What Is CCTV? Closed-Circuit Television Fully Explained

Modern CCTV camera on a wall. A blurred night cityscape background. Concept of surveillance and monitoring. Toned image double exposure mock up

What Is CCTV? Closed-Circuit Television Fully Explained

Key Points

  • CCTV is a system of cameras and monitors used for surveillance and security, broadcasting on a closed circuit for private viewing.
  • Closed-circuit television serves purposes such as security, traffic management, retail theft prevention, public safety, and wildlife observation.
  • Smart security systems are becoming more popular than traditional CCTV systems due to their wireless support, higher-definition cameras, and remote access capabilities.
  • Pros of closed-circuit TV include deterring crime, promoting safety, monitoring customers and employees, and aiding law enforcement, while cons include privacy concerns and high costs.

CCTV, or closed-circuit television, plays a huge part in our modern world — whether you know it or not. From home security to traffic monitoring to wildlife observation, closed-circuit television systems are all around us in our daily lives. But what is CCTV, exactly? What’s the point of it, and how does it differ from the smart security systems being installed around the globe? Here’s everything you need to know about this popular form of video surveillance.

CCTV Explained

High technology security monitoring system CCTV camera for office building, shopping mall, house, traffic and outdoor.
It’s estimated there are over a billion CCTV cameras worldwide.

CCTV is an abbreviation for closed-circuit television. It’s a system of cameras and monitors used for surveillance and security. Like any security system, closed-circuit television consists of a series of cameras placed high up across various locations (such as street signs, rooftops, or the top corner of a room). These cameras record videos and send the footage to a monitor.

Thanks to the glory of television broadcasting, this monitor can be on or off site. But, unlike regular TV, CCTV broadcasts on a closed circuit. That means it’s not broadcast publicly. CCTV broadcasts are only meant for private viewing. As a matter of fact, this private viewing is one of the most controversial aspects of closed-circuit television. More on that in a bit, though.

A closed-circuit television network is made up of several key components. First, there are the video cameras. These can be fixed in one place or programmed to move and follow any activity or motion. Second, there’s the control center. This is where all the video feeds are received and monitored. Operators can watch these feeds in real time or record the footage for future reference.

CCTV cameras can serve several important purposes. They aid in criminal investigations, secure public spaces, and monitor private homes or businesses. However, they also come with their fair share of controversy. Many object to private recordings of public spaces. With over a billion CCTV cameras worldwide, some see them as a tool used for social monitoring and exerting control.

Uses for CCTV

CCTV Security Camera
From homes to businesses to public spaces, CCTV has a variety of uses.

CCTV serves a plethora of purposes in our world. Some you might encounter on a daily basis, while others you might not ever stumble across. From coast to coast and country to country, here’s where closed-circuit television systems are most likely to be used.


Of all the uses for a CCTV system, security is probably the most common. Closed-circuit television watches over homes, businesses, and public spaces alike. It acts as a deterrent to any potential trespassers or other suspicious activity. The recorded footage can serve as evidence to identify and prosecute any wrongdoers caught on camera.


Closed-circuit television also plays an important part in managing traffic flow and improving road safety. Local departments of transportation mount these cameras on roads and intersections, enabling regional authorities and news organizations to monitor traffic conditions in real time. That way, they can respond to accidents or congestion as they happen.


When installed in retail stores, CCTV systems can help deter thieves and shoplifters. They can also aid in maintaining a safe and productive shopping experience. If something is stolen, store owners can review the recorded footage and investigate incidents or suspicious activities accordingly. Businesses can also use closed-circuit television to monitor employees to make sure they’re following the company’s policies and procedures.

Public Safety

Closed-circuit television cameras also play an integral part in public safety. When installed on public transit systems or in other public use spaces, the cameras can help promote safety, help prevent vandalism, and better assist the authorities in case of emergencies or accidents.


In nature reserves and wildlife research, closed-circuit television lets experts observe the animals in their natural habitats without disturbing them. Researchers rely on the footage to study animal behavior, record any potential rare events, and protect endangered species with the information gathered.

CCTV vs Smart Security Systems

Man monitoring modern cameras on smartphone indoors, closeup. Home security system
Smart home security systems offer several advantages over CCTV systems.

All of this information on closed-circuit television systems begs the question: What’s the difference between CCTV and the smart security systems that so many rely on today? It’s an inquiry more and more have been having these days. As a matter of fact, closed-circuit television installations have been on the decline for the past several years. A growing number of businesses, homeowners, and other professionals are finding that smart security systems are more subtle, more efficient, more high-quality, and more secure than traditional systems.

This decline in closed-circuit television may be due to several factors. For one, older systems relied on analog technology. This often produced low-resolution footage and required extensive amounts of hard wiring. These limitations made CCTV less effective in identifying details. Not to mention that it made their installation more cumbersome. Beyond this, traditional CCTV systems without ample wiring lacked support for remote access. This made it challenging to check on your footage.

These days, smart security systems have gained much greater popularity due to their many advantages over traditional closed-circuit television. These systems have better wireless support, making installation much more user-friendly and far less obtrusive. Additionally, smart security systems utilize higher-definition cameras with clearer and more detailed footage. Moreover, you can easily access smart security systems like Ring or Blink remotely through smartphones or computers. This lets property owners and security companies monitor their footage from anywhere. 

Pros and Cons of CCTV

Pros of CCTVCons of CCTV
CCTV helps deter crime and vandalism through real-time monitoring.CCTV infringes on people’s privacy, raising ethical and legal questions.
Closed-circuit TV promotes safety by detecting potential threats.Setting up and maintaining a CCTV system can be very expensive.
Businesses can use CCTV to monitor customers and employees.CCTV can’t cover every angle, leaving blind spots ready for exploitation.
CCTV footage aids law enforcement in solving crimes.Closed-circuit TV data can be abused or breached, leading to privacy concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CCTV?

CCTV, or closed-circuit television, is a video surveillance system that uses cameras to capture video footage and transmit it to monitors or recording devices. Unlike regular TV broadcasts, CCTV is a closed system intended for private viewing or security.

How does CCTV work?

CCTV cameras continuously record video footage, which is then transmitted through cables or wirelessly to monitors or recording devices. This real-time monitoring allows for immediate observation and, if necessary, long-term archiving of the recorded footage. Analog CCTV cameras use traditional wiring to transmit video signals, while IP (Internet Protocol) cameras send data over the Internet or a network.

Where is CCTV commonly used?

CCTV is widely used in various settings, including homes, businesses, streets, public transportation, airports, banks, and many other public and private locations where surveillance and security are necessary. CCTV offers several advantages, including deterring criminal activity, providing valuable evidence for investigations, improving security, and enhancing situational awareness.

Can I install a CCTV system at home?

Yes, homeowners can install CCTV systems to enhance the security of their property. There are various DIY kits and professional installation services available to choose from. Basic systems may start at a few hundred dollars, while more advanced setups can cost several thousand dollars.

What’s the difference between CCTV and smart home security?

While both CCTV and smart home security involve video surveillance, smart home security is a broader concept that incorporates various devices and technologies to provide a more comprehensive approach to home security. It offers remote control, automation, and integration with other smart home systems, none of which CCTV can provide.

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