How does the cloud impact video surveillance?

SMEs discuss the impact cloud has at Cloud+
 - 
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas—Several professionals in video surveillance—bringing expertise in verification, data storage, consumer video and professional video—gathered here at Security Systems News’ third annual Cloud+ to discuss how the cloud will impact camera technologies.  

Larry Folsom, president of cloud-based verification platform provider I-View Now, led the session as its moderator. Brandon Reich, surveillance business leader for Pivot3, Leon Tan, head of Works with Nest partnerships at Nest Labs, and Jumbi Edulbehram, Oncam’s regional president, Americas, served as panelists and subject matter experts.

Folsom opened the discussion with a general question for all of the panelists. “What are the advantages vs. the disadvantages of the cloud in security?”

There are three important factors in helping a customer decide between on-premise or cloud solutions, Edulbehram said. “One is multi-site management. So, for customers that have a large number of sites, where they need to view video from a large number of sites, manage systems from a large number of sites, etc., that centralized management capability is a big selling point.”

He continued, “The second one I’ll say is mobility. Access to this information on mobile devices—essentially any information that you want from the systems off any device at any point in time—is an attractive value proposition,” Edulbehram said.

The last factor is opex vs. capex, he concluded. Some customers find the opex model attractive, he noted, but it doesn’t work for others.

Edulbehram highlighted bandwidth availability as an issue, particularly in getting data to the cloud as cameras are increasing in resolution.

Tan noted that there are a couple of points when looking at cloud from the end users’ perspective. “From a security standpoint, when a potential intruder comes into your home, they can’t necessarily take the footage along with them, because it’s all streaming to the cloud. The second area we look at is the functionality that we can provide with a cloud-based system vs. a local-based system,” he said, and there are more features and capabilities available to cloud-based systems. Lastly, Tan added that the cloud makes video cameras and storage more affordable up-front for the home.

One issue with the cloud and video surveillance relates more to the technology being “in its infancy,” according to Tan, and that means a need for more training, awareness, and education on the technology.

The cloud for video surveillance is currently being applied primarily to residential and small business applications, but is an emerging tool for medium and large enterprise applications, Reich said. “The cloud gives us a couple of real benefits and advantages for a larger organization,” he said, such as with deploying new solutions and it makes infrastructure more “elastic,” with the capabilities of scaling computing, data storage and bandwidth resources as a customer’s needs change.

Reich addressed the cost of storing video data. “Larger systems, higher resolution modern cameras generate a lot of data and storing all of that data in the cloud … still can be, sometimes, fairly expensive—particularly if you need to keep it for an extended period of time,” he said. “That’s a disadvantage I think we’ll overcome.”

Folsom posed a question to Tan, “How do cloud solutions help meet the basic goal of increased security through lowering false alarms?”

Tan noted the value of peace of mind offered by security, knowing that a home or business is being watched over, and that it is often better to get more alarms or notifications than fewer to stay informed about a home or business. “Doing verification before cloud-based systems was tremendously hard, because, technology-wise, how do you get the information to the right authority? But now, with cloud-based systems, it makes it a lot easier where it’s jut a few simple steps of creating an account, creating a couple of accounts, merging the accounts,” he said.

Folsom next asked the panelists about the opportunities and the barriers in growing the cloud-based security product market.

“From the manufacturing side, the opportunity is very much similar to folks on the integration side, which is, you want to get as much RMR as possible because that increases the valuation of your company,” Edulbehram said.

Among barriers, “there is still a lot of resistance for integrators to adopt RMR based models. And the second big [barrier], in my experience, is existing infrastructure,” Edulbehram continued. “If you go to sites with existing infrastructure, which is often a mish-mash of old analog, mixed IP of many different kinds, many different camera types, many different VMS types, DVRs, NVRs, etc.—to front lift all of that, and give them a nice, elegant cloud solution is just expensive,” he said.

Reich brought up a variety of the discussed barriers, including costs, bandwidth, and the perception of security; “Many of those barriers are coming down and it’s opening up a tremendous amount of opportunity, particularly for systems integrators.”

He added that it’s important to note the variety of models available when implementing cloud in video applications. “There are different architectures, there’s different ways of leveraging the cloud for business purposes and business opportunities. It could be that your video is stored on premise for a period of time and maybe over time it’s archived to the cloud just for a storage application. Maybe its only incidents that are archived up to the cloud, to help control costs. It could be that certain components of your systems … could be moved to the cloud,” said Reich.

Folsom asked Reich whether educational efforts for the integrator channel can help to overcome some of the challenges the panelists brought up. Business models are another issue, Reich said, pointing out that systems integrators typically have a mostly project-based model. “The cloud will force you to change that. We have to figure out now: How do we monetize services over a period of time? The great thing is we’re in an industry [where] we kind of have a good template for that,” he said, referencing security dealers with an RMR-based business.

Edulbehram addressed a sub-point about education needs around cloud technologies, specifically in how companies of different sizes go to market and approach training. A large manufacturing company can develop a product and train its dealers so they can sell it, he said; whereas, a smaller start-up with an innovative cloud-based product would be “better off actually going to the end user, creating the demand and pulling the integrators along to see the value.”

Tan agreed—he advocated using simple language to convey the benefits from products or services and generating the demand.

Folsom asked Reich about how RMR will be affected by cloud utilization.

“The RMR opportunities are going to be expanded substantially by cloud offerings. Now, we can monetize a number of these technologies and systems that we’ve been deploying really on a project basis for so many years,” Reich said, adding that this applies to areas outside of video surveillance such as PSIM or access control systems.

Folsom addressed video analytics, asking Edulbehram and Reich for their thoughts on how video analytics help end users and how they can be deployed in the cloud.

Edulbehram said that he has had experience with customers who have video analytics systems in the cloud, as well as resellers and integrators that offer value-added services, but not many. “What part does the reseller or integrator play in this to be able to justify some sort of RMR?” he asked. “To be honest with you, to this date, I haven’t really come up with any answer except for support services or the traditional maintenance contracts.”

Reich suggested the cloud helps video analytics overcome difficulties. “I don’t know that video analytics will be a direct RMR type of business opportunity. I think that from a business standpoint it could be a usage-based business opportunity,” he said. “Where cloud offers a benefit to video analytics is more to solve the technical challenges and hurdles.”

Near the end of the session, an attendee asked the panelists if they are having conversations with customers about longer timeframes for storing video data.

“We really see this mindset or requirement from commercial and enterprise types of end users changing to longer and longer retention times,” Reich said. Previously, companies would buy the amount of storage that they could afford and now, there are new requirements that are defining and requiring certain retention times.

“In my experience, this is one of the most vexing issues of storing video in the cloud. The reason it is so troublesome is because most customers want to retain video for X number of days. … The problem with the cloud is, you don’t know how much storage they’re actually going to use up. So, when you do an on-prem calculation, they always do an overkill,” Edulbehram said.

The cloud has much more flexibility, he continued, “The problem is how to charge for it. Customers hate getting a different bill every month depending on how much storage they’re using; they want it extremely predictable.” Billing in this situation is like a bell-curve, he said; some customers will need less data than expected and some will use more.