VSaaS, Hosted Video Slowly Emerges; Aims First at Limited Cameras, Certain Verticals
So what makes a good host?
The word host comes from the Latin hostis, which literally means “the one with power.” A host is a person with responsibility for visitors, to provide them with an excellent experience.
Which gets us to security video and emerging hosting approaches which can include video surveillance as a service (VSaaS), remote viewing on mobile devices, virtual guarding, video verification, in the cloud solutions, remote storage and retrieval as well as fully outsourced management of a surveillance system. Such options can bring an integrator closer to his or her client for a longer period of time, may involve a third party service but also can lead to more revenue on a one-time or recurring basis. That can be an excellent experience, too.
And, while some integrators aim at the larger enterprise clients, more often hosted security video can create opportunities for small- and medium-sized clients to enjoy the benefits of IP technology, too.
Of course, there are end user benefits and tradeoffs. For instance, these new-age services boast:
- Low up-front cost
- Less emphasis on hardware
- Easier integration with access control and intrusion systems
- Video recording and retrieval anywhere, anytime on desktop, notebook and mobile devices
- Video secure from fire, flood, theft or system failure
In addition, there is value carried over to the integrator:
- Providing a market advantage over some competitors
- Reduce customer capital outlay by amortizing equipment costs
- Standardized, centrally managed platform reduces support expense
- Produce stable recurring revenue streams
A hosted video solution can also open a door to more sophisticated technology applications for the securing of special events.
Take last year’s Valero Texas Open, an annual Golf San Antonio PGA tournament. Security officials turned to integrator NAVCO of Anaheim, Calif., to install a hosted video system — Axis Communications’, Chelmsford, Mass., Video Hosting System (AVHS) — to protect attendees, golfers and staff while improving loss prevention.
NAVCO installed cameras at potential areas of loss around the golf course, such as at the Valero Corner Store, as well as near the TPC Apparel Store, admissions booth, refreshment tent, golf cart parking lot and areas. “Providing a surveillance solution for a golf tournament — especially one that’s on national TV — provided a unique challenge. You have to make sure not to disturb the beauty of the course while still covering the typical security risk and loss areas,” says David McVicker, national account manager, NAVCO. “Since it would have been completely impractical to run cable all the way back to the recording site, recording to the cloud was the ideal solution for Valero and Golf San Antonio.”
To install the cloud-based surveillance system, the integrator leveraged the Axis AVHS platform for the network cameras to communicate with the video storage cloud server.
Giant integrator ADT last year rolled out its own ADT Hosted Video services for the retail industry with video recording and management centrally handled by the Boca Raton, Fla.,-based firm. Using an Internet connection and IP cameras, retailers can access their video remotely from anywhere. This gives them the convenience of centralized video storage without the cost, equipment and maintenance of storing and managing their own video on-site.
Other technology sources also are responding with hosted services aimed at the integrator.
Earlier this year, for example, Honeywell Security Group of Melville, N.Y., sent up what it calls MaxPro Cloud, a hosted service that gives organizations access to their video surveillance anywhere there is an Internet connection, and without the need for IT expertise or challenging firewall configurations. It offers a new method to drive long-term business value by offering these video services to customers and generating recurring monthly revenue (RMR) with minimal investment and system complexity.
Another source, Reston, Va.-based CheckVideo has a Professional Service option, where channel partners can deliver a cost-effective, cloud-based intelligent video surveillance and recording solution to clients who monitor their own video. It detects presence of people and vehicles, not just motion, to reduce nuisance alerts.
Such approaches often appeal to security and facility managers at retail outlets, multi-location franchises, restaurants, small businesses and commercial offices, as well as warehouses and storage facilities.
Patrick Bailey, executive vice president at ICS Advanced Technologies, Ames, Iowa, and his team have been successfully installing hosted video based on Austin, Texas-based Salient Systems’ VMS platform.
