Municipalities, law enforcement agencies, large enterprises and educational institutions are continuing to invest in video surveillance and monitoring to ensure public safety. The roll-out of IP-based cameras and reasonably-priced reliable wireless networks, has led to a revolution in networked cameras and city-wide coordination of these cameras. In order to manage and make sense of the raw footage that these camera create, a strong video management system (VMS) must exist.
Video management is the most important tool and can make or break the success of your video surveillance deployment. And what we’ve seen in our practice is that it’s such a new technology to the person responsible for implementation, that they are often challenged to find a solution when they don’t quite understand all of the intricacies involved in choosing a platforms.
This is why we’ve created a list of the top five things you should look for when investing in a video surveillance management platform.
1. Ease of use—from the system management perspective. The key functions of a VMS is to manage the behavior of the surveillance cameras—which camera’s work together, where they should point to when an event happens and who can see the data from which groups of cameras. Look for a VMS that enables camera grouping, user rights grouping (who can look at which cameras and which footage from those cameras), system-wide monitoring from “every pane of glass”, and a robust rules engine that allows you to customizes your data and access rules as needed. The right platform will save you hundreds of hours of work over less expensive and robust systems.
2. Ease of use—from the end user perspective. Once you’ve deployed your VMS and done that well, the success of city or department-wide adoption of the platform will largely depend on the ease of use for the end-user, both in the operations center and out in the field. Here are some things you should consider. Is it a clean interface without distractions? Users of the VMS need to be focusing on the images coming through, not on distractions delivered by the VMS. How much system resources does the VMS use on end user devices? You’ll want a fast and light interface that uses low system resources on portable devices such as laptops, tablets or cameras with very little memory or hard disk space. Your VMS needs to have flexible camera viewing so that your end users can get the best possible angles and it should have multiscreen support. Finally a great VMS will have an intelligent, optimized workflow built in, optimized workflow that makes it easy to find, retrieve, export and hand off video when needed.
3. Security. The end-goal of most video surveillance footage is to use that footage for prosecutor purposes. Because of complex “chain-of-evidence” laws, the gathering and distribution of video footage must adhere to strict guidelines. In order to protect theses chain of evidence guidelines, your VMS should come with a few key security features. First you should be able to encrypt exported video and then digitally sign the exported video for tracking purposes. Finally, you should be able to export your video in to a priority format with an embedded player and lock down the original video once it’s been exported. Granular user rights, proprietary formatting and “lock downs” help to keep video pure and out of the reach of others to reduces mass distribution (i.e. YouTube) of crucial evidence.
4. Open Platform. After several years, VMS solutions are now becoming commonplace. Most people understand them and there are some true market leaders. What people are finally understanding is that video camera networks combined with VMS can bring to the table so many more things that simply recording video and spending hours culling though all of that content. In the last two years there has been an enormous upswing in add-on application that move these systems from a complex, reactive tool to an easy to use, pro-active crime fighting solutions. Integration with numerous camera manufacturers, device manufacturers, and 3rd party applications such as Hawkeye, Briefcam, Agent VI have made things like gun-fire detection, license plate recognition and culing though hours of video in less than 10 minutes a possibility. However, in order for these applications to be useful, your VMS must be an open platform with open APIs. If your VMS cannot easily integrate with other solutions, your surveillance network applications will be limited.
5. Migration Path. Finally, question the migration path of your VMS. Most initial deployments of a video surveillance network are small and limited in scope. Because of this, you may only want to pay for an entry-level VMS solution. Which is fine, initially. But as the number of networked devices expand, the number applications grow and the number of users increase, you’ll need to upgrade your VMS. Make sure that what you are buying today can grow with your network to avoid forklift upgrades and retaining of staff.
There are a number of VMS solutions available on the market today. WLANmall has helped many cities, schools, local law enforcement agencies and large agencies create surveillance clouds as well as more complex distributed deployments using the Milestone XProtect software. We’re here to help if you have questions during your evaluation.