Through the Camera's Lens

Video surveillance is everywhere—in private homes and massive enterprise deployments alike—increasingly serving as our 24/7, always alert eyes. It has evolved at a rapid pace over the past several years, in large part due to advancements in technology, but also as we’ve discovered new ways to leverage it. As we’re still at the start of 2013, it’s a good time to take a look at how video surveillance continues to evolve and the trends we’re seeing in the enterprise market, i.e., those “Tier-1” installations such as airports and safe cities.

Perhaps one of the most interesting trends today is the use and value of video surveillance beyond security; with many organizations using it to gather valuable operational insights. Along with that, advancements in technology are also allowing organizations to more easily deploy new capabilities and features as many do not require prohibitively expensive rip and replace costs—very good news for those wishing to maximize the benefits of video surveillance. Today’s cost-effective migration solutions have the ability to leverage existing infrastructure (such as analog cameras) and apply new technologies to them, allowing enterprises to maximize past investments.

Here’s what’s happening in video surveillance from two distinct angles: technological and operational perspectives.


Technology perspective

Everyone in the industry has been talking about the migration from analog to IP for the past several years, but 2013 could very well be the tipping point. While the majority of legacy cameras are analog, most newly deployed cameras are expected to be IP. Fortunately, they can function together to create a full IP solution through encoders and/or hybrid smart video recorders. This gives organizations the ability to migrate to a full-IP solution at their own pace, as they maximize analog assets while enjoying IP benefits. Expect to see more and more of these hybrid installations as it allows organizations to gradually upgrade to IP video.

Cameras are definitely in the spotlight this year. If the past few years were about getting a higher pixel count, then this year we’re expecting to see camera vendors focus more on feature-rich devices such as onboard storage and video analytics. While onboard camera storage isn’t a sufficient storage solution for enterprise environments (where high video quality is required and typically a longer retention time), it does provide these types of projects several valuable benefits, such as an additional layer of redundancy in the event of temporary network disconnections or other unforeseen outages. It also provides flexibility and savings for organizations that don’t need to retain high-quality video for extended periods of time.

We’re also seeing more and more vendors embedding video analytics directly on their cameras. This definitely speaks to the strong re-emergence of video analytics in the market. In addition, more megapixel cameras are being deployed to provide clearer images of the scenes they capture, which in turn also provides operational benefits.

This year’s buzzword is VSaaS or Video Surveillance as a Service, which utilizes cloud technology. While this might be a relevant solution for smaller organizations, it is not a practical solution for large or even mid-sized environments mainly due to lack of bandwidth and the associated annual costs. It is a highly practical solution for small or entry-level installations.


Operational perspective

It seems as if integration is always a topic of interest. Now, you may be asking yourself why I’ve listed integration as an operational trend and not a technological one. The reason is because in this case, integration is intended to increase the user’s overall situational understanding, which in turn allows for faster and more efficient response. The more we can integrate separate systems and solutions, the more holistic of a picture we can provide control room operators. Increasingly, we see video management systems (VMS), integrated with other security systems such as access control, fire alarms and others to provide a smarter and clearer view of the environment. With Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) solutions supporting this trend, we see a growing demand for integrations.

We mentioned megapixel cameras in the technology section above, but they belong here too based on how they are being deployed and the value they can bring. In line with the cost-effective migration patterns, these cameras are not necessarily replacing standard ones, but are typically being deployed alongside them in locations where higher levels of detail are required or a broader field of view is necessary.

Here’s where the discussion on video analytics begins. With a revival in its perceived ability to provide good performance and clear value, the latest generation of video analytics applications are experiencing renewed interest from the market. Increased accuracy along with an alignment of expectations and a better understanding of how to use the technology are all helping to drive its upswing in use.


Analytics multiples forces

For example, organizations are using video analytics as a force multiplier in a variety of scenarios. In the case of perimeter protection, in its simplest form video analytics can be used instead of fence sensors. Or in some cases, organizations are creating multi-tiered protection as video can detect a potential intrusion earlier than if a motion sensor is activated. Organizations are finding that they can monitor more by using video analytics.

Video analytics applications are also helping take video beyond security, with more and more being used to improve customer satisfaction. They can be used to identify crowding and long queue formations, which allows organizations to respond in real time. Heat maps are being created with video analytics, which show marketing departments where potential commercial hot spots are located. This information can then be used to justify increased lease rates or to simply reconfigure commercial areas to take advantage of these prime locations.

While the various trends discussed above are all quite different, they do represent the overall trend of “maximizing video,” both from a performance aspect and the extraction of value. And for users, that’s a good thing.



Illy Gruber is the product marketing manager, NICE Systems Security Division, Paramus, N.J.