Where Video Data Will Take Us - Successful companies read the tea leaves and saw IoT-connected devices coming. This includes video surveillance, which is now among the fastest growing industries in terms of data generation and adoption of new data storage technologies.

Where Video Data Will Take Us

The state of video surveillance and where storage is taking the industry

It’s an unseasonably warm day in the city. You receive an alert on your smartphone that there’s been a bank robbery on Main Street. Witnesses describe the culprit as a man, about six-foot-one, wearing a green hat and black jacket. Or was it a blue jacket? One woman can’t remember. Law enforcement will have to rely on video surveillance data for the answer.

Successful companies read the tea leaves and saw IoT-connected devices coming. This includes video surveillance, which is now among the fastest growing industries in terms of data generation and adoption of new data storage technologies. The industry is going through the same technology shift that the media and entertainment business did a few years ago—the migration from analog to digital, the emergence of higher resolution cameras with higher frame rates—but with a slightly different vernacular. Don’t think of just data, think video, collected on a scale of 10s of terabytes to multiple petabytes in massive video archives.


Video surveillance is most recognized for its role capturing bad people doing bad things, but really any organization that needs a video record for surveillance or evidence of people activity around its facility is a viable end user in the market. The user spectrum spans from small mom-and-pop shops with one or two cameras and local, laptop storage, to multi-national corporations with thousands of cameras and a surveillance network that crosses borders. As a general rule, more cameras and large cameras both mean more storage.

Video quality, retention period and other standards depend on the end user. An end user that handles money tends to require higher resolutions and higher frame rates to ensure that things don’t disappear from one video frame to the next. Cameras today, in some cases, will support up to 60 frames per second. Other industries, such as manufacturing, value high resolution above all. More pixels in the frame allows them to digitally enlarge images to get much better clarity. Retention tends to vary based upon how much interaction an organization has with its customers. Facilities with a lot of people coming through hold onto data for longer periods of time for litigation purposes, usually about three years. That way, if someone says they slipped and fell on premises, the video evidence is available for reference to help resolve legal questions. Organizations that don’t have a lot of people involved tend to have shorter retention times of days or months.

Law enforcement organizations, such as police precincts, are classic end users of video surveillance data. Law enforcement typically relies on a combination of fixed and mobile cameras to capture video footage, including body-worn, pole-mounted and dashboard cameras. Some cameras run 24 hours a day, generating astronomical amounts of video, while others are turned on and off by individual officers. Back at the precinct, officers ideally need access to a docking station, evidence management system and data repository to manage and store captured footage for long-term retention and easy, searchable access.


Since security is a global issue, governments and agencies are becoming ever larger and more important users of video surveillance data. Nations record and retain vast amounts of video for international security and humanitarian efforts, as well as for training purposes. Video may be immediately analyzed or archived and reviewed down the road for domestic or international decision making.

Banks like the one on Main Street deploy 500 or more cameras for preventing robberies, crime investigation, preventing check fraud, phantom ATM withdrawals, and more. Each camera requires full motion recording, high resolution and high frame rates. The retention term can vary anywhere from days to years.

Sporting facilities, basketball arenas or football stadiums, also use surveillance data. Arenas can have 500 or more cameras, typically with more cameras outside of the arena (hallways, parking lot, etc.) and fewer cameras inside. All recorded video is used for liability purposes. The same goes for cruise ships and casinos, which utilize video surveillance cameras to make sure there’s no breach of government regulations or sleight of hand.

Commercial companies are starting to use video surveillance data to drive revenue. The largest retailer in the world uses video to track consumer patterns in-store. How many people walk in the front door? How many go left, and how many go right? How many walk in and stand at the first kiosk for twelve seconds? They determine and adjust their shelf space fees based on this video evidence.


What are these diverse organizations using to store their ever increasing amounts of video surveillance data? Today the answer is disk. Disk-based solutions traditionally made up 100 percent of storage systems in the video surveillance market, with most disk-based storage tending to be iSCSCI network protocol to a storage device. Another popular solution is network attached storage (NAS), like our Spectra Verde and Verde DPE products. The market is shifting from analog video cameras to IP based video cameras as well, and all IP systems are currently using disk as their archive.

Today, there are typically two groups that own the surveillance and storage process in large organizations, the security department and the IT department. The security department manages the collection of video surveillance data, including door access (card readers) and guards at the building on a 24-hour basis. Members of the security department typically don’t have high levels of IT experience, and instead contract set up and management to an outside resource, like a systems integrator.

