Remote Guarding: Video's Future?

Technological improvements have made the service viable for end-users


The solutions lie in doing things differently. More cameras, more monitoring and more instant response are the answer, but the conundrum is how to do it at a reasonable cost. There is an organization that may just have the answer.

The Remote Guarding Alliance (www.remoteguarding.org) is composed of a group of eight remote guarding companies and technology providers. Its mission is to promote awareness and establish quality and performance standards for providers in this space. The service they provide may be the future of video monitoring: they combine the concept of centralized monitoring — with advanced analytics to provide cost-effective remote guarding as a service.

“We are seeing tremendous growth in our service,” says Michael Honlon, vice president of market and channel sales for ViewPoint. “In the past, all that remote guarding services offered were video tours. Now, we have customers who realize we can not only provide better security, but also value-added features, such as visitor management, after-hours video escorts in the parking lot or the eyes of the owner for retail.

“In this economy, security is being judged on the value of the investment,” he continues. “We don’t know of any company accepting project paybacks over 16 months. Remote guarding is a good way to solve the problem.”

Technology Solves Remote Guarding Roadblocks

While others have provided remote video guarding in the past, there were three key roadblocks that limited widespread adoption. The cost of video transmission over a network required huge, dedicated and expensive connections to each site. The Internet and low-cost “last mile” connections have changed that, but it is still difficult to move live video from a large number of cameras off-site. This pushed users to move to lower quality video to save on bandwidth. The whole equation changes, however, if you use video analytics on each site to watch the video streams. When the system actually watches its own video, there is no need to transmit it unless an event occurs.

“Moving from CIF resolution to D1 causes bandwidth and storage costs to increase by a factor of nine unless analytics are used,” Marmon says.

The second roadblock was the cost of monitoring. We all know that humans can not watch large numbers of screens at the same time or for very long. The result was limited cost savings for remote monitoring since it took the same number of people to watch your cameras no matter where it was done. This is an area where video analytics can really make a difference. It can allow dramatically increased efficiency and effectiveness, while allowing significant increases in the number of cameras per operator. This is also another area in which the technology has changed. To make this work, the analytics needs to be able to detect humans being in places they shouldn’t be while at the same time limiting the number of false alarms to a minimum.

“There are intelligent video systems now that have a false alarm rate of less than two per camera, per week. With those kind of rates, an operator can move from watching 10 cameras to monitoring 1,000,” Marmon says.

While intelligent video helps to find the events in live video, recorded video is still important and these services provide it. In fact, some would argue that analytics produces some of its best benefits when it is used to find events in the massive quantities of stored video. Still, the best approach is preventing incidents before they happen, and improving the quality of video monitoring is the area most ripe for improvement. “We believe the real value in video comes when it is used real-time,” Honlon says.

The third roadblock was the speed of response. As the Campbell study shows, immediate reaction to an event makes a dramatic difference in outcome. Previously, the only available response was police or guard dispatch — always slow and often unavailable. While there is some percentage of events for which dispatch is the only answer, most people will stop in their tracks if it simply becomes obvious they are being watched. That is why two-way audio or “voice down” has become such an important part of the solution. The ability of a remote guard to immediately talk to (or yell at) a perpetrator changes the dynamics of almost any situation. “Audio loudspeakers actually create a physical presence at the site and give you the ability to defuse a situation before it becomes a problem,” Marmon says.