Security Magazine

Video Surveillance: See It Now; See It Later; or Go Both Ways

February 14, 2012
Markets Chart 2

Remember Cathy Cruz Marrero?

No? Well, maybe you remember her starring role in what was probably the most viewed security video of 2011. While texting on her phone walking the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, Pa., she fell into a mall water fountain.

Officers of the private security firm working the mall’s public areas saw the incident live as Marrero quickly and embarrassingly recovered. Unfortunately for her, one of the security officers recorded the event off a security monitor and onto a personal cell phone and the video found its way to YouTube, where it went viral, spurring most every TV station to also show the incident.

Unfortunate for the security officer, too, who was quickly sacked.

Marrerojust as quickly threatened a lawsuit. So the mall just as rapidly started to review its recorded and stored video, if needed.

Overall, the mall fall shows how security can see it now for immediate action or store, retrieve and view video later for forensics or other business uses. Or do both. Still, the choices for handling security video are not necessarily cut and dry. And then there is that lesson learned to know how much security is needed to protection the security video itself.

Now or later? There are myriad factors that can go into decisions by enterprise security leaders. No doubt, it is all about managing risk. But it is also a matter of corporate culture, budget, staffing requirements, regulatory mandates, the length of video retention, uses of video beyond security, and, most particularly, variations by types of enterprises and government agencies. While there is no overarching right answer to see it now or see it later, there seems to be commonality within markets – businesses and organizations – that share their own types of risks, best practices, operational policies and protocols. Elsewhere is this article is a matrix that shows how one industry expert views it.

Still, Clint Hilbert, former vice president of security for Paramount Pictures and former Commander of Protective Services for the U.S. NATO Delegation in Belgium, says that, when it comes to security video actively monitored or recorded, his down-to-earth advice is “If you spent the money for a camera, always record it. All security video should be recorded, in my opinion.” Hilbert now heads up a consultant firm on North Carolina.

J Michael Coleman, vice president, commercial real estate for AlliedBarton Security Services, makes the same point as Hilbert. “If you have the capability to record security video, do so,” he contends.

With such a philosophy in mind, it may be more an issue of how much of the video an organization retains and for how long.

There are many options. Coleman points out that remote or hosted monitoring may be effective at a cost-effective price. “Alarmed events are most always recorded. Nine times out of ten, there is a security presence at an office lobby desk; but, at night, go to electronic monitoring.” He adds that, with more security officers providing active monitoring, reviewing alarm video or retrieved video, security firms must “look to hire people with a whole new group of skill sets. “They have to be more comfortable with computers and technology.”

But blanket solutions may not be everyone’s taste. For many retail operations, for instance, there is very little active monitoring but much recorded for security forensics and for a growing number of marketing and merchandizing applications, according to Jim Shepherd, who covers the retail sector for integrator Protection 1.

“It’s a value proposition,” he says. Recorded video can play a significant role in slip and falls and major crimes but may not make business sense for small potatoes shoplifting. Permanent security cameras and their recorded images may prove more useful in ascertaining traffic patterns and creating heat maps around displays, in aisles and near shelves. “Sometimes, retailers will set up cameras for a short period of time to gain business intelligence” from recorded video, points out Shepherd.

A kind of active monitoring in some retail operations includes public monitors hanging from the ceiling or on shelves. The displays visually show customers existence of cameras and, at times, can also deliver a marketing message.

Also agreeing with the value of recording security video is Dave Jackson, senior product manager video management systems and analytics for American Dynamics, who says that “live monitoring is customer dependent. Some of it has to do with regulatory needs. And an event-driven approach can be a hybrid” of active and recorded monitoring. Jackson comments that “a lot does depend on the quality of the video system for picking up motion,” as one example. “And there is the consideration of the cost of storing video versus bandwidth.”

Overall, choosing among active monitoring, monitoring with the aid of video analytics, recording of video and even remote and hosted video can be viewed by the differences inherent in what Steve Surfaro of Axis Communications calls the diverse markets that use the technology. “Take air transportation where security is dealing with lives and must act in the short term based on images and analytics.” Then there are the casinos where active video monitoring and some analytics fast track to cut down cash losses for the most part.

Kostas Mellos, sales leader, video and transmission at Interlogix, also looks at monitoring from another useful perspective. “It is human nature to want answers instantaneously, and the same applies when it comes to viewing live versus recorded security video. Most people would like to know what’s happening as it happens. Dedicated personnel may be required to view the live video, which is costly. With smaller systems, live viewing is usually not required.  However for larger facilities, such as casinos, hotels, malls, schools and hospitals, it may be appropriate to monitor live video.”

Mellos knows that recorded video provides “an excellent opportunity for forensic analysis of events. Investigators are able to review footage in the event of an incident.” And “Video is recorded in the majority, if not all cases.” But Mellos agrees with Surfaro that there are strategic and implementation differences among markets. Mellos says, “There are many reasons for recording security video. For retail establishments, loss and theft prevention is a major concern.  For entertainment venues and larger sites open to the public, video can provide important evidence if there is an accident, slip and fall, or crime.” 

Better Eyes on Dark Screen Monitoring

It’s a given: Enterprise security leaders must not assume that someone is watching all of the time. According to some industry research, an operator can only monitor about eight screens at one time. After only 12 minutes of continuous video monitoring, an operator will often miss 45 percent of activity. And after only 22 minutes of continuous video monitoring, an operator will often miss 95 percent of activity.

So consider going dark. Some operations keep all screens dark until actionable intelligence requires viewing. Only then will the screens requiring action go from black to will show video. Such designs also allow playback of previous minutes, showing nearby cameras, too.