Searching for ROI

Video Analytics is a hot technology, but can your investment provide a financial payback?


By some counts, there are 38 companies pitching video analytics technology or solutions for security applications. Many of these companies use return on investment (ROI) as one of the big selling points. The idea is to let software determine what video is of interest so that security guards can be more productive, reduced or even eliminated.

I sought to find evidence of these claims: can investment in video analytics really provide a financial payback? What is the ROI and does this stuff really work?

There has been a great deal of hype and promise around video analytics since the introduction of DVRs. Manufacturers have promised analytics as means of differentiating their products. Start-up companies like ObjectVideo, Vidient and many others were formed around the idea. The idea of applying face recognition to spot terrorists passing through airports and public places received much publicity in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, only to fizzle as the hype seemed to exceed the reality. Hollywood fostered the myth with its depictions of almost magical video analytics in movies like Ocean's Eleven and on the NBC TV show Las Vegas .

I found three specific video analytic applications that have a proven ROI and payback on the investment. In each of these successful cases, the video analytics technology was one component of an overall solution to a specific problem.

What is Video Analytics?

Video analytics (or intelligent video) are computer algorithms that process digital video to identify specific objects and object movement. The technology has roots in computer vision applications that have been deployed in manufacturing environments to identify production defects. Analytics software for security applications is commonly deployed on commercial servers that accept video feeds that are digitized and then processed to separate objects of interest from the image background. Some manufactures now embed analytics directly into cameras (Sony, IOImage) and video servers (Verint).

Regardless of the physical implementation, the analytics must be integrated with event management software to generate alerts, video pop-ups and to trigger video recording. The analytics typically require a high degree of configuration using software tools. The system must be carefully programmed to identify objects of a specific size, motion characteristic and type (for example, human vs. vehicle). “Trip-wire” applications will generate an alert when the specified object crosses a defined line or threshold in the camera image.

Analytics for Perimeter Security

Several car dealers in New York are using a remote video monitoring service in place of on-site security guards for a cost savings of $4,500 per guard. With the installation of a 24/7 remote video monitoring service from Visentry, dealers have virtually eliminated theft, increased their sales and improved the visibility of their business operations.

Car dealers have problems with theft and vandalism. According to Sean Timmons, general manager of DCH Millburn Audi in New Jersey , he could not leave any inventory in an unfenced area for more than three days without the theft of Xeon headlights from the automobiles – a hot commodity. Prior to the installation of Visentry, DCH hired on-site security and would physically move their car inventory into fenced areas each evening.

With Visentry's service, DCH has been able eliminate the on-site security service and leave inventory in an unfenced area with access to the street. According to Timmons, giving customers the ability browse the car lot after closing hours is essential to good business. Since installing the Visentry system and allowing customers to browse inventory after hours, Timmons says that he has experienced record sales without any theft. Timmons noted that the police love the system and are quicker to respond to alarms with video verification that can describe the suspect, his automobile and perhaps the direction of his escape.

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