Axis: An eye in the sky with benefit

Axis: An eye in the sky with benefit

Everything that can become digital will become digital, given the right time. That maxim even applies to the security video recording industry, which traditionally is very conservative in its outlook. Even though digital recording devices have been available for a number of years, a large majority of the security sector still relies on coax analog recording systems to protect their clients' premises or businesses, limited to provide only basic surveillance.

A lot of this mind-set rests with traditional attitudes and a view that ‘good enough' technology will do, just as it always has. But in the era when we have high definition television, Blu-Ray viewing and ultra-sharp images from devices as small as our mobile phones, it is an anachronistic and ‘blurred' way to view the world.

As more and more IT-based industries move solutions to ‘the cloud', the security industry too will provide its benefits and solutions through cloud-based or hosted services. Digital IP camera networks don't just provide the advantage of vastly improved image enhancement, but can provide remote accessibility, enabling multiple, authorized users to view live and recorded video at any time and from virtually any network in the world. This is especially advantageous if users need a third-party company, such as a security firm, to also gain access to the video.

A network video system can grow with a user's needs. IP-based systems provide a means for many network cameras and video encoders, as well as other types of applications, to share the same wired or wireless network for communicating data; so any number of network video cameras can be added to a system without significant or costly changes to the network infrastructure.

As a result, the IP-based surveillance system typically has a lower cost of ownership than a traditional analog CCTV system. An IP network infrastructure is often already in place that a networked video application can piggyback of the existing network. IP-based networks and wireless options are much less expensive alternatives than traditional coaxial and fiber cabling for an analog CCTV system.

Hosted services
The benefits with IP-based surveillance system allow security operators to provide hosted video services – known by a host of acronyms including Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS), or Managed Video as a Service (MVaaS). Whatever moniker you may wish to put on it, it comes down to the same thing - service providers can now provide additional ‘cloud-based' services, adding value that would not be possible with a local installation.

Many companies are now embracing the concept - from small businesses, retailers, IT providers and consumers, we are all becoming more and more comfortable with using data stored ‘in the cloud'. IMS Research* reported a bright future for Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) throughout 2012 and beyond, with the market growing by around 20% to 30% a year. If we consider that we already use cloud services for, such as online banking, data backup, web-based email, or photo file sharing, then it becomes apparent that we are more and more ready to accept cloud based services, even if we don't immediately recognize it.

For security purposes, business users can now lease hosted services and choose the parts they need. They don't need a big initial investment, but just pay a monthly fee for a subscription to a service. Neither do they need to be experts on the solution, nor can leverage their installers' expertise and competence to gain an optimized solution for their business.

The hosted service provides additional security and remote storage and remote monitoring. Business management functions can also be enhanced. Users can subscribe to operational services or applications such as heat mapping or people counting or virtual guard tour. As the whole system is scalable, an IP-based system can help grow their business and with their business.

The IT reseller also gains a number of up-front benefits. The hosted VSaaS solution provides them with new business streams – as it is easy to install and configure, they have the opportunity to tie up their customers to monthly subscription models. The small or medium sized business customer doesn't need to take-on large capital-investment projects, but can easily contract and service with configurable programme, choosing the optimum number of cameras, resolution and storage.

They can also bring all the channels together with other IT-based services and cloud-based solutions. They system grows easily with their business and is independent of the location, whether it be spread across several sites, old premises or new.

Potentially the opportunities for service providers are high. Additional services can be added to their existing customer offer, allowing them to generate new revenue streams. Suddenly their customers will have the ability to record and store security information remotely, but yet gain access to it whenever and wherever they want it, and from whatever kind of device they are using. They could be at a remote office, at home, or even on the beach, and can view a security recording from last week or even ‘live'. They can access that using a PC, laptop, tablet, or a mobile phone, and access images from premises that are maybe hundreds of miles away. And it will be safe from hackers, theft, IT failures, fire or vandalism. All of this can be offered as a premium service which drives extra revenue towards hosted service providers. In addition to traditional security services the customer will have the possibility to benefit from new services to further develop and protect their business such as remote guard tour and guard-force services as well as business management services such as drive thru, promotions, daily deliveries and cash protection.

An Eye in the Sky
For many, trusting a third party provider to look after their physical data and security is a hurdle to overcome. As a basic provision, any IP-based security device should have the multi-level passwords, SSL encryption, VPNs and firewalls to protect it from external attack. In addition, all the compliance regulations met by the big data storage players apply to video surveillance hosting providers, including SAS70, RAS Encryption and ISO 27000-1.

In short, using a cloud-based provider is, in many ways, more secure than the traditional analog system as there's no physical recording equipment available to steal or on-site video evidence to destroy.

For any small business with sufficient bandwidth that needs a small number of cameras to protect vital areas, such as common entrances or business-critical areas, an IP-based system is ideal. Businesses will find IP-based security cameras simple enough to install themselves, and can buy surveillance and other services from a provider. Any company with less than 10 employees, with leased-office space, and with an internet connection will find the solution ideal for their needs.

Installation is also simple and easy. A video hosting system takes around 15 minutes to connect to a web hosting service with an IP provider. Users don't need to be IT experts to get up and running, and any initial system costs are easily reduced by removing local management and storage costs.

For those users with existing analog systems, there is no need to replace the entire investment. For example Axis Communications provides a full range of video encoders which are able to convert analog systems to digital. Additional networked storage devices can store recordings and events to save bandwidth and increase system performance. This means, solutions are scalable and costs are controllable and as users go through the growth curve, so can their response to networked solutions.

Many of the doubts regarding access and reliability are being eroded as more and more companies join cloud based networks, and especially as back-up systems such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are available to back up video streams if a network goes down or increase performance if bandwidth is limited, allowing the user to watch and record high-quality video in HDTV definition.

Like everything in modern life, technology and solutions advance and evolve. Hosted systems provide a remote yet intelligent solution to users' needs. Compared with a traditional analog installation, hosted video will provide not only traditional monitoring and recording, it will serve as a platform to provide new possibilities to effectively manage a business, allowing the customers to subscribe from wide range of new video based services. Other than surveillance a hosted camera can be used to remotely verify deliveries or false alarms, count the number of people in a store or be used to follow-up promotional activities. The possibility for the video service provider to physically send staff to the customers store if needed also provides new level of security. The subscription based model puts the user in control and allow him to benefit from services to more effectively handle his business.

---By Ivan Medved, Director Global Business Development AVHS, Axis Communications



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