|Issue:||Europe I 2008|
|Topic:||Video security and surveillance trends, and prospects|
Pierre Hagendorf is the Chief Technology Officer at Radvision; he has many years of experience and know-how in hardware and software development, system architecture and multimedia networks. Mr Hagendorf has held several key positions with Radvision, including Chief Technology Officer for the Service Provider & Enterprise business units, and Associate Vice President in charge of Business Development. Prior to joining Radvision, Mr Hagendorf led the System Group at VCON and was a Director of Desktop Appliances. He also served as an engineer with National Semiconductor. Pierre Hagendorf holds a B.Sc. from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Although the idea of cameras monitoring your every move – of surveillance and security systems – raises fears of Orwellian despotism, the need for systems to protect us and guarantee our tranquillity has never been greater. Sensor-triggered remote cameras can alert users about possible dangers by transmitting images via the Internet to their computer or cell phone screens. Despite recent technological advances there is still a great need for industry-wide standardisation of the equipment used and the communications employed.
The proliferation and technological capabilities of today’s surveillance and security systems are sometimes reminiscent of Big Brother in George Orwell’s futuristic novel, 1984. As a society, we are constantly trying to strike a balance between the need for personal privacy, security and safety, being fully aware of the fine line drawn between them. Despite the sometimes controversial nature of the debate on this issue, there is no denying that there is a growing need for real-time surveillance and security systems to help governments and security forces reduce the chances of terrorist attacks and mitigate disasters to decrease the level of damage when they do, unfortunately, occur. What are the practicalities of video surveillance and the specific needs of various market sectors? What is the current state of the market as this industry evolves to IP technology and standardisation. Safety and security The demand for security and surveillance systems is driven by our need to feel safe, and it is the responsibility of governments and businesses to ensure the safety and security of their constituents. In the private sector, the need for personal security and monitoring goes beyond crime prevention and defence. It extends to the growing needs of a population on the go – whether commuting or travelling – the need to keep an eye on property or loved ones at all times. This includes relatives watching out for a grandmother living alone, or employees monitoring the nanny taking care of their children. Market segments The security and surveillance market can be divided into three categories: government/public; enterprise/business; and, consumer/personal. Government/public – Governments and sensitive public facilities require advanced crisis management systems that enable them to swiftly react to terrorist attacks and natural disasters in order to save human life, prevent chaos and uncontrolled criminal activity. Homeland security, police and the military require large-scale, reliable, intelligent and effective security solutions to perform their duties in the wake of attack, or natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. Video is quickly becoming a must-have feature of these surveillance networks, and many of the metropolitan security networks that have been deployed across the globe are based on the ability to monitor, track and recognise visual cues. Some examples of how video surveillance has been utilised include terror attacks in Spain, London and even in a bridge collapse in the US. The ability to recognise facial characteristics, threatening movements, security breaches, and allow the efficient review of recorded digital video are just a few of the capabilities of today’s surveillance solutions deployed by government agencies, airports, and other sensitive facilities. Enterprise/Business – Surveillance of buildings and facilities, both externally and internally, are vital for businesses in order to prevent theft, monitor events, ensure the safety and welfare of employees and avoid harm to customers. Enterprises and businesses that utilise video surveillance to date include: hospitals, casinos, banks, hotels, retail stores, gas stations, schools and universities. Banks are required by law to use video to monitor ATMs and many enterprises have their own surveillance systems to prevent theft and crime. Kindergartens and day-care centres also allow parents to access camera feeds in order to monitor their children as an added value service. The potential of this market is quite significant in terms of deployments and revenues. Consumer/Personal – There is a basic human instinct to protect and feel protected. The well-being and safety of loved ones, personal artefacts and the home are always a high priority, and the ability to obtain visual control from afar is empowering. A home security system with panic buttons to call for help, trigger alarms upon intrusion, record events, and allow consumers to monitor their home and hearth (or make sure that the kids are doing their homework and not watching TV) are features that consumers seek in comprehensive surveillance offerings. For example, Securitas Direct in Spain has begun offering 3G mobile connectivity to home surveillance cameras. The ability to view an emergency situation and react