Business operations playing a larger role in video deployments, survey finds

Eagle Eye Networks, a provider of cloud-based video management systems, released the results of an independent survey commissioned by the company on Wednesday, which show that a large majority of end users plan to extend the use of surveillance systems beyond security. The “Cloud Video Surveillance Report 2014” surveyed between 250 and 500 IT and video surveillance professionals over a two-month span earlier this year to get their perspective on a variety of trends including; business plans for video surveillance, adoption of cloud video services and the increased role of IT professionals in installing and maintaining surveillance networks.

It comes as no surprise that more businesses want to leverage video surveillance for more than just protection given the increased pressure on today’s security executives to deliver tangible ROI and the survey results only serve to reinforcement that. The survey found that 68 percent of respondents plan to have their video surveillance systems usage include business operations improvement, which was more than twice as many (32 percent) who indicated that they still only intend to use it for security purposes.

While these findings might logically spur some vendors to focus on how they can better tailor their solutions to meet the evolving needs of end users, Eagle Eye Networks President and CEO Dean Drako believes that may not be a practical option for the industry.

“In my experience, the business operational stuff tends to be somewhat industry-specific, customer-specific or application-specific, and I don’t think you can necessarily build the right functionality into DVRs, NVRs and traditional software products,” he explained. “I think what you have to do, in order to achieve widespread development of these applications, is you have to create a platform that has APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that are open and in the cloud to allow people to quickly build these applications.”

For example, Drako said he recently met with a customer who runs 1,600 stores (with 32 surveillance cameras at each location) that sell second-hand merchandise and his biggest problem is evaluating the value of items brought into to be sold. Since he can’t have an expert at each location, this customer wants to use video surveillance to enable people to do remote evaluations.

“I would have never thought of that problem. I mean no VSaaS (video surveillance-as-a-service) provider or surveillance provider is going to think of that particular problem and build-in features for it,” added Drako. “But if you have a platform where someone can go in and, within a couple of weeks, build an app for him as an integrator or reseller to solve his problem; he’ll pay you a bunch of money and he’s very happy.”

Drako said he was “honestly surprised” by the fact that so many end users are thinking about how they can use video to boost the operational aspects of their businesses.

“I think there is a huge opportunity for the resellers and manufacturers to start to capitalize on that and grow the size of the business,” he said.  

Use of Cloud-Based Video Surveillance Solutions

Although many security practitioners have become more comfortable with using cloud-based solutions as part of their security programs, the survey found that there are some who remain hesitant.

While 75 percent of IT and video surveillance professionals reported that they saw some advantages to using cloud-based video surveillance systems, 25 percent still indicated that they saw no advantage. Additionally, of those who saw an advantage to leveraging the cloud, the top advantaged cited by respondents was “flexible storage capacity and off-site redundancy” at 39 percent, followed by “easier access to video content and camera status” and “easier multi-site integration and upgrades” both at 29 percent.

Drako said that he wasn’t at all surprised that 25 percent of respondents didn’t see any advantages to using the cloud and added that he was more surprised the figure was actually that small.

“If you look at the industry today, the penetration of cloud into video surveillance; we’ve barely scratched the surface. You have a tremendous number of folks who haven’t experimented with it, don’t want to change and don’t want anything to do with it. So, the 25 percent number actually seemed small to me. I was pleased that it was that small,” said Drako. “We all know that there are tremendous advantages in the cloud, however, the cloud revolution in CRM (customer relationship management)… we’re 11 years in at least. I would say only in the last three to four years have the Fortune 500 or major companies kind of started to move over and trust it. I think that we’re at the beginning phases of that change in the video surveillance industry, so I think we’ve got this seven or eight-year road and we’re in year one or two.”

According to the survey, 79 percent of respondents also saw at least one hurdle to adopting cloud-based video surveillance. The two biggest hurdles cited were cloud security (45 percent) and high bandwidth usage (41 percent). While Drako believes that part of these cloud security fears may be a bit overblown given the companies that have transferred their CRM data to the cloud in recent years, he said he also can understand them.

“There have been a lot of what I would call amateur cloud security providers who have entered the space in the video surveillance market… and they don’t put in place the right infrastructure to do security,” he said. “In some ways, folks in the video surveillance industry are right to have fears because there are some amateurs, but I think they are wrong to fundamentally fear it from someone who knows what they’re doing and knows how to provide it.”     

Increasing Role of IT in Video Surveillance

As the industry increasingly transitions away from analog devices to IP solutions, the role of IT professionals in installing, maintaining and even purchasing video systems has also subsequently risen. According to the survey, 58 percent of IT professionals are now involved in video surveillance in some way. Because more IT professionals are now involved in video, Drako said that presents both an opportunity and a risk to the industry.

“I think it presents an opportunity to the industry to expand its market, its reach and its impact. As video surveillance starts to be used for things other than forensic security … the opportunity for the market is going to get bigger for folks who understand how to install, operate and deploy cameras,” Drako added. “I think it’s also a challenge because the integrators have to become more IT savvy because one of the customers is going to be the IT organization. And if the installer/integrator cannot speak the language that those IT folks are used to speaking, they’re not going to be able to earn the business.”

Drako said that these new IT customers are also going to be looking for different things than traditional security buyers, such as more standards-based devices and things that line-up with deploying IP systems and fit into the IT environment.

“IT guys have a very simple view of the world: a security breach means I’m losing my job. There’s no amount of money, no amount of time or energy that they’re not willing to spend to avoid a security breach,” concluded Drako.  

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