Beyond security: Video surveillance's new frontier

March 3, 2021
MIPS 2021 event explores the 'new next' for the technology and how it has been shaped by the pandemic

As the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel begins to shine a bit brighter with each passing week, many people have started to turn their attention to what the world and business is going to look like as a sense of normalcy is restored. Will remote work become commonplace in organizations? Will we still leverage the technologies that have aided us through Covid to the extent that we currently do?   

One thing is clear, however, businesses would not have been able to quickly adapt to the changes that came about last year once the coronavirus began to take hold in Europe and the U.S. had it not been for video technology. From communications to security and safety applications, video played an integral role in keeping organizations up and running throughout the pandemic.

In fact, video has become so integral to our daily lives that Kenneth Hune Petersen, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Milestone Systems, asserted during a presentation at this year’s annual MIPS conference, which was held virtually for the first time, that video is this century’s electricity in terms of its technological importance. For example, Petersen said that people at the turn of the 20th century had no idea about they ways in which we leverage electricity today.

“They thought the big thing was that you didn’t have to use a candle,” Petersen says. “In the early 20th century, electricity was the new next (big thing). The early pioneers didn’t see electric candles, they saw possibilities.”

Similarly, Petersen says that we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the possibilities presented by video technology and that there is so much more that can be done with it than simply rendering images on a screen.

“Just like electricity evolved to become part of everything to everybody every day, video will do the same in our future. Video is the new next of the 21st century and we are the pioneers for our new next,” Petersen says. “This will change the way we live; it will change the way we work.”

Petersen adds that although the bulk of cameras today are “pointed” towards security applications and should remain doing so for very good reasons, organizations need to start thinking about how to expand the use cases for the technology beyond security.

“I can tell you what is going to happen, a tsunami of innovation and new opportunities will occur. Ecosystems that we do not know about yet will emerge and big ecosystems that are underutilizing video today will use video for so much more,” he says.     

Lasting Impacts of Covid

In an interview conducted during MIPS, Tim Palmquist, Milestone’s VP for the Americas, told that for all of its challenges, 2020 represented an excellent use case for the value of flexibility in technology solutions, video surveillance included.

“We’ve preached this open platform, open community-style of technology because we believe in flexibility, we believe that end-users should have the ability to evolve their technology solutions as the needs present themselves,” he says. “Throughout 2020, the use cases beyond security were very much on display and I think that has been a good reminder to the system integrator community and also the end-user community about the many applications of video and how there are so many capabilities beyond the traditional security utilization.”

While organizations may stop screening visitor temperatures and mask usage as the threats from the virus begin to wane, Palmquist thinks that people will remember the various ways that video played a crucial role in the pandemic outside the security realm and thus see the other opportunities to leverage the technology. Palmquist says there has also been an “interesting discussion” brought about during Covid regarding the balance between on-premises and cloud-based surveillance architectures, which will have a significant impact on the industry in the years to come.

“One of the things that worked for us throughout 2020 was the sale of software maintenance we call ‘Care.’ We ran a campaign around it and there was definitely an appetite because it is something systems integrators could sell during this crisis and it was also a value that end-users could consume – getting updates to their software,” he says. “If you think about that, you would assume that cloud delivery systems would also work pretty well in the same environment because of the lower touch, assuming the equipment is in place that’s a service that can continue to deliver results. I think we’ve accelerated the discussion around how off-prem can complement the on-prem solutions, not to replace – I don’t think our market is at that point in large part – but certainly I think there is a bigger appetite for having the flexibility to having both in the equation.”

Responsible Tech Use

While there is undoubtedly plenty of excitement around expanding the applications for video surveillance technology, the industry must also be cognizant of the pushback that some innovations are receiving in the U.S. and elsewhere from privacy advocates. Several major U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Boston, and Minneapolis, have passed ordinances prohibiting government agencies from buying or using facial recognition solutions. Portland even took the extraordinary step of banning private businesses from being able to use the technology.

For this reason, Palmquist says that that market must take steps to ensure that video surveillance products are used responsibly and ethically.

“The technology is very capable. An ecosystem of innovators creates add-ons, plug-ins and enhanced capabilities to video that with automation can be extremely powerful,” Palmquist explains. “We need to harness that, put a bridle on it, so to speak, and ensure that we’re supporting the responsible use of technology and prioritizing the human over the technology.”

The Industry’s Future 

Palmquist says he also sees the market being reshaped by new entrants and customers over the next several years and that the picture many people have in their minds today when it comes to the physical security industry may look very different in the no so distant future.

“I think there is a fantastic opportunity coming our way with both new players with new ideas and new funding, but also with a younger generation of people who are thinking different, working different, networking in a different way, and challenging the status quo of everything that is normal in this industry,” he says. “I’m really encouraged to see the next generation of young people that are going to take control and run this industry and, I think, run it in a completely different direction with quite a bit different thinking.”

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].