Creative Uses For Hosted Video Surveillance
What do golf tournaments, racetracks, pedestrian malls and construction sites have in common?
- By Matt Krebs
- Apr 01, 2012
Hosted video has leveled the playing field for many small businesses looking to secure their properties with the latest network surveillance technology. It presents an option to eliminate the hefty upfront investments that traditionally put IP systems out of financial reach. Instead, hosted video is run as a service in an operating expense model much like a monthly cellphone plan service.
The technology behind the scenes should be seamless to the user. Video is streamed via the Internet and stored off-site at a highly secure data center. Users can securely access the video at any time from any connected device via a customized Web portal.
Gone are the days of worrying about maintenance costs, upgrades and associated reliability issues of DVR systems. All these services are provided as part of the hosted package.
This shift from a capital expense model to an operating expense model (surveillance- as-a- service) opens the door to a much broader audience that may not be able to afford a traditional video surveillance solution. While hosted video isn’t the end-all and be-all for every application, it’s an excellent alternative for businesses with smaller camera counts—from 1 to 10 cameras—which accounts for the vast majority of all video systems deployed today.
For those small-camera-count systems, the landscape is hardly ever alike. The mom-and-pop store, the hospital, the quick-service restaurant, the corner drycleaner, the city square, and the commercial enterprise all have different security needs—yet hosted installs are proving valuable for each.
Hosted Video for Temporary Venues
A hosted solution is particularly well-suited for temporary venues where the event lasts only for a few days and security and crowd control are big issues. This may be true when working at a golf tournament where sponsors and tournament organizers are looking for an alternate way to protect golfers and their equipment, vendors and their merchandise, and the thousands of fans streaming through the gates.
It’s a challenging environment in which to deploy video surveillance because the system needs to install quickly, be unobtrusive, function for the duration of the event, and then easily disassemble so it can be packed up and shipped to the next tournament on the circuit. Since the structures erected for these tournaments are generally temporary in nature, it takes some creativity to mount the cameras where they can provide the most coverage. But with a hosted solution, the IP cameras can piggyback on the network infrastructure provided for the event and securely stream video to the cloud for live viewing as well as subsequent review.
The video is housed on a hosted storage server, where it is continuously available to tournament staff on demand. The host provider creates a secure portal for access and maintains a health check on all system components, ensuring an essential layer of security and loss prevention. I’m seeing more and more tournaments going this route as an adjunct to physical security personnel who can’t possibly be everywhere at once.
Construction sites are another good fit for hosted video surveillance. With insurance requirements dictating that the site be protected by security guards or video surveillance, hosted video provides a cost-effective alternative that never sleeps.
The IP cameras can piggyback on the communications network installed in the construction trailer onsite and stream video back to a hosted storage in the cloud.
In addition to mitigating upfront costs, this solution gives the construction site general managers flexibility to share secure access to the images with anyone they want.
The future tenant can log in to see the progress of construction. And in case of an emergency or an incident, law enforcement can be granted access to the surveillance footage to mount an effective response to the situation. Then once the project is finished, the company can pack up the technology and redeploy it at the next construction site.
Pop-up retailers are another user of hosted surveillance in the temporary- install realm. Typically tied to seasonal holidays, these stores—costume shops or Christmas stores, for example—rent out retail space for a few weeks or months and can’t afford the overhead of an in-house system, yet their loss prevention needs remain the same as other retail establishments.
As with the golf tournament or construction site, IP cameras can be quickly dropped in a few key locations and be up-and-running almost immediately with no investment in onsite storage.
Hosted Video for Mobile Venues
While hosted video works well in temporary environments, it dovetails quite nicely in situations where the subject of surveillance is on the move. One example that comes to mind is a hosted video solution I saw being deployed by owners of thoroughbred racehorses.
A single racehorse can be worth millions, so owners are always looking for ways to protect their fragile investment. They often set up cameras in their stables to keep an eye on their mounts. But what happens when the prized animals are stabled in different barns along the racing circuit?
When it’s a hosted solution, the owners simply pack up the technology and take it with them. When they arrive at the next stable, they unpack the surveillance system, put the cameras on the wall, connect the router to the Internet and voila—
Because running cable across the stable could prove hazardous, this type of solution generally uses wireless connectivity. I’ve seen this solution taken even a step further to provide surveillance while the horses are in transit. In this case, the integrator attaches a broadband LTE air card to the system so that the cameras inside the trailer can broadcast video of the horses as they travel down the highway.
This kind of peace of mind was unimaginable just a few years ago, but it’s now available in a highly secure and cost-effective model.
Hosted Video for Communal Venues
Lest you think that hosted video makes sense only for short-term coverage, I’d like to share an instance where a Midwestern city took a more creative approach to establish a permanent pedestrian mall surveillance solution.
Being a college town, the pedestrian mall with its bars, restaurants and shopping boutiques was a popular hangout for students. City officials were trying to figure out how they could deploy video surveillance to bolster security in this open area without overrunning their extremely tight budget. With no network infrastructure in place—and the cost of installing one far exceeding the monies set aside for the entire project—the town’s integrator decided to think outside the box.
Since all the individual businesses along the mall had their own personal Internet connections to run their internal operations (some of which were their own interior surveillance cameras), city officials asked if proprietors would be willing to pool resources and allow the city’s exterior IP surveillance cameras to share some of their network bandwidth. To save even further, the city’s network cameras would stream the video to a hosted server in the cloud.
By piggybacking off each business’s network, the integrator was able to create a wholly separate surveillance system that all the business owners could commonly access while securely isolating their own individual systems from each other.
This creative use of hosted video technology not only gave the city and the local businesses more control over security in the pedestrian mall, but the cost of this alternative approach to surveillance came in well under the city’s budget. It was a win-win situation for everybody involved.
Hosted Video for Critical Cameras
Since hosted video today is targeted at the 1- to 10-camera market, practitioners and integrators alike often dismiss the technology for larger systems. However, hosted video applications can complement in-house systems of even hundreds of cameras. In some cases, critical cameras are being used in a “watch the watchers” capacity to ensure that the internal surveillance system isn’t being compromised by the staff. This solution is growing in popularity in hospitals and large retail outlets where sensitive documentation, high-value merchandise and even narcotics must be protected from internal theft.
Critical cameras are a new realm for hosted video, but it’s an option when a business has cameras it can’t afford to have ever go down or be compromised.
The Hosted Video Checklist
The criteria for choosing a hosted solution comes down to two factors: network bandwidth and low camera count. With most network cameras now supporting advanced H.264 compression, even a DSL line can support a hosted video stream.
There might be some instances where hosted video could be problematic, such as a daycare center where several dozen parents might want to log onto the network simultaneously to watch their children. In that case, the network bandwidth might not be sufficiently robust to handle the load. But in general, as long as you have a reliable Internet connection and a low number of cameras on the hosted system, it is a viable alternative to traditional video surveillance solutions.
As a service-based model, hosted solutions fit a multitude of surveillance uses from safety and security to business intelligence. Putting surveillance in the cloud allows business owners to avoid capital outlay for installation, operation and maintenance. As an added bonus, they receive a robust and highly available system running advanced security technology.
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Security Today.