The New Mobility

Technological dreams come to life

The New MobilityWhen I was growing up, one of my favorite comic book characters was Dick Tracy—not the Warren Beatty variety— but the heroic police detective of Sunday newspaper comic strips. He had the coolest gadgets to fight crime. Perhaps the most widely remembered—and the coolest—was that video wristwatch. At the time, I could only imagine the possibilities and promise that such a futuristic technology could provide in the real world. Oh, to dream...

Not only has such innovative technology been invented, it’s now widely implemented with smartphones and apps, like Skype, that allow you to make a video call to anyone who has a similar setup on their end. That is practically everyone over six years old in the world these days. People everywhere are already communicating with mobile video like Dick Tracy and shooting high-quality video that they share with friends and strangers in a growing variety of ways.

What if the proliferation of smartphones was harnessed on a large scale for professional video surveillance and security devices? Virtually every smartphone on the market today has a megapixel camera embedded in it, which can conceivably be used to capture and transmit real-time video to a centralized station—and conversely be used as a remote portal to retrieve and view video from any security command center or other mobile device. In fact, the widespread use of smartphones for mainstream video surveillance applications is close to becoming a reality, which has significant implications for security professionals.

The Possibilities

Let’s break this down further and look at both possibilities: mobile image capture and image monitoring. The use of mobile cameras, such as wearable cameras or fixed-in vehicles, is definitely on the rise. We see such devices widely deployed by law enforcement and military personnel, in taxi cabs and school buses, aircraft and robotic drones. However, the vast majority of these applications are typically for image capture and transmission. Add smartphones to the equation and a whole new range of possibilities opens up for remote monitoring and even system control.

The migration to networked video surveillance has triggered thinking outside of conventional systems architecture spurred by the influx of both old-school IT pros and the new generation of computer-savvy technologists. The initial benefits defined for networked IP video surveillance and security systems were immediately apparent in terms of functionality, versatility and scalability. As an industry, we were actually behind the business products, consumer electronics and professional and broadcast video industries that had adapted network technology to increase the overall efficiency of their solutions. Though the video surveillance and security industry was simply slow to jump on the network bandwagon, we are catching up, rapidly.

Video management systems (VMS) have helped accelerate the migration from analog to networked system technology in the past few years. The improved overall performance and utility that VMS solutions deliver to professional security applications clearly eradicate any previous arguments in favor of legacy video control and switching systems. There is simply no longer a basis of comparison between VMS and analog video-control technologies by any standard of measure. As more applications continue to be developed by VMS suppliers and mobile technology partners, the use of smartphones to capture and monitor useable video images is in fact a reality. The network issues involving bandwidth limitations and ensuing frame rate transmission issues continue to fade away, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities.

For example, the continued emergence and deployment of public Wi- Fi makes accessibility to the Internet widespread and readily available. If you go beyond conventional definitions of a hard-wired networked system to include Wi-Fi connectivity, the potential to extend the coverage areas of a video surveillance system goes global. Virtually anyone with a smartphone can now contribute to maintaining a more secure environment. Accessibility privileges need to vary based on the user’s system and security parameters, but the prospect holds tremendous potential for law enforcement and security management.

Law Enforcement Application

Today, VMS mobile clients are available that employ GPS tracking to identify the locations of incoming video signals from smartphones. This bridge technology allows common smartphones to push live video to virtually any networkdriven video surveillance system.

The most obvious application is for law enforcement in metro areas. Public Wi-Fi systems can be enabled with the ability for citizens to directly push video to local police command centers. In addition to increasing response times with the ability to evaluate threat levels and the best form of response, these video feeds can provide documentation for ensuing investigations and prosecution. Then there’s the increased deterrent factor that has proven to help reduce common criminal activity. This is all achievable with existing technology that’s reliable, cost-effective and already in the hands of millions of people.

On a smaller scale, security guards could be armed with common smartphones to report and document activities, using video in real time without needing any special hardware or software. Video connectivity can be achieved through password-protected, wireless Ethernet that’s limited to specific interior and exterior boundaries. Video captured from conventional guard patrols also could be used to supplement general operations by documenting maintenance issues to help prevent liability issues.

Already, VMS solutions are available that provide remote access for viewing and even management capabilities. Samsung, for example, has been developing mobile solutions for professional security applications. Samsung’s iPOLiS mobile app provides the ability to view live streaming video, and control Samsung’s iPOLiS network video cameras and DVRs using either the iPhone or Android mobile platforms. The mobile app is password protected and can register up to 32 cameras supporting H.264/MJPEG formats. Samsungs’ mobile app puts access to video from Samsung’s cameras and DVRs in users’ hands, greatly expanding the overall functionality of Samsung video systems. The possibilities are endless.

Consider the scenario of a large gaming environment where security staff can now track a suspect across the casino floor, retail shops and surrounding grounds—using their smartphones. In addition to providing an inconspicuous monitoring device, security professionals can track every movement in real time while maintaining close cover. The same holds true for law enforcement and first responders who can use real-time video in activity coordination.

The practical use of smartphone and even tablet video surveillance is still being developed, but huge strides have been made in the past few years to bring their use as professional security tools to fruition. However, to revitalize now dated terminology, technology convergence is actually at its highest levels. Manufacturers are continually developing new image capture and mobile devices that deliver enhanced functionality and cost-efficiency partnering with best-in-breed software developers to innovate new integrated mobile video solutions. And they don’t have to be expensive, but efficient in providing new capabilities and solutions where none existed before.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Security Today.

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