Cashing In On Hosted Video
How a Texas loan company cut capital expenses and streamlined surveillance operations with hosted video.
- By Matt Krebs
- Oct 01, 2012
The individual cash pay-outs might be small,
but for Texas Title Loans—a chain of 14
short-term loan shops stretching from Dallas
to San Antonio—keeping an eye on the
till was creating big problems.
“We originally had a DVR-based analog
solution in each of our 14 stores,” said Mark
Autrey, project manager for Texas Title Loans
LLC. “But each system was basically standalone. So, if an incident
occurred at any location, it got to be a real challenge for
corporate to extract the pertinent video.”
On top of its problems related to extracting video from the
DVRs, if a location lost power, the company would have to contact
the vendor, who would go to the location and manually reset
the DVRs and security cameras, adding cost and operational delays.
This lack of central control left company executives vulnerable
to coverage blackouts. Poor image quality inherent with their
analog video was yet another major issue.
However, because they needed only two cameras in each store,
IP video appeared to be a costly proposition compared to their
analog system—despite the additional benefits they’d receive.
That perception immediately changed when ASG Security, a national
systems integrator and service provider of electronic security
solutions, arrived with a hosted video proposal.
“Going the hosted video route just made economic sense for
us,” Autrey said. “Leasing the hardware and running surveillance-
as-a-service meant that someone else was responsible if
something went terribly wrong with the equipment. If we did it
all ourselves, we’d not only have to shoulder the capital expense
of all that equipment but we’d also be forced to hire two more
full-time IT people to handle the workload.”
Set to record 24/7, the video streams over the network to
ASG’s secure data center. Through ASG’s hosted video platform,
authorized Texas Title Loans users can view the video live or retrieve
archived footage from their desktops or mobile devices using
a password-protected Web portal. What’s more, the new fixednetwork
cameras came with embedded microphones and audio
features, giving staff at headquarters the ability to both see and
hear activity at each store and establish recorded proof in the hesaid,
she-said battle that is sometimes initiated by loan customers.
The portal also enables corporate IT staff to troubleshoot easily
and reset cameras remotely from hundreds of miles away, minimizing
any surveillance downtime and service costs. If needed,
both ASG and Texas Title Loans can use the portal to modify
an individual camera’s resolution or frame rate. The volume on a
camera’s microphone can even be adjusted remotely.
The fixed monthly service model has saved Texas Title Loans
significant upfront costs for technology and—perhaps more importantly—
improved support services and response time, both of which
go toward enhancing the company’s overall security operations.
“Opting for a fixed monthly service was simply more cost effective,”
Out with the Old Analog,
In with the New Host
Installation was more rapid than it had been with the legacy analog
system because the new digital cameras arrived at the site preconfigured
to automatically communicate with the ASG server.
ASG simply disconnected the old analog cameras, mounted the
new digital cameras, plugged in the Ethernet cabling and clicked
the connection button on the back of the devices to auto-enable
the secure link with ASG’s servers.
“In our old system, we had to manually route each camera to
a specific endpoint in the server at our corporate headquarters,”
Autrey said. “We had a lot of issues with feeds getting jumbled.
This new one-click connection eliminated a lot of painstaking
configuration, which made the switchover go a lot faster than we
Because the DSL line linking each office to the Internet also
serves as the pipeline for the VoIP phone system and desktop
computing, Autrey worked closely with ASG and the camera
technical support team to calibrate resolutions and frame rates
that wouldn’t clog the network bandwidth.
“Each storefront is less than 800 square feet, about the size
a large master bedroom,” Autrey said. “So, going with 640x480
(VGA) resolution gave us more than sufficient image clarity for
our needs. If we were constantly moving cash over the counter
like a bank or grocery store, we would probably need a higher
frame rate to catch the quick slip. But, given that each store generally
handles only two or three transactions a day, three to five
frames per second works well for us.”
ASG installed two fixed-network cameras at each store to
cover the desk area and cash drawer as well as the front door.
Because the cameras record digitally, Autrey finds that compared
to the old analog system the image and audio quality in both live
view and playback provide a wealth of detail previously absent
from the company’s surveillance solution.
“The search mechanism is a whole lot easier now,” Autrey said.
“Instead of literally sifting through hours of video on a DVR, we
can pull up clips for the exact window of time we want to review.
The preview screen lets us pinpoint the precise point in time when
an object like a cash drawer went missing. It’s very efficient.”
Because Texas Title Loans proactively reviews the video on a
daily bases, the company currently stores video for 72 hours on
the ASG server. After that, the data is automatically overwritten.
If a clip of an incident needs to be saved longer, Autrey will
download it onto his desktop for more permanent archiving.
Three Systems in One: Loss Prevention,
Workplace Safety and Revenue Building
“Even though the hosted video storage is hundreds of miles away,
if ever a store was robbed we could grab the video in an instant
and immediately email the clip to the police detectives investigating
the incident,” Autrey said.
Because the hosted video solution is easy for Texas Title
Loans to operate, managers have found more uses for the system
than originally anticipated. Initially, the cameras were installed to
provide safety and security for employees in the event of an unhappy
customer or a robbery. Now that it has cameras equipped
with microphones, the company also uses the surveillance system
to monitor the quality of service during phone calls and face-toface
interactions with customers.
Autrey says that knowing the store is under surveillance has
helped the company nip employee petty theft in the bud, as well.
The footage also has helped corporate uncover the root of high
turnover at one of its stores and take corrective action.
“The video has become a real tool for us,” Autrey said. “Not only
has it helped us maintain a consistently safe and supportive work
environment at every store in the chain, but it’s helped us identify
employees who could use some mentoring on closing the deal.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Security Today.