The Cloud Model - Both Sides Now
I suspect that everyone knows by now that the business traveling life isn’t glamorous. On a recent trip to San Juan, as the clouds rolled in for the daily afternoon deluge that is typical for a Puerto Rican summer, I realized that the only real beauty in air travel is watching the clouds as the plane descends into the greater Chicagoland area, and I’m almost home.
Clouds can be beautiful things, and the “cloud” that all of the IT networking professionals are talking about is revolutionizing our industry in a beautiful way. While there are many highly technical explanations of cloud computing, in simple terms we are taking network services such as data storage, applications, and communications that are typically installed or available on a client’s LAN and instead using these services from the Internet.
What’s clear to me is that virtually everyone is now using some form of broadband Internet (DSL, cable modem, FiOS, satellite) to access the world of information that’s available on your laptop, smart phone, or desktop PC. At every speech I’ve given this year, I’ve asked the crowd, “Which of you is still using dialup for your Internet connection?” and I’ve yet to get a positive answer from even a single person out of hundreds polled. And the great majority of your clients are in the same camp.
So the “cloud” is up there; now why is it advantageous for our industry? I believe that the dealers who embrace Internet cloud opportunities now will benefit from higher recurring monthly revenue (RMR), more sales, lower service costs, increased brand recognition, and increased flexibility in installations.
The combined power of existing cabling, Internet connections, and wireless networking adds up to a tsunami of potential for our industry. The most common application that’s available right now is the ability to record security video on the Internet, making it accessible to all authorized users from any Internet-connected device.
Why record the video on the Internet? The first reason is that the cost of the system will be less expensive to the client, as there will be no NVR/DVR to be provided or installed. That equals a much less costly system that should translate into more systems sold. The second reason is that service costs will be reduced, as again there’s no NVR/DVR to replace or repair. The security company will be charging the client for storage of the video, so there’s RMR for the security company to collect. And perhaps the most compelling reason is that the security of the recorded video is actually greatly increased, as a thief (or colluding inside employee) cannot damage or erase the video evidence from a device (the NVR/DVR) that isn’t on the premise.
There are a number of issues that dealers must confront before they go “cloud” surfing with their clients’ systems. The first and most basic issue is that of belief in the system by the salesperson that is presenting it to the client. I see this as a major problem across all aspects of our industry. I’m jumping on the soapbox right now and saying if you want to sell security systems and devices, then you need to have a system installed in your house and use it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked salespeople in our industry what kind of alarm to they have in their own home and the answer is “none.” When it comes to cloud-recorded video, it is a cheap and simple process to install an IP camera in your house, hook it up to the Internet, and get it recorded by one of many Internet-based recording companies such as Honeywell/Alarmnet (www.security.honeywell.com/hsc/solutions/alarmnet/index.html) or IVR Controls (www.ivrcontrols.com). And now you will have a setup you can use to demonstrate the real value of Internet security video with your own smart phone.
Once a dealer gets the hang of these devices, it is a simple process for a security company to become its own “cloud” for video recording. Software is available from a variety of companies such as Nuuo (www.nuuo.com) which can be installed onto servers at your office, and all of the RMR stays in your pocket. Or, you can partner with a company such as Niscayah, Secure-i, or Iveda Solutions (Axis Communications service providers, www.axis.com/products/avhs/index.htm), which provide video hosting services to dealers and integrators.
The second issue is psychological, in that dealers must overcome the concept that all video begins and ends at 30 frames per second (fps). Electronic security personnel must believe that 1 to 5 fps is usable recorded video, as those are the frame rates that will provide reasonable quality images with a minimal storage requirement, which translates into a lower monthly cost to the dealer from the “cloud” provider. These frame rate settings also will require less of the client’s available Internet bandwidth, so the client will not perceive a noticeable slowdown in their other Internet functions. Lower frame rates are the only way these systems can work with most low-cost ISP services that your clients are currently employing. If the customer has a high-speed connection or FiOS (Fiber Optic Service) at their location, higher frame rates can be used without noticeable effects on the client’s other Internet communications.
When selling higher end commercial surveillance systems, cloud recording can be used as a backup to on-site NVRs and potentially allow law enforcement first responders to be able to access live and recorded video from their vehicle(s) before they enter a potentially dangerous situation. As more cities deploy networked cameras on street corners and other public areas, there will be a push for private businesses to allow connection to their camera systems by the local authorities.
So while clouds bring the rain, Internet “clouds” can be financial rainmakers for those security dealers who turn their umbrellas upside down and start to collect RMR from the Internet connections that clients are already using.