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In this paper, we propose a novel approach to perform selective motion estimation specific to video coding for wireless surveillance applications. A real-time background subtractor is used to detect the presence of any motion activity in the sequence. Two approaches for selective motion estimation, group of pictures (GOP) based and frame based, are implemented. In the former, motion estimation is performed for the whole group of pictures only when moving object is detected in any frame of the GOP. While for the latter approach; each frame is tested for the motion activity and consequently for selective motion estimation. Experimental evaluation shows that significant reduction in computational complexity can be achieved by applying the proposed strategy. The achieved efficiency gains make the proposed approach suitable for low bitrate transmission in wireless applications.