Jason Burrows, Regional Sales Director, IDIS America
As we all look ahead to 2021 - and who doesn’t want to do that after 2020?! – there are some key video tech trends to look to, as well. These technologies and their applications can translate into more profitability for systems integrators looking to grow their businesses in the New Year.
AI Based Solutions
Intelligent video analytics (IVA) powered by deep learning are positioned to enjoy steady growth in 2021. As computational power has increased, they’ve become increasingly easier to deploy and use as well as more cost-effective and accurate. And users are choosing a variety options to harness the power of AI and its benefits. Edge-based cameras are a popular option because users can benefit from metadata even without applying analytics rules to speed up investigations, while processing analytics on the edge results in reduced bandwidth usage.
At the same, time on-prem and cloud software as well as license-free AI appliances are equally popular choices especially if they mean users don’t need to replace existing cameras. This can provide a fast and cost-effective route to harness the power of AI for businesses large and small.
Adoption is also speeding up as AI can deliver the operational and productivity gains that nearly all businesses are striving to find after such a tumultuous year.
There many strong selling points that SIs can emphasize to potential customers.
Among them, AI can automate previously manual, labor-intensive processes particularly reacting to false alarms often triggered by ‘blob type’ analytics cameras. When operators experience alarm overload there is also a tendency to shut them down resulting is missed critical events. Using AI also relieves the burden on control room staff remotely viewing of vast numbers of camera streams, which often prevents operators from spotting suspicious activity especially in busy environments and staying a step ahead of intruders and criminal behavior.
Moving to AI, customers will gain improved situational awareness with highly accurate notifications and alarms to respond more efficiently to everyday events, threats, and emergencies. This heightens the level of safety and security with better detection, verification, and quicker response times to incidents. And, users can interpret and put to use real-time and historical data to drive informed decision making across their enterprise.
They’ll also enjoy significant time-savings by leveraging the metadata speeds up investigations and saves hours if not days. By scanning large volumes of video footage, users can track and monitor persons or vehicles of interest and pinpoint their last known location, and then easily collate video clips as part of ongoing investigations or quickly export them for evidential purposes.
Even with the promise of vaccinations now on the horizon, it will still take some time before we can truly return to ‘normal’ - if ever. And despite the fact that remote working is likely to become more common, business people are eager to get back into the workplace and interact with colleagues as well as with customers. Video conferencing has proven to be a vital tool, but it can’t entirely replace the benefits of in-person interactions which drive innovation and help build relationships that are key to new sales.
Deep learning analytics that support safe back-to-work strategies can undoubtedly help. These include video solutions for social distancing, people counting & occupancy monitoring, crowd detection, and mask detection. The benefits of these
capabilities will extend well beyond the pandemic, and SI’s should continue to offer them in the future. Other opportunities born of COVID-19 also abound for SI’s. The growth of more remote and flexible working has caused some organizations to consider downsizing their office space, making the need to manage occupancy and people flow all the more in demand.
Video analytics will provide SI’s and their customers with the insight needed to optimize facilities and adjust heating, cooling, and lighting accordingly. This insight will also be useful over the long term in helping organizations determine if they should move to more efficient and flexible hub-and-spoke type models to improve their employee experience and reduce long and often expensive commutes into busy city centers.
Leveraging the business intelligence that video analytics can deliver will assist companies of all kinds to optimize their workspaces. For retailers, in particular, these tools won’t only help build the much-needed confidence to attract shoppers back in-store, they’ll also become essential in improving the customer experience and restoring profitability. And, as the technology has become more sophisticated, video analytics can now integrate with third party systems to provide far more accurate intelligence than ever before, such as the ability to distinguish between an adult shopper with a young child or a customer using a cart.
As the development of video analytics and AI solutions continues to expand, so too are cloud-based video solutions. A recent report from IFSEC Global indicates that a growing percentage of customers are opting for a mix of storage, VMS, and analytics in the cloud. Cloud-based storage and video management allows cameras and other devices to be centrally configured, managed, and monitored, remotely, while eliminating the upfront cost and maintenance of on-site storage devices and software.
While there is certainly a growing belief in the benefits of Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS) the majority of users are adopting a hybrid model with most leveraging the benefits of cloud storage. However, this becomes prohibitive for larger businesses in terms of bandwidth and can be expensive for companies operating in sectors that require long retention periods.
