The key to getting the value out of a solution is to maximize the return on investment with open platform VMS

Traditionally, security systems have been designed with the cameras in mind first then with added consideration for the infrastructure and cabling components. But this is old-school analogue thinking. Milestone Systems CEO Lars Thinggaard states that a security system can be designed for more than just protecting assets by starting with specifications for digital video management software (VMS) at the core of the solution. By thinking 'digital', an IP network video system can become a value-adding business tool, as well. 

For the most part, customers have been buying a security system when they were motivated by the need for people safety or asset protection. Now there are new trends emerging. IP technology has improved the functionality and performance of video monitoring to such an extent that people are seeing many other things they can do with a surveillance system.

Video systems are moving into a new phase of usability and application. Based on the right software, a video management system takes on a much bigger role, with higher return on investment, by delivering more than just security. The focus is expanding to new opportunities with open platform VMS software at the core.

Small cost - big role

The fact that the VMS typically comprises around 10-15 percent of the total cost of a video monitoring system often misleads people about the true value it holds. And if the chosen VMS is not open architecture, it will be difficult to adapt to future changes, and to integrate an existing system with new components, which achieves the most value possible for the investment.

Essentially, if the wrong decision is made when choosing the VMS, the other parts of the purchase decrease in value! This is why it is essential when purchasing a security system to specify the software first, as the core of the solution.

If the wrong decision is made when choosing the VMS, the other parts of the purchase decrease in value

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Milestone Software video management system illustration

The software is like the central brain that unifies, coordinates, moves, and registers all the functions and devices, displaying video and saving the video data in its archives (the 'memory'). The hardware equipment and devices, which people typically have considered first when specifying a system, function more as eyes (cameras), translator (encoders), lungs/heart (server power), or connecting limbs and appendages (network fibre/switches). Other sensors may also be desired such as laser scanners, audio components, and devices for measuring radiation or chemicals, for example.

By choosing the equipment first, however, the focus has been on the body parts, rather than the central unifier. It is the software that is the core of the solution, making it all work together in one efficient and easy-to-use platform. And the core role of the software is underscored most when you want to integrate new innovations in the future.

A key criteria of video management software is adaptability for adding new components - as long as it is a true open platform. When customers choose open platform software, they can take advantage of an entire industry of solutions and not be confined to just one company's offerings. This allows new technologies to be added as they are developed, with ongoing updates that improve a security system, adding more value to continually leverage the original investment.

Beyond protection

Expectations are being redefined by innovation that is continually pushing the boundaries of what a video system can be, and do. The introduction of open platform technology (born in the IT industry) has been the driving force. It has enabled video monitoring to meet new customer needs with integrated solutions that do much more than protect people and assets.

The many opportunities that open platform VMS can provide are the reasons why customers are beginning to use video monitoring technology for solutions not intended for traditional security at all.

Take retail for example. There is great incentive to have a security system to reduce theft and shrinkage. However, many retail companies are expanding their use of surveillance to improve customer experience: for example, automatically monitoring lines at check-out stands to quickly open new ones if queuing becomes too long. They can also track the most highly visited areas of the store, and use the data to place spot items in those areas. The opportunities do not stop there.

If the wrong decision is made when choosing the VMS, the other parts of the purchase decrease in value
Software ensures efficient working of security systems in one easy-to-use platform

For its global chain of 45 stores, the clothing retailer Paul Smith is rolling out Milestone open platform video, chosen for its long-term expandability. They know that integrated video analytics can be used to study how customers walk through a store: heat mapping and dwell-time software can analyse which displays are working best to attract and retain shoppers, and analyse images of customers picking up products to put in their baskets. Managers can use this business intelligence to make improvements.

University of St. Andrews Medical School in Scotland uses state-of-the-art video surveillance to develop students' practical skills through training, exams, and self-practice. The custom- integrated system is used for both learning and teaching skills. Students are recorded in mock interview situations to practice building rapport with patients and gathering information. Professors and students review the video to improve their performance.

Students record themselves practicing procedures on their own time, and export the video for later review. When exam time comes, professors test students while monitoring remotely from the technicians' office, communicating through directional microphones and speakers. If a student is taking a patient's blood pressure, for example, the professor can zoom in and make sure they are doing it correctly.

The university is looking to integrate this with their curriculum management system to let students efficiently access their videos and curriculum all in one place. This is just one more example of how open platform video software is redefining expectations.

Cruise ships and ferries, casinos, hotels and nightclubs - even hospitals - are using video management software to ensure the safety and well-being of its customers and patients.

The software is the core of the solution that brings ongoing value through enabling all the other components - even those not yet known, the innovations to come

People can check in and be given an RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tag in the form of a bracelet. The tag contains information like time of entry, duration and time of exit. The RFID systems can be integrated with video management software and access control systems to handle the camera feeds and record each experience.

Every business sector can adapt such innovations to improve operations and their environments. Manufacturing sites integrate video with the production line to verify operational integrity, distribution logistics integrate video with scanning systems, utilities verify operational health of high voltage transformers, and many more industries are waking up to the possibilities provided by integrated video technology.

Looking ahead, there is really no limit to how video can be used to add value to existing systems: there is tremendous potential for the future.

Increasing value for the entire industry

Currently, the physical security industry alone is valued at USD 90 billion. According to IHS Inc., IP video uptake is expected to double in size between 2012 and 2017, expanding the market from $4.7 to $13 billion - more than 170 percent! That is a big number, and there is a lot of opportunity for increasing it as we continue to find new uses for video.

In the future, cameras will also be used as sensors. We are seeing tangible opportunities in the area of Intelligent Building Management. Cameras can monitor which rooms are being used and when certain areas of the building are vacant so lighting, heating, cooling, and a range of other functions can be adjusted.

Concepts like street view maps could be advanced as wearable video cameras emerge. This could lead to visual mapping of stores and shopping centres, enabling customers to more easily locate products. Zoos could expand the use of video by showcasing nocturnal animals that are inactive during opening hours. Visitors could access video of the animals in their active state, improving customer experience, and creating more web traffic. Such new opportunities mean increased return on investment for customers.

We believe that no single manufacturer can enable the future alone: business is better through a team. With open platform video management software at the core of the system, partners can provide the best possible solutions for customers, growing business and increasing value for everyone involved.

The key to getting the value out of a solution both today and tomorrow is to maximise the return on investment with open platform VMS. In order to do this, the right VMS must be chosen first. The software is the core of the solution that brings ongoing value through enabling all the other components - even those not yet known, the innovations to come. Once the core has been decided, the other components can be integrated and the full potential of the future can be unlocked.

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