The systems integrator or IT department also often manages the storage of video surveillance data. Members of the IT department typically have high levels of IT experience and knowledge, and work to integrate video surveillance storage into an organization’s overall IT structure. This level of knowledge is vital in larger organizations to determine when and where various video streams, from a vast number of cameras, are hitting the network.

Smaller organizations tend not to have the resources or infrastructure to architect their own storage solutions. At smaller organizations, the security team is likely also in charge of storage in the security infrastructure, though their level of IT knowledge is rather basic— in a lot of cases, they may know security, cameras, guns and bullets better than IT infrastructure needs. For this reason, smaller organizations oftentimes look to solution providers to manage storage as a service.


There are three main issues affecting large and small organizations alike in today’s video surveillance market. The first is a complex shopping and buying process for video surveillance systems. When an organization decides they want to deploy a video surveillance storage system, they need to figure out what cameras, video quality and network they need, as well as where they want to place the cameras. They also need to pick a VMS, buy servers, and determine what their retention requirements are. Available budget generally determines what type of retention an organization deploys, and organizations tend to compromise, but budget also dictates how cost effective the solution must be.

Finding a cost-effective solution to meet the specific retention requirements of an organization is a second issue in the market. Organizations want their infrastructure to be as secure as possible, with more and better cameras, and longer retention times. But they don’t have a reliable, cost effective solution to meet those needs. Smaller organizations may keep data on their local cloud, but this becomes an expensive option as the amount of data increases.

The third issue in today’s video surveillance market is scalability, while maintaining a chain of command. As industry components like camera and analytic technologies get more sophisticated, creating more data, it is crucial that an organization consider how their video surveillance data is going to expand over time as their security infrastructure grows. This includes the challenge of how to consolidate all of the digital information into a single storage platform, shared by all applications and accessible by all members of the organization to ensure video cannot be edited by outside parties.


Solution providers, like Spectra, exist in part to help with the video surveillance storage onboarding process. Having just celebrated 36 years of success in the storage market, we can recommend solutions to the questions of cost effectiveness and scalability as well. We are continuously partnering with VMS and other solutions providers throughout the industry to allow customers to explore storage system options customized to fit their unique quality and retention needs.

On the issue of cost effectiveness, a tiered approach to storage is always best. Our Verde DPE disk product, based on its capacity, data integrity and cost, really sets a standard in the industry. With a deployment cost as low as $0.09/GB, well below the typical cost for storage being deployed today, Verde DPE offers disk performance at the cost of tape for smaller organizations. However, its higher performance network interface, and capability to be upgraded and scaled in capacity and performance also makes it a powerful tool for companies looking to scale from 10 to 1,000 cameras and beyond.

The issue of a single, shared storage platform isn’t quite as simple. If you walk into most law enforcement agencies today, body-worn camera content is held in one system and accident reporting on another completely separate system with its own server and storage. In fact, every application that creates digital information at a precinct typically has its own server and storage. Law enforcement has yet to enforce a central storage environment. We are actively partnering with organizations like HauteSpot to offer video management solutions with centralized access and a true chain of custody throughout the storage system, but an industry shift to on-premises ownership of surveillance data is still a work in progress.


The shift to a central access point for video surveillance data is just one of many changes we will see in the video surveillance industry in the next five years. The amount of video content generated will continue to increase, and the number and types of end-users in the market will become more established.

Developments in technology will continue to follow the lead of the media and entertainment space. Video management software will be completely IP based, run off of a browser rather than client server architecture, and ultimately giving way to a webbased VMS system. 4K will be the new normal in camera resolution, and frame rates will continue to increase, as a deployment of newer compression technologies in these cameras manages the amount of video being generated while also decreasing the bandwidth the video consumes.

Security environments will grow in an effort to prevent incidents related to police brutality and terrorism from happening around the world. Companies will want to make their customers feel safe by expanding their security infrastructure. This may mean more cameras throughout a given environment to make it more secure, as well as longer retention times to ensure video assets are accessible for later analysis. As the amount of video surveillance data expands, different ways to archive or store surveillance video will emerge. We will be observing the market carefully to determine whether these will be traditional disk systems, new and innovative ways of utilizing the cloud to make it more cost effective, or something else entirely.

An officer returns from Main Street to the local precinct and docks his body-worn camera. He transfers the video to a data repository, where he is able to view the footage. Nothing. The officer closes the footage and pulls up surveillance data from the polemounted camera across from the bank, transferred wirelessly every hour to the same centralized access point. He sinks back into his chair with a grin. There’s a man walking in front of the bank just moments before the robbery. A man in a black jacket, wearing a green hat.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Security Today.

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