Layer It Up

It's a cold network out there, where the only hope for survival is adding extra security layers

ANALOG video has been replaced by digital technology in many enterprise-level organizations. And analog, being aligned with the VCR era, can be seen as outdated. For many mid-sized organizations, or departments in enterprises with limited budgets for new technology investments, the shift from analog to digital technology is a more recent occurrence. And, for the vast majority of both early adopters and recent implementations, video is under used despite its ability to be a powerful instrument in security professionals' arsenal of tools.

Rather than primarily being used after the fact to review a scenario or sequence of events, video also can be used in more proactive ways as a prevention tool. Properly integrated with existing systems and operational processes, network video can help a wide variety of businesses operate in a more secure environment.

Rather than primarily being used after the fact to review a scenario or sequence of events, video also can be used in more proactive ways as a prevention tool. Properly integrated with existing systems and operational processes, network video can help a wide variety of businesses operate in a more secure environment.

Proper hardware and software integration is only half of the equation. The other requirements for successful implementation and continual use of video is to correctly address, adjust and strategize how personnel can best integrate their processes with this tool.

Network Versus Analog
The advent of network video -- also known as IP -- has brought new power and relevance to surveillance in businesses. Network video offers many advantages over traditional, analog video, which has been used by security professionals for decades, largely to review events after the fact. New technology makes network video more convenient, easier to manage and generally more user friendly -- all of which make it a data source that is more valuable than ever before.

Previously, security professionals had to spend time and effort reviewing and managing video using specialized equipment (VCRs), now video recording, viewing and archiving are managed using software installed on a PC. This adds a level of convenience and flexibility not previously available with traditional analog systems. Simplicity encourages the use of video for more than just emergencies. It would have been too time consuming to scan through hours of analog video to find a certain event or to review daily activities. Now, network video information is available immediately. The transformation to video management software housed on a PC gives video a new level of usability that it did not have before, encouraging more frequent and consistent use.

Increased accessibility also is a benefit of video being housed on the general IT network. Cameras are now just another peripheral attached to the network, just like a printer or scanner. Video management software can be installed on multiple PCs, granting users across the organization access to video. Security professionals used to be exclusive video gatekeepers, having access to tapes and equipment. Now, IT can give access to other users at their desks, greatly expanding the number and type of potential users. This makes video another data source that can be used to make business decisions regarding security, operations, customer service and training.

Digital video -- part of the mainstream IT network -- makes it easier to collaborate video with data coming from other systems. For example, many software solutions are available that integrate video with the point-of-sale system, allowing retailers to put data from the POS in context. For instance, if an exception report identifies a single credit card number used three times in a store in one day, loss prevention professionals can immediately access video of those transactions to see if the same customer visited the store three times that day or if the cashier was ringing up a transaction with no customer at the counter.

In other environments, video is used to corroborate alarm information from critical equipment. If an alarm sounds, video can be used to verify if there is a genuine emergency, allowing for deployment of appropriate personnel or saving the expense of a false alarm. Video has the power to provide irrefutable context to a situation, making data from other systems even more valuable.

Furthermore, network video is more scalable than analog technology, which requires the addition of specialized cables, power supplies, recording equipment and even personnel. Network cameras need only a network cable run and a spot on the appropriate network switch to be added to the system quickly and easily -- causing minimal disruption and requiring negligible installation time.

Best Practices
Making video proactive is not as simple as purchasing and installing network video solutions. Significant planning and effort is required to successfully deploy video. Unfortunately, many organizations implement technology for technology's sake without taking time to consider what the system needs to accomplish.

Organizations should make a list of objectives by asking hypothetical questions: Is there a history of vandalism or break ins that has sparked investment in network video? Is the system being placed to monitor customers and to help prevent needless lawsuits?

The purposes outlined will determine the type of equipment, placement and the operational processes that need to be built around a new system.

Here are a few steps security and IT professionals can take to maximize the benefits of network video in an organization.

Establish proactive usage. Perhaps the most powerful change digital video brings is the ability to use video reactively, as well as proactively. Instead of being used exclusively after the fact, video can be used to prevent problems. Security managers can use video to create a systematic security check from a remote location without dispatching personnel on site. By performing a virtual tour, security personnel are able to be in more places at one time and intelligently dispatch team members when the situation requires.

For example, during evening and weekend hours when the business is closed, it's unusual to see people wandering the halls at 2 a.m. With network video, the security manager can have the video management system notify them via his cell phone of the activity. They can log on, assess the situation and make an informed decision about what action to take.

