A Remote Video Boom is Under Way

Jun 13, 2022

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by Frank Crouwel

Remote video boom caused by the pandemic promises operational as well as environmental benefits for many businesses.

We hear a great deal about recent video surveillance system upgrade projects which have been about enabling remote video management and considering the environment more, as ‘rip and replace’ upgrade projects are increasingly frowned on.

Demand for remote access to video increased considerably through the pandemic

During the last two years, nearly all of us had to get used to working from home. In order to work from home effectively, it was important to have robust remote access to corporate data and systems.

Video surveillance systems were not excluded from this quest for remote control. A decent laptop connected to high speed, often fibre-based broadband at both ends and secure VPN access between the new place of work and the corporate network, all became virtually standard. We went from a position where only a few senior managers were using remote links into corporate networks regularly, to nearly everyone using them.

Ubiquitous remote network access, together with more widespread availability of sophisticated video analytics, more reliable 4G (even 5G-ready) connections to smart mobile devices; increased adoption of cloud-based data services; and the need to work remotely because of the pandemic, all came together to make remote access to camera systems both possible and desirable for many more businesses than was the case just a few years before.

Strong, fully-remote controlled video surveillance management used to be the preserve of large councils running large CCTV estates and control rooms in city and town centres, and only a few large private organisations with deep pockets. Not any longer. Recently, I spoke to someone who had self-installed an IP camera together with audio and facial detection analytics capability, supported by high speed broadband internet access providing instant alerts to the smart phone, into a newly refitted art installation in London. This cost less than £100 to buy and was installed in a couple of hours, supported by a data-only SIM package costing under £20 per month for high speed internet access and cloud-based video storage capability. This capability is now ubiquitous.

If we need it to secure a site, keep staff safe or use the existing video to unlock a new operational benefit, there is now virtually nothing preventing that capability being delivered – provided the right quality of hardware is in place, it is IP-enabled, and the right installation, configuration and integration work is carried out.

NW Security Group increasingly sees that this concept of upgrading an existing video system in order to ensure it adds more value to more people across an organisation, as an increasingly widespread trend as a result of the pandemic during which remote control of everything began to become a reality.

Managed service provision experiencing strong demand also

However more than this, the widespread availability of fast network connections, together with that rapid uptick in demand for remote management of people, assets and operational activities, also stimulated us to expand and deepen our managed services offering.

As a typical example, recently we commissioned a camera project which enabled a major Digital Out of Home (DOOH) provider owning many large digital screens installed on gantries and bridges up and down the country to monitor those digital advertising screens on PCs in their operations bases or more likely today via their smart phones, whilst increasing the transparency it offered to its DOOH advertisers.

Robust high resolution network cameras were installed to provide a live view of all its screens around the nation. We enabled the streaming of this live video via Morphean’s cloud CCTV platform for viewing through a secure web browser or mobile app.

By being able to distribute this video in real-time, the DOOH provider is able to share relevant live links with advertisers during the periods that they buy access to those screens – so they can check their ads are being displayed in line with their media buying agreements. In addition to this, the provider can check from their offices, or from anywhere, that their digital screens are working correctly and spot any malfunction remotely. To guarantee near 100% uptime, we support the provider with an ongoing managed service so that they need have no concerns about upkeep or cyber security updating of the systems.

Smarter use of video

If a logistics manager of a wholesale food distribution business, for example, cannot physically stand in the depot monitoring pallets of high value goods being loaded onto a lorry in the loading bay at his company’s distribution hub, why should he not be able to view the relevant video sequence live or catch up with recorded video following a video analytics-triggered alert which could be sent to his mobile phone in real-time wherever he is?

Or if you are a retailer with many stores up and down the country, what about offering video camera access to visual merchandisers and store layout managers working from home or in head office and wanting to monitor local roll outs of new store layouts or shop window fit outs?

Both of these examples are exactly what increasingly has been happening for real in the last few years. There is a general quest within companies for new, more efficient ways of working.

Environmental dividend

The remote management boom, that was admittedly stimulated by a tough pandemic, has undoubtedly been good news for companies in terms of helping them reduce operational costs while enabling remote or hybrid working. It has also offered a route for companies to cut indirect emissions as many hours of driving to check on assets and premises is eliminated. So, the remote control trend could help companies to meet their emission reduction targets faster. Helping cut costs while reducing your carbon footprint – well surely that’s got to be attractive to many businesses?

Using new video technology to enhance and extend the value of existing CCTV systems

Once you have adapted video security systems to enable remote management and considered sustainability of systems, it is also worth thinking about increasing the value of existing systems by supplementing them with new video technologies.

One example of this which I read about recently in Wired magazine was based on a journalist’s conversation with two Smart Cities experts within Hitachi who have been involved in extending the use of the existing video surveillance system operating right across the Tokyo Metro network. The Tokyo Metro is the busiest urban rail network in the world, providing more than 40m customer journeys per day.

Hitachi has helped the Tokyo Metro to optimise the use of its stations by enabling CCTV control rooms to monitor usage levels in all stations in real-time. This is critical because overcrowded stations present an immediate danger to the safety of passengers. Rapid action needs to be taken to close entrances and divert passengers when crowds are building.

However, it was also possible to go one step further, effectively ‘democratizing’ access to the Metro’s video security data, simply by overlaying live video of passengers with blocks of distinct colours to demarcate stationary versus moving people at the entrances and on the platforms of stations right across the network.

This visual overlay simultaneously prevented identification of individuals in the video and was made available, via a secure mobile app, to passengers who could use the visual information to decide whether to delay their journey or use a different station if the one they normally use was excessively congested. This example illustrates what’s possible by using some newer video technology and providing access to the system’s video data to more people – enabling rail users to derive direct access to video and benefit from it.

As more citizens see the benefits of having access to this sort of video data, they are more likely to be accepting of the use of cameras and intelligent analytic technology in public spaces. An increase in public support will help with the acceleration of Smart City roll outs which nearly always demand some use of cameras across our growing cities.

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