A World of Possibilities

An overview of IP technology and its benefits could quite honestly fill a book (and there already are good ones out there if you want an in depth knowledge of this topic). I decided to reach out to some of our costumers asking what they and their organizations understood about IP Video — the answers were all over the map!

It's clear that some security directors and end-users can benefit from a simple overview of IP Video (IPV) and its benefits — including how to implement a system, and more importantly, how to cost-justify it.

IP Video: An Overview

IP Video, in its simplest form, is real-time video surveillance — or the ability to view live feeds of video pictures that are transmitted across the Internet and your internal network. IP cameras use the same language or protocols (procedures, codes of behavior, set of rules, modus operandi) as all of the other IP products on the Internet. They communicate together in an unending stream of information allowing you the ability to view events as they are happening. This information will provide you with ammunition to make better business decisions, which will improve your organization's security and safety and provide better protection of assets — thus lowering your risks and your liability.

Traditional security has been an access control business with video being used as a support tool for verification or identification. The evidence of how and what happened is stored on a DVR and used for forensic purposes. The quality of that stored image can be grainy, dark and difficult to find and to see.

IP video, on the other hand, provides clearer, sharper pictures and can be a driver of alarms, as well as a forensic tool. Incidents can be discovered during video touring or with smart cameras that actually trigger alarms just like your access control system does; but these alarms will come with detailed information that allows you to make judgment calls on the spot. You can take a closer look, searching for more information from different angles with different cameras — all with good images. You can share these live pictures using laptops hand-held computers, cell phones or PDAs — and you can do it whether you are in the same building, in the next building, in the next town or halfway across the planet. You can change your view from camera to camera, zooming in and out of areas, and follow the situation as it unfolds.

Store managers, vice presidents, guards or police can be notified with live video of what is happening at the time of an alarm — deciding if a n employee made a error when closing or opening a store or if there's a break-in and the police are needed. If you have five local businesses and you want to see what's happening in any one of those locations at any time, you need IP Video. If you want to keep an eye on the grounds of your school, hospital parking lots, public subway stations, or any area of risk, you need IP Video.

Let's say you have manufacturing operations in China , France , Mexico and the United States , and there's an earthquake in Mexico . IP Video routed to your PDA at a coffee shop in France can show you that your building is untouched, but the roadways in and out are damaged. This information leads you to divert operations and manpower from the factory to another — saving you millions in unfulfilled orders — thanks to IP Video.

During the Sept 11 attacks, there were IP cameras recording from evacuated buildings that surrounded the fallen twin towers. The cameras were transmitting real-time data, documenting that records and property left in the building were untouched and undamaged (what the cameras were designed to do); but they also were sharing important details on the conditions outside of the building, such as fires, smoke, the stability (or lack of stability) in the remaining structures, as well as fallen debris and stranded or hurt individuals on the streets below. In this case, the unforeseen value of the system was equal or greater than the designed value of the system. No one in their wildest imagination considered these cameras would be reporting this type of information when they were installed; yet, they continued to transmit for up to three or more days until the back-up batteries were exhausted.

Identify the Risks, and Determine the Value and Costs

The bottom line for any organization is the question of the value of IP Video's functionality to the overall operation and the cost to deploy it — with the cost to deploy oftentimes overriding the value of its functionality. So first and foremost, you need to know your risks and to decide where having a better, clearer, steadier view of what is happening will lower risk.

Would it bring value to your organization if you had live video — not just pictures, but detailed video through video patrolling? Would you need as many guards? Would this bring value to your company? Would you centrally monitor your facilities? Would it lower your costs and risk if you outsource monitoring?

Once you've identify the risk and the value of IP Video's functionality, you need to be able to explain it in detail to management with visual aids. Present them with a three-, five- or 10-year plan based on the size of your organization and the breadth of your projects. Make your management understand that you will implement new resources through attrition, as old technology needs repair or replacing. Let them know that you can stop the project at any point in time, as the current system is never compromised — only improved.

The cost of an IP-based system is in the network and the servers needed to build the backbone. It is up-front money really, and once the needed resources for your networked cameras are fully established, you can hang as many cameras as you want on the network, anywhere that you want them.

A mathematical discussion of the cost of a DVR vs. the cost of a server can clinch the deal for management. As one customer said to me, “my DVRs cost $8,000 apiece, I had racks of them. $8,000 times 20…I bought four servers for $50,000.”

Getting Company-wide Buy-in

When you are talking networks and servers, you clearly need buy-in from your IT department. As I said, I i t is not your task to know all about network technology and network security any more than it's the IT person's task to understand where all the physical security risks lie and how to manage them.

A customer told me that “getting IT buy in is easy — as I haven't met an IT guy yet that didn't think that IP cameras were pretty darn cool — especially when they are monitoring IT server rooms and other key areas of concern, ensuring that no one touches their equipment.” If the IT department is getting benefits from your IP camera solution, then they are more likely to share expenses. And if there are other departments in your group that gain benefits, they too can share the costs.

For management's buy-in, you will need to include tangible examples of where the investment brings benefit to the company and to them. How it can lower their liability, improve operations, add functionality and/or increase profitability? This requires that you look at your role and security's role in the organization — and you need to be your own sales agent in this process.

Most security professionals don't come from a business background, so selling the value of the security department may be outside of your comfort zone. But dig into your commitment and passion for protection and doing the right thing, and the ideas and the words will come.

In one case, a single IP camera viewing a new construction site allowed a CEO to watch daily construction progress and to share that progress with visitors as they came to his office. Sometimes, the answer to promoting a change can be that simple. Send a live feed to the CEO of an event unfolding. Engage them in the process.

Ready for the Future

With your cameras on the network, you are collecting business information. And that data can be comingled with other corporate data to provide more overall information to the organization. What will become apparent is where there are unidentified risks — as you will literally be seeing things that were not in your view before.

There are large software companies that are trying to write risk measurement software from mined business data. It's complicated to do, because it is difficult to determine whose eyes to measure the risk through — the CEO's, the finance department, legal, operations, HR and more. Today and for sometime into the future, you have to be the eyes of all the departments — and your knowledge and tools need to be as good as possible for the organization's benefit.

There are software programs being written that make cameras smarter, and this will continue. Camera software simply looks for behaviors that indicate risks. The human eye and brain can not watch one person's behavior, let alone a wide range of behaviors at all times, but cameras can. Currently, cameras are able to watch for when a package has been abandoned and when someone is walking the wrong way in a crowd — and they can count people, cars, watch areas for intruders, continually track someone of interest. The cameras will send alarms with video feeds when there are exceptions to rules that you have set .

Make sure you look at what is happening with technology around you — especially cell phones and PDA ' s that can shoot, view and send pictures anywhere and any time. It's pretty hard to believe that this same technology will not impact the world of security. Video is simply oozing out of cell phones and over the Internet today — and within your organization, you have the choice to be in control of it and use it to your advantage. Your business is all about risk and control.

Carol Enman is director of Business Development and Communications for Securitas Systems, an international security systems integrator. She has been on the business side of the security industry for 10 years, first as the publisher of two now established market industry publications and as the founder or co-founder of three industry events — one in technology, one for systems integrators growth and one in the financial community. Ms. Enman has a BA from Suffolk University in Boston.