IP video management goes down the mobile road

Nov. 18, 2011 -- This week, Milestone Systems

launched XProtect Mobile

, a smartphone or tablet app that will become available for download on Dec. 1. The app lets security staff monitor their video surveillance cameras and recording systems no matter where they are, whether at home, on a foot patrol, in another building -- anywhere they can get service to their smartphones or tablets. It's part of a wave of change in the industry that frees video surveillance monitoring from the basement control rooms that are still the norm in our industry.

Milestone, of course, has been one of the most popular video management systems (VMS) for IP video surveillance, so to see the launch of a mobile app from them is a sign of the future. Certainly there were already movements in this direction. VMS competitors Genetec and Exacq had each launched their own mobile apps earlier this year.

A similar thing was occurring at Milestone. "We’ve seen increased demand from our channel partners and customers for a Milestone-dedicated mobile solution, so we decided to provide XProtect Mobile to work with the entire line of Milestone VMS products," said Christian Bohn, Milestone Systems' vice president of marketing and product management.

What you hear from Bohn is that this wasn't simply a "build it and they will come" project, but one that really recognized the needs of the customers and integrators. In fact, the most astute technology followers might recognize that this really wasn't the first time that Milestone's VMS could be reached on a mobile device. MobiDEOS and Lextech Labs each had already offered mobile apps that could connect with Milestone's XProtect VMS to allow remote access to security cameras. Those two firms also worked with OnSSI's video management product.

But what is markedly different with the internal launch of XProtect Mobile is that Milestone has been able to largely replicate the experience of their Smart Client. Smart Client is the software that you could run on a remote monitoring terminal (any PC, laptop, etc.) to access the main VMS servers, live streams and recorded video. XProtect Mobile, said Bohn, replicates that experience, and adds that "the way to work with it will come naturally to Milestone customers." It's a small difference, you might think, but when you consider the hours and investment required to train security personnel, it makes sense to replicate an interface that the security staff already knows.

In my own conversations with end users of video surveillance VMS platforms, mobile really is a focus for future technology investments, and I have a sense that this will be a high-growth area of the market. These end users have typically made sizable technology investments in VMS servers, software and surveillance cameras, and they recognize that such an investment is of more value if you can link the video to actual field response staff, security officers or law enforcement personnel. In fact, at the Secured Cities conference last week, we heard from multiple police departments who were interested in moving video captures (still images or live feeds) directly out to officers in the field.

Notably, many of the VMS apps we see on the market today are being designed for the Apple iOS and Google Android operation systems for smartphones and tablets. Some companies do support Blackberry/Research In Motion, but the overall move seems to be away from RIM's devices. That may well be where mobile app developers are headed (Milestone's app launches on Android in December and is forecasted to come to Apple devices in the spring), but there are still some adoption hiccups. Some end user organizations still require the security of RIM's servers for email and device connections. One CIO I was speaking with last week said she is still on RIM for those security reasons and because of her ability to remotely "wipe" a lost smartphone. But with iPhone/iPad and Android devices taking over the lion's share of the market, that may rapidly change, and it seems that most VMS developers are betting that RIM will rapidly lose market share to Google or Apple.

Of course, no matter what operating system, VMS or smartphone maker leads the market, one thing is already clear: video surveillance is already well on its way down the mobile road.