As more consumers adopt smartphones and other mobile devices, users have come to expect from security systems the same level of mobility they have in everyday life. The “mobile revolution” has changed the way we consume and interact with information, and security is one industry that can take full advantage of increasingly capable mobile devices and faster data speeds.
According to IMS Research, more than 420 million smartphones will be sold in 2011, and annual sales will exceed one billion devices by the end of 2016, thanks to low-cost handsets becoming readily available. Another research from Ovum predicts that global mobile phone shipments will reach 1.77 billion by 2016.
Currently, penetration of smartphones has reached more than 40 percent in Western Europe and 38 percent in the U.S., according to Nielsen in a prepared statement. “While less than 20 percent of APAC mobile users currently have smartphones, interest in upgrading is high: Nearly half of consumers intend on buying a smartphone in 2011.”
Although it has only been a few years since the introduction of modern mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, the world today is all about portable viewing, notification and control, said Gordon Hope, GM of AlarmNet Services, Honeywell Security. “Without the portable aspect, it is suspect as to the total value proposition in the eyes of the consumer, both commercial and residential.”
Modern mobile devices are becoming increasingly capable, and the portability factor means that they will always be there with the user, said Sri Palasamudram, CEO of mobiDEOS. “This provides tremendous ROI. It also enables users to perform certain activities that they could not have accomplished before.”
About 50 percent of desktop surveillance users who have smartphones also use surveillance on mobile devices, Palasamudram said. Among these users, mobiDEOS estimated that approximately 60 percent use smartphones and 35 percent use tablets, with other handhelds comprising the remaining 5 percent. “The strongest demand is found in markets with large geographical areas to cover while operating with limited resources. These include retail, public safety, education, construction and vacation homes.”
For Vivotek, the majority of users taking advantage of remote monitoring are from North America,South America and Europe, said William Ku, Director of Brand Business. “Each month in the U.S., more than 50 users download our officially supported remote viewing application to their smartphones. In Italy and Spain, the average monthly download counts are 15 and 10, respectively. In Mexico, the monthly average is 25 downloads. These numbers do not include software from third-party developers.”
“The proliferation of smartphones is the key enabler for security solutions via mobile devices. Advances in both hardware and software over the past few years have been astounding,” Ku said. The competition among smartphone vendors has sparked tremendous innovation in consumer electronics and mobile devices.
Although 3-G networks have been around for years, it was not until recently that remote monitoring via mobile devices became practical for most users. In terms of hardware, key enablers are more cost-effective image sensors, higher speeds over cellular networks, more extensive coverage of 3-G and 4-G networks and increasingly powerful processors, Hope said.
The expansion of computing power in the palm of one's hand cannot be overlooked, Hope continued. There has been rapid development in both hardware and software, which “makes available a truly rich personal and portable experience to complete the end-to-end solution.”
Larger display sizes, faster processors, extended battery life and optimized Wi-Fi chips are other key factors that enable remote monitoring on the go, Palasamudram added. Furthermore, the ‘app store' concept has revolutionized the way people consume software services, whether one-time purchases or subscriptionbased services, Hope said.
Modern video compression schemes have also helped by dramatically reducing the size of video streams, but further advances are unlikely to play a critical role in this space, at least for now. While more advanced video compression techniques lower the costs of data transmission over wireless networks, the amount of data is significant even with advanced compression, Hope said. “The ongoing improvement in compression will be important over time, but I do not believe it is the most important driver to the growth of systems at this point.”
While the cost of transmitting data over 3-G or 4-G wireless networks should not be overlooked, there is a different perspective than the pure cost of data transmission, Hope continued. “The TCO can be viewed as the time it takes to install a solution versus the perceived value of the solution relative to the need.” AlarmNet provides an example using video camera installations. “On a 2-G network, it technically was ‘possible' to send video, but not ‘practical' in terms of frame rate and viewing expectation of a customer (residential or commercial),” Hope said. “Enter 3-G/4-G network capability; all of a sudden, a wireless solution that meets expectations is available. The fact that the rates may cost a bit more may not weigh as heavily into the equation as the value that a wireless camera installation may bring. Unmanned buildings, traffic cameras, security cameras in less-than-safe neighborhoods all may benefit from a camera solution that is truly wireless.”
Mobile surveillance provides value to the user regardless of data costs, Palasamudram stressed. “Mobile surveillance is not about continuous monitoring of a location. It is more like a spot check or response to an alert, which does not take a long time or require transmission of large chunks of data.” As long as a user does not intend to continuously stream video over 3-G or 4-G networks, the slight burden of data costs should be overweighed by the value of mobile surveillance.