Reimagining Strategies

Reimagining Strategies

Mobile technology is changing the security landscape

Reimagining StrategiesSecurity is no longer chained to a desktop, and breaking these chains has changed the face of remote monitoring. It used to be that remote monitoring meant keeping an eye on things from a central station, like a corporate security command center or even a thirdparty monitoring service. However, the introduction of mobile devices - laptops, smartphones and tablets - has changed all that. And, authorization to view video can be easily extended to include law enforcement, first responders and other agencies in need of situational awareness.

Today, mobility has extended to camera technology, as well. With Wi-Fi and VPNs, mobile trailers and SD cards for in-camera storage, video technology is no longer anchored to coax and fiber-optic cabling. This freedom represents a great financial opportunity for integrators and end-users alike.

For the integrator, remote monitoring services and hosting a customer’s video in the cloud represents a change in business model from front-loading a customer’s technology investment to establishing a recurring monthly revenue stream for system usage and services. Customers enjoy the advantage of using the latest IP video technology and accessing their video anytime, anywhere without a hefty capital expenditure or having to worry about system maintenance.

The potential financial barrier to enjoying sophisticated video surveillance and remote monitoring has virtually melted away, and the opportunity to benefit from continuously updated cloud services has appeared.

Putting Temporary Venues on the Watch List

Whether it’s an annual festival or this week’s crime hotspot, remote surveillance technology is proving to be a real force multiplier for event managers and law enforcement agencies.

Several companies offer video surveillance systems mounted on mobile platforms that can rest on a trailer and be towed from site to site as needed. The platform’s chassis houses the video server and video management software while HDTV-quality, network cameras mounted on telescoping masts give security staff a panoramic, bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.

A high-powered, secure wireless access point enables the video to be streamed to authorized users on their mobile devices whether they’re sitting in a command trailer down the block, patrolling the venue on foot or circling the locale by car. Video also can be streamed to police headquarters, patrol cruisers or any agency operations center with a need to keep an eye on the site. Some mobile trailers even contain public address systems with sirens that allow staff, monitoring the cameras remotely, to verbally address individuals observed in the vicinity of the surveillance unit.

A suburban Chicago police force, for example, uses a similar setup to curtail criminal activity in certain neighborhoods—anything from drug deals to burglary to vandalism. Once a rash of incidents is contained at one location, the mobile surveillance system is moved to the next problem area that arises. At home or on the road, the chief of police can monitor the situation on his tablet, direct resources and decide whether the nature of the incident requires his presence on site.

This set up has also proven popular for event organizers working in cooperation with local, state and federal agencies to monitor high-crime areas, sports venues and rallies. Network cameras, mounted on mobile tripods, equipped with wireless technology, stream video to a surveillance trailer as well as to agencies across the country responsible for pursuing crime.

Increasing Vigilance for Visiting Dignitaries

Sports venues often establish a dual-monitoring environment— one for security staff to keep an eye on normal, game-day activity and another for special surveillance teams to keep an eye on visiting dignitaries like heads of state, celebrities and other high-profile individuals in attendance. The former is typically used for crowd control and forensic purposes, and usually includes a security command center with a video wall of cameras covering the premise. The command center can push video to the mobile devices of the security team patrolling the venue. The secondary monitoring environment gives law enforcement and government agencies, such as the Secret Service, access to the video so that agents can focus on specific individuals they are responsible for protecting.

Multi-purpose venues are a good model for undertanding how to match changing user requirements with infrastructure and security endpoint devices like network cameras, physical access control panels and intrusion detection sensors. To minimize risk, before, on and after game or event day, surveillance is heightened and cameras, portals and systems are monitored to provide an appropriate security posture. When high-profile visitors attend the venue, the same infrastructure must support the additional demands of multiple agencies that require both live and forensic video content sharing.

Coordinating Responders to Emergency Situations

Modeling remote monitoring requirements still involves the same basic scenario of matching infrastructure to user needs, but the system designer also needs to factor in the demands of differently-tasked users with complex needs and simultaneous activities. For instance, emergency medical response teams can transmit video, audio and patient health data to hospital staff for initial diagnosis and triage. Today’s HDTV video surveillance systems can send streaming video or highresolution still images when less bandwidth is available, which can result in a more accurate remote diagnosis.

An engine company streaking to the scene of a fire might set up video surveillance to improve situational awareness and help the company decide whether additional rescue and medical equipment needs to be dispatched to the scene. Once on site, firefighters, equipped with wearable video surveillance devices, can help remote specialists, reviewing site floor plans, by safely guiding them in real-time through hallways and stairwells to rescue victims or avoid HAZMAT storage.

