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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

The Merging Roles Of Security And The IT Department

06 December, 2010
This week's guest blog comes from Iain Cameron of Mirasys UK who examines the role that the IT department plays in ensuring the effectiveness of modern CCTV surveillance installations and its increasingly important role in security
The CCTV industry has undergone huge technological developments since the first camera and surveillance solutions emerged half a century ago in the 1960’s. In the early days, CCTV technology was relatively crude due to a heavy reliance on analogue electronics. As time has passed, technology has changed, and as a society we have found ourselves in a digital era – a computer age in which cameras, like computers, have become smaller and more efficient. Similarly, developments around video recording technology has led to more convenient recording methods. Whilst these advancements have meant significant improvements in the way that we record and monitor CCTV, one of the questions we now face is "where do we go next"? Iain Cameron, managing director at Mirasys UK takes a look at the changing market and the long-term considerations that businesses should take into account before significant alterations to the CCTV infrastructure are made. The introduction of IP-based and HD surveillance coupled with the growing popularity of video analytics, presents a new challenge for businesses. Before installing IP-based or HD CCTV networks, or when updating existing set-ups, businesses should first thoroughly audit their IT infrastructure to ensure that provisions are in place to cope with the demands that new systems can bring. When utilized correctly, both IP-based and HD surveillance can dramatically improve the quality of CCTV data and the efficiency at which images can be processed, especially when combined with industry leading video analytics. However, the additional bandwidth demands that come hand-in-hand with these technologies mean that CCTV is increasingly becoming an issue for the IT department, moving away form the traditional notion that surveillance is purely a security issue. As high bandwidth is required to maintain the flow of image data from camera to storage where it can then be archived, recording resolution, compression and frame-rate will all impact the amount of storage required and indeed the bandwidth required to get it there. Businesses therefore need to consider the level of image quality that meets both the security demands and IT capabilities. In some cases, it may be that the need for a high frame-rate should be balanced against the delivery of fewer, but higher quality images. These considerations should be decided by both the security and IT teams, ensuing that requirements of both departments are addressed at the outset. As businesses look to take advantage of innovations such as cloud computing to drive efficiencies across the organisation, CCTV could become even more integrated into the IT remit. For example, cloud-based CCTV systems have been cited as a potential major development in the way that business manage and monitor surveillance images. The potential benefits of a CCTV cloud are clear, both from a cost, maintenance and efficiency perspective. For example, as it stands, Local Authority areas may have multiple CCTV systems; schools, libraries, town centres and housing estates are likely to have separate CCTV systems monitoring various areas or buildings within the council, each with their own back-end software. If an incident occurs in one of these surveillance areas and the spills into another surveillance area, security staff are required to go through a cumbersome and time-consuming process of collecting image data for forensic investigation from both CCTV systems. The idea for a cloud-based CCTV platform could address this issue by storing image data centrally, meaning that videos or still images can be easily and quickly retrieved from one archive. A cloud CCTV platform would also lead to improved return on investment (ROI) as the cost of back-end hardware, monitoring software and maintenance is spread amongst users. There would need to be strict service level agreements (SLAs) between the CCTV hosting provider and the end-users to guarantee the security of data, and the accessibility of data and reliability would also need to be addressed. However, the benefits of a cloud-based CCTV system are invaluable in terms of efficiency and accessibility whilst providing a greater ROI in the long run for all parties involved. The recent advancements in the CCTV market have meant that the design, implementation or updates of a surveillance system a system require security departments to collaborate with IT departments throughout the planning and implementation process. Increased demands on IT networks need to be addressed before any infrastructure decisions are made, however, centralised, cloud based services could prove to be the next step for the industry, offering growth potential for both security and IT personnel.
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