When it comes to safeguarding employees, customers and assets, the Internet of Things (IoT) offers plenty of new tools. Digital video surveillance is one of the most powerful types, but understanding its technological nuances is critical for maximizing both its effectiveness and your budget.

K–12 education illustrates the top considerations, but they’re equally applicable to many other verticals, including retail, hospitality and healthcare. The starting point is recognizing that video surveillance is no longer just for historic monitoring and forensic analysis. It’s now equally valuable for real-time monitoring and response as well as predictive analytics.

To enable all three use cases, the first step usually is to upgrade to IP cameras, which makes it easier to get video feeds back to a central location for monitoring and analytics. In K–12 districts, for example, a school’s surveillance cameras traditionally fed back to a bank of VCRs/DVRs and monitors in the office, which could only be accessed from that particular location. With IP, they can route to district headquarters and to security staff’s mobile devices, to name just a few possibilities. Moving to IP-based cameras is a key step in the digital transformation process for K–12 districts and other verticals.

Taking Advantage of VMS

The IP upgrade also sets the stage for implementing a video management system (VMS), which enables a wide variety of new analytics options — and organizational efficiencies. For example, the more cameras an organization has, the tougher it is for humans to keep up. It’s expensive to hire more people to monitor all those feeds, and as fatigue sets in, they start to overlook things.

VMS uses technologies such as artificial intelligence to shoulder a lot of that workload, including predictive analytics. For example, a VMS can be programmed to alert a staff member when certain events occur, such as a bag left unattended in a hallway for more than a minute.

The VMS also could be programmed to read the license plates of cars pulling up. Schools often have a database of estranged family members whom parents say they don’t want picking up their children. If a parent provides that person’s license plate number, the VMS can alert security staff when it’s detected in the parking lot. If the VMS supports facial recognition, the same analysis could be done using driver’s license photos in addition to, or instead of, plates.

Using VMS to Find That Needle in the Haystack

A VMS also enables more efficient forensic analytics. For example, suppose district or police officials believe that a school’s cameras caught something pertinent to an incident or investigation. Instead of having an employee or officer spend hours or days manually scouring the archives, video analytics or artificial intelligence software (running on the VMS) can be programmed to look for specific things, such as a blue pickup truck or a man with a beard — and find images of them in minutes.

That’s also another example of how VMS applies to other verticals. For instance, many retailers use it to understand how people of certain demographics respond to product displays and whether they wind up buying the associated product.

One key to achieving those kinds of benefits is having enough storage. Schools and other organizations sometimes undermine their video surveillance investments by reducing frame rates or resolution to squeeze more out of their storage. But that results in choppy or grainy footage, and, in turn, makes it harder for the VMS to do its job.

To avoid those problems, organizations will want to choose servers that are video-optimized.

Clearly there’s a lot to consider when choosing a video surveillance solution. An experienced and knowledgeable partner that works with leading VMS, camera and storage vendors is key for navigating all the options and finding the right one. And once it’s in place, everyone benefits: employees, students, customers and more.

Learn more about CDW’s video surveillance and other IoT-related solutions and services.