means that they're challenging to get in the US due to the various import restrictions introduced.

    Software wise, There were way too many options that were just lack lustre in my view. They either required some rather silly system requirements to do the number of cameras that I wanted, or had awful mobile or web apps.

    The ones that made the cut for me were Frigate, BlueIris, Shinobi and Kerberos.

    Kerberos was quite interesting, and reminded me of the way that ZoneMinder used to handle each camera in a seperate process (or docker container in this case), but overall I didnt like the UX.
    Shinobi was 'ok', and i found it to be a bit unstable under load, and the UX was hit and miss in my view.
    Frigate was pretty decent, and when i was evaluating mostly needed a Coral AI accelerator to do object / motion detection, which with one works quite well.
    Blue Iris, being windows, didnt really interest me at first, but overall it was quite a nice experience, if not a little 'configuration overload'. The ability to offload object detection to a gpu is a nice option.

    One thing that i've found very useful is also setting up scrytped, which has allowed me to put a non HomeKit doorbell / camera onto the network and being able to be seen by apple TV as an option, allowing me to see it pop up when someone rings the door, leaves a package etc.

    On the GDPR side of things, being state side I don't have that to content with, but the state I live in does have some interesting restrictions.

    There are no restrictions for video, providing that theres no expectation of privacy, so inside a building is where you'd start to have to consider that, but outdoors is (mostly) considered acceptable. In my case the street is included in my cameras, as the main subject is my property, my understanding is even if it was the public road, it wouldn't be something that would require any permission of parties to record it.
    The interesting one is regarding audio recording. This is one of 12 states where audio recording comes under the same regulations as wiretapping. The state is an "all party" state, which would mean that everyone invovled would have to provide explicit consent. Theres some interesting discussions to be had regarding if someone is in this state and records a call, but the other party is in a one party state. Which rule applies? There were a couple of cases in other states regarding this, and it seemed (from my not a lawyer interpretation) appears to be that if the person recording was in one of the multi-party states, lets say on a phone call, but the other person was not, it would be the other states rules that applied, however the inverse is also true, if the person in a multi-party state was not providing consent, the person recording would be committing an offense. So Audio recording on cameras is flat out disabled at the camera level for my self. I do wonder however how many folks with Ring, Nest or other door bell manufactures fall foul of this.


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