Video’s Pivotal Role in the Internet of Things

Video plays a pivotal role in the IoT, generating an immense amount of data from connected devices. This data has the potential to be transformed from reactionary and investigative uses to allow users to take a more proactive approach to business operations and management. In this article, Scott also covers the future of the video and IoT and implications it might have on a number of industries.

ONVU Technologies
Illustration: © IoT For All

According to a recent report published by Gartner, there will be 5.8 billion enterprise and automotive Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints in use by 2020, which represents a 21 percent increase over 2019. Of these endpoints, the research firm forecasts that more than 20 percent will consist of physical security devices, including video surveillance cameras which have long comprised a significant portion of the market of installed connected products around the globe.

So, how did a technology that once relied on bundles of coax cable strung together in a room full of grainy monitors become one of the most prevalent internet-enabled solutions of our time? The answer is relatively simple: convenience and functionality.

The security industry’s migration from analog to network video has been long a winding one, to say the least. Although the IP camera was invented more than 20 years ago, the technology didn’t gain widespread adoption until many years later when it became apparent that the numerous benefits of network video – advanced integrations, remote access and improved archival and evidence retrieval just to name a few – outweighed the simplicity of analog. When the price points of high-definition IP video equipment finally came more in line with analog, the tipping point was finally reached, and IP cameras have proliferated the market since.

A New World of Video Intelligence

Perhaps the greatest selling point of IP cameras today, however, is the level of intelligence that organizations can glean from their use, which simply wouldn’t be possible without the IoT architecture in which they are now deployed. While much has been made recently about facial recognition and the potential privacy concerns that come with that, it’s but one of the myriad benefits of contemporary video surveillance technology. Networks of cameras can be leveraged by organizations for a wide range of applications, security and otherwise.

While the primary purview of most camera deployments remains post-event analysis of security incidents, many end users are broadening the scope of their systems to provide analytics like people counting and dwell time to improve operations and customer service. With most cameras being IoT-enabled, this information can be easily filtered through an analytics dashboard to give end-users a real-time view of their business to determine where more resources need to be devoted. As a result, rather than being the cost center that security has typically been viewed as within most businesses, they’re now becoming a business enabler by helping other departments within the organization perform their jobs better.

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have also opened a brave new world of intelligent data that cameras can deliver. Though there’s currently a lot of marketing hype in the industry about the capabilities of advanced video analytics, the fact is these systems can identify and classifying objects with incredible accuracy, which will only improve as the technology matures.

One of the biggest problems historically, for security, has been managing the numerous false alarms generated throughout a typical day by various sensors. With a camera in place powered by underlying software that can decipher between humans, animals, vehicles and other objects, those alerts can be triaged and confirmed or denied quickly by security personnel, thus reducing alarm fatigue.

Security Beyond Video Forensics

In addition to the wealth of data and advanced functionality that surveillance cameras can provide on their own, they can also be combined with other physical security systems, such as access control and intrusion detection that are also now making their way to IoT, to provide capabilities that once seemed impossible. In fact, there has been an increased emphasis of late in leveraging video combined with card readers to provide enhanced identity verification at various access points that require an additional layer of security. In this type of application, users can present their access credential to the reader as they normally would while a camera running facial recognition in the background verifies their identity.

Some organizations are also combining cameras with other IoT sensors to address the age-old problem of tailgating, particularly in locations where traditional solutions like turnstiles aren’t feasible. Access readers combined with AI-powered cameras can provide end-users with alerts when an unauthorized entry in these locations is detected so the incident can be quickly addressed. The threats posed by active shooters and data theft make this type of capability essential for organizations of all sizes.

Implications for the Broader IoT

The proliferation of IoT devices also means that video surveillance has a much larger role to play in the overall smart cities and buildings landscape. For example, many cities either have or are working to combine roadway sensors and lights with cameras to improve the flow of traffic. In addition to traffic control, cameras have also been integrated with some instances with environmental sensors, such as rain gauges, to monitor water levels in flood-prone areas.

When it comes to building automation, cameras are also playing a pivotal role, working in conjunction with things like HVAC and lighting systems to intelligently adjust the environment based on occupancy. Given the increasing push for organizations to “go green,” the ability to reduce energy consumption is a major initiative within today’s environmentally conscious businesses and IoT security devices are helping them achieve this goal.

Innovations on the Horizon

Though it may seem like video has reached its full IoT potential, the reality is we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. New technologies like Lidar (light detection and ranging), which use lasers to measure reflected light off objects to create a 3D image, are already being combined with video to improve perimeter security at critical infrastructure sites. Developers are also now using license plate recognition (LPR) and video surveillance to provide smart cities and even private businesses like malls with the ability to give drivers real-time information on parking and traffic conditions and even assign parking spots. As such, the role of video surveillance in the IoT will only grow in importance in the years ahead.