In recent years, the use of video surveillance cameras (also called Closed Circuit Television, or CCTV) throughout the world has grown to unprecedented levels. These systems involve sophisticated technology. Features include night vision, computer assisted operation, and motion detection facilities which allow the operator to instruct the system to go on red alert when anything moves in view of the cameras. Camera systems increasingly employ bullet-proof casing, and automated self defence mechanisms. The technology will ultimately converge with sophisticated software programs that are capable of automated recognition of faces, crowd behaviour analysis, and (in certain environments) intimate scanning of the area between skin surface and clothes. The technology has been described as the "fifth utility." CCTV is being integrated into the urban environment in much the same way as the electricity supply and the telephone network in the first half of the century. It is reasonable to assume that covert visual surveillance will in some environments be ubiquitous.
CCTV is profoundly changing the nature of the urban environment, and is now an important part of the core management of cities. Visual surveillance is becoming a fixed component in the design of modern urban centers, new housing areas, public buildings and even the road system. CCTV may, in 1984 style, reach into the private domain of homes.