Securing The Future

As the competition increases and more products enter the security market, manufacturers have been under pressure to find new ways to deliver a return on investment. It's hard to justify releasing a slightly better camera or DVR if it doesn't have some tangible way of returning value to a business. The result has been continued technological advancements that can greatly impact the security of public spaces and commercial property, as well as the end-user's bottom line.

While the insurgence of customers who require some form of surveillance for their businesses and operations has grown, so has the awareness with similar products. People are using the internet for a variety of uses, they are using web cameras and videoconferencing at work, and all of these things are becoming the mainstream. Gary Perlin, VP of video products for Speco Technologies, said, "Five years ago we were trying to explain the concepts to people, tell them why they need them, and now it's like they go home and watch TV that way, so when we go to them with our security products, why wouldn't you have it?

At the same time, the cost of equipment in the professional security market has been coming down every year; it's getting more affordable for more people to install a surveillance system. "Like any other technology, prices are going down, technology is going up, and the end-user is the beneficiary of all of this," Perlin said.

The growing appetite is in the markets where there is a demonstrable loss characteristic. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation interstate task force, organized retail theft now accounts for up to $30 billion in losses to U.S. retailers. "Why retail is so excited about this is because they have shrinkage as a gigantic expense, and they can quantify it," explained Sam Docknevich, national practice leader for digital video surveillance and security for IBM Global Technology Services. "If you can knock five percent off a gross shrinkage loss, that could be several million dollars, which goes right to the bottom line. If you have a solution that costs X, they can really see the return on investments."

One of the ways the technology has changed to reflect these trends is the movement from analog cable and standalone products towards IP-based solutions. "It used to be very complicated, but it's becoming easier and easier," Perlin said. Speco's IP-based Triplex Family of digital video recorders allow simultaneous recording, live viewing, and playback while adding a standard 750GB hard drive, and pre-alarm/post alarm recording can be easily accomplished. The DVR-16TT/750 also features real-time recording. "In our digital video recorder, we took the things that people were having trouble with and turned them into one-button operations. We're reacting to the things our customers are asking for."

Any surveillance solution, standalone or IP-based, still needs to address several separate types of security: prevention, real-time, and after-the-fact. Using security after an event has long been at the front of these areas, and as much as in any other application, storage of data is constantly improving.

Prevention and real-time solutions are becoming more of an issue, and many manufacturers are looking at analytics as the solution. "Why these analytics are game-changing is that by using these things like face-recognition and object analysis and license plate recognition, as well as being able to take data from things like point-of sales systems and transaction systems, you enable the first verticalized set of applications in the video surveillance market," said Tim Ross, co-founder and executive vice president, marketing, 3VR. "As you increase the number of different analytics that you're able to incorporate on the platform and you combine the number of different systems that can take data in, you're able to create these verticalized applications for different markets."

In retail for instance, you can combine things like face recognition, point-of-sales data, object in motion analysis, to be able to not just record whenever someone from an organized retail theft gang enters a store, but anytime someone removes an item from an area that has expensive merchandise, or when someone walks out of an entrance-only door in the back of a store, or when you've seen a specific vehicle that may have been wanted in association with some theft activity. The same thing applies as you move down the chain into any market. There are combinations of different data types that when you make them searchable and alertable, you make them tackle the biggest types of threats. "This isn't done just for technology's sake," said Ross. "This is done as a specific way of targeting a specific problem in a new vertical that we're attacking.

"What we've done is make a video management platform that comes pre-integrated with a suite of biometrics and analytics, and we have an API from which we can take data from third party systems. And all this is managed by a video management platform that looks a lot and feels a lot like what you get in a traditional video management product. We're combining video, face biometrics, and data from transaction management systems to build the a system that actually can detect and stop fraud events."

IBM, too, has announced its entry into the analytics field. Its Digital Video Surveillance (DVS) service product leverages IBM hardware, software, research, and services to enable real-time access to critical security information based on object recognition. "Our entry in this market is a sign that the industry is maturing in a sense, because it's becoming more of an IT-centric solution," said Docknevich. "I think we add legitimacy to this business, and provide key skills that others may not have."

"It's great validation for the market," said Ross. "What IBM is recognizing is the same thing that we recognized four years ago."

Mary Bakija is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of storytelling experience. Bakija is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Library and Information Science to help others find and tell important stories that might otherwise be lost, and to ensure those stories are preserved for future generations to see.