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In smart cities, smart video processing and storage matter

In smart cities, smart video processing and storage matter
Video data generated in a smart city project can be overwhelming. How to make sense of these data and store them, then, is key. This article discusses the importance of data processing and storage in city surveillance projects.
Video data generated in a smart city project can be overwhelming. How to make sense of these data and store them, then, is key. This article discusses the importance of data processing and storage in city surveillance projects.
Video is a critical component in any smart city deployment and plays a key role in helping authorities make cities safer, more efficient and more livable. “Video surveillance is the backbone of safe city initiatives. In particular, it is the combination of video surveillance (VS) and analytics (AI) that make for a robust safe city solution,” said Anthony Koo, Business Development Manager at Quantum. “AI can monitor thousands of 7x24 IoT VS streams to identify potential and current issues including smoke, fire, crowds, (un)desireable individuals, license plates, traffic jams, illegal smoking, breaches, and more.”
“Camera devices are producing video feeds that can be utilized in multiple ways, thus making them into multi-purpose IoT devices that can be leveraged for a variety of use cases for a smart/safe city implementation,” said Eugene Kozlovitser, CTO od BCD. “Edge IoT cameras are no longer serving only video feeds. They are being utilized for public safety, crowd management, thermal imaging, and multi-layer analytics that assist surveillance systems in a smart or safe city project, and are becoming a key component in most surveillance project upgrades.”

'Staggering’ data triggers smart processing, storage needs

In a city surveillance project, cameras can easily number hundreds of thousands. In London, for example, cameras total 691,000, according to Comparitech. Needless to say, data generated by these camera systems can be overwhelming. “Even a major airport typically has more than 5,000 7x24 cameras in operation. With the cameras running in 4K resolution and 30 frames per second, the amount of data is staggering,” Koo said.
With this much data, processing and storing them has become a daunting task. In terms of processing, a platform that ingests data, analyzes them and turns them into actionable intelligence is key.
“A safe city project needs a strong platform to run the video management software (VMS) and AI apps, all without dropping a frame. Ideally, the platform will have the ability to replicate the video and metadata to protect it in case it is subject to destruction (e.g. a building destroyed in a fire could lose its surveillance video in the fire). In addition, the platform will have the ability to auto-migrate the video and metadata to low-cost tiers of storage for months, years, or even indefinitely,” Koo said.
“These systems must be robust, resilient and have at least six 9s of up time. The platform also needs to be future proof to support device expansion along with updates and upgrades,” Kozlovitser said. “This system would be a full surveillance suite with analytics built in or running in parallel with each other. It is ideal to find a solution that can scale on-demand and provide you with full transparency across your entire surveillance network. This software would ideally run in the background and orchestrate connections across all of your on-premises, IoT and cloud devices, and data points.”
How to properly store the data has also become a central issue.
“There are two types of storage challenges that municipal operators face. The first challenge is the capture of the video streams. With hundreds, if not thousands of 7x24 video streams, the storage must be able to work reliably and without any compromises such as downgrading the video quality and frames per second,” Koo said. “The second challenge is the storage capacity which directly translates into cost. Many managers of video surveillance solutions use the word ‘compromise.’ They say, I would like to keep video for three years but I can only afford one. That is because they are not employing a video surveillance solution that can auto-migrate video onto lower cost tiers of storage such as object storage and tape storage.”
Choosing a good storage solution is therefore of great importance in smart city projects. “Keeping up with the demand of new IoT devices and growing municipal districts, this growth will produce a higher storage demand and more versatility from cloud or on-prem storage systems. It is critical to spec out a storage solution that can measure up and scale with surveillance data demand. A system that is robust and can deliver stability during high I/O periods, strong resilience, and a reliable support warranty. Whether on-prem or cloud-based, the solution needs have a strict security policy and firewall that can support intrusion prevention, cyberattacks and ransomware attacks all in real-time,” Kozlovitser said.

On-prem, cloud or hybrid

The type of storage architecture is another important thing to consider. On-prem and cloud storage each have their own merit. More and more, hybrid has emerged as an ideal option, allowing users to store more recent and important video on-prem and push the earlier, less important one to the cloud.
“Generally speaking, the larger the video surveillance project, the more it makes sense to use local storage. The amount of bandwidth needed to move large amounts of video to the cloud translates into massive cost so the benefits are outweighed by the costs,” Koo said. “Hybrid is an interesting approach. In fact, many organizations are now utilizing “on-prem(ise) cloud.” Essentially, they get the simplicity of cloud but at a fraction of the cost. They can still migrate or replicate video to the actual cloud if they wish.”
In the end, according to Kozlovitser, when designing a smart and citywide surveillance system it is always best to create a check list of wants and needs before approaching vendors. “A good consideration is when aggregating video data from other municipal systems and IoT devices, and which software platform will provide the most visible results. How quickly do responses need to happen? Is automation important? How will this system make life better and safer for my municipality? Is AI driven machine-vision going to be something we need to start building for now? All of these factors now need to be considered in light of how technology can improve the quality and safety of life with these new smart and safe city implementations and deployments,” he said.

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