CCTV to outwit Jason Bourne

By Jasper Copping

A closed circuit television (CCTV) system to outwit even the most elusive secret agent or criminal has been devised by scientists.

The flaws in the present systems were revealed in the Hollywood blockbuster The Bourne Ultimatum.

In the film, Jason Bourne, a rogue CIA agent played by Matt Damon, tells another character, via a mobile phone, how to evade the searching eyes of CCTV cameras while charting his way across the concourse of Waterloo Station in London.

The new system plugs the surveillance gap by enabling an operator to choose a suspect and follow him through dense crowds, and any subsequent changes in appearance.

It works by attaching about 30 “tags” on small clusters of pixels on the footage, fixing them on different parts of the subject. It then “locks on” to these tags, and as the subject is filmed, the computer is able to follow his or her exact progress on the film, as the target moves about.

The system has been developed by scientists at the defence company BAE Systems, the University of Reading and Sagem, a French telecoms company.

Andrew Cooke, the project manager, said: “This kind of technology would allow us to track someone like Bourne.”

Present CCTV surveillance “hits a brick wall” when a suspect mingles in a crowd or even takes off his jacket. The new system will even be able to pass information from one CCTV camera to another and can be programmed to pick out potential criminals by detecting suspicious body language.

Police officers will be able to use the technique to trace an individual’s movements on recorded footage after a terrorist attack or serious crime.

The project has been funded partly by the European Commission and is already being tested by a British store chain.