Pervasive Video: The Last George Zimmerman Event

By Rob Enderle July 15, 2013

Agree or disagree with the verdict, the Zimmerman case hinged on the lack of reliable eye witness testimony as to what actually happened.   Had the fight that occurred been on unaltered video (the use of the word “unaltered” will be clear in a moment) Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence would have been clear and either they wouldn’t have been on trial or, he certainly would have been convicted - depending on what that video showcased.  

Increasingly we are being surrounded by cameras on homes, on businesses, on cars (public and private), and placed around neighborhoods and cites to help make up for a shortage of police officers.    

Neighborhood Watch exists to supplement the police force but with increasing overlapping camera coverage the need for this function, other than monitoring the cameras, will likely be reduced.   Let’s talk about how tragic events like the one involving Zimmerman and Martin could have ended far differently with the coming camera coverage.  

Going to the Cause

Had there not been a burglary and an inaccurate description of the burglar in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, the confrontation likely would not have occurred in the first place - or might have been far less violent.   Homes covered in video surveillance are far less likely to be burglarized and if you have an actual picture of the burglar the identification can be far more assured.   If you can address the events that created the conflict and eliminate them, right or wrong, then a conflict won’t have to occur and a needless death can even be avoided.   

More important though, if Zimmerman knew he and Martin were on camera, he’d have known there was a record of Martin in the area and would have been less motivated to confront Martin. Also, if he knew he was on camera, and that anything he did would be open to review particularly with regard to the use of a firearm, things might have gone differently.  Had the neighborhood had comprehensive camera coverage, we’d likely not have had this event and avoided the real tragedy, which isn’t the verdict; it is the unnecessary death of Travon Martin. 

By the way, as a side note, I find it troubling that we tend to focus more on blame than assuring another event like this is avoided.  

Camera Phone

Part of what is also changing is we are all getting increasingly more capable cameras on our phones.   For those of Zimmerman’s age and older this hasn’t yet fully seeped into our behavior.  In other words, had Zimmerman thought about what he was doing he should have been taking pictures of Martin rather than confronting him physically outside of his truck.   As phones increasingly upload automatically, the pictures they take are online quickly – so even the destruction of the phone wouldn’t have destroyed the record.   Martin either didn’t have a phone with this capability, or didn’t know it could be used as a defensive weapon otherwise he too could have captured a record.  It will likely be much easier to do this with products like Google Glass that truly enable this capability because in a confrontation pulling out the phone if you are the one being confronted seems unnatural and often impractical.  

One Problem

There is one problem with cameras - the ability to edit footage, even by amateurs, is increasing very quickly. As a result it may also be that a lot of the video we see will be unreliable because it has been edited.   You may recall that Zimmerman is apparently planning on suing NBC for altering the 911 audio records to make Zimmerman sound racist. We regularly see edited video as well and have come to discover that generally Reality TV is scripted. We’ll have to take some care because clearly not all we hear or see is real and we may reach a time when being able to tell reality for fiction, even with pictures, will be increasingly impossible.  

Wrapping Up: Moving to Pervasive Video

As we move to pervasive overlapping video from homes, cars, businesses, heads, and perhaps even pets, the likelihood of a confrontation like the one between Martin and Zimmerman becomes sharply reduced.    But when a crime does happen, while we will have it on video, unfortunately the rate at which these captures can be altered is also on the rise.  So while pervasive video may help prevent deadly violence, when violence does occur, guilt or innocence can’t always be concluded quickly.

With Zimmerman afraid for his life, getting his gun back, and folks really upset with him, I doubt this event is truly over.   The opportunity for another conflict would seem high, but as more time goes on, the chance this next event could be on camera will make all the difference as to the outcome.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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