Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
March 25th, 2020
Author: Zohar Adler

The Cloud and the Future of Physical Security for Smart Cities

Physical Security Software for Smart Cities

The Smart City is one that is driven by the goal of improving its residents’ quality of life in terms of traffic flows, pollution prevention, safety and security and more. To achieve this, they utilize Internet of Things (IoT)-connected sensors to collect data for intelligent decision-making across many agencies and departments. For tracking what’s happening in their environs and improving physical security and public safety, cities commonly use smart sensors and intelligent infrastructure including smart street lamps, traffic lights, and video content analytics-enhanced CCTV surveillance. In recent years, many of these technologies have been significantly improved by artificial intelligence (AI) which enables the accurate identification, extraction and classification of the data collect.

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In the case of surveillance cameras, it can be challenging for humans to efficiently review, process and analyze the countless hours of video footage generated by the hundreds—or sometimes thousands—of cameras in a smart city. Fortunately, AI-based video content analytics can effectively and accurately deliver both granular information – such as persons and objects of interest – and general trend data for maximizing operational efficiency. It is one of the leading technologies in the physical security industry, because it enables video investigators to accelerate time-to-target by filtering video based on distinct search combinations; review hours of video in minutes; proactively respond to situational changes in their environment; and effectively collaborate on cases for swift resolution.

In addition to the operational justifications for investing in video intelligence software, another factor that drives cities’ adoption of this physical security technology is its flexible delivery and deployment models. Just as the spending power, resources and requirements of one city are different from the next, each city’s surveillance and technological needs are unique. Therefore, technologies that can be flexibly deployed appeal to cities looking to expand their technology stack. From cloud platforms to massive on-premises installations and modest plug-and-play appliances, video content analytics solutions offer organizations, such as cities, the freedom of choice in how they implement the technology. Ultimately, this drives its adoption.

This blog post will examine how the physical security and video surveillance industries are embracing cloud services and the factors that guide an organization’s choice between cloud, on-premises or hybrid deployments.

IT Benefits of Cloud Solutions

One factor driving the growing popularity of the cloud is that it shifts a lot of IT responsibility from within an organization to the cloud service provider. On-premises solutions require servers to support the software, and servers have costs, take up space, require extensive electrical and cooling resources and demand ongoing maintenance. The larger the system, the larger the total cost of ownership and investment in enabling hardware – not to mention the personnel to manage and maintain the system. For a city, keeping costs down and streamlining productivity are critical considerations, so having the option to invest in a cloud-based solution resolves a lot of pains: It does not require servers, because the cloud service provider maintains data centers with the servers that drive the technology solution. Cloud service providers also ensure redundancy, so if one physical site falls or fails, another data center maintains the service and keeps it running. For a city strapped for budget and resources, these considerations make a cloud-based solution an appealing choice and enable affordable adoption of enterprise-grade technology.

The Dollars and Sense of the Cloud

Offering a low cost of entry, cloud services incur a fraction of the capital expenditures, procurement procedures, installation and deployment costs of on-premises implementations. For city integrations that require significant hardware investment, not having the option of a cloud service can mean having to prioritize investments and, potentially, miss out on adopting solutions that can meaningfully drive productivity and public safety.

The customer’s time-to-value is also reduced because hardware doesn’t need to be purchased and installed. Typically, cloud services are based on a subscription model, which streamlines user onboarding and service discontinuation. Users can sign up and start using the service with immediate effect. Users also benefit from the fact that cloud vendors can make changes and reconfigure multiple customer sites at once; this saves organizations time and resources, because the cloud service independently executes all software updates quickly, across all users.

Given that cities often have limited time and resources to spend on managing data centers, servers, cybersecurity threats and software maintenance, having the option of a cloud-based service is compelling. When it comes to the Smart City IT landscape, it is sensible for the users to freely choose which deployment model works best for their organization. Whether it’s deciding between subscription-based cloud services or on-premises software licenses; a rapid and seamless onboarding against an extensive on-premises hardware installation; or other considerations, the ability to select a solution that complements the existing IT infrastructure and budgets is what enables the organization to embrace advanced “smart” technologies, such as video content analytics.

The Cloud is Secure

Many organizations across the globe are adopting cloud-based physical security solutions, but it hasn’t always been that way: Some industries, including the physical security industry, have been wary of transitioning to the cloud because of cybersecurity, privacy and hacking concerns – prejudices which often are based on earlier, less developed cloud solutions, which have since evolved.

Today’s cloud services offer robust cybersecurity, with the service providers managing the security and infrastructure to take those concerns off the backs of the customers. The fact is, the best way of ensuring security and reliability – outside of having no computers at all – is always to use the best and most recent technologies to safeguard systems, devices and data. This is exactly what cloud service providers do, because it is their core business. They continually develop and improve upon tools to ensure the cloud service is as secure – if not more secure – than an on-premises solution. As cloud services have advanced and customers have become more informed and about the technology, more and more organizations and governments are adopting cloud technologies because the benefits outweigh the risks.

The Value of Video Content Analytics for the Cloud

Solution providers recognize that IT professionals, whether from municipal agencies or private enterprises, want and need technologies that are secure and can flexibly integrate with existing infrastructure, rather than require broad infrastructural changes and investments. Alongside other core technology solutions for cities, video content analytics platforms offer flexible deployment options to meet the diverse business needs of various end users. With options for on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployments, smart cities now have even more reason to maximize their existing CCTV surveillance networks with video intelligence solutions to drive productive and proactive law enforcement, intelligent traffic analysis and optimization and efficient city operational management.