Guarding safety and security within industrial, commercial and military areas is an important issue nowadays. A specific challenge lies in the design of portable surveillance systems that can be rapidly deployed, installed and easily operated. Conventional surveillance systems typically employ stand alone sensors that transmit their data to a central control station for data-processing. One of the disadvantages of these kinds of systems is that they generate a lot of data that may induce processing or storage problems. Moreover, data from the sensors must be constantly observed and assessed by human operators. In this paper, a surveillance concept based on distributed intelligence in wireless sensor networks is proposed. In this concept, surveillance is automatically performed by means of many small sensing devices including cameras. The requirements for such surveillance systems are investigated. Experiments with a demonstration system were conducted to verify some of the claims made throughout this paper.