Video verification strategies: Bringing video into a central station

ESX 2010 panel looks realistically at challenges in the video verification world (part 2)

She said her operators also had to consider how they interacted with police dispatch. Just saying "I have a video verified alarm" isn't enough, Valenteen said. Until dispatchers are familiar with this technology, operators often will have to explain what they are seeing on camera as the alarm is occurring. That info, she said, gets dispatchers attention.

On the plus side, Valenteen said that doing video verification of alarms boosted the morale for The Protection Bureau's operators. "They now feel like they are partners in law enforcement."

The techie impact

Another speaker on the CSAA-presented panel was Mark McCall, the director of information technology for United Central Control (UCC), a wholesale central station based out of San Antonio, Texas. McCall said that central stations considering video services need to pay close attention to what the technology means for their communications infrastructure.

McCall agreed with Loyd that it's best to create product tiers (his station uses Xanboo, Videofied and OzVision systems), but he said IT managers need to consider how video systems integrated with existing central station automation software.

"Simply popping up a new software window with the proprietary DVR client is not a good integration," McCall said. "You need a consistent panel interface for your operators. Without a common interface, you'll face much more difficult training, and you may also have signals communication problems, and you might even have a lack of alarm history."

Beyond automation systems integration, McCall says to watch out for the technical impacts related to your network, your ISPs, overall bandwidth, and storage of the video clips (remember, he said, this is evidence!).

McCall's top recommendation is to double your efforts -- and by that he means adding redundancy. He advises stations to consider having dual Internet service providers (ISPs) with an IT design that allows automatic failover between those ISPs. He also advised attendees to "consider redundant firewalls, routers, network switches and redundant servers for your video management systems. You must eliminate single points of failure."

Sometimes the technical aspects of video verification and remote monitoring aren't in the station but at your clients' facilities. Your clients must consider their own ISPs when installing a video system to be managed by a central station.

"If you're doing a commercial system, they shouldn't be on a shared network and they shouldn't be on a throttled system," McCall said. "If they can handle a 512 Kb feed, which is what I'm seeing as standard from most DVRs, they should be good." If they have less bandwidth, UCC may point a client toward simple video verification rather than full-fledge remote monitoring and guard tours, which are more bandwidth intensive for the customer's facility.

As an IT manager he said he is watching bandwidth all the time. At UCC, there is even a set of "gauges" indicating current bandwidth consumption of his central station so he knows if there are bandwidth problems instantly.

As to the often asked question of how long to store incident-associated video, McCall said he matched the video retention police with the retention police on their automation system. For UCC that means five years, keeping in mind they are only storing the relevant clips. He uses common video file formats like M-JPEG and MPEG, and he said those file formats have been commonly accepted by law enforcement without question.

As the session concluded, one thing was clear -- video is a huge opportunity for central stations and alarm dealers, but it's not a business area to jump into lightly. Stations and dealers need to make a clear plan and consider how it will affect their operations and infrastructure before they make the leap.