A Future in the Clouds

Converging hardware and software solutions combined with promises of “future proofing” are driving a shift toward cloud-based surveillance operations

The cloud has become a pervasive term in everyone’s daily work and personal lives – from the explosion of content available on Internet streaming services to remote learning to social interactions. Everyone is living cloud-based lives.

The cloud continues to be a major topic of discussion across the security and surveillance industry. The growth of cloud adoption is accelerating within the physical security industry in recent years, and this growth will continue to accelerate in the near term, as the cloud continues to evolve.

But before the industry looks forward, it is important to look back, even as recently as five years ago. Widespread acceptance of the cloud was hardly a sure bet, with lingering end user concerns about the costs of video retention, surveillance system expansion and storage, reliability, limits on bandwidth and data transfer speeds and a lack of data security.

The cloud has since rapidly evolved and matured, with its increasing acceptance overcoming many of these challenges and negative perceptions. Now, there are clear advantages associated with cloud technologies, including operational efficiency, system storage and scalability, and enhanced data security through stronger encryption and authentication methods.

Cloud-based business models are becoming more practical and attractive for several reasons: the cloud can offer a centralized data and information platform, especially important with the increasing number of distributed employees and teams today. Using cloud-based platforms allows security professionals to collaborate over vast distances and gives them immediate access for sharing surveillance footage with other locations or even with law enforcement for example.

Future Proofing in the Cloud
The cloud is flexible and elastic and scales to a company’s needs and resources. It’s also possible to have a cloud-based video system up and running quickly. However, perhaps the most significant benefit of the cloud is the potential to “future proof” an organization’s surveillance capabilities by adopting new business models.

The cloud’s increasing maturity, combined with continually emerging technologies such as AI, remote monitoring and edge computing integration, has expanded the options for security professionals in terms of how they want to structure and manage their surveillance systems, with one notable model that is continually emerging: Cloud-Based Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS).

Cloud-based video surveillance offers several benefits for security and surveillance professionals, primarily removing many of the day-to-day burdens of managing and operating their surveillance operations.

Cloud-based VSaaS gives security professionals additional flexibility to customize and manage their services according to individual needs. It is similar to a subscription model allowing users to choose the level of services they need at certain times of the year or by project. This is becoming more common as a way of working, especially as customers get more comfortable with the cloud and more confident in the cloud’s proven security and reliability.

Deploying a cloud-based VSaaS model lets organizations avoid the often-significant capital investments in hardware-based surveillance infrastructures that only depreciate over time. Now, by adopting an OPEX model teams are no longer tying up capital expenditures on infrastructure. In addition to saving CapEx costs, they can also reduce, and even eliminate, their time spent on maintaining these hardware infrastructures.

Moving away from hardware-based infrastructures means a company no longer has to worry about their surveillance system becoming obsolete. Their surveillance capabilities are now fully accessible through the cloud and maintained by their solutions provider.

Cloud-based operations allow for the instant deployment of features and can easily accommodate updates, patches and automatic system maintenance. This ensures that surveillance infrastructures are always up to date with the latest features and security protocols, again relieving organizations of the burden of manual maintenance.

That relief is significant enough to overcome another long-held negative customer perception of the cloud: its association with recurring monthly revenue (RMR) and subscription models, especially since the security and surveillance industry has a history of being licensing-focused and many companies don’t want to be charged extra fees.

But many companies will often prefer to pay service fees and have manufacturers deal with complex and time-intensive maintenance so their in-house teams can focus on other activities to benefit their business.

More new solutions are emerging that leverage the cloud’s benefits are available. For example, Hanwha’s Device Manager Pro is designed to support system integrators seeking to maintain their deployments.

DMPro delivers near-real-time notifications to users when their Wisenet WAVE VMS requires attention. DMPro will continue to enhance its maintenance capabilities to support automatic camera firmware updates/management and cybersecurity policies.

