January 27, 2020 Real Estate Publication

One billion surveillance cameras will be watching around the world in 2021, a new study says

Surveillance cameras are mounted on a post as the Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. logo is displayed atop the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Hikvision, which is controlled by the Chinese government, is one of the leaders in the market for surveillance technology.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

One billion surveillance cameras will be watching around the world in 2021— and more than half of those cameras will be in China — according to a report from IHS Markit published on Thursday.

The report comes as experts warn about the potential risks of such surveillance technology, including potential access to data by the Chinese government.

There are an estimated 770 million surveillance cameras installed around the world today, and 54% of those cameras are in China, according to a pared-down version of the report, which CNBC has seen and that is set to be made widely available next week.

China is home to some of the world’s largest makers of video surveillance products, such as Hikvision, Huawei and Dahua.

China’s push to export surveillance camera technology, including to liberal democracies, has raised concerns over the risk of data being funneled back to Beijing and the growing influence of the Communist Party, experts told CNBC in October.

China has built a vast surveillance state that utilizes cameras powered by facial recognition software, including cameras perched on streets, buildings and lamp posts that can recognize and identify individual faces.

Chinese tech companies supply artificial intelligence surveillance technology to 63 countries — of those, 36 have signed onto China’s massive infrastructure project called the Belt and Road Initiative, according to a September report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

Some of these “smart city” projects are currently underway in countries like Germany, Spain and France, according to analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

China currently has far more installed surveillance cameras than any other region in the world. The Americas are next in line, accounting for 18% of all installed surveillance cameras, and Asia, excluding China, accounted for 15%, the report said.

Those same regions will see the greatest growth of surveillance cameras over the next two years, the report said, driven by growth in developing countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia. These countries are expected to surpass Japan and the U.K. to join China and the U.S. as the top five largest markets for installed surveillance cameras.

The report also indicated that if the data were to be broken down by the number of installed surveillance cameras per person, the U.S. is actually not far behind China. In 2018, one camera was installed for every 4.1 people in China. In the U.S. during the same year, there was one installed camera for every 4.6 people.

—CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report

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