Flexibility and Capability: The Two Cornerstones for Successful Remote Monitoring
By Vincent Campisano
All security systems share a common framework. They use technology to detect events. And they employ mechanisms to remotely monitor and respond to those events. But the details within that framework can vary widely depending on the use case of the organization. For instance, a hospital might want to integrate video cameras with vital signs monitors to observe if patients are in distress or have accidentally disconnected a wire. A school might want to deploy license plate recognition to notify school security when unauthorized persons enter the premise.
Other differences might involve how users can view the system. One organization may allow remote access through mobile devices and wireless networks. Another might restrict access to stationary clients only to limit the opportunity for malware and cyber breaches.
While there are many factors to consider when selecting a security system, when it comes to remote monitoring, the decisions fall into two categories: flexibility and capability. On the flexibility side, it’s a question of what technologies you can integrate into your solution to receive alarms or notifications. On the capability side, it’s a question of how you monitor and direct those alarms and notifications.
Start with a Flexible, Open Platform
A security system built on an open platform maximizes the solution’s flexibility. This affords you more options when it comes to incorporating different sensors and devices into your security system and tailoring them to your needs. For instance, a school might want to integrate vaping sensors with video cameras, enabling them to both detect the behavior and identify the culprit. A municipality might want to integrate a flood sensor with video cameras to not only detect rising water but observe the speed at which it’s rising and its impact on the surrounding area. An office park might want to integrate its VoIP phone system with video cameras and speakers to directly address and deter a trespasser.
While different sensors and devices might be built on open standards, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they are compatible with your organization’s security system. For instance, it might require writing an application program interface (API) to ensure that when your central alarm company receives an alert, it can pull up the video from your video management system.
The same considerations apply to integrating third-party software. Before investing in video and audio analytics, they need to be tested for compatibility with your existing environment.
Determine the Important Capabilities
Cybersecurity always rises to the top of the list. Because remote connection is inherent to remote monitoring, it’s important to ascertain your technology provider’s capabilities in cyber-securing their devices and software. Are their cybersecurity standards compatible and up to par with your organization’s other networked technology systems? Are your providers committed to timely product updates and bug fixes? And have they rigorously tested new versions before releasing them to ensure they won’t disable other technologies in your security solution?
Depending on your organization’s specific cyber requirements, you might use ports to open access to your security system from different networks. Or, in lieu of opening ports, you might want to consider using a cloud connection with an encrypted tunnel as a more secure channel.
One of the biggest issues with remote monitoring is determining the accuracy of the alert. Alarm fatigue can become very draining and negatively impact response—especially when someone is monitoring the system remotely. Employing accurate video analytics can reduce the amount of false positive alarms so that when an alarm does come through, it will be taken seriously and not ignored.
Before implementing any analytics, you need to test whether they will operate effectively in your technology ecosystem. It’s not only a matter of determining whether the software triggers a lot of false positives. It’s also a matter of how the alarm gets managed. Will that mode of management fit into your organization’s standard operating procedures, or will it require instituting new ways of responding to alerts?
Another issue to consider with remote monitoring is how notifications get pushed to the right party. Will they appear on a dashboard? Will the system send a text or email to the appropriate party? Will video be appended to the communication? If so, how long of a clip will it be?
You also need to consider whether the recipient needs to be at their desktop or whether the alert can be sent to their mobile device. If you want to allow users to receive alerts through their mobile devices—be it a smart phone, tablet, laptop, or even a smart watch—what security protocols can you enforce on those devices? The last thing you want is for a private security alert to end up being broadcast on social media.
There’s a yin and yang to remote monitoring. There’s becoming aware of an event. And then there’s initiating your response. This requires setting up rules within the security system that will direct alerts to the appropriate party, perhaps append video clips and other sensor data to the notification, or even trigger an automated response—such as locking down doors, turning on floodlights, or broadcasting a pre-recorded message.
These rules can also dictate what devices will be authorized to initiate certain actions. For instance, if a guard on patrol receives an alert on their mobile phone, are they authorized to log into the audio system and broadcast a warning to a trespasser? Or is that permission granted only to operators in your security command center?
The other thing to think about is how you might communicate with a third party in the event of an emergency. Will your cybersecurity protocols allow or prevent video clips from being pushed to first responders? Can you create temporary login credentials on the fly for law enforcement to watch an event live or will you allow them unrestricted access to your system? Can you create an instant link for someone to view a specific video clip of the event?
Finding the Right Balance of Flexibility and Capability
When choosing your remote monitoring system, make sure it complements your existing standard operating procedures and doesn’t create additional roadblocks for your organization. Understand your current use cases and how they might change or expand over time. The more open and flexible system you deploy, the more options you have for incorporating new devices and technological advances that can help your organization become nimbler and more efficient in responding to security alerts.
Vincent Campisano is the program manager for video management at Axis Communications.