Use Cases for Edge-Based Video Surveillance and How to Keep It Secure

Aug. 8, 2022
A continued migration towards cloud-based and analytic-heavy video systems drives technology

Closed circuit television (CCTV) is what the industry used to refer to video surveillance solutions as. Even today some people (usually those who have been in the industry for decades) will still refer to video surveillance solutions as CCTV systems. The origin of the term is rooted in its analog technology. Typically, there was a system of cameras connected by coaxial cables which transmitted video to a bank of monitors, one camera to a monitor. As the name depicts, these systems were closed loop systems. The camera and monitor were independent of other technology or connections.

Video Through the Ages

The earliest recorded use of CCTV systems was by the German military in 1942 to watch live launches of V-2 rockets.[1] It wasn’t until 1956 that CCTV video was being recorded commercially. [2] However, it wasn’t until the mid to late 1970s that CCTV systems became more commonplace in the non-government space. At the same time improvements in the image, sensors made recording video in low light conditions possible. The following 30 years included improvements in recording solutions with the introduction of the time-lapse VHS recorder and multiplexer which afforded security professionals the ability to record multiple cameras to one VHS tape making for lower cost in infrastructure and faster investigations.

Things got really exciting in the late 1990s when digital video recorders and the first IP cameras hit the security market. This was the birth of the term convergence, where IT and physical security were first introduced. In the early 2000s technology started progressing at breakneck speeds and the industry saw a quick transition from timelapse VHS recorders to digital video recorders (DVRs). This was the beginning of the digital transformation. Security technicians needed to have a basic understanding of how networks were built and the basic principles of networking in order to install video surveillance solutions. RG-59 coaxial cable and BNC connectors were being replaced by CAT5e cable and RJ45 connectors. And, as they say, the rest is history.

The anatomy of the modern video surveillance solution was relatively consistent from the late 2000s to the late 2010s. A camera, powered by a power supply or Power over Ethernet (PoE), was connected to a video management server (VMS) via a network switch. The VMS had multiple network interface cards (NIC). One was dedicated to the camera network and the other was dedicated to the operational network where the client machine lived. Many physical security integrators preferred building out their own segmented network for multiple reasons. First, it was to avoid working with the end customer’s IT department because they were often met with resistance, and secondly, video transmission over operational networks posed a huge bandwidth issue. Placing too many video streams on a data network would wreak havoc on an operational data network.

By the late 2010s, the adoption of digital video was ubiquitous. It was at this time that the term “the edge” began picking up traction. The edge refers to the technology at the end point of the network. In most cases, it would be a camera or thermal imaging device. Today, the edge includes access control readers, radar sensors, and many other devices which contribute to the aggregation of data.

As solutions become more complex, end users were looking for redundancy for recording. Relying on 24/7 network connectivity came with its drawbacks and critical video was getting lost. Video camera manufacturers began providing SD card slots on cameras for redundant video storage at “the edge” in an effort to mitigate the network issues with large video files requiring so much bandwidth. In addition to using SD cards, tremendous improvements to video compression algorithms and improved bandwidth capabilities of network switches allowed more cameras to be placed on networks at higher resolutions.

Today we see many driving forces for transitioning much of the technology we traditionally saw at the head end to the edge. Improvement in processing power in edge technology has created an opportunity to add video analytics to edge devices alleviating the need for separate servers. In the case of more process-intensive analytics, shared processing between an anality appliance and the edge device also lowers the cost of the appliance.

Benefits of Pushing It to the Edge

Pushing recording and processing to the edge has several benefits. There is a reduction in infrastructure costs. Processing analytics and recording at the edge are faster and reduce the need for greater storage and bandwidth at the headend. There are fewer or no servers required which also reduces the carbon footprint. With processing done at the camera, the system is also far more efficient.

With the reduction of servers and network infrastructure edge processing affords, there is also a lower cost for maintenance of the overall system. In the traditional configuration of centralized recording, if the server went down, all of the devices connected to that server were offline. By pushing the processing and recording to the edge there is less downtime. If a camera goes down, it is only one device out of many. Fewer devices on the network also reduce the attack vector from a cybersecurity perspective.

