The future of cloud-based technologies is pretty clear to forward-thinking security integrators. Cloud computing is really about freedom and location independence. The cloud model and its impact on the future of business are established. Software as a service is one of three major cloud architectures (platform and infrastructure being the other two) that are being embraced for both cost savings and security considerations. Surveillance as a service is a starting point.

With early cloud initiatives the cost and capabilities of network bandwidth and storage were an impediment to widespread acceptance. Today technology enables the financial justification for eliminating IT infrastructure and support costs. This shift in the usage model away from in-house IT is well underway, and the question a traditional integrator needs to ask is, “How does this impact my long-term business model?” This is an answer that needs to be grounded in reality rather then emotions. Small and medium businesses will seek cloud service providers because these businesses do not employ IT professionals, and the largest firms cannot resist the cost savings. The hybrid model (half in house / half on the cloud) is the first phase toward an almost total public cloud model (excluding limited private clouds), which will eventually prevail. The utility analogy is very accurate.

Video surveillance as a cloud-based service is in its early success stages. The hype has been around for the last five years. This rollout will take multiple forms over time as more integrated solutions can be packaged into various cloud security à la carte offerings. The market will grow from limited “video only” surveillance solutions (a school bus) to more advanced PSIM-type software as a service (SaaS) deployments (critical infrastructure). The range from small plug-and-play to large-scale enterprise operations is easily addressed through the elasticity and flexibility of the cloud architecture and financed from operating budgets.

Policing is a good cloud benchmark for the security business to consider. The basic function of “protecting and serving” is moving up the technology curve from reactive to predictive, thanks to software analytics and integration to sensor technologies. Law enforcement agencies analyze an increasing amount of intelligence (data, voice, and video) to anticipate crime trends and respond proactively to criminal activity. The “technology on the patrol” resource is in many circumstances cloud-based, and an offshoot of existing combat solutions. Miniature video devices allow officers to wear cameras on their person and be networked in real time to an integrated GPS. Command centers can access remote camera deployments (officers, vehicles, perimeter, drones) and manage situations in real time. The police grid is evolving in tandem with the smart grid. This benefit provides a force multiplier that is cloud enabled. Better public service, improved police safety, and less overall cost. Our law enforcement community may not be information technology professionals by trade, but it provides a prime example of the power the cloud brings to improving a security organization, starting with surveillance as a foundation technology.

What is needed? Cloud education and a good compass regarding how this service-led focus will change the business dynamic of the integrator. Cloud services and educating customers will be critical. Cloud computing is widely deployed today in handheld devices. Perimeter security will always exist in the physical space, even while it has been “virtually” erased in networks. Wireless endpoints (individuals) are becoming security enablers and risks simultaneously. The cloud changes the business model for security integrators. Someday, we will look back and realize that the momentum started very innocently with video surveillance…“To the cloud.”