quickly from a PC via the Web, or a mobile device over 3G, increases the efficiency of surveillance and monitoring solutions, and can be utilised not only for homes and enterprises but for complete visual connectivity of emergency services during a crisis. The common denominators The specific requirements of these segments may differ when it comes to fine-tuning the user experience, but the core features required by all are the same: • Rapid response time, and video feed access from anywhere, to alerts triggered manually or automatically, picked up by pressure, movement, or other types of sensors. The triggered alarms should automatically provide access to surveillance feeds from all designated fixed and mobile devices; • System access authentication – no one would want just anyone looking into their living room, or accessing video feeds at J.F. Kennedy or Heathrow Airport; • Recording, playback and post-event analysis for reviewing, legal or other necessary proceedings; and, • High-quality, clear video. The IP evolution and standardisation Most market segments have had video surveillance solutions deployed for several decades. These systems have traditionally been analogue-based, since this was the only technology available at the time. The evolution to a unified IP-based architecture of networks in general, and telecommunications in particular, has fostered the development of reliable and highly effective technologies for transmitting audio, video and data over IP networks. These technologies have led to the development of solutions that provide significant advantages over commonly-used analogue/CCTV (closed circuit TV) surveillance architectures, still in use today. The industry has acknowledged the inherent value of IP and virtually all vendors have migrated their offerings to run on top of IP networks. However, despite the fact that the market has embraced all the right technologies, such as MPEG4 and H.264 video encoding, IP transport and many other tools and features relevant to IP multimedia, the industry still suffers from an acute lack of standardisation. Most surveillance equipment vendors and integrators are addressing standard transport mechanisms and media codec support while making the move to IP. Sadly, this does not encompass all the necessary features to ensure interoperability, nor does it enable the extended functionality that could be achieved from across-the-board standardisation. This lack of standardisation means that many problems still exist, including: • Costly proprietary integration, required to achieve connectivity between cameras, recorders and servers. This limits the integrators’ ability to choose best-of-breed components for their solutions; • Encryption mechanisms that have to be tailored between vendors; • The inability to reutilise solutions from other markets – each deployment requires reinvention; • The inability to traverse firewalls in a secure manner; • No possibility for out-of-the-box integration with existing authentication and authorisation servers; • Difficulties changing the cameras’ analytic programming; • Converged service delivery, which is very difficult because of the vast number of applications that all require different clients for many different devices; and, • Lack of Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms and support for distributed deployments. Simply put, it makes business sense for the industry to converge and move toward the adoption of a single standard that addresses all issues. For example, global networking giant Cisco recently announced the creation of a video analytics standards organisation, the goal of who is to define “how computers describe surveillance video for image analysis”. This is only one example; but it reflects a trend and the industry’s readiness for standardisation. A standardised future As the need for safety and security becomes more pronounced in a world filled with threats and vulnerability, the surveillance and security market is burgeoning and it will continue to grow substantially. In all likelihood, interim solutions will emerge and we will see some exciting new solutions being delivered to the market. As the market becomes more technologically savvy, the desired solutions will be more advanced and less proprietary. Standardisation is the key to unleashing new features and functionality. As solutions become standardised, prices will decline, competition will increase, and the race to deploy differentiated, added-value features will begin. Perhaps if George Orwell could see today’s surveillance systems protecting thousands of travellers at major airports, or guards monitoring schoolchildren in the playground at recess, he would fear his worst Big Brother prophecy was indeed coming true. Perhaps that’s the way it looks on the surface, but this may well be a step towards security, peace and well-being rather than Orwellian despotism. Advanced security and surveillance provides extensive benefits to governments, enterprises and individuals. The evolution toward IP-based systems has enabled major feature advancements, and driven installation growth. Solutions that offer IP and 3G access and connectivity to video feeds from virtually anywhere are enabling unprecedented response time and capabilities that save lives. This is what governments, businesses and individuals are demanding. As industry solutions become standardised, the enhancement of transport mechanisms, deployment speed, functionality and interoperability will further drive market growth and even more efficient and effective solutions.