The right combination makes multi-site monitoring easier

The right combination makes multi-site monitoring easier
The size and scale of multi-site environments can vary drastically. From a few cameras spread across a few city blocks to thousands of cameras spread across a city, state, country, or even oceans, managing and monitoring video surveillance data across multiple sites can be daunting.

Nowadays, new technologies and increased connectivity are not only helping multi-site security managers increase security, it is also helping them increase effectiveness and efficiency. By incorporating certain key features into a video surveillance system, such as remote monitoring and analytics, and by adopting a flexible and scalable solution, monitoring and managing multi-site environments has become simpler than ever.

Challenges of building the right system

A good multi-site system allows users to record video locally or centrally and share it across the organization, explained Laurent Villeneuve, Product Marketing Manager at Genetec. “It should be built to scale, allowing you to connect to hundreds or thousands of cameras within the same system without having to connect to individual or independent systems.”

Using a truly unified security platform, would allow operators to control cameras, monitor alarms, track access control, and vehicle activity from the same user interface. “It lets you access your video surveillance system from any location, at any time and get a common operational picture of the situation. It simplifies collaboration and sharing with public safety agencies, without sacrificing privacy,” Villeneuve said.

Building the right video surveillance system for a multi-site environment, however, can be challenging. Users must consider the fact that not all sites within a multi-site system are identical — there may be variables between them, such as bandwidth availability.

It is also important to address that networked systems are constantly expanding; this could be by adding new network nodes or increasing capacity or redundancy. Expansion, though, comes with challenges. “Organizations’ expansion often outpaces the security investment,” Villeneuve said. As a result, “They are often stuck with systems that cannot support multi-site operations.”

Jammy DeSousa, Senior Product Manager for American Dynamics at Tyco Security Products, addressed this by pointing out that users “should be sure that the maximum configuration has been tested by the manufacturer — number of sites, number of overall cameras, maximum bandwidth requirements, etc.”

Key features for better management

Challenges, however, can be overcome with the right set of system features. Although every installation is different, a good video surveillance system must be able to adapt to these differences. Adaptability means flexibility, which is key in multi-site environments.

“We think a good video surveillance system for multi-site monitoring should have a flexible, centralized management software platform that could remotely manage every device on all sites,” said Claudi Zhu, Product Marketing Manager at Hikvision Digital Technology. “It should also provide multiple methods for further equipment connection, namely system scalability, and provide smart event detection and smart event search to improve surveillance operation efficiency.”

Casper Wu, Product Manager at Surveon Technology named several key features including centralized management, centralized monitoring, interactive video walls, matrix screen displays, centralized alarm management, centralized account management, and high scalability for thousands of cameras and multiple clients, which he believes make for an effective multi-site solution.

In regard to VMS, according to Bjørn Eilertsen, CTO of Milestone Systems, “The VMS should be able to adapt to different network topologies, speed, and security levels. The same goes for camera connection types, management needs, and storage topologies.” He explained, “The VMS used in a multi-site context should be able to be network transparent, easily adaptable and capable to handle these needs in a sensible way. We believe that only a true open platform VMS is capable of meeting these demands.”

For critical security applications, James Somerville-Smith, Channel Marketing Lead for EMEA at Honeywell Security & Fire noted automatic failover to be a key consideration. “Automatic failover allows a control room to immediately switch operations to a backup room if the main control room goes down for any reason. This means that there continues to be full security coverage at all times, even if the main control room goes offline for any reason and prevents potential intruders from bypassing the security system.”

Remote monitoring

The global remote monitoring market was worth US$34.7 billion in 2015, according to data from IHS. Growth in this market is lead by connected systems and services. While the majority of this market is made up of residential services, IHS noted the commercial market is also gaining the benefits due to increasing technology adoption. Driven by improving broadband infrastructure, increases in video analytics capabilities, and decreasing costs of equipment, the video-monitoring market is a key growth area for the large commercial sector, according to IHS.