These new types of tools give professionals peace of mind knowing their system’s cybersecurity hardness is guaranteed and also gives them advance alerts so they can shift their responses from reactive to proactive.

Solutions like these are well-suited to the changing landscape of the security and surveillance industry. It’s not uncommon for an organization’s security team to be understaffed or stretched too thin, but that team is often tasked with managing thousands of devices. These types of tools can manage and track the health of hundreds and thousands of devices on multiple branches throughout their entire lifecycle. Customers can be alerted when there is a new software patch, when their cybersecurity checklist needs updating, or when a hardware warranty is about to expire – all to guarantee the cybersecurity hardness and ongoing maintenance of the products in their surveillance system.

System Scalability
Security professionals can easily scale their surveillance infrastructure upwards or downwards according to their needs and to easily accommodate future growth and expansion. Typically, customers have designed and configured their systems according to a site’s footprint, allocating the appropriate number of cameras and devices.

But what happens when growth occurs, and a company needs to add more cameras? Instead of the answer being, “the infrastructure won’t support those additions,” the cloud simply removes those appliance limitations.

Security teams can rapidly deploy and manage their systems without the need for complex and time-consuming network configurations, as well as configure them for a seamless combination of on-premise and hybrid system management. Cameras and all devices can be centrally monitored and many network and system processes can be automated.

Professionals can continue to flexibly expand and grow their system with a VSaaS type of cloud-based solution.

Combining Cloud, Data and Analytics
A rapidly growing area within security and surveillance is the combination of the cloud and intelligent data and analytics. Cameras of all types are now being equipped with more advanced analytics, and the role of on-board analytics will continue to expand as users develop new needs for more accurate object tracking or to generate data-driven business insights.

In fact, according to research by Gartner, the majority of businesses now prefer data-driven decision-making over intuition-based decision-making, explaining the projected annual growth of nearly 30% in the data analytics market.

Gone are the days when cameras were used solely for physical security purposes. The embedded edge AI capabilities on cameras generate a substantial amount of data in the form of metadata. New technologies are harnessing the power of data and analytics. Hanwha Vision’s SightMind software seamlessly integrates with Hanwha's AI cameras to transform camera data into actionable insights that benefit the customer's organization. SightMind can create widgets that enable customers to monitor their operational metrics. FLEX AI has the capability to convert any static object into data that Hanwha's AI cameras can comprehend. Many customers require unique solutions to address their specific business challenges. This often involves the need to train custom objects not included in off-the-shelf AI cameras. FLEX AI is a cloud-based application that allows users to train objects with as few as 20 images.

It is all part of the continuing convergence of hardware devices and software solutions.

Companies today need new solutions fast and they simply need them to work. Increasingly, many are finding those types of solutions in the cloud, especially as cloud-based surveillance continues to offer many cost and time savings benefits. More companies will embrace the cloud on an “as-a-service” basis, creating customized security network infrastructures enabling flexibility, efficiency, lower data costs and scalability – all while being simple enough for the users to manage themselves.

The scope of cloud deployments will continue to vary from customer to customer, based on their market, unique requirements, the focus of their operations and budgets, among many other factors. For some, fully cloud environments work best, for others, on-prem is the way to go. Still, for others, a hybrid approach makes sense. There are many applications that can dictate when a hybrid approach makes sense.

It's also important to note that the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all solution, even in the future. An ideal scenario is a technological ecosystem where both edge and cloud solutions co-exist. Edge intelligence and capabilities have been advancing rapidly, paralleling the progress in cloud technologies. The edge is now capable of performing tasks that, in the past, only the cloud could handle. Leveraging the strengths of both the edge and the cloud allows organizations to maximize the benefits of both approaches.

Embracing the ongoing advancements in cloud-based technology is not just a tactical approach. Instead, it signals a commitment to providing a more secure, flexible and intelligent approach to keeping people, premises, and data safe in an increasingly complex and connected world.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2023 issue of Security Today.

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