Centralized video monitoring has long been the holy grail of our industry because of its inherent efficiencies, including the optimized use of existing resources. Some early attempts to fashion a centralized video monitoring system included the use of videoconferencing codecs with multi-point camera capability. The limitations of the scalability, the high cost and the need for dedicated ISDN lines soon proved this solution unacceptable to the video security and surveillance market. As a result, the pursuit for a mainstream centralized monitoring solution seemed to languish – at least for a few years.

Then the advent of networking came along.

New software and digital hardware technologies combined with the increasing utilization of Ethernet, IP and wireless mesh based networks provides the control and transmission platforms required for advanced centralized control operations. Proprietary technologies have also been replaced by open platform solutions, which have further expanded the possibilities for more seamless means of integrating disparate manufacturers’ video surveillance products. These advances have also opened up new business models for end users, system integrators, service providers and manufacturers alike.

Web-based Applications, Too

Applications for centralized video monitoring are found across a wide variety of vertical security markets including retail loss prevention, property management, logistics, transportation, government and gaming, to name a few. The concept has further expanded to include Web-based monitoring for marketing and promotional activities in the form of video browsing as well as the more recent mobile monitoring technology.

What makes centralized video monitoring so attractive is its enabling ability, which allows security professionals to view data and manage an entire network of security devices from a single location, anywhere on the network. It is a significant step beyond centralized alarm monitoring and event management because it provides live visual confirmation of an incident. Additionally, video auditing and analytics can be employed to further enhance its value and benefits.

Now, instead of disparate video surveillance systems, which are monitored locally, an in-house corporate network can be used as a nationwide video monitoring network. This method not only links each store to a centralized management network but can also provide advanced functionality such as multi-site monitoring and management of security data, simultaneous monitoring, recording and playback, bi-directional communication (i.e. PTZ commands) and distribution of real time video to local law enforcement.

In the case of grocery chains, some stores have integrated their POS (Point of Sale) appliances to the video surveillance systems, which are centrally monitored. By using sophisticated programmable software, management can more easily track discrepancies and questionable activities at the check out as well as obtain real-time feedback. In some instances, the recorded footage can also be used for employee training.

Centralized video monitoring is a key tool for loss prevention professionals because it enhances coverage and assists personnel in performing their duties more efficiently. When combined with store operations, merchandising, marketing and human resources, centralized video monitoring can become a source of actionable intelligence, which allows management to better utilize their resources and improve business.

Reducing Costs

On a smaller scale such as an educational facility with multiple campuses in a surrounding geographic region, centralized video monitoring is equally as effective in helping to decrease and deter criminal activity. Additionally, the deployment of centralized video monitoring can help combat the vulnerability of the school’s financial operations. Because most schools have an extensive and sophisticated network, digital cameras can be added to the video surveillance network for only the cost of purchase and installation. With the increased coverage provided by the additional cameras and centralized monitoring, on-going expenditures for labor can be reduced. In some instances, insurance premiums can also be reduced.

The concept of centralized video monitoring also provides new business opportunities to systems integrators and security service providers in addition to smaller, regional monitoring companies. Due to financial or other corporate considerations, many organizations outsource their monitoring to a third party. The extensive expertise and services of these providers can help an organization’s security management overcome the obstacles and complexities of integrating video and data in a digital environment as well as the monitoring, management, emergency response and forensic analysis necessary to an overall security and surveillance system.

Video alarm verification is certainly one of the benefits that centralized video monitoring brings to a monitoring service provider’s offerings. If an alarm is generated, a video image of the site location is automatically sent to the central station along with the alarm signal. Central station attendants can then visually confirm the nature of the alarm and alert local police. More and more, municipal law enforcement agencies are refusing to respond to alarms unless they have been verified, and service providers can elicit additional revenue from this service.

Additionally, services that include statistical summaries with visual documentation, monitoring processes or managing people can also offer new vertical market opportunities to a service provider. By leveraging their core capabilities with video and data recording and auditing, security providers can go beyond the traditional mindset and offer enhanced value on an enterprise-wide level.

Finally, centralized video monitoring has diversified the traditional security vendor roles or, more commonly, partnering between manufacturers. Increasingly, products are designed with an open platform and developer tools are provided so that integration with other security related products is possible.

Market demands for centralized video monitoring have also provided the impetus for manufacturers to add advanced features to their products, which supplement the application. Today’s digital IP cameras feature monitoring enhancements such as megapixel image quality, built-in intelligence (motion detection, alarm management, locking controls, etc.) and encryption for secure communication.

Robotic security video units can be wirelessly integrated with a voice alert receiver via radio frequency signal. When the unit is activated, the receiver will deliver an audible announcement to security officers or property owners. For example, a message stating “Someone has entered the back lot” could be played by the receiver in the guardhouse.

SIDEBAR: Robotics, Low-light Video Make Impression

Centralized video monitoring is a hot business strategy, according to Security Magazine columnist Cynthia Freschi. But are other trends emerging such as robotics and specialty low-light cameras.

For example, a new automated crime deterrent product from Cross Point Industries protects large outdoor areas with a high-intensity light and security video capabilities that make it seem human-operated to an intruder.

Finding the Intruder

When activity is detected within a protected area, the light will turn on and rotate until it finds the intruder.  The light will then follow the intruder, giving the impression that they are being watched and recorded. The Ground Observing Reconnaissance Transmitter (GORT) unit includes a 500-watt halogen lamp, a security video camera mount and connections for 12 VDC camera power and video signal.  Such technology detects and responds to the presence of intruders within a protected area, while supporting cameras are typically used in outdoor environments.  

The key deterrent feature of the patented GORT unit is the effect of the tracking light on intruders.  When activated, the GORT unit aims its bright light in the direction of the intruder and follows the target if it moves around on the property.  Wireless sensors extend the reach of such an application so it can detect and track activity up to 1,000 feet away.  When activated, the light will oscillate left and right and then back to the target to remind individuals that they have been detected and are being watched.

Business applications include the sides or rooftops of large buildings, automobile dealerships, truck storage facilities, impound lots, schools and residences.  A high-end automobile dealership in Los Angeles is among the first businesses to install 12 of the units.

Another development centers on low light cameras that do not use IR LEDs. For instance, Speco Technologies’ latest series of cameras see in low light with “intensifier technology” that amplifies and maximizes existing light to generate pictures in darkness where other cameras cannot. A new feature being shown on the floor of the International Security Conference later this month are snap on covers that convert housings from the standard dark grey to decorator white. These covers can also be painted to match any décor without painting the actual camera housing.