The complete guide to body-worn cameras

Date Added 29.06.20

For every organisation – and more so now than ever before – protecting workers on the front line is the top priority.

Each day in the UK, front line workers are faced with physical and verbal abuse, but many lack the tools necessary to keep themselves (and colleagues) safe, as well as the means to accurately report on incidents as they happen.

But while protection and safety are of the foremost concern, organisations – both public and private – need to improve their efficiency, capability and, being under increasing scrutiny, how they handle issues and situations.

Consequently, this is precisely why body-worn cameras are being implemented on a large scale across several sectors. Already in use by the UK police force, body-worn cameras provide the following benefits:

  • Improved surveillance
  • Protection of workers, minimising physical and verbal abuse
  • The recording of evidential information
  • Assists with de-escalation
  • More effective than traditional CCTV
  • Leading to successful convictions

These devices are becoming increasingly popular. Body-worn technology is still relatively new, and the disadvantages are few. The main concern is the possible invasion of public privacy, but public bodies and organisations that use them always have clear guidelines in place.

This guide to body-worn cameras discusses how they work, how they are being used and the business benefits they bring.

What are body-worn cameras?

Body-worn cameras (also known as body-worn video (BWV), body cameras or wearable cameras) are wearable audio, video and/or photographic recording systems. These devices are typically quite small and light, enabling them to be worn on the torso or built into helmets or glasses.

The first recorded ‘official’ use of body-worn cameras was in the UK in 2005 by the police force (implemented to increase transparency and police accountability) and since then they have become increasingly popular in other sectors such as transportation, logistics and public safety (search and rescue, firefighting).

How do body-worn cameras work?

Body-worn cameras capture and record audio and video and there are various types, offering diverse features and functions. For example, some offer cloud-based storage, enabling audio and video data to be saved and managed online, whilst others come equipped with facial recognition technology, which is particularly useful for law enforcement.

Recorded videos are often saved with GPS coordinates and time and date stamps, enabling users to filter and find what they are looking for with ease; while the cameras themselves can be triggered to record automatically based on specific scenarios, e.g. when a crash is imminent or when a wearer is in a certain position for an extended period. These triggers can be customised to the requirements of the business or agency.

The different types of body-worn cameras

Because body-worn cameras are lightweight, they can be mounted in a variety of ways – on the head (via glasses), a helmet, on the shoulder using a lapel or their chest – providing greater flexibility depending on the need.

  • Torso-Based

These include the small-form body-worn cameras like the Edesix VB-320 or Hytera VM550. These cameras are designed to be clipped onto a chest pocket (using an adjustable back flap) and are incredibly durable and lightweight, making them suitable for long shifts. They’re packed with amazing features: GPS tracking, low-light recording, encryption, footage search and much more.

  • Helmet-mounted

Alternatively, there are helmet-mounted cameras. These cameras allow users to record from their point of view (POV) whilst keeping their hands and vision free.

Of the types listed here, the most commonly used – particularly by law enforcement, manufacturing, transport and logistics, and healthcare – are small-form body-worn cameras (on the torso).

Body-worn camera uses and applications

Though body-worn cameras are best known for their use by law enforcement agencies globally, other sectors benefit from the technology. Below are some of the most notable.

Public services (Firefighting)

On 23rd June 2016, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services (HFRS) rolled out body-worn cameras to their entire force – becoming the first fire and rescue service in the UK to do so. The reason was not just to record evidence for fire service and police investigations, but also to help train recruits, act as a deterrent and – before arriving at a call – give responders a more tactical brief and debrief.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential uses of this technology.

Body-worn cameras give firefighters a host of beneficial features and functions that help improve their ability to respond to and handle a situation. For instance, the live streaming and GPS tracking features of certain body-worn cameras give off-site supervisors visibility of an entire operation. Supervisors can manage the entire relief effort (and any search and rescue elements) from a single location and have up-to-the-minute location information for every firefighter.

Furthermore, with the ability to see what each firefighter is up against, supervisors can relay detailed instructions to other respondents (police and medics, for example) and make informed decisions as to whether they need additional support.

For night-time rescue efforts, for example, the low-light features of body-worn cameras – combined with live streaming to a control centre – will allow supervisors to assist firefighters on scene and help to identify anything amiss.

Then you have the durability and ruggedness of the devices themselves; typically dust and waterproof (IP67 rated) body-worn cameras will operate flawlessly in many harsh and hazardous environments, giving firefighters a reliable tool for support.

Find out more about how body-worn cameras can protect your employees and business.


In a study at Berrywood Hospital, UK, clinical staff wore body cameras when responding to alarms. Staff were trained on how to use them, activating them only when they believed safety to be compromised.

The outcome was that according to RCN“both staff and patients said they felt safer, and the number of violent incidents and the use of restraints decreased compared to the same period in the previous year.”

Similarly, in 2014, the use of body-worn cameras by nurses was tested on two wards at Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire. The evidence was used to “support prosecutions following violent incidents” and, according to a spokeswoman for the West London NHS trust (which also runs Broadmoor), there was “a notable reduction in antisocial and aggressive behaviour”.

Since then, several hospitals across the UK have trialled and implemented body-worn cameras to improve worker and patient safety, deliver better treatment and ensure incident reports are accurate.

Indeed, for nurses, doctors and paramedics engaging with patients, the ability to record interactions serves not only as a deterrent to any potential “bad” behaviour, but also as a means to train new employees so they know how to handle situations – whether that means de-escalation or identifying when to ask for help. Furthermore, if staff watch footage of themselves in a situation, they can also see how they might improve their response.

