A NEW CLASS of network-hosted monitoring services is emerging to complement and enhance traditional alarm monitoring. Hosted services that provide video monitoring and recording, video verification and access control provide new recurring revenue possibilities and enhanced value for end users and clients.
These services are based on a model called Software as a Service (SaaS). This is a software delivery model where the application is hosted in the “network cloud” on an Internet-accessible server. Subscribed users access the application through a standard Web browser without manually installing and maintaining custom software. “SaaS” has become the preferred buzzword over out-of-fashion terms like Application Service Provider (ASP) that describes a similar concept. Unlike ASP services that simply host off-the-shelf products overlaid with a browser application, true SaaS products are built from the ground up for Internet hosting.
With the SaaS model, end users usually do not pay for owning the software, but pay a recurring fee for using the application. The issues of providing software upgrades, new features and server maintenance are administered at the hosted server site by the service provider.
What enables SaaS for electronic security is the adoption of network-friendly features now being built into digital video recorders, network cameras, access control readers and panels.
A great example of a SaaS service is the Digital Fabric product from Digital Synthesis (www.dsynthesis.com). The Synthesis Digital Fabric is a software platform that enables connection and control of common, network-ready electronic security systems across either a LAN or Internet environment.
The Synthesis platform connects traditional DVRs and access control platforms for remote monitoring and control. In addition to the legacy analog devices, Synthesis works with native IP access control devices like HID’s IP-ready Edge Readers. For network video, Synthesis integrates with PacketNVR (www.packetnvr.com) software to access popular network cameras from Axis, Sony and others through network firewalls.
Another unique differentiator is that Digital Synthesis also integrates with primary central station automation software such as those offered by IBS and Dice. This is new in that it provides some of the largest central monitoring stations the ability to provide end-to-end IP-based video and access control monitoring in a convenient common user interface across different brands. With the service, the subscribed end user can use a web browser for complete visibility to live and recorded video, alarms and access events from multiple sites. President and CEO of Synthesis, Dana Hersom added, “For the first time, end users who want notification and control of their security systems have a common user interface to all their systems that communicate seamlessly to major central monitoring centers when needed. This provides value-add services for the end-user that were previously only available in high-end, more expensive integrated applications.”
Central station United Central Control (UCC) of San Antonio, Texas has aligned with Synthesis to provide its base of alarm dealers with video monitoring and access control services. UCC Senior Video President Mark Matlock views the Synthesis platform as “a way for his company to offer his alarm dealers revolutionary new revenue services.” UCC’s implementation of the system is integrated with UCC’s existing Dice automation software. UCC markets the service as iConnect to provide real-time video verification of alarms and access control events through their existing automation platform.
Remote Guarding services such as Visentry’s (www.visentry.com) Virtual Sentry provide 24/7 remote video monitoring services in place of on-site security guards. Visentry’s solution uses video analytics from VideoIQ (www.videoiq.net) to identify people and cars that cross configured perimeter boundaries. Analog cameras feed an on-site VideoIQ server. Standard DSL lines transport video and real-time alerts from the dealer site to Visentry’s 24/7 central monitoring station where monitoring personnel are attentive to the alarms and the associated video. When Visentry personnel are alerted to suspicious behavior, they warn the suspect with an audio announcement that is delivered over the DSL connection. Local police are notified if the warnings are ignored.
According to Yona Wieder, Visentry CEO, remote guarding services are particularly popular with car dealers who are eliminating security guards in favor of the Visentry service for a fraction of the recurring monthly cost of the security guard.
Other video monitoring services such as Video Protein (www.videoprotein.com) attempt to entirely remove premise equipment such as NVRs and servers by placing these resources in the network. The service is built with network cameras that stream video directly from network cameras on location over the Internet to a storage server hosted by Video Protein.
Eliminating expensive recording hardware is certainly a great idea; however one caution with this approach is to consider how well this will scale as the number of cameras grows at a particular site. By design, most Internet services provide asymmetrical bandwidth. This means that the “download” bandwidth is higher than the “upload” bandwidth. The difference is usually a factor of 10X. For example, I tested my premium Comcast service using a free tool (www.speakeasy.net/speedtest) to confirm that it provides an impressive 20Mbps down (as advertised), but only 2Mbps upload is available to move video from my office cameras to an Internet-hosted recording server. According to Mike Kirchner, vice president of Business Development, Brainstorm Internet in Colorado, “many businesses use business class DSL circuits for Internet and Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity. Typical business DSL circuits connect at 256 kbps, 1.5Mbps or 3-7 Mbps; however this speed is indicative of only the downstream speed while the upstream path is limited by technology at 786 kbps.”
For medium to large systems with multiple cameras, it seems like a better proposition is to store video locally and then have services like Digital Synthesis or Visentry to pull live or recorded video from local recorders as needed.
One thing is certain, security products will continue to become more network-friendly, Internet bandwidth will continue to increase at attractive costs and more software options will become available to enable video monitoring services. Perhaps remote video monitoring and hosted video management software are the killer ‘apps’ that can enhance alarm revenue and the penetration of network cameras.
Tom Galvin of NetVideo Consulting is a network video specialist. NetVideo Consulting (www.netvideoconsulting.com) provides consulting services and product evaluations that enable successful networked video solutions.