According to Government Technology, though it may seem Orwellian, surveillance technologies in use today are seen as tools for enhancing security rather than instruments of repression. The global video surveillance industry is valued at $160 billion, with its spectacular growth largely stimulated by homeland security initiatives after Sept. 11. About 30 million surveillance cameras are estimated to be in the United States, shooting 4 billion hours of footage every week; in cities such as New York and Chicago, these cameras are wirelessly networked.

Municipalities that implement Wi-Fi networks can frequently use the infrastructure to substantially lower urban camera deployment costs, and police and emergency responders are going to rely on mobile video capabilities more and more. The problem of staffing the feeds from an astronomical number of cameras may be addressed by video analytics software, which tracks live feeds, locates video images that meet specified criteria and alerts the appropriate authorities. The technology has carried the most benefits for security systems thanks to its ability to identify problems and notify the correct security staff.

Frost and Sullivan's "Video Analytics: The Ground Reality" report estimates that federal and state governments comprise more than 50 percent of the video analytics market, while the second biggest video analytics software market is the retail, banking and gaming industries. Frost and Sullivan analyst Dilip Sarangan said the parties expressing the most interest in video analytics are government agencies looking for something that can recognize license plates and faces, although the technology needs to be more reliable in natural settings and better able to identify constantly moving objects; the cost of video camera upgrades is another impediment to the wide adoption of video analytics technology.