Eye on Video: Security as a Service

Why video surveillance is following in the footsteps of hosted IT applications

With the introduction of network cameras in the last decade, however, new ways of providing remote monitoring have opened up. Because network cameras piggyback on the same infrastructure as a company’s data communications applications, they are inherently designed for remote monitoring capabilities. Recognizing this potential, companies began launching hosted video solution as early as 1998. Most were large telecom providers, such as Telia and Telefonica, who took the opportunity to leverage the bandwidth and the customer relationships they already had in place to extend subscriber services. But what they lacked was expertise in the actual act of monitoring. So the burden fell to the customer who -- upon receiving an alert from the telco -- had to call the police themselves in case an alarm was triggered. Additionally the early solutions were difficult to install because they required that the customer understand router and port technology.

The switch to IP-based surveillance systems has revolutionized the video surveillance market, but mostly in the larger systems arena. Extremely cost -efficient for installations over 32 cameras, the enhanced video quality as well as the flexibility to scale the system one camera at a time give large companies unprecedented abilities to grow their solutions at their own pace. But for smaller operations, the price for IP technology is prohibitive because they have to absorb the cost of a local server and local video management software as well as the expense of installation and ongoing maintenance. Security as a Service offers an affordable way for those smaller companies to bridge that technology gap.

Why security as a service is catching on

With SaaS, small and mid-size companies can reap the benefits of IP-based surveillance by outsourcing much of the hardware and all of the software. Instead of maintaining the recording and monitoring station locally, companies can now limit their capital investment to just the cameras and a gateway or router to the hosted storage. The vendor provides the servers that archive the video and manages them for the business. There’s a portal to the central monitoring station that keeps an eye on the video and sends the alarm. And the customers can access the video over the web from any standard PC or handheld device equipped with a browser. The network cameras are easy to install because they plug into the network cabling infrastructure already in place. And with technology like Power over Ethernet (PoE), companies can use the same data cables to power the cameras. So not only does SaaS take complexity out of the equation for small to mid-size companies, it lowers their overall cost of ownership compared to conventional analog surveillance systems. And with greater bandwidth and better compression technology in the new H.264 standard, we should be seeing SaaS installations continue to grow in size.

The SaaS approach to surveillance offers monitoring and hosting companies a great value proposition as well. SaaS can be used to increase services to an existing subscriber base. And it can be used to gain in-roads into the largest growing sector in today’s economy – small to medium size businesses. Because the hosted model has universal appeal across vertical markets – everything from retail and fast food franchises to property management, satellite business and government offices – service providers can create a more diversified revenue stream, which is a strategic necessity in an uncertain economy.

Taking a best-of-breed approach to SaaS

Just as most IP-based solutions, Security as a Service is a best-of-breed business model. This presents ample opportunity for a wide range of vendors and service providers to work in concert to create a cost-efficient, hosted surveillance solution for a customer. Subscribers not only acquire a sophisticated, scalable network video surveillance system with superior image quality, but can budget for its operation on a predictable monthly basis.

At the center of a SaaS solution are the network camera and video encoder companies that base their products on open standards. The encoders enable customers to include their legacy analog cameras in the hosted video solution. This technology integrates with components from the server and storage providers, the network infrastructure installers, the hosted video application software developers, the hosting providers and the monitoring service companies. Because the cameras and encoders are easy to install and don’t require a great deal of maintenance on the part of the customer, the potential for providers to penetrate a plethora of vertical markets and establish a steady monthly revenue stream is enormous.

About the author: Fredrik Nilsson is General Manager of the Americas for Axis Communications and author of the book Intelligent Network Video. He is a regular expert contributor on topics of networked video surveillance systems and cameras.