The Rising Stature of Mobile Surveillance

Mobile communication has permeated nearly every aspect of our lives. The fast evolution from basic voice to a comprehensive bundle of voice, audio and video services is clearly representative of a consumer world that increasingly demands availability of services on the go.

The mobile platform is fast becoming a useful surveillance tool in the professional security space. The development of desktop-based video surveillance-an application now used in control centers and monitoring facilities around the world-certainly proved that network-based surveillance is possible with the right amount of bandwidth, device compatibility and IP addressability.

Mobile technology has evolved to the point where surveillance applications are a reality over the smartphone. On the device level, smartphones such as the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Java phones have all evolved to capably handle video streaming.

The challenges of operating a viable mobile surveillance operation are more closely tied to ensuring that enough bandwidth is available on the network to successfully carry out a surveillance network-and that there are plans in place to deal with bandwidth limitations. Success is also reliant on confirming a safe and secure network connection, as well as ensuring compatibility with other devices on the network.

With appropriate planning, the mobile environment can offer secure, reliable carrier-grade remote monitoring and video surveillance solutions to provide benefits like situational awareness and readiness for a variety of users and businesses. Private enterprises, educational institutions, government agencies and public service employees are just a sampling of organizations that can benefit.

Bandwidth considerations top of mind

There is a lot of hunger for video today. For people on the move, the ability to take in a stable and intelligible video feed depends greatly on the amount of data being shared among people within the same cellular zone. Forthcoming advances like 4G will bring better efficiencies to shared data usage over the network but it still doesn't offer the perfect solution.

A user responding to a surveillance event on the go might be faced with a choice depending on the amount of bandwidth available. The manufacturer must deliver information to the customer that explains the event in the form of still images, full-motion video and/or audio.

One option is to deliver the entire package in "batch" form. This is fine for a business operator responding to a parking lot disturbance from his home, where a stable and unshared network connection is established. Users on the go are tasked with the challenge of having enough bandwidth to take in the entire feed. The feed collapses without the appropriate amount of bandwidth.

The smarter approach for delivering mobile surveillance is a tiered method that will deliver one service at a time, determining the amount of bandwidth available to the user in the process. The technology behind the service will automatically manage the stream throughout the event, as configured by the user.

This might start with a still image, followed by a series of video frames, providing the minimum requirements for good picture quality at low bandwidth. This allows the application and the technology to adapt to the available bandwidth via varying quality of the image and frame-per-second rate. Audio is delivered at the tail end, delivering a complete "picture" of the surveillance event.

Alarm verification is another interesting application for mobile surveillance. This represents a means of integrating logical security into the mobile operation. A camera detecting motion of other unusual activity will raise an alert over the network via e-mail or SMS text, allowing the user to respond to an alarm and determine how to react to the information received.

Remote intelligence and situational awareness provides tremendous value-whether you are a police officer responding to an incident or a business owner managing productivity or a parent/pet owner making sure your children/pets are safe.

Video solves the main problem of a surveillance event, delivering an image of the perpetrator that broke into your business or trespassed on the perimeter. But video doesn't always tell the entire story.

The integration of audio into the surveillance operation is becoming increasingly common. Audio delivers another element of information that would otherwise be missing, allowing the user to gather more detail on the nature of the event and the potential suspects. The increased integration of speakers into IP cameras, or connectivity of external public address systems or loudspeakers to surveillance cameras, means that delivering audio over a network with video is easier than ever.

Enabling a reliable alarm verification service as part of a mobile surveillance operation will also go a long way in eliminating the costs of outsourcing surveillance operations to companies with fixed, remote services.

The world of mobile surveillance is still in the formative years, but there are a number of options on the market to get started, and a variety of applications to test. Other emerging applications include remote business intelligence, situational awareness, central station monitoring and deterrence. We expect to see these opportunities grow sharply as quality of service and network capacity for mobile users strengthen in the coming months and years.

Tips for Systems Integrators

Systems integrators in professional security are familiar with the various camera and recording devices available on the market. Cameras or DVRs/NVRs must be accessible from the Internet to reach mobile phones. Using servers such as MobileCamViewer Enterprise Server to view the video without having to put the cameras/DVRs on the public Internet or open ports is another option.

Integrators building out a mobile surveillance system simply need to understand the network limitations and device compatibility with the mobile software and phones being used. This also goes for tablets (like the iPAD) and other settings such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server. General compatibility tests will prove whether certain IP cameras and recorders will work with the mobile software being applied.

The ability to wirelessly test video source equipment connected to the network will go a long way in ensuring cameras are functioning correctly and covering the appropriate range of vision. mobiDEOS, for example, offers a software option for installers to test a camera installation wherever they are, such as atop a ladder immediately following installation. This eliminates the need to manually correct each individual camera, while showing end users that the cameras are installed and functioning correctly.

Most importantly, integrators will understand the freedom of working within open systems. A mobile surveillance system should support a wide variety of smartphone and devices, giving end users the freedom to use whichever devices they please without having to purchase new phones and contracts.

Sri L. Palasamudram is the chief executive officer of mobiDEOS Inc., Milpitas, Calif.,