The New Age of Video Surveillance: Not Just Security Anymore

Picture this: a massive wall of video monitors virtually dwarfing the person in charge of scanning each one. Now that’s impressive! Or is it?

For many companies of various sizes and sophistication, this is the reality of video surveillance. But there may be a false sense of security behind all that hardware. Because when you think about it, how much can one person see or process? How much unusual, illegal or dangerous activity will slip by a single set of eyes?

New technologies, merely concepts a few short years ago, are now changing the landscape of video surveillance. And they are impacting how companies are using video surveillance – and even who’s doing it.

Think big

A major North American bank with hundreds of branches needs to streamline its video surveillance and monitor access control. Over time, the bank integrates the two functions (Think convergence.) It outsources the monitoring of the video and moves from a traditional key system to intelligent access cards.

Now think small

The owner of a dry-cleaning business with three locations, one employee at each site and a large cash business is concerned about losses and security. He monitors several camera at each location form his home office.

Strategize before you digitize

Companies of all sizes are thinking about what they can – and can’t – do to monitor, secure and grow their businesses through video surveillance. But to do that, there are several key questions to ask yourself and your organization:

  1. What do I really want to accomplish with video surveillance? Secure a perimeter? Stop loss? Learn about the shopping behavior of my customers?
  2. Do I have the expertise to set up my own network?  Even companies with IT departments may not have the expertise to evaluate, design, deploy and monitor an effective video surveillance system.
  3. Do I have the dedicated staff to be effective? From the examples above, the difference in personnel availability is evident. But even national and global companies are looking at head counts.
  4. What is the cost associated with video surveillance? (And what is the payback period?) It really takes a professional integrator to evaluate the technology and bandwidth required to develop a cost-effective video surveillance program. For instance, should you keep all video onsite or send it offsite? And what’s the ROI on the latest trend: IP video?

Analog vs. IP video: realities and benefits

Any discussion of surveillance video must consider the value of analog vs. IP-based video, or more appropriately, analog + IP. Analog is traditional video where the camera is simply a recording device. While it can be networked, it is limited by the technology. IP video incorporates robust capabilities that can carry companies into the future.

While the implementation of IP is looming, analog is still the dominant technology. Experts estimate the current market at about 80% analog and 20% IP. And among those experts, there are debates as to the rate of adoption of IP video surveillance. Most agree, however that IP will replace analog, just as CDs replaced audiotape and DVDs replaced videotape.

You are not alone

The proliferation of IP video is dependent as much upon the telecoms as it is on those who manufacture IP boxes and software applications. The advent 4G networks promise significantly more bandwidth and higher definition video.

Of course, there’s also the question of cost. After all, video is much more bandwidth intensive than data and therefore most expensive to transmit. That’s why, at this point, many companies are keeping the bulk of their video files in house, while outsourcing event monitoring and alarm notification/verification to integrators better equipped to handle that critical function.

Video analytics powers the move to IP

What makes IP video so attractive is its capabilities, most notably, video analytics and the convergence of physical security and logical (data-based) security. There are also the benefits of enhanced image quality and the ability to outsource and monitor remotely via web-based applications.

Video analytics, a subset of video surveillance, enables companies to make judgments about recorded events by identifying, for instance, the mass of a person scaling a fence. It is equally valuable for marketers who can view how customers navigate retail stores or how they interact with special offer displays. And training departments can monitor employee performance against corporate standards.

Join the evolution

The move to IP video will more evolutionary than revolutionary. For most companies, the move will take place as analog cameras are replaced with digital cameras.

The migration to IP is already supported by new hybrid products that accommodate both analog and IP devices. Over time, this strategy will prove more cost-effective than adding expensive encoders that will ultimately follow the fate of analog video.

So there will be choices to be made, as the inevitable migration to IP-based video surveillance continues. How much can you do? What should you outsource? You may not need to jump on the bandwidth wagon now. But the more you know, the better the strategy and the more effective the ultimate implementation.


The New Age of Video Surveillance: Not Just Security Anymore

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