Ray Coulombe is Founder and Managing Director of SecuritySpecifiers.com, enabling interaction with specifiers in the physical security and ITS markets; and Principal Consultant for Gilwell Technology Services. He can be reached at ray@SecuritySpecifiers.com or through LinkedIn or followed on Twitter at @RayCoulombe.
The major product sectors of the security industry seem to have all followed a similar progression: analog (or low-speed serial), to digital, to IP, and now, to the cloud. The security industry may be lagging behind the IT world in terms of standards, features and product applications; however, they are both traveling the same path — and it leads to the cloud.
Just look at the video market: VCRs are extinct, hybrid DVRs bridge the analog and digital worlds, and NVRs and dedicated or shared storage equipment reside on networks, accessed by an array of video management products. Thus, off-site video storage and monitoring, implemented through the Internet (the “cloud”), is becoming a real business. IMS Research points out that the Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) market was approximately $500 million in 2011 and could reach $1 billion by 2014.
As the name VSaaS suggests, it is provisioning video surveillance as a service via the cloud, where services can be monitoring, storage or serving video for live or recorded view. Equipment and service requirements vary, depending on the application.
In certain VSaaS cases, all video remains stored locally — either in dedicated network-attached storage devices, or in cameras with internal (normally SD) storage. Some amount of that video is then exported to a remote location, either to serve as redundant off-site back-up, or in the case of an offering by CheckVideo, to store or share 10 second clips of analytic or alarm-generated video. This approach works well where there is limited bandwidth, where the video recording equipment can be well secured, and where prompt alarm notification is the primary consideration, such as installations with high-value goods or strategic importance.
If suitable uplink WAN bandwidth is available from the video source, a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) — otherwise known as a tunnel — can be employed to stream video to one or more off-site secure locations.
Yet another approach, based on functionality like the Axis Communications One-Click system, allows a camera to be associated with an off-site storage system, and pushes that video to the cloud storage device. The recording, replay and live video access is controlled by a software platform such as the Axis Video Hosting System, or, for example, Salient Systems’ CompleteView. Given that all video is streaming from the site, normal bandwidth availability makes this approach most suitable for situations with low camera counts (4-8). This approach features a low acquisition cost or lease opportunity for a video surveillance system, and reduction of maintenance worries. This model offers recurring revenue possibilities to the systems integrator for storage, equipment leasing and monitoring.
The systems are highly scalable across many sites, particularly since little or no LAN infrastructure upgrade will likely be required and the centralized storage is inherently scalable.
Another consideration is the potential of analytics. Camera analytics are improving, and local processing and decision making may be critical — especially if an immediate response is required. Centralized analytics lends itself to forensics and data mining, where storage servers endowed with powerful analytics may bring their advantages to many users. This eliminates the need to make an up-front investment, and timely technology upgrades become easier.
Ultimately, a positive business value must be shown for VSaaS to reach its full potential, and additional complimentary services may be the key. Associating video with other alarm or physical security events creates a more complete picture of threats and alarms. Beyond security, such services might include store operations, customer service or marketing. Must you have a cloud VSaaS service to do these things? No, but the ease of pulling video from a VSaaS system, coupled with analytic capabilities should make cross-department implementation more likely.
No discussion of cloud services would be complete without mentioning mobile applications. Provisioning video services to the myriad of proliferating hand-held devices can be accomplished efficiently and effectively, as most of us now witness in the palms of our hands every day.
What does the future hold? Better (compression, video quality), Faster (networks, processing), Cheaper (storage, bandwidth), Smarter (end devices, data analysis) — all of which makes the forecast look cloudy, in a good sense.
Ray Coulombe is Founder and Managing Director of SecuritySpecifiers.com, enabling interaction with specifiers in the physical security and ITS markets; and Principal Consultant for Gilwell Technology Services. Ray can be reached at ray@SecuritySpecifiers.com, through LinkedIn or followed on Twitter,@RayCoulombe.