The analysis process. Video is a powerful tool because it provides irrefutable visual proof, but it is only valuable when placed in the right hands. Traditionally, video was used by a few, select security professionals in the organization, largely due to the difficulty of distribution. Now available on the network via a PC, it is easier to share video with others in the organization. This allows different departments to take a proactive role in security, risk management and operational improvement.

Consider a retail business where a cashier is taking longer amounts of time getting customers checked out. From the loss prevention department's perspective, this may mean that employee theft is taking place, but the operations department could review the same video and conclude that the cashier needs additional training and clarification about their role. By making sure the right people have access to and actually use the video, the organization will receive much greater value from it.

Flag suspicious events. Digital video solutions have the capability to automatically capture notable events, thanks to analytics, or software that can automatically detect and flag certain kinds of motion taking place on video. While some analytical tools are more powerful, most have the basic capability to trigger recording with motion. This makes it easier to flag and review key events that may otherwise have gone completely unnoticed on an analog system, since it would have taken a pair of human eyes continuously monitoring the surveillance to notice an exception. This can more easily help prevent events before they occur.

For example, during evening and weekend hours when a business is closed, activity in the parking lot may not be welcome. With network video, the security manager can program the system to automatically begin recording video if motion is detected in the lot. If suspicious vehicles are entering and exiting the parking lot for several days, scouting out the building, the security manager can come in each morning, review the video, identify the vehicle and/or individuals and take extra security precautions to prevent a break in.

Build cases. Video is helpful for building cases of suspicious activity. For example, in the case described above, if video captures someone receiving supply shipments after they had been asked not to, the organization may file the video with other incidences and begin to build a case to investigate employee theft. An outdoor camera in the parking lot may reveal the person loading their car with boxes taken from the office. Together, these incidences caught on video paint a pretty clear picture of what is going on, allowing the organization to accurately assess the situation and take appropriate action.

Protecting Students
Some examples of how organizations are using video for proactive security programs are extremely valuable to understand how security professionals can use the technology to greatly improve operations. Schools are just beginning to use video proactively.

Obligated and pressured by recent catastrophic events to provide safe learning environments for children and staff, school administrators face the challenges of protecting students from threats inside and outside the building. Network video is the newest tool that schools nationwide are successfully leveraging to advance security on campus by taking a proactive approach to safety.

Several years ago, if a school was fortunate enough to be able to install a video system, it was in hallways, mainly to review cases of vandalism or break ins. Today, schools are using network video in much more strategic, proactive ways. Well-placed and publicized, video surveillance equipment in common areas, such as cafeterias, hallways and gymnasiums, serve as a deterrent to violent behavior.

Schools also are using video to communicate and prove a child's defensive behavior to sometimes defensive and in-denial parents. For example, a parent may not believe their child has instigated a fight with another child. With video proof, administrators can simply pull up relevant video.

The savviest users of video are collaborating with local law enforcement, providing them with links to live video in the case of a serious incident or hazardous conditions to assess a situation and formulate the appropriate response.

All of the applications are allowing K-12 schools to offer more secure environments where administrators are genuinely aware of the day-to-day interactions of students.

A Safe Place to Live
Network video also is being used by housing authorities to combat serious security problems among tenants. In these environments, threats to people and property are just as likely to come from within the building as the outside. Vandalism has been a problem in the past. Network video is combating security issues on all fronts in low income housing complexes. Well-placed and well-selected cameras with appropriate housings can withstand mistreatment and capture events on video. Events are automatically flagged and brought to security officers' attention so they can respond immediately with the right resources.

In light of budget cuts, there is an urgent need to help security officers as productively and efficiently as possible. Network video offers tremendous efficiency, giving law enforcement officers the ability to view video from different areas of the building or even remotely. A single officer may be able to monitor multiple facilities simultaneously and dispatch appropriate resources when an event occurs.

Video management software also is used to help ensure the premises is locked down at all times, allowing security personnel to identify propped doors or tailgating. The issues can be addressed in the short term by dispatching an officer to close the door. In long-term situations, video can be used to train tenants on the proper protocol and reasons for these safety precautions.

Innovation at Work
The savviest institutions will improve security by using video to identify issues and make changes that will impact the organization as a whole. In-the-know security professionals may benefit greatly by introducing new users of video into the equation. The best thing security professionals can do is to have a clear understanding of specific objectives for using network video and take steps to manage successful video deployments throughout an organization.

This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Security Products, pgs. 50-53.


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