Tackling the Storage
Challenges presented by today’s video-based data
- By Wayne Arvidson
- Mar 01, 2017
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
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)
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 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
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
Video Analytics and
Going Beyond Safety
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
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
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
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.
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.