Video management systems (VMS) come in many varieties today — from basic offerings embedded in surveillance cameras to highly complex, feature-rich software suites. While VMS have been around for a long time now, they’ve evolved significantly in recent times and are tasked with much more than merely showing live and recorded video.
“The move from analog to IP pretty much revolutionized surveillance operations, providing digitized video streams over the network,” says Andrew Myung, president, IDIS America. This meant security managers no longer needed to be in the control room to manage and control their surveillance, as operators now had complete visual awareness across multiple sites.
This, Myung adds, gave them complete centralized visual awareness along with distributed access via web browsers, client software, even smartphones and tablets.
“Control room efficiency was vastly improved, and, quite often, meant that security and health and safety managers no longer needed to travel to visit sites and investigate incidents,” he says. “Increased processing power and improved compression technology has also provided further efficiency. VMS can now handle hundreds of full-HD and even 4K cameras, and deliver high-quality live view with little to no latency, without the need for additional storage.”
Per Björkdahl, chairman, ONVIF Steering Committee, points out that the change in VMS capabilities has been an evolution that’s taken place over time as computing power has increased and become less expensive.
“Analytics in general, with the increased processing power, have seen an uptick in use within VMS systems,” he notes, adding that what used to be considered specialty features have become much more mainstream.
Jammy DeSousa, senior product manager, security products for Johnson Controls, agrees. “Verifications, dispatch and case management — all are becoming mainstream now,” he says. “And, forensic capabilities have become more efficient in recent years, enabling users to quickly search large amounts of data, large areas of a facility or zoom into an area in great detail.”
Keep reading to learn the latest VMS trends, developments and opportunities to leverage for additional campus security benefits.
Migrating to Cloud
Managing video in the Cloud is another strong trend of late. But, as Bret McGowan, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Vicon Industries, cautions, there are still many limitations to a complete Cloud deployment.
“Issues concerning bandwidth, storage costs, cybersecurity and the industry’s technical knowledge are all factors holding back a total conversion to Cloud-based VMS platforms,” he contends. “That being said, there are a growing number of companies offering Cloud-ready solutions and the market is growing as these barriers continue to be overcome.”
DeSousa reports that he is seeing a shift with pieces of a system going to the Cloud. First, the management application server might go off-site, he says, due to benefits in resilience and its overall cost-effectiveness – offering an “infrastructure as a service” model.
Although some users are putting everything on the Cloud, it’s a slower shift, he believes, noting that the hybrid model is a more popular option.
For certain businesses, leveraging the Cloud for VMS and/or data storage makes a great deal of financial sense, notes Laurent Villeneuve, product marketing manager at Genetec. Cloud-based infrastructure substantially reduces up-front investment in hardware, he says, because you never pay for unused capacity or system maintenance, nor do you have to worry about hardware becoming obsolete and failing.
“It allows you to scale at your own pace. Operating expenditure looks better than capital expenditure on the books to most accountants,” he points out. “For many, a hybrid approach might be ideal, as the need to offload older video clips can become a burden depending on your policy on video data retention.
“For example, if we take large multisite video deployment with lots of high definition video being exchanged between multiple users, bandwidth and storage can still be a challenge when relying strictly on the Cloud. For a federated architecture with a mix of large video systems stored on premises, bringing in data from smaller remote sites that are fully hosted can offer a more suitable solution. But for this you need a highly flexible platform that enables this kind of deployment, with systems that talk the same language.”
The cybersecurity threat landscape is a complex one, Myung observes, and to be properly addressed it requires a change in mindset in which manufacturers work more closely with integrators and end-users.
“Integrators and end users need to be sure they’re working with trusted vendors that have taken all the steps possible to address common cybersecurity threats and that encompass not only the VMS vendor, but the surveillance manufacturers as well.”
In terms of configuration, integrators need to ensure adequate measures are implemented across the entire surveillance setup. As a centralized platform, ideally the VMS should be physically or virtually isolated, he adds.
“At the same time, it’s imperative that engineers ensure the hardening of endpoints such as cameras, network peripherals, as well as other IoT devices, and where possible, limit connectivity unless absolutely necessary for user requirements. Timely firmware updates are essential together with password management, multifactor authentication, SSL/TLS encryption and certificate management. Proprietary protocols and customized database file structures are less familiar to hackers.”
The push now is for all communication traffic with the VMS to be encrypted, echoes Troy Wideman, regional marketing manager, Bosch Security and Safety Systems.
“One method is to utilize HTTPS connections with cameras and subsystem components. Another example is by nature of certificates, so that devices can confirm they are communicating with only devices that are capable of doing so,” he says. “In seeing how VMS systems are dealing with cybersecurity, it could help to push other devices on the network to utilize similar methods.”
Much of a VMS’ cybersecurity is based on proper practices of the IT manager and the network configuration, McGowan adds. Firewall settings, good password management, user access and virus protection are all first-line steps towards good cybersecurity in any system.
“A good VMS can help enhance that by offering options that include the need to change default passwords (because everyone knows the default passwords of today’s cameras), an operational dashboard that helps IT managers understand who’s logged into the system, and audit logs to ensure users are following proper protocols.”
As Villenueve cautions, however, adding new devices and technology is not a guaranteed way of improving cybersecurity, although it must be a central requirement for video management solutions because of the potential risk an unsecure system would pose to an organization.
“Cybersecurity is one of the most important considerations when deploying a video surveillance solution,” he says. “A poorly secured camera, unencrypted communications between a server and client application, or out-of-date firmware can all be exploited by cybercriminals. It’s critical to have a VMS that employs a security strategy that protects your system against both physical and cyber threats with multiple layers of defense, including encryption, multi-factor authentication and authorization.”
VMS Opportunities Abound
Recent VMS advancements open up many different opportunities, Wideman emphasizes. Once the main function of a VMS was to provide live and recorded video, but now it’s part of a larger ecosystem.
“That system can utilize analytic data from cameras in a retail environment and display it to help them make decisions on where to locate items on the store floor,” he says. “It can be installed in traffic systems to monitor traffic flow and alert users to congestion or traffic traveling in the wrong direction.”
That system can also be used with artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition technology, Wideman suggests, to identify known offenders. It can also be used in concert with access control to help fortify entry procedures or alert users of possible events.
“The possibilities are endless as long as integrators understand what is available to them and how systems can work to solve end user problems,” DeSouza says.
Installations will be smoother by ensuring the deployment is simplified and streamlined.
Erin Harrington has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. This article originally ran in CS sister publication Security Sales & Integration. It has been edited.
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