The hybrid model is also popular because it allows companies to choose which elements of their video system put in the cloud to meet with their specific security and operational requirements. For instance, many will benefit from the flexibility of remotely managing AI and VMS in the cloud while still maintaining far cheaper NVR or server-based storage.
While end-to-end cloud video or VSaaS certainly has its benefits, current models lock customers into expensive and lengthy contracts and ending those agreements early leaves existing equipment completely redundant. And the biggest VSaaS players often lack the range of cameras for large or specialized applications. At the same time, users are still charged upfront costs for cameras and installation fees, meaning they are not the true and attractive SaaS models found in the IT sector that come with zero upfront costs, which would certainly make them more attractive to cash strapped businesses particularly those simply looking for a surveillance system for security and safety purposes.
Actionable Intelligence for Retailers
Business intelligence particularly for brick-and-mortar retail will also continue to be a growing trend in 2021. The value that business intelligence provides organizations extends well beyond the bounds of security and safety. For example, is successfully leveraging video technologies to improve their Return on Experience (a.k.a., ROX) for customers. Simply stated, stores are looking to engage with customers, as more and more of those customers are migrating to online shopping. AI technology is a strong defense for traditional retailers in the fight to keep customers coming through their doors and enhance their ROX moxie.
Video surveillance technology and data can enhance ROX because the business intelligence advanced video analytics (IVA) give retailers accurate and valuable information about what’s going on in their stores. Armed with that insight, retailers can turn browsing into purchases using people counting and heat mapping to monitor shoppers’ movement patterns and dwell times, and correlate that info with sales information or even weather data to optimize promotions, stock levels, store layout, and better utilize staff to deliver a better customer experience.
And internal and external shrinkage remains a major challenge for loss prevention managers and a cost that few retailers can continue to absorb or pass on to customers. AI video solutions can help prevent theft with tools such as loitering detection that will identify groups gathering near high value items or goods storage areas, meaning operators and store managers can receive accurate AI-assisted notifications to intervene and pre-empt theft. Metadata will also help loss prevention managers speed up investigations into any signs of internal shrinkage often flagged by intelligent Point-of-Sale systems or notifications from their banks. They can quickly scan through hours and days of high-definition video to track persons of interest, collate footage of suspicious behavior and take appropriate action before losses quickly mount up.
Cybersecurity will undoubtedly remain a hot area into 2021 and beyond. Protecting physical security infrastructure is a huge concern in today’s world as increasingly more devices are being connected to networks. The benefits of IoT continue to expand but, so too, have the paths for attackers to take with so many more and potential entry points. Last year, Security Brief reported that experts warned IoT could be the 'asbestos of the future' and with cyber threats abound that may not be an overinflated statement. Breaches can wreak havoc not only on an organization’s bottom line, but on its overall reputation moving forward. Putting sophisticated cybersecurity measures, such as multi-factor authentication to ensure secure and authorized access, is critical. It’s also imperative that integrators work with customers to ensure no IoT device with a ‘back door’ manufacturer reset is still vulnerably residing in their surveillance set ups. Users also need to look for encryption technologies for assurance that video data is secure both at rest and in transmission and that vendors will issue timely firmware updates as threats evolve.
Savvy integrators will need to continue to educate themselves to stay on top of the latest cybersecurity technologies. Cybersecurity threats are driving convergence between security and IT departments far faster than the advent of IP video. This is making it increasingly important that heads of physical security and facilities and their integrators can talk the same language as IT and cyber professionals particularly when it comes to larger projects, working with big brands where reputation is a risk factor, firms that store personal data, or companies in highly regulated sectors.
The need to pivot and adapt
If COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that businesses need to be able to pivot and adapt quickly. Flexible and scalable solutions that are able to integrate into 3rd party systems will continue to be the solutions of choice. Businesses that were forced to switch to remote work were able to transition more easily thanks to VMS that came with easy to use desktop software for home use and even powerful functionality from smartphones and tablets.
There are many trends to look for in the year ahead, and one thing is for certain- video technology will continue evolving to adapt to the times and ever-changing security, safety, and operational challenges enterprises face. So, despite a few more tough months ahead, here’s to a brighter 2021 for all!