In this day and age, major metropolitan cities are equipped with enough security cameras to cover nearly every inch of public space. Unfortunately, these cameras are generally not utilized until after a transgression has occurred, making them more of an investigation resource than a crime prevention tool.
For small retailers in particular, security cameras offer little protection. It's extremely difficult for a store owner to keep their eyes glued to a security television and not cost-efficient enough for them to hire someone else to do it.
In an attempt to help these small retail stores minimize shoplifting with virtually no additional effort, a new U.K. company called Internet Eyes has developed a somewhat radical solution.
The company's plan is to stream live security camera feeds from locations all over the U.K. and have them run on a designated website. European consumers can then sign up for the service and begin watching closed-circuit video of U.K. stores that agreed to take part in the program. If subscribers see anything suspicious, they press the alert button on their screen and a picture message of the alleged incident will be automatically sent to the store owner.
Interestingly, in the current beta version of the program it is subscribers, not store owners, who are being charged by Internet Eyes. The company asks consumers who sign up for the service to pay around $20 a year.
However, the firm hands out significant rewards to those who report the highest number of verified alerts in a given month. In October, the winner took home about $1,600 after recognizing 42 crimes in just 30 days. Internet Eyes plans on passing out rewards to the top 50 subscribers when the company gets large enough, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Of the 1,627 subscribers who took part in the beta program, only three had their account suspended for initiating false alarms.
"We get people that really want to fight crime in this country, not just voyeurs that just want to press the button," Tony Morgan, founder and managing director of Internet Eyes, told the Journal.
Morgan added that he will begin charging store owners about $100 a month when the program moves out of the beta stage. Subscribers will continue to be billed the small fee to guarantee that they are over the age of 18.
Meanwhile, critics have blasted Internet Eyes for offering the service, referring to it as a voyeuristic game of sorts.
For now, the scheme is only available in the U.K.; however, anyone in Europe can be a subscriber. If successful, the company may soon bring the service to the U.S.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf