When the ‘cloud’ was first touted as a service for the video surveillance sector, most propositions seemed unsuitable for professional applications as they relied upon off-site archiving of footage. For applications with multiple cameras, upload speeds made such an approach undesirable. However, by splitting bandwidth hungry tasks away from elements such as analysis and reporting, the cloud now offers benefits, as is shown by Avigilon Blue.
When it comes to considering cloud-based services for security applications, the situation is very similar to that regarding hardware and software. There are some cloud service providers who do it very well and some who do it badly. However, unlike those who do hardware and software badly, those who offer inferior cloud services can often put integrators and installers off the entire proposition.
Over the years Benchmark has tested a wide range of products, both good and bad. However, we are not aware of any integrators or installers that gave up using cameras or NVRs because some were of very poor quality. Equally, we’ve seen VMS solutions that required an operating system rebuild because they caused so many problems, but it didn’t stop people using VMS packages.
Despite this, it does seem that many integrators and installers who tried cloud services back in their infancy are now loathe to consider the technology as a serious security tool.
It must be said that the early cloud service offerings in the security market predominantly were offered by companies with little or no understanding of the security sector. Often they took a cloud-based offering from the consumer market and tried to present it as a cost-saver for businesses and organisation wanting off-site video archiving. Many of the services had costings calculated on storing video from a single camera at very low resolutions and frame rates. As such, they were dismissed by the industry as pointless.
A few providers did imply their services could support the needs of the professional market, and this resulted in many integrators and installers learning the hard way that archiving video in the cloud is not a good idea.
Today, cloud offerings are becoming available from a range of companies who do have expertise in professional video surveillance. Understanding where cloud services can add value, such as through the provision of Software as a Service (SaaS) and reporting, as well as where it does not offer value (off-site archiving and remote streaming) means that today’s cloud offerings make sense for integrators and installers, if – and it’s a big if – they stick with credible and established providers. One such example is Avigilon Blue.
What is it?
Avigilon Blue is a powerful and advanced cloud service platform for security and surveillance that has been purpose-built to meet the needs of the evolving smart security sector. Avigilon Blue provides managed services for video surveillance, powered by patented Avigilon self-learning video analytics.
The platform combines on-site video recording, via a dedicated hardware appliance, and cloud-based software services which provide management, analytics and reporting. By combining hardware, software and cloud services, with each system element located in an optimum place, Avigilon Blue offers an advanced solution that is both effective and robust.
The solution enables integrators and installers to remotely connect to, manage, and maintain a number of sites with minimal resource deployment . For the end users, it provides simple but secure system access, smart notifications, seamless upgrades and new features that are pushed directly from the cloud.
Avigilon Blue offers installers and integrators a recurring monthly revenue model based upon site subscriptions. Avigilon has also stated it intends to add new services that bring additional value, performance and scalability to the systems.
The system integrates a hardware-based Avigilon Blue Connect device that supports local storage and camera connections. Events are transmitted to the cloud, allowing users to view via any web-connected device. This helps to save bandwidth.
Powered by Microsoft Azure, Avigilon Blue uses cloud services that are managed through a network of trusted data centres. System communications makes use of 256-bit AES encryption with controlled key management, and back-up protection is in place as the system utilises redundant servers. Compliance and regulatory standards for the use of personal data are strictly adhered to, and the system ensures all ports are secure and data is adequately protected.
How does it work?
Avigilon Blue comprises on-site hardware, smart devices and cloud services. At the protected site, an Avigilon Blue Connect device is used. The Blue Connect hardware can be used with either Avigilon or ONVIF Profile S-compatible cameras. The Blue Connect device includes eight PoE+ enabled ports with a maximum power budget of 120W, allowing the simple installation of edge devices. The Blue Connect has 8TB of integral storage, which the manufacturer states will allow retention of up to 30 days of video footage.
The Blue Connect device manages local archiving of video and allows footage to be viewed live or a playback recordings. It has a throughput of 170Mbps (120Mbps recording, 50Mbps streaming). Avigilon’s self-learning analytics run on the appliance and this allows the identification of critical events based upon site-specific rules.
When an analytics event is triggered, a video clip of 10 seconds in duration is sent to the cloud. This ensures that bandwidth is preserved. The user then receives an alarm notification. This is received either via the Avigilon Blue App on a smart device or via any PC running the Chrome or Firefox browsers.
The user then has the option to view the video clip. If they have the appropriate authority they can either flag the alarm as a nuisance event or make it as reviewed, adding any comments if required. The App also provides health check information so users can be assured the system is operating. The status of devices can be checked, and camera streams from multiple sites can be viewed with ease. It is also possible for users to download video clips if required.
Accessing video alarm clips is simple via the App, and it is possible to overlay the analytics bounding boxes, making it a simpler task to see exactly what has caused the activation, even on a small smartphone screen. This ensures that customers are seeing added value and a return on investment, even when they are out and about.
The business case
Avigilon Blue offers integrators and installers a service-based system that enables the creation of a recurring revenue model. It is in its initial stages at present and available services are geared towards alarm notifications with replay and download functionality, plus a small degree of interaction. However, as new services are added the business case will increase.
Currently there are four ‘service plans’. These are very similar aside from the number of supported cameras. All plans include 30 days on-site high definition video storage, cloud-based notifications along with a 10 second video clip when an analytics event occurs, system health check and diagnostics notifications, access to the system via a mobile App or PC, and unlimited user accounts.
Plans are offered over differing time periods, ranging from one to five years.
The four service plans are Small, Medium, Large and Enterprise. These allow for 1–8 cameras, 9–16 cameras, 17—32 camera and over 33 cameras, respectively. The cloud-based server will monitor the usage and if an upgrade is considered suitable, the system will issue a notification to this effect.
For the integrator and installer, Avigilon Blue includes an intuitive and easy-to-understand dashboard that ensures they are kept updated about the status of all connected systems. This includes statistical data about the number of subscribers, the period of their subscription which is still to run, the number of connected Avigilon Blue Connect devices and linked cameras, etc.. It also gives specific renewal dates for the various accounts.
The integrator or installer is tasked with selling the hardware and services, installing and configuring the hardware including setting intelligent video analytics rules and recording parameters. The integrator can also offer diagnostics and system health reporting if required.