Digitization, IP Transform Surveillance

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One of the most important areas in the entire telecommunications landscape is the intersection of physical and IP security. The ubiquity of the Internet -- especially when wireless access is factored in -- combined with its extraordinary power to slice, dice and distribute data, makes this a vital way to render this increasingly dangerous world a bit safer.

This Wi-Fi Planet piece details a three-part announcement from Aruba on improving public safety. The vendor is upgrading its wireless local-area networks (WLANs) to deliver IP video, helping customers design video surveillance networks and simplifying installations through partnerships with two third-party providers.

Digitization is a tremendous boon for physical surveillance. Finding, for instance, an image of a blue car that was parked outside a building on consecutive Tuesdays would be a labor-intensive task -- to say the least -- if somebody had to go through analog tapes. In the digital world, finding the image can be done in seconds if the right software is used. Digitization also enables images to be enlarged or otherwise manipulated. Combining digitization with IP transport allows images to be far more quickly distributed to first responders and others.

Computerworld shows how far some companies are taking the merging of physical and cyber security. Medco Health Solutions, a New Jersey company, was pushed by Sarbanes-Oxley, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Payment Card Industry Act (PCIA) and other regulatory mandates to combine and cross-train the physical and IT security teams. The company also moved all its electronic security structures onto an IP platform. Marene Allison, vice president of global security at the firm, doesn't seem to think that the worlds of physical and electronic security are different:

Physical security is just one more peel of the onion skin that has to be dealt with, like firewalls and intrusion detection.
The story acknowledges that Medco is ahead of the curve. The move from analog to digital surveillance is starting, however. Next year, IDC says, analog still will represent 75 percent of surveillance cameras sold. However, the firm says digital network cameras sales will take off in 2009 and 2010.This press release is a good example of how municipalities are using IP-based surveillance. The story says CDW Government (CDW-G) has facilitated the deployment of a number of Axis Communications video cameras to guard Parker, Colorado's new 100,000-square-foot recreation center.

The community, at CDW-G's suggestion, chose 18 motion-activated cameras, which are positioned inside and outside the field house. Police dispatchers can log onto the system and hone in on the 16 views via a Web page. In an earlier IT Business Edge interview, Bob Kirby -- CDW-G's senior director, K-12 Education -- said that a survey conducted in June suggests that schools don't think they do a good enough job in linking their security infrastructures to those of the authorities.

This blog posting at BizAdvice.org says the PC-based systems are the best way to manage digital surveillance video. Advantages include the ability to add cameras without degrading video quality (as long as there is enough hard drive space) and the use of motion detection that activates the system only when movement is detected. Further, the user can make the choice on which view or views to watch and can zoom in on one area of an image. Video can be backed up on an external drive and the feeds distributed over the Internet or a corporate network. Though the writer focuses on PC-based systems, the advantages he describes can be realized over a number of end devices.

Clearly, the evolution to IP is a huge step for surveillance that improves the way in which people and assets can be protected in a number of ways. Indeed, the differences between the worlds of analog and digital are nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the gulf between the old and new worlds of surveillance.