“A property manager can put in cameras and have storage off site,” says Bailey, who adds that the cloud can also be combined with local storage such as network video recorders and at the edge with solid state storage.
There is basic agreement on the importance and role of security video storage in hosted and managed services. And many designs include local recording and storage. According to Jay Krone, senior director consumer and small business products division, Iomega, San Diego, Calif., the firm’s storage model for hosted video surveillance solutions uses a service provider of cloud storage (monthly revenue stream for the integrator or value added reseller) in combination with a network storage device and integrated video management system. “This gives the client the ability to record and store HD video locally while also providing economical access to standard resolution video data stored securely in the cloud, for instance.”
“We have three different ways to store security video — NVR replacement; cloud-based; and storage behind a VMS,” observes Krone, who adds that “nothing is free. Bandwidth is not free. Storage is not free. So it makes sense to store high definition locally and send lower res to the cloud. And if the end user has an event and needs to grab back the video, it can be drizzled downward.”
When considering pricing of these emerging services, integrators should realize that the video management system licensing model can be a major consideration for VSaaS deployments. Seek out a licensing model that avoids dependence on the VMS manufacturer when making changes to the system.
Licensing modelsvary greatly for any or all of the following items:
- Number of cameras connected to the system
- Number of recording servers the software is deployed on
- Client viewing or investigation software
- Number of user accounts configured
- Number of users connected for live viewing simultaneously
Licensing models that charge for simultaneous client connections, the number of user accounts or client software can be cost prohibitive as the service provider’s customer base expands. In some cases, products that charge for the number of servers the recording software is deployed to can make the cost of adding customers prohibitive.
Speaking of return on investment, John Honovich of IPVM IP Video Market (Honolulu Hawaii and ipvm.com) agrees that “hosted and managed video has the potential to make video surveillance cheaper and easier to deploy and use.” However, and in the short term, he sees it making the most impact in the small business and home markets. At his website, the consultant analyzes the products, pricing and positioning of, at the time of writing of this article, 27 diverse solutions.
For integrators and, along the chain, their clients, Honovich itemizes eight key differentiators among the solutions:
- Camera support
- On-site setup complexity
- Channel partner’s strategy
- Video management sophistication
- Market segment targeted
- Local storage support
- Hosting scalability
Points out Honovich, “You can charge what you want. But are people willing to pay monthly for the cameras, for example?” Cost ranges significantly with end user pricing as low as $5 and as high as $40 per camera per month. The variance is driven by differences in resolution (e.g., CIF versus 4CIF), storage type (continuous versus motion-based) and storage duration offered. Then there is the cost and blowback from broadband carriers, who charge a lot of money to handle video going upstream. So a good design includes local storage with the ability sporadically to upstream certain limited views or alarms while upstreaming severely compressed video at off-hours. Additionally, integrators need to factor in the revenue from associated camera sales. Most VSaaS cameras are relatively simple, though.
Honovich also believes that VSaaS is most appropriate for three applications:
- Residential use for one or two cameras
- Small business use for a few cameras
- Multi-site businesses with a few cameras per site
“Hosted VSaaS has made almost no dent in the traditional 8 or 16 camera market (and their scalability) and is far from being a player in the ‘enterprise’ video surveillance market,” the consultant says, adding that as security video systems grow, it still makes better business sense for the client as well as the integrator to go with a traditional design, where typical service and maintenance are the RMR engines.
Concerning hosted video more generally, “some customers are ready; others are not,” says Lisa Ciappetta, senior director marketing for integrator Protection1, Romeoville, Ill. Among the challenges are “a client’s infrastructure and the cost of switching” from a traditional security video approach and the cost of storage. “But it will get there,” she says, suggesting that the cross-over is not there yet for many in terms of economies. Right now, hosted security video makes sense for clients such as fast food retailers “with lots of sites and, maybe, a handful of cameras per site. You have a network appliance on site plus the cloud.”
IT also has influence. IT departments are more willing to allow third party storage and more clients are moving to an enterprise approach for video data storage.