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Technology improvements, definition of interoperability standards and a clear SMB business case, all combine to make the time right for VSaaS

August 7th, 2013 by Frank Crouwel

There has been a great deal of talk about Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) in recent years. Authoritative sources are starting to highlight the business case for VSaaS or Hosted Video Storage.

As the SecurityInfoWatch article indicates, there are many different flavours of hosted surveillance storage. The argument runs that the advent of multi-megapixel HD cameras and the proliferation of these cameras have created an explosion of video data which all needs to be stored and managed.

The article suggests a hybrid video surveillance storage model using internal (i.e. in-house DVR, NVR, VMS-embedded server, NAS or other storage device) and external storage (i.e. cloud) usage being increasingly considered by larger enterprises.  The cloud could be used for holding backups in this hybrid scenario, for example.

But the opportunity for VSaaS becomes that much more compelling when you look at the Small and Medium-sized Business (SMB) market. The benefits of cloud are well known, after all. We now back up our mobile data to the cloud and use many cloud-based applications in our day to day activities.

With familiarity comes the acceptance of the benefits of cloud infrastructure, particularly amongst SMBs that do not necessarily have a highly robust IT infrastructure or the IT maintenance resources to limit their operational risks. For SMB owners cashflow is critical, so they place a huge value on paying for services via small monthly subscriptions rather than in lump sums, mostly taken upfront.

There is now no doubt that in the sub-10 camera market VSaaS has a real opportunity to build market share. The odds are stacked in its favour – not least because of its affordability for SMBs.

Take the scenario of a retailer with a few cameras covering the front of the store, its aisles, store room, till and counter area. The shop manager could now buy HD quality SD card fitted-cameras which hold up to a week’s worth of images. He could use a subscription-based VSaaS to hold his archive of images for a longer period. These images could also be viewed and analysed by a security manager centrally if he is part of a chain of shops, all in the cloud. This model eliminates the need for each shop to buy and configure a PC with a Video Management System (VMS) and link these cameras into this VMS.

A reasonably high specification server with VMS software license and per-camera license fee might cost over £3,000 just to commission. You will need to add annual licenses fees and upgrade support agreements. You will have to deal with the usual Windows maintenance, updates and troubleshooting, which is often beyond the resources of an SMB.

Much of this cost can be eliminated by small companies running a few cameras only.  For these SMBs the only initial cost needs to be for the purchase and installation of the cameras and cabling, perhaps connecting them with an existing laptop or PC to view the resulting images. Now that many network cameras are ‘plug and play’, they can sign up to a VSaaS service via a web browser thereby cutting operating costs on a four camera system to as little as £20 per month.

We believe the time is right for VSaaS, in the UK SMB market at least, and not simply because the price is right. A key technical factor in its favour is the work that surveillance camera manufacturers have done in the last few years to ensure easy plug and play capability. It is worth having a look at the work in this area by market leading camera manufacturer Axis Communications and by ONVIF, the open standards industry body, which was co-founded by Axis six years ago.

Axis’ products have always supported the Universal Plug and Play (uPnP) Ethernet standard since its birth more than 25 years ago.  They went further than this in the last couple of years to launch a ‘One Click’ service which automates the process of finding an IP path out of through any router they are attached to.  The concept behind One Click was to make it easy for end-users to self-install a small number of Axis cameras so that their channel partners can develop subscription-based remote maintenance and VSaaS offerings.

The trend towards edge-based video recording and video management is also an interesting stimulus to VSaaS adoption. The wider availability of 128GB, and even 256GB, High Capacity SD cards (SDHC) which we detailed in a recent NWS blog post, offers more options for integrators to offer cloud-based services to support edge-based recording.

So what else has Axis done to make life easier for the DIY installer to put in a small number of cameras?  This AXIS Camera Companion (ACC) video tutorial walks installers and end-users alike through a very simple set up of an edge-based recording focused system using ACC. Free plug-ins enable easy viewing of cameras via Android or Apple mobile devices. Your selected VSaaS provider should be able to offer a backup service in the cloud for those worried about holding all recordings in the cameras or local laptop or for those wanting easy remote viewing.

Axis is also progressively adding more processing power into its cameras via upgrades of its own ARTPEC chipset, designed to do more video processing and analytics in the camera itself.  The fifth generation of this chipset, which is due out later this year, will offer the option of doing even more intelligent video analytics and edge-based video management in the camera.

It is also worth considering developments at the open standards body ONVIF which develops technical standards for easier networking and remote controlling of cameras as well as integrating with task or product-specific third party software.

One new ONVIF standard, designed to improve video streaming, called Profile S, is also worth a closer look as it should also stimulate VSaaS adoption. Profile S is ONVIF’s first profile which tackles video and audio streaming, PTZ and relay output control as well as video encoder configuration and multicast support.  Profile S is already available and in widespread adoption by manufacturers over the last year.

In addition to the innovations of leading camera manufacturers and the key standards bodies, it is worth considering the stimulus that 4G cellular networks will provide as they are rolled out nationally over the next two years. 4G will make it easier for an SMB owner or security management firm to remotely view sites’ cameras out of office hours via mobile devices.

It is undeniable that VSaaS adoption has been slow in the UK. We are still in the early adopter phase. But with growing acceptance of cloud-based services, camera technology and compatibility improvements, the building of a clear business case for SMBs, and now with the establishment of a number of highly robust and proven VSaaS services, all the key pieces of the jigsaw are finally in place for wider take-up.

NW Systems recently launched a range of cloud hosting services into the UK from Europe’s leading VSaaS provider Cameramanager.com, via its renowned online store NetworkWebcams.co.uk. It is working with Panasonic and Axis initially on this offering.

 

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