In an active shooter or other violent event, law enforcement often relies on active, remote, video monitoring to provide dispatched officers with critical situational awareness of the scene they’re about to enter. This real-time surveillance helps officers stay ahead of the threat when abnormal behavior is detected and provides verification of alarm signals. Video verification of alarm signals not only reduces the waste of resources on false alarms, but it also helps law enforcement devise an appropriate response strategy, especially when dealing with armed and violent criminals.

When situations arise calling for coordination with local law enforcement, businesses, schools and other organizations, often providing remote access to surveillance video is a critical component of the forensic investigation. Remote monitoring might incorporate advanced features, permitting an instant review of recent events. Fast access of summarized, video data in a compressed time format helps to pinpoint persons and vehicles (including license plates) of interest, followed by traditional, full-video, content review around those times.

Configuring Effective Remote Monitoring Solutions

Whether using wireless or hard-wired connectivity, quality of service is key. While no one can model every demanding situation, because video streaming and accessing scenarios tend to be dynamic and fluid, it’s important to have a network that can effectively manage both the video sources and the consuming devices. For instance, video could be streamed to mobile device users at a lower resolution and frame rate than video streamed to a command center.

Allocating spectrum. Whether video surveillance is sharing the pipeline of a public or private network, allocating a dedicated spectrum—bandwidth and frequency— for video traffic helps avoid diminished quality of service. This issue is often raised in school district surveillance where administrators are concerned about the impact of video on network availability and performance needed for academic technology that shares the pipeline.

Some address this dilemma by establishing a separate VLAN to segregate a portion of network bandwidth exclusively for video traffic. Others address this dilemma by adopting a cloud approach to surveillance where the environment is elastic enough to accommodate the occasional peak demand by mobile devices in a crisis. It’s best to work with an end-user’s IT department to determine the most cost-effective solution for any given installation.

Tying in with other security systems. Remote monitoring becomes more meaningful when you link video with other data. Whether the alarm is security related or an environmental issue, when it goes off, video gives you the situational awareness you need to verify what’s happening. Who entered the secure records room after hours? Is there really a fire in the hallway? Is the server array offline? Does the temperature gauge indicate the room is too hot or too cold? Real-time situational awareness helps end-users quickly marshal the resources needed to deal with a problem while avoiding the costs associated with false alarms.

Protecting video from unauthorized eyes. Like any highly sensitive data, surveillance video can be a tempting target. In a remote monitoring environment, it’s especially important to authenticate users and control access to live feeds and recorded content. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure cyber security and video integrity, from using cameras equipped with Port Authentication Protocol (802.1x) and encrypting video streams to authenticating users and their devices with digital certificates of authority.

  • The 802.1x protocol ensures that a user or device cannot make a full network connection until they are properly authenticated and have permission to access a particular camera and/or video recording.
  • VPN tunneling technology creates a private tunnel for streaming data between the camera and the user, and supplies private keys for encryption to avoid eavesdropping, hijacking and modification of video data. Protect both ends of the VPN connection with firewalls and intrusion prevention systems to further secure the transmission. This is especially important for law enforcement, protecting sensitive forensic evidence from showing up on YouTube, for example.
  • Digital certificates of authority help control the gateway between the remote users and the camera or recorded video by independently verifying the identity of the source device and the consuming device. This certificate allows a security director to easily establish or revoke privileges to produce, store, playback and display video content. But, with the proliferation of corporate and personal mobile devices accessing the network, certificates need to go hand-in-hand with a company’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, such as requiring automatic download of anti-virus updates at logon—to prevent users from accidentally or deliberately introducing malware onto the network.

Collaborating with IT professionals. Especially if video surveillance is sharing the corporate network, it’s important to partner with the IT department to ensure that any remote monitoring schema doesn’t create vulnerabilities for the network.

Provisioning on the fly. Especially in temporary venues, where the installation timeframe tends to be short, there are a number of ways to speed up deployment. One is to preprogram the cameras before installation to automatically stream to the server when they’re powered on. Another way is to use a one-click feature once the camera is installed, which causes it to automatically begin seeking the central station.

Remote Possibilities are Endless

Technology continues to push the mobility envelope, opening up lucrative opportunities for integrators and resellers to reimagine remote monitoring solutions for their customers. Whether the solution incorporates mobile video camera platforms, mobile command centers, security patrols equipped with smart devices, third-party monitoring services or hosting video in the cloud, the permutations are endless.

For integrators, remote monitoring represents an opportunity to build a recurring monthly revenue stream. For end-users, remote monitoring represents an opportunity to acquire critical situational awareness anytime, anywhere. Incorporating the latest advances in encryption and authentication into a solution instills confidence in end-users that the surveillance system can be responsive to their remote monitoring needs without compromising the security of their sensitive video data.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Security Today.

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