Tackling the Storage

Tackling the Storage

Challenges presented by today’s video-based data

The transportation industry affects all of us. Regardless of what we do for a living, or where we live, we depend on the transportation industry—day and night, for work and leisure. Today, video surveillance is helping transportation agencies improve safety, services, and efficiency. But in doing so, vast amounts of content are being produced which requires overcoming several video and data storage challenges.

On the Move

People and cargo are always moving. It’s one of the demands of our modern society. Our lifestyles—and the vibrancy of our economy— depend on the free-flowing movement of people and goods.

Recent data indicate the number of travelers is increasing. According to statistics just released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), over 708 million airline passengers were screened in 2015, an increase of more than 40 million passengers over the previous year. In addition, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported that “U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the United States carried an all-time high of 895.5 million scheduled service passengers (domestic and international) in 2015.”

Public transportation figures were also significant. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transit systems in the U.S. in 2015. That’s 16 times the number taken via domestic air travel.

Transit organizations understand the impact. Growth brings in more revenue, but also puts more demand on existing systems and infrastructure, including those used for security and surveillance. As a society, we expect to stay safe when we travel, and that raises the bar for transit organizations to provide the best security possible.

An Unfortunate Reality

There’s no denying the fact that security threats are an unfortunate reality in today’s world. Both global and domestic incidents happen far too frequently, and many times involve transportation facilities.

That’s because transportation plays such a vital role in our society. The industry itself is a big part of the U.S. economy. According to SelectUSA, $1.48 trillion was spent in the U.S. logistics and transportation industry in 2015, and that “represented 8 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP).”

In addition, transportation modes—busses, trains, subways, airliners— and transportation centers like train stations, boarding platforms, and airports are gathering places for large numbers of people. Major disruptions to any of these can wreak havoc, resulting in loss of commerce, costly damage to property, and potential loss of life.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance systems are a fixture in the transportation industry. Today, cameras are commonplace: onboard busses and train cars; at airports, parking garages, and boarding platforms; and inside bus and railway stations. These systems monitor activity and support public safety and security efforts as well as emergency response.

Technology has advanced in recent years, and transportation agencies are benefiting from those advancements in a number of ways. Multi-sensor, high-definition cameras produce sharp, detailed images that capture more activity and produce footage that is easier to view. Facial recognition applications analyze crowd images and identify criminal suspects. People counting applications reduce congestion and lower security risks due to overcrowding. And when crowds do form, officials can use video integrated with crowd noise to monitor crowd behavior, so they can stop potentially dangerous situations before they escalate. But analytics are not limited to security applications.

Video Analytics and Transportation – Going Beyond Safety and Security

As mentioned, the transportation industry affects everyone and is an essential part of the U.S. economy. Thus, transportation agencies and private companies alike use all means possible to deliver fast, efficient services while minimizing operational expenses at the same time.

That has resulted in new use cases for video analytics beyond the realm of safety and security. For instance, shipping companies and port authorities use video analytics to monitor traffic flow and staging areas to improve the efficiency of movement in and out of ports. Marketers for transportation agencies pair video analytics with digital signage to create targeted advertising based on local demographics. Transportation administrators use video and sensors to monitor road conditions for potholes and pavement repair needs and to alert travelers of backups and delays. Rail systems pair video with Internet of Things sensors to monitor track conditions for safety issues or maintenance needs. Airports analyze video to optimize the flow of people, alleviate crowding, and improve the traveler experience.

With advanced analytics, transportation organizations now can use video to deliver better service, lower the cost of maintenance and management, and create better business processes.

The Data Storage Problem

Today, more data is generated by video surveillance cameras than ever before. In 2015, the average amount of data generated daily by new video surveillance cameras installed worldwide was 951 petabytes, according to IHS. That number is expected to exceed 2 exabytes daily by 2018.

The transition to digital is a big contributor. To improve their video surveillance capabilities, industries are doing two things: installing more cameras and moving away from analog to take advantage of more advanced digital camera features. In fact, high-definition digital cameras are now the preferred choice for new installations. And digital cameras generate more data than their analog counterparts.

Cameras using motion activation can help reduce the amount of data recorded. However, that isn’t much help for transportation organizations. Transportation use cases almost always involve some form of motion. High-motion environments typically result in cameras that are recording 24/7, which adds to the data storage challenge. On top of that, data retention times are increasing to protect against litigation and enable analytics. As mentioned, transportation agencies are integrating video with other systems and leveraging advanced analytics capabilities to find new ways to increase efficiency, reduce congestion and improve safety. Longer video retention times improve the ability to perform sophisticated analytics as trends and patterns emerge from accumulated data. As new analytics applications emerge and new use cases for video are identified, keeping data longer will become even more important, which further exacerbates the storage challenge.

Capacity is not the only issue. Whenever an incident occurs, agencies must collaborate with local law enforcement, federal investigators, and Homeland Security on investigations, so the ability to easily access and share video data is critical. However, traditional approaches to video storage often result in silos of information that make it difficult to find the right video to support analytics and investigations. And because these videos might not be stored onsite, retrieval can be slow.

More cameras, the transition to digital technology, and longer retention times are converging to create a data storage problem for transportation organizations. While onboard camera analytics and data compression can help reduce the volume of data streaming across networks, more capacity with easy access to files is still needed. To address the issue, a different approach to storage architecture is required.

Benefits of a Multi-tier Storage Architecture

Transportation organizations need a highperformance data management solution and storage architecture that is able to handle full-resolution video streams integrated with real-time analytics—all running at full capacity around the clock.

They need a storage system that can grow with their needs without breaking their budget. Today, organizations are keeping as much as 40 percent of their inactive data on their most expensive infrastructure. As more capacity is added to accommodate growth, that approach can quickly become unaffordable.

In addition, they need a system that provides easy access to video files and enables file sharing to occur between various law enforcement agencies.

There are several approaches to addressing the storage needs of transportation organizations. However, implementing architecture based on storage tiers consisting of high-performance primary disk, high-capacity secondary disk, file-based tape, and cloud storage is the best alternative.

First, a multi-tier architecture with the proper data management capability is more cost-effective than a disk-only approach. Configured properly, the system automatically moves video files to the most cost-efficient tiers of storage based on user-defined criteria. This process balances performance, capacity, and cost across the entire infrastructure and provides a more economical approach to long-term data retention.

Second, as camera counts increase and file sizes grow, agencies must add capacity to handle the increase in data. A multi-tier architecture can scale with no disruption. Capacity can be added to the tiers incrementally when more space is needed.

With the proper data management capability, a multi-tier approach enables files to be easily retrieved and shared. While files may be stored on any tier, users are uninhibited. Regardless of where the data resides, the user sees a single view and doesn’t need to depend on IT support to find information.

Moving Forward

Video surveillance and analytics will continue to change. Camera technology will get better. And new use cases for video-based data will likely emerge. Smart decisions about storage today not only will help transportation organizations handle the current data storage problem, but also position them to take advantage of new opportunities in the future with a flexible, scalable storage architecture.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Security Today.

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