Mobile devices have a completely different technology outlook
- By Dan Cremins
- Oct 01, 2013
Five or six years ago, when
PDAs began taking on the
characteristics of today’s
Blackberries, iPhones and
Androids, video surveillance
manufacturers rushed to develop
Specific to the security industry, the
thinking was that if an incident occurred
when a security guard was out
on patrol, he wouldn’t have to run back
to his post to review video; nor would
he have to rush to the scene of the incident
without the benefit of knowing
what awaited him. He could simply pull
out his PDA and call up video en route.
It was cool technology and video
surveillance manufacturers loved showing
it off at trade shows, but there was
just one problem: hardly anyone used it.
Today, it’s an entirely different
story. Highly-sophisticated, mobile
devices are pervasive, and more end
users want to be able to access video
anytime from anywhere. Video surveillance
systems with mobile viewing capability
are no longer a novelty.
The Issue of Scalability
Increased acceptance of mobile viewing
has very real implications for video
surveillance manufacturers because, all
of a sudden, scalability becomes an issue.
It’s not just the odd, early adopter
who wants to access video. Entire teams
in different locations want to call up
the same video simultaneously, forcing
manufacturers to design their systems
to handle the increased traffic.
Let’s face it—if mobile video is going
to take off, it has to be as reliable
and convenient as accessing video from
a fixed location.
Accessing Video on
a Mobile Device
So far, video surveillance manufacturers
have developed two ways to access
video on a mobile device.
The app-based approach: The vast
majority of manufacturers have gone
the way of the mobile app. You download
the app to your Blackberry,
iPhone or Android device and use it to
establish a direct connection with the
recorder. However, there are problems
with this approach, specifically scalability,
or more precisely, the lack of it.
If two, three or four people call up
the same video clip from the recorder,
two, three or four separate connections
are made, placing a huge burden on the
recorder’s processing capability.
Every time video is requested, the
recorder initiates a transcoding function
to convert the video from one type
of compression, say H.264 to Motion
JPEG, a video format used by most
smartphones. This function consumes
a recorder’s processing resources and
can cause it to freeze up when too many
requests are received at the same time.
The app-based approach is also
problematic because to even access video,
mobile users have to get past their
network’s firewall. That means IT has
to get involved and open up security
ports, putting a further strain on resources
and potentially impacting the
security of the network.
Recognizing these problems, some
video surveillance manufacturers have
come up with a solution that allows
multiple requests for video without
placing a burden on the recorder.
The cloud-based paradigm: With this
approach, video goes from the recorder
to the cloud and from the cloud to
the mobile device. If a second, third or
fourth person asks for the same video,
the cloud says, “I already have it.” It
doesn’t send another request to the recorder,
which frees up bandwidth from
the recorder to the cloud and eliminates
the need for repeated transcoding of
the same video.
Also, no app is required to be downloaded
to a smartphone. Simply open a
browser, key in a URL, and enter your
user name and password.
It’s important to note that with this
architecture, video is not stored in the
cloud. The recorder only transmits and
transcodes video that’s requested.
Typically, a video surveillance manufacturer
will have an arrangement
with a third-party cloud service provider
and sell licenses to its customers. The
cloud provider hosts the servers and the
vendor’s software, freeing the end user
from having to worry about acquiring
and maintaining hardware or software.
Illustrating the Value
There are several excellent examples
that illustrate the value of mobile video.
One school district provides local
law enforcement with mobile access to
video from the recorders in its schools.
In police cruisers equipped with ruggedized
notebooks, officers simply enter
a URL into their browser and key in
their username and password, enabling
them to view video from a school’s surveillance
In the event of a lockdown or other
situation, police officers can look inside
a school, know what they’re up against
and respond appropriately.
Taken to its logical conclusion,
SWAT teams responding to a hostage
or violent situation can use video on
their smartphones to guide their way
through a school, a government building
or a commercial facility.
Mobile video surveillance isn’t just
for first responders, though, it’s for everyone.
The security professional who
wants complete, situational awareness
for his staff in an airport, university
campus or industrial complex; senior
management and business owners who
want to check in on their store or restaurant
from just about anywhere; and
the homeowner who wants to see if
UPS left a package outside his door.
Mobile video is also changing how
we do business— not just how we tap
into video surveillance systems—but
how we service them.
With a smartphone in almost every
pocket and a Quick Response (QR)
barcode on the front panel of an NVR,
a technician can quickly and easily access
serial numbers and warranty information,
diagnose a problem, view video
tutorials or expedite a return merchandise
Maintenance technicians are trained
and certified, but they can’t remember
everything, and paper-based manuals
take time to wade through. Using a
mobile device to empower technicians
is convenient and impactful as it minimizes
time spent in the field, speeds repairs
and saves money.
Buyers and sellers of video surveillance
systems are by no means being left
behind in the mobile revolution either.
Web-savvy companies are using their
own websites and YouTube channels to
post videos promoting their products and
services. Whether they’re on the beach,
on the golf course or at Starbucks, buyers
and sellers can simply reach for their
smartphones and click play.
And, it’s the same for the security
professional, too, the one who has just
been made aware of an incident or a retailer
who wants to check on store traffic,
enabling remote business management.
Welcome to the world of mobile
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Security Today.