Remote monitoring is an essential feature for effective and efficient multi-site surveillance management. It provides security staff access to a complete view of what is happening on each and every one of their sites, no matter where they are, Somerville-Smith explained. “If staff are responding to an event on one campus, for example, they can still access the footage from another one if an alert is triggered. In some cases, security staff can even watch a live video feed from inside a building on a mobile device as they approach. With remote monitoring, staff are always alert and aware of all potential issues across the full range of sites.”

Need for adequate bandwidth

One result of smarter, higher resolution video surveillance is the need for adequate bandwidth, especially in multi-site surveillance environments. More specifically, a system equipped to handle a multi-site environment should be able to adapt to the available bandwidth on a per site basis, according to DeSousa. “Bandwidth capabilities may be inconsistent between the sites, and the system must be able to dynamically allocate bandwidth depending on the unique aspects of each location,” he said.

“Different sites may have different bandwidth requirements/limitations and the VMS should be able to dynamically react to each site’s requirement in order to provide a high-quality viewing environment. This can be manifested in the ability to effectively manage video or transcode video when transporting across remote or constrained network connections.”

Jammy DeSousa, Senior Product Manager, American Dynamics, Tyco Security Products

The importance of analytics

The importance of video analytics cannot be overstated when it comes to designing a good video surveillance system for multi-site environments, according to Somerville-Smith. “Video analytics work by alerting the end user to any unusual activity based on parameters set by the user, such as location or the number of people in the frame. This makes it easier for security staff to react to specific events as they occur on the sites, rather than just monitoring screens and risking they miss a key incident.”

DeSousa explained a good system should have a rich analytics library. The analytics should be licensed per video channel, flexibly, so that the licenses can be moved to other cameras as needed and have the ability to search video using metadata, which could provide lightning fast search results.

One particular advantage of video analytics is how it enables security teams to prevent crimes from happening in the first place, Somerville-Smith said. “Take for example a university campus across a city. If a group of people have been loitering outside one of the buildings for an extended period of time, video analytics technology is sophisticated enough to flag this to the security team as a potential risk. Security staff can then take steps to address this if required.”

Multi-site monitoring in the cloud

Cloud adoption is rapidly rising. In fact, 92 percent of all data center traffic is expected to come from the cloud by 2020, according to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index.

Cloud services are undoubtedly one of the largest trends changing the dynamics in multi-site environments, according to DeSousa. “Harnessing the cloud will mean offering increase connectivity options for remote sites, allowing for encrypted communications over even a basic internet connection. In turn, this will engender the use of better compression technologies, such as H.264+ and H.265 for video transport across these networks. Virtualization of both the management platform and the recording platform can take advantage of a customer’s existing computing infrastructure to save costs.”

Villeneuve also highlighted how the cloud is an important facilitator for multi-site operations. “It allows you to centralize monitoring, reporting, and alarm management operations across all sites. This reduces on-site hardware and time spent administering your system. Automated update services greatly facilitate the maintenance of your video management system. They ensure that everyone has access to the latest functionalities and that their equipment is up to date and fully secure.”

Addressing cloud-hosted video-surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) systems, Somerville-Smith pointed to how such a system could make it possible for security teams to compare analytics across their range of sites — a key feature of which is the single sign-on and master dashboard. “Staff can compare heat mapping from different sites, or discover if an individual has visited several sites in a short space of time. The ability to compare analytics across multiple locations allows the team to pinpoint potential problems, faster.”

An additional benefit of the cloud is that video evidence is stored off site. “This means that, if an intruder takes away or breaks the video recorder on the site to cover his tracks, the video evidence is still available for the police or security guards to see and use. This is especially beneficial in smaller premises where a recorder is easy to find,” Somerville-Smith added.

Continued improvement of multi-site management

With so many pieces to look at, making sure that every aspect of video surveillance for multiple sites is addressed is undoubtedly a challenge. Yet, new and advanced technologies such as the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) are sure to make the future of multi-site video management and monitoring more efficient and effective. For now, assuring that multi-site systems are flexible, scalable, and incorporate certain key features, operators should be able to build one easy-to-use solution.
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