The improvement of edge device processing power also creates an affordable means for business intelligence. Utilizing existing infrastructure from traditional security cameras to implement analytics that will provide actionable business intelligence improves ROI for the overall solution. Additionally, analytics can be licensed at the device level rather than using blocks of licenses on servers.

Finally, there is a future-proofing element to push it to the edge. Implementing edge solutions provides a means for transitioning towards cloud adoption of video surveillance. Although many argue that video surveillance in the cloud is not yet mature, hybrid solutions are already available to take advantage of on-premise and cloud solutions. With recording taking place at high resolution and framerate on the edge device, hybrid solutions take advantage of low-cost cloud storage options for offloading video for archiving purposes.

Use Cases for Edge Video Surveillance

There are several significant use cases for edge video surveillance solutions. Some organizations have limited IT resources to manage and maintain servers and device lifecycle. Without complex servers to maintain, edge solutions provide an excellent alternative to the traditional surveillance environment that is often maintenance intensive. Additionally, with the right infrastructure engineering, many manufacturers will offer the ability to automatically push firmware updated to edge devices ensuring that they are not posing a threat to the network by using out-of-date firmware.

In the case of remote sites, using edge surveillance solutions provide an excellent opportunity for capturing video without a large investment in hardware and infrastructure. All that is required is a camera with an SD card, power, and network connection if remote access is necessary. This is an extremely cost-effective option.

As mentioned earlier, processing video at the edge reduces the bandwidth requirements for the overall system. Storing at the edge at higher resolutions means that live video can be viewed as thumbnails until activity is detected, which can also significantly reduce infrastructure requirements.

When Do Centralized On-Prem Solutions Make More Sense?

Although edge video surveillance solutions seem like the next greatest trend in security, it is not a one solution fits all situation. There are scenarios in which edge solutions are not practical. For example, if an organization does not need cameras with edge analytics capabilities, they could select a camera with lower processing power and maintain an on-premise server, reducing the cost of the total solution.

In addition, many of the manufacturers that offer edge solutions are proprietary in nature. The end user is required to use the manufacturer’s end-to-end solution. This limits the end user when it comes to using “best in breed” integrated solutions. The industry has gotten used to VMS solutions that are agnostic to camera manufacturers and the ability to select from a variety of technologies without getting locked into any one solution.

There are also some highly regulated environments that do not permit any devices to be connected to the Internet for cybersecurity purposes. In these cases, edge solutions are not an option. Traditional server-based on-premise solutions are a natural fit for these applications.

There’s a Solution for Everyone

Whether your organization is looking to adopt the latest in cloud computing or to just dip a toe in the water with a hybrid solution, there is a system out there for everyone. One of the most exciting things about being in the security industry today is the new and creative ways in which security solutions are being implemented. Video surveillance is no longer simply a cost center but is now being used as a source of business intelligence, marketing and customer experience purposes with the addition of analytics. Utilizing edge processing will no doubt continue to drive innovation in the security industry for years to come.




About the author:Antoinette King is the founder of Credo Cyber Consulting, LLC, and has 21 years of experience in the security industry. Beginning her career as a field technician responsible for the installation, design, and implementation of integrated security solutions, Antoinette has worked on projects that include the protection of one of our nation’s most treasured monuments, the Statue of Liberty. Antoinette has held roles within the security industry that include Engineered Systems Specialist, Operations Manager, Regional Sales Manager, and Key Account Manager in both integration and manufacturing.

Drawing on her more than two decades of experience, Antoinette founded Credo Cyber Consulting in 2020 with the goal of providing her clients a holistic perspective on a cyber-physical security program with a focus on data privacy and protection. Antoinette is a Board-Certified Physical Security Professional (PSP), as well as a certified Data Privacy Protection Specialist (DPPS). She has an associate degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Managing Security Systems, and a master’s degree in Cybersecurity Policy and Risk Management.