Are You Throwing Money Away
Turn your VMS into a data collection device and have it work for you By Scott Seraboff M
- By Scott Seraboff
- Mar 01, 2019
Millions of video surveillance cameras around the
world are losing money. Whether analog or digital,
these cameras are recording video (and oftentimes
audio and metadata) that encompasses more information
than can possibly be seen or understood at
the time of the recording. On average, these systems delete information
after 30 days of collection and begin over again with the next
During a 30-day period within one closed system (i.e. a large
drug store) valuable information is captured but rarely analyzed for
its potential worth. This information can prove inherent in business
For example, video surveillance can be reviewed for customer patterns,
such as how long the customer lingers in one area, or what
other products they are making comparisons to. There are an untold
number of additional bits of information that can make a business
smarter and create revenue by studying this data.
For users of video surveillance systems as well as installers of
these operating systems, a critical piece of the pie is missing. While
we recognize these cameras collect video data, thinking of them as
only cameras ignores a big part of the picture. Think of your cameras
as more than just cameras. Think of your cameras as data collection
devices (DCD), and with each passing second they collect data that
can be used by the business owner as well as by third parties who wish
to take that data and analyze it to the benefit of not only themselves,
but the end-user.
As an example, 30 cameras during a 24-hour period, throughout
30 days, will record 21,600 hours of video.
While this appears to be a staggering amount of video surveillance
footage, imagine if you could expand this collection to an entire
year in one location. Now there are 259,200 hours of stored video,
and within those documented hours are tidbits of information that
could be of tremendous value to a wide range of potential users. It is
not hard to imagine the uses of this data for the business owner; what
may be more difficult, however, is to wrap one’s mind around how it
can benefit individuals outside the end user’s business.
If video was collected and analyzed from a single location of a
major drugstore in Dallas, for example, the collected data could be
significant to every single company that sells product through that
store. (While this hypothetical store may have no inclination to use
the data, a company that sold through that store could, and would
have the potential to increase sales through data analysis and perhaps
change the way products were placed). Assuming that same drugstore
had cameras facing a busy intersection in front of its store, they could
analyze traffic patterns as well as their busiest times of the day and
maximize employee hours. The potential is truly limitless.
Data collection through video surveillance is an emerging source
of revenue which is being destroyed by its users each and every year
because its potential and value is simply unrecognized. Collected
data is a valuable asset and belongs solely to the business owner. By
evaluating and analyzing content, companies can generate revenue,
which clearly affects the bottom line. Rather than destroy collected
data after 30 days, businesses should learn to evaluate that information
and determine how it can be a revenue generator.
A video monitoring system, and the hardware that goes with it,
is an expensive investment. The storage component of this expense
is determined by the amount of data that is to be stored. The longer
you want to store data (inclusive of account quality and framerate), the more the storage expense will grow. This is the reason systems
are still thought of as a VMS and not a DCD with video, audio and
metadata as the collected end product. Take your local supermarket
for example. As much as it would love to store data for three years to
match the state’s slip and fall statute, the cost is simply prohibitive.
To add to that problem, finding space for the hardware and maintaining
the system simply makes it more difficult to reach that lofty goal,
so the majority do not even try. The use of the “cloud” is expensive
and added to that is the cost of bandwidth needed to deliver video
streams to that cloud.
Recognize that your current video surveillance system can deliver
value and accrue real revenue. Stop thinking of it as just an expense.
Empower each camera on your system to become a data collection
device with potential to deliver massive returns. This can be achieved
while simplifying the installation of the system, decreasing the
amount of equipment needed, and dramatically reducing the need to
spend capital expense on hardware. Instead, a minimum capital expense
can be undertaken, and the entire system can be run as an operational
expense with a monthly cost. Data collected can be stored
forever, and the end user can participate in revenues derived from the
rental of the data to approved third parties.
Even if a system is currently in place and local storage is in operation,
all of the above can be accomplished with nothing more than a
simple add-on to the system.
As an owner of a video surveillance camera, this is your data,
plain and simple, and it is an asset that is yours to use. You own it.
You should see a return which is no different than having a retail
consultant suggest new items for the “impulse-buy” rack and seeing
those products sell faster and at higher revenues.
Millions of businesses are allowing money to be thrown away at
the end of a retention period. This can be prevented with very little
expense and without upsetting a current operating system.
Cloud storage is clearly a part of this positive solution, but such
storage has a reputation for being too expensive. Of course, many
cloud services want to be the entire front end by taking your camera
at 30 fps and 2MP and storing it for you. With this, the cost to store
seven days is somewhat high and the idea of providing 30 days, to say
nothing of three years, is insurmountable for the average business
owner. This does not show any creativity! Why store at 30 FPS and
2MP for 30 days when you can reduce both of these dramatically to
save on storage costs within the cloud? Why not focus on high resolution
for seven days and then decrease both after those seven days?
As an industry we have been taught, and almost wholly brainwashed,
to think that storage has to be expensive. We have been told
the cloud doesn’t work for long-term IP cameras, or large quantities
of IP cameras. We have been trained to see that we collect video from
the system and, if we don’t need it to review something that occurred
during the retention period, we toss that video (much like the idea
of motion detection, which was created to save on storage) and start
over. While this is old school thinking and may have served us well at
one point, new technologies and new systems have
evolved which allow us to store data for as long as
we wish, and to use that data to create real value
for the end user and partners.
You have a data collection system—don’t you
think it should be making you money?
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Security Today.