How the Cloud is Enabling Video Surveillance Advancements

Chris Shipp, CISO, Fluor Federal Petroleum Operations
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Chris Shipp, CISO, Fluor Federal Petroleum Operations

Recent advances in video technologies and the growing emergence of data analytics have spawned some exciting and innovative advances in video surveillance capabilities and use cases. While these advances have significantly improved surveillance capabilities, they also produce their own unique set of problems.

"The advantages provided by cloud technologies can be leveraged to cost-effectively manage the significant increase in storage requirements caused by HD video"

In most use cases, data analytics will dramatically increase your retention requirements and in turn increase your video storage needs. In virtually all cases, it substantially increases your computing cycle requirements. Video surveillance architectures that incorporate cloud computing and storage capabilities can react to changing needs more quickly and cost-effectively.

New video surveillance initiatives should give careful consideration to solutions that incorporate cloud storage and computing as an efficient and cost-effective mechanism to handle resource requirements that may continue to expand rapidly.

Exciting Advances in Video Surveillance

Recent technological advances including the development of relatively-inexpensive drones and camera technologies are beginning to revolutionize the way that businesses make “critical, data-driven decisions in real time.”

Many companies are now using video surveillance technologies from companies like Skycatch, a San Francisco-based start-up to monitor and inspect remote equipment more quickly, safely, and efficiently. Komatsu, the world’s second largest manufacturer of construction equipment has even provided a new service called “smart construction” that uses advances in video surveillance technologies and data analytics to guide unmanned construction equipment.

Security companies are taking advantage of advances in technology as well. Japanese security company Secom is scheduled to begin offering a new service that uses “autonomous surveillance drones to monitor suspicious cars and individuals on the grounds of factories, stores and other worksites” in the very near future.

Law enforcement applications are also reaping the benefits of newer surveillance technologies. The Birmingham, AL police department has experienced a “71 percent drop in citizen complaints—and a 38 percent drop in use of force by officers” since deploying 319 high-resolution body cameras in July 2015. While the body cameras cost about $180,000, the department will spend almost $900,000 over 5 years due to storage and file management requirements caused by all that storage-intensive video.

Herein lies the problem. Certainly, recent advances in video surveillance equipment including relatively inexpensive high-definition cameras and the use of drones have resulted in a paradigm improvement in surveillance capability. Unfortunately, this dramatic increase in capability can also introduce significant increases in cost, complexity, and maintenance requirements that are not always immediately apparent.

With a dramatic increase in video quality, comes an exponential increase in storage requirements. To compound the issue, the recent focus on data analytics can drive a need for increased retention time of video data and increased computing power to perform complex number crunching tasks required by data analytics.

So, while recent technological advances can serve to significantly increase the capability and business benefits of your video surveillance solution, they also produce their own unique set of problems. Does your existing data center have the capacity and flexibility to meet your video surveillance storage and computing needs now and into the future? Perhaps. If not, then it certainly makes sense to consider the benefits of cloud computing. Even if it does, it is sometimes more economical to use cloud computing resources than on-premises solutions depending on your specific use case.

Video to the Cloud

Many forward-thinking organizations have begun to incorporate cloud technologies into their video surveillance architectures. Certainly, some leading vendors in the video surveillance space have embraced cloud computing and storage capabilities whole-heartedly within their video management solutions.

Why? Because computing cycles and storage in the cloud can often be significantly less expensive than on-premises solutions. Cloud storage and applications that are managed by your cloud provider or your video surveillance vendor have advantages beyond low cost-per-megabyte or cost-per-computing cycle. Time-consuming and budget-consuming issues including fault-tolerance solutions, backup capabilities, and application upgrades are often included in cloud offerings.

Consider that data analytics applications can sometimes require an almost immediate and sometimes unforeseen jump in computing power or storage requirements. Major cloud vendors make it fairly simple and economical to increase computing power or storage. Therefore, when associated applications are hosted in the cloud, adding or reducing computing power or storage is a simple matter.

The advantages provided by cloud technologies can be leveraged to cost-effectively manage the significant increase in storage requirements caused by HD video and increased retention requirements and computing cycles caused by the growing use of data analytics for video surveillance.

When looking to upgrade or replace your video surveillance solution look for vendors who provide flexible platforms that can incorporate existing equipment and traditional infrastructure components while providing the efficiency and capability gains of data analytics and cloud storage and processing.

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