Transport and logistics

Body-worn cameras are already used by the British Transport Police (BTP), and we’re slowly seeing them rolled out to the wider transportation and logistics sector as expectations for protection, transparency and accountability grow.

But there are further applications for this technology in the transportation and logistics sector – particularly when it comes to couriers and traffic wardens/parking attendants. For couriers, the technology gives them an additional “layer” of quality assurance in that they can prove precisely when an item was picked up and delivered to an address. This footage can be made available to the recipient who can then validate if the item was received or not. This helps to avoid situations where items are “delivered” but the recipient received nothing.

For traffic wardens, body-worn cameras provide an up-to-the-minute record of issued tickets, ensuring they are administered fairly and that any claims can be carefully assessed. The technology also protects them from acts of violence as a result of a ticket being issued.

With this kind of technology in place, the number of traffic penalties correctly issued should increase, and the number of incidents should decrease.

What other features and benefits do body-worn cameras provide?

The main features of body-worn cameras are audio and video recording, but over the years body-worn cameras have advanced significantly – to the point where they can offer several other useful functions, including:

  • GPS tracking

Body-worn cameras equipped with GPS tracking enable wearers to transmit their current location details to a control room, monitoring station or command centre in real time. This kind of functionality is incredibly useful for search and rescue and incident response. When combined with real-time video streaming and two-way radios, wearers can deliver up-to-the minute information to supervisors.

  • Robust design and powerful batteries

Unlike smartphone cameras or commercial cameras that can be mounted (i.e. GoPros), body-worn cameras are rugged, durable and built-for-purpose. These devices have extended battery life and can perform consistently over a day or more without charge. Most devices are dust and waterproof – making them suitable for a variety of environments – and can survive knocks, falls or any other kind of damage.

For rapid charging, a mobile docking station is advised; this will help keep a team out in the field for longer and ensure cameras are always operational. No need to return to base.

  • Data protection, security and auditability

With audio and video data being recorded, stored and streamed, depending on the camera in question, the protection of the information and ensuring it’s secure is absolutely crucial. As such, all body-worn cameras use data encryption (both when data is stored locally and in the cloud) and some devices include dedicated, web-based software to manage video footage and manage user permissions. For example, when a wearer is streaming audio and video content to a cloud-based repository using public WiFi, that information if intercepted, cannot be read or altered in any way.

Finally, to avoid anyone tampering with recordings, body-worn cameras include tamper-proof hardware as well as software – providing a full audit trail. This capability isn’t just a “nice to have” but an essential according to the Information Commissioners Office.

Check out the Edesix VB-320 to find out more.

  • Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity

Through WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, body-worn cameras can be integrated into any existing security as well as protection solutions, enhancing operational capability. Body-worn cameras and two-way radios, for example, provide a complete security package: users can communicate with other two-way radio users in real time and provide visibility of what is taking place. A range of accessory devices can be “paired” with the body-worn camera, such as discreet in-ear headphones, to further expand its capabilities.

A benefits summary

Though we’ve described the benefits of body-worn cameras throughout this document, they can be summarised as follows:

  • Context

As public services are under increasing pressure to deliver and meet customer expectations, the ability to see how jobs are performed and review performance is crucial. Body-worn cameras not only protect front-line workers, they also provide supervisors and managers with the data they need to justify making improvements, commend workers, train new staff or highlight any issues. Context is everything – and body-worn cameras, used in conjunction with two-way radios and other solutions, provide another vital piece of information.

  • Connectivity

In the current fast-paced environment, it’s essential that the devices used by front-line workers are connected to ensure data flows to a single point. With this kind of configuration, it becomes possible for supervisors to oversee and manage all activities from a central command station. Furthermore, body-worn cameras when integrated into existing infrastructure can be rapidly deployed, reducing implementation and training costs, whilst maximising control and visibility. Two-way radios can then be configured to work alongside body-worn cameras and dispatch solutions such as TRBOnet.

  • Protection 

Body-worn cameras, first and foremost, provide front-line workers with additional protection against violence or verbal threats, acting as a powerful deterrent. In most cases when used by police or healthcare workers, body-worn cameras have been shown to reduce incidents and help de-escalate altercations.

How do you choose the right body-worn camera?

That’s where we can help. For more than 28 years, we have been delivering bespoke communication and security solutions that help to increase productivity and safety.

As a supplier of high-end body-worn cameras such as Edesix, Hytera, B-Cam and WCCTV, we can help our customers find the most appropriate solution for their particular needs.

At any point, we can provide expert guidance on the use and configuration of body-worn cameras, enabling their implementation seamlessly into existing communication and security infrastructure, or can set them up to operate independently. We’ll also provide training to help you get started. Check out our services for more.

For additional security, our Evidence Management Software (EMS) is worth considering. A core part of any body camera solution, our evidence-management platform makes it easy to organise, find, edit and store recorded evidence. It’s incredibly straightforward to use and provides complete control for managing:

  • User access and permissions (password protection ensures only authorised users have access to footage)
  • Audit logs (track every action performed on the video management software)
  • Device allocation (assign devices to front-line workers using RFID)
  • Incident deletion (set up rules to dictate if and when footage is deleted)
  • Redaction (one-click redaction allows users to obscure or highlight certain parts of footage, depending on privacy laws)

If you’re interested in purchasing body-worn cameras, please click here to see the full range. If you want to find out more about our specific solutions, please see our brochure.