Smart Devices and Remote Connectivity
Modern communications technology means that all staff on site can now interact with security and safety systems. This equates to an ability for personnel to respond to events with a better understanding of what is happening,creating a safer environment for staff, coupled with increased performance efficiencies. Benchmark considers the available options.
Smart devices are ubiquitous in today’s society. It is increasingly difficult to find a mobile telephone that isn’t capable of running applications, streaming media and interacting with other IT and data handling devices. Add to this the speed and ease of use of tablets such as the iPad, Galaxy, Nexus and numerous other alternative options, and it is small wonder that mobility has become a key issue for those dealing with a wide range of data sources.
One reason why the raft of mobile ‘smart’ devices have become so popular is that affordable bandwidth is on the rise. Couple this with the fact that emerging video technology makes streaming of data smoother and more credible, and the devices offer a ‘hard to resist’ appeal.
We are increasingly approaching the point where there is an App for everything: connectivity, shopping, automation, interaction with standard computing, travel, payments … the list grows on a daily basis.
Where such devices were once the exclusive preserve of the consumer sector, they are now unarguably business tools too, and their use is growing. Therefore, it only makes sense that the security market considers their potential.
As with many technologies, where the consumer and business markets lead, the security sector follows. If these markets have made a significant investment in streaming video, audio and other data, while (usually) retaining high quality when doing so, it would be foolhardy to dismiss such options out of hand.
Also, as an increasing number of businesses embrace mobile devices as business tools, end users now demand a degree of integration. Every step forward that the consumer and business markets make leads them to question why their investment in security – which employs video, audio and data management – shouldn’t be controlled in the same way as similar data from other solutions. Smart technology is arming many with a clearer understanding of how seamless system control should be.
The potential for mobile viewing of surveillance footage is huge. Increasingly, sites using video surveillance employ personnel – either on site staff or contracted services – to respond to incidents.
Whilst video surveillance is undeniably a valuable tool, if the only option is for a control room operator to talk an on-site security team through a scenario, usually by some form of verbal communication, the performance will always fall short. However, by streaming video footage and other data to mobile devices, those on-site staff can view and assess all relevant data prior to taking any sort of action.
This not only makes them more effective, but also it enhances their safety. Any tool which enhances performance whilst helping employers adhere to their duty of care is critical in today’s business world.
However, such scenarios require video on demand. The video stream must be available, quick to access, and must deliver the right level of quality if it is to be successful.
A little over 12 months ago, the team at Benchmark took a closer look at a range of mobile surveillance-based Apps, and whilst a few were impressive, it is fair to say that more left something to be desired!
There were a number of issues, such as losing the 3G or wireless link, video streams freezing while being transmitted, slow connections, etc.. Since then, technology has improved exponentially, as has the way in which many of the Apps handle the data. Whilst performance is certainly increasing, such eventualities must still be considered.
Watching a good quality video stream on a mobile device can fill the mind with possibilities, but it is equally important to consider how that footage will be utilised.
It is also important to consider how the footage will be viewed. In some circumstances, it can be difficult to say with any certainty what is happening in a viewed scene, especially in periods of darkness. It must be remembered that if trained operators viewing good quality footage can be unsure when viewing banks of monitors, how is a member of a security team going to fare viewing streamed footage on a 3.5 inch screen?
Such a thought process can actually help to achieve a better mobile solution. For example, many mobile streaming solutions offer multiple screen views, telemetry and a host of other functions. However, in the field, how useful will these be to a member of staff dealing with an incident?
It is only by understanding what is needed by on-site staff, and what is superfluous gimmickry, that a solid and reliable solution which delivers real benefits can be found.
Reasons to go mobile
Video surveillance on mobile devices offers a high degree of flexibility, especially if other data can also be included from integrated security solutions.
As video processing technologies advance, and with ever greater leaps forward in terms of mobile communications, the developments of the past 12 months will be surpassed. For those seeking to use such solutions, the important decision will be to separate the ‘clever’ from the ‘useful’.
It is down to integrators, specifiers and end users to play a role in determining what is required from mobile video surveillance. By using the technology and identifying the real benefits versus the pretty-but-unhelpful extras, the options available will continue to expand.
One major end user relies heavily on the use of mobile devices. However, the security team only uses them during times when the site is open. At night, when understanding incidents predominantly based upon video data is more difficult, they prefer to revert to video being analysed at the control room. The devices are still used for other data. Also, if any non-security departments need access to the video streams, they can gain this via mobile devices, thus ensuring that bandwidth management is enforced to ensure consistent delivery for recording.
Mobile devices put the surveillance system and other security data into the palm of the end users’ hands. They allow on-site personnel to better react to incidents, and take information-sharing in a positive direction. A guard on the ground might have a better knowledge of a site than an operator in a remote control room, and therefore should pick up on vital information that a centralised operation could miss.
Mobile video streaming offers serious positives by delivering vital information to those who actually can use it.