SEEING MORE WITH security cameras
20 years ago, a security camera was simple in its isolation – it recorded to a tape, which was archived in a physical draw. But IP security cameras and surveillance data are coming into the IT network, and with them, a range of new opportunities for the IT industry. MATTHEW SAINSBURY reports.
Once, well before the advent of IT, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) came up with the concept of the ‘Panopticon’ – a circular styled prison system where an inmate’s behaviour would be controlled by the understanding that they were being surveyed constantly, without necessarily seeing the eyes watching them.
Fast forward a few technological generations, and the Panopticon now exists well beyond the prison system. Modern reality is that we are being watched (or, at least, we think we are) virtually everywhere we go. Cameras, placed quietly in the upper corners of buildings, on street posts, within train stations and in retail stores, keep track of us and moderate our behaviour by their presence as well as any security guard could do. With surveillance being as pervasive as it is, it has become a major market.
And it’s one increasingly becoming of interest to IT as the cameras, and their back-end infrastructure, move into the digital realm. Cisco business solutions consultant, emerging technologies, David Egline, cited an evolution in back-end recording and management of video surveillance and footage, which were previously stored in analogue format.
“It’s now slowly moving to digital and being stored in high density storage arrays that hold large volumes of video footage,” he said. “As IP-based video surveillance cameras evolve in the market, and as Cisco invests further in the video space, we see movement and transportation of video around the network as being critical to surveillance solutions.”
But why would an organisation want to rip out existing surveillance architecture to replace it with a new IP-based solution, when the old analogue camera systems are capable units? And why place surveillance on an entirely digital network and go through the re-training process for security staff?
BETTER PICTURE = BETTER EVIDENCE
While an analogue camera will produce a picture, an HD IP camera can take a much better one with no limits to image manipulation options.
“If you look at a news Crime Stopper segment, can you really tell who the person is from the picture?” Axis Communications country manager, Wai King Wong, asked. “When you go digital, there is no restriction in terms of image quality, meaning we can do high resolution images for the customer.”
In itself, this is an immediate benefit for the security concerns of an organisation: Knowing a suspect can be more reliably identified will surely ease the mind of a business owner. Further, and beyond the image quality increase, IP security cameras can also help simplify the overall infrastructure yet offer intelligent features that analogue units simply can’t manage.
“With IP networking, you’re only going to be using the one cable from the security perspective – compared to analogue where you’ll need multiple cables to connect everything together. This again offers benefi ts in terms of installation costs and image quality,” Wong said.
“With the intelligence we can build into the cameras themselves, you can use motion detection, image alarm triggers and the like, and everything goes back to the multiserver. In the old CCTV environments, there was a single point of failure, which is always a risk.”
However, while the end solution may well be easier and more reliable for the end customer than an analogue solution, it is also more complex from the side of the vendor and partners. [see breakout on page 26] “From a channel perspective, a lot of the people in security really do need help with networking, and need help with their IT stuff,” Sony video security product manager, Tony Lagan, said. “Any channel partner that can add value by helping with networks and infrastructure will do well – it’s where most of our resellers typically play – as a value adding partner to the end-user or installer.”
While IP security is a firm vertical play, with each vertical having individual requirements allowing specialists to take command of the solution, it is also a technology that has potential across almost every vertical market. This in turn, broadens channel opportunities.
“Everywhere you go, whether it’s an offi ce building or city surveillance, or ferries and buses, they’re putting in cameras – it’s not going to be long before you’re not able to do much without being seen,” Lagan said.
“Retail is a big push for us, but other areas like mining and universities looking at the technology for educational purposes – really, you name it and we’re pushing into it.” ---P---
MORE THAN SECURITY
New technology means new ways to work, and for Sony, IP cameras have enabled a far more proactive way for security guards to perform their roles. “One example would be to set-up a virtual tripwire on a camera – the customer might have an area that it doesn’t want people to enter,” Lagan said. “With the tripwire, if someone crosses into that area, an automated alert can be sent directly to an email or SMS on the security guard’s BlackBerry or mobile device – before people are really getting into an area they shouldn’t be, guards know about it.” This kind of technology immediately eases the strain on an organisation’s physical security staff. While a sensitive area would remain monitored, security could afford to be more mobile, stretching what might be limited human resources further. Yet one of the biggest benefits in adopting an IP surveillance solution is its limitless possibilities outside of security. Once installed, organisations are finding additional uses of the technology, not available previously, to maximise the return on investment.
“Once video captures move into high-definition, the developments in video
surveillance are going to be more around the application of video than its uses as a surveillance tool,” Cisco’s Egline said. “If I have a high-defi nition video camera in an auditorium, for instance, that camera can be used for surveillance applications, but it could also be used for video capture and streaming to a digital media endpoint, or to a telepresence screen.
“What we’re seeing is the evolution or desire of our customers to do more with what they’ve got – whether that’s existing infrastructure or new infrastructure. Previously, a video surveillance solution was deemed as a business
requirement – it was a cost that the organisation had to implement, which was a sunken investment – and it had no business value apart from protecting and possibly prosecuting incidents.”
That desire to make more out of technology investments has led to some interesting applications of IP security cameras. No longer are cameras simply there to record miscreants; users are finding any number of interesting ways to improve their processes and business flow.
“We’ve seen successful implementations through the use of business intelligence tools or video analytics to alert people in a retail environment that there is a possible shopper in a location, or to count the amount of people coming into a store, so that the store manager can return back to his marketing department data on the footfall through the front door, balanced against the number of unique transactions that were made throughout a day,” Egline said.
While philosophers might debate whether it’s a good thing that technology is not only enabling Bentham’s Panopticon, but actually enhancing it, bringing surveillance into an organisations’ IT network has opened a wealth of opportunity for IT vendors and their partners.