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Making video surveillance greener and leaner

Environmental implications are important considerations in surveillance system designs
Environmental implications are important considerations in surveillance system designs
Rising energy costs are compelling many organisations to optimise their computing environments. In fact, energy costs have quickly become the fastest growing operating cost, propelling many corporations to embark on new conservation and "green" initiatives. Marc Holtenhoff, CEO of Aimetis, explores ways to reduce energy consumption within video surveillance applications, that could pave the way for a ‘green' security industry.

Fortunately, green Information Technology (IT) not only helps the planet but reduces operational pressure. Green IT becomes even more important when video surveillance is taken into consideration. With the recent proliferation of CCTV systems, energy consumption from video surveillance has increased dramatically, resulting in higher total cost of ownership. However, as video surveillance transitions from proprietary "black box" DVR deployments towards IP deployments using commercial-off-the-shelf hardware, video surveillance becomes both greener and leaner.


Video surveillance energy consumption is largely attributed to the electrical power required to operate the video servers that are running the security cameras and storing vast amounts of recorded video data. However, electrical power usage is not a typical design criterion for CCTV, nor is it properly managed as an expense. This is likely because the billed electrical costs are not clearly linked to CCTV, and the electrical bill is not within the responsibility or the budget of the security group.

Electrical power consumption in CCTV

With the recent proliferation of CCTV systems, energy consumption from video surveillance has increased dramatically 

The fact that most CCTV deployments today make inefficient use of the energy they consume is hardly a surprise. With industry research estimates that more than 50 percent of the energy used in the server room goes to power and cooling equipment rather than computations and processing, the true costs of running excess servers and storage are not well understood.

Using IP surveillance solutions to reduce energy consumption

With the above in mind, it goes without saying that when deploying a video surveillance system best efforts should be taken to reduce the number of servers required. This makes sense not only for the environment, but also for the pocket book. To this point, IP surveillance offers clear advantages over analogue CCTV or DVR deployments with significant savings as a result of sharing existing network infrastructure, computation and storage.

IP surveillance software plays an important role in helping to reduce the hardware footprint. Here are eight factors that contribute to a positive environmental and operational impact with IP surveillance software.

IP surveillance offers clear advantages over analogue CCTV or DVR deployments with significant savings
 IP surveillance offers clear advantages over analogue CCTV or DVR deployments with significant savings

Camera density per server

With CCTV deployments, typical security camera density ranges from 4 to 32 channels per DVR, and come in increments of 4 or 8 channels. Consequently, numerous physical servers are necessary since the total number of cameras exceeds one server. With IP video surveillance software, more than 200 surveillance cameras can be managed and recorded using a single, energy efficient server, which normally takes 2U of rack space (about half the typical rack space of a single 16 channel DVR).

Take an example of a 70-camera deployment. In this scenario, three 4U DVRs can be replaced by one, industry-standard 2U server running Windows and video surveillance software. Consequently, energy consumption is reduced by more than $1000 per year when factoring savings from fewer servers and less cooling requirements. Better still, vital rack space is returned and re-usable for other projects.

Virtualisation

One of the reasons that energy costs spiral can be found in the "one-to-one-to-one" hardware approach, where each server hosts only one operating system that, in turn, runs a single application. Not only are these environments expensive, but they also promote IT inefficiency, because multiple servers operate at a fraction of their computing capacity.

This under-utilisation scenario is typical with deployments using DVRs. For example, supporting nine surveillance cameras may require the use of two 8-channel DVRs. However, both DVRs are typically operating with a CPU load of less than 10 percent.

Most CCTV deployments today make inefficient use of the energy they consume

This "one-to-one-to-one" hardware approach also unnecessarily increases software maintenance and support due to the sheer number of physical servers requiring software patches or hardware maintenance. Worse still, the risk of data loss is significant since not only is the cost of purchasing numerous back-up servers prohibitive, but the additional required rack space is non-existent, and the additional 400W of electricity required to support them further adds to operating costs and carbon emissions.

With virtualisation technology, organisations can consolidate servers and easily reduce IT power requirements. A virtualised IT environment also dramatically decreases IT administration costs. For example, with only one physical server instead of two, server BIOS updates are cut in half, backups and disaster recovery becomes a fraction of the cost with fewer physical servers to protect and network ports are relinquished with fewer physical servers requiring connectivity to the network.

Typical analogue and DVR CCTV deployments cannot leverage the excess computing and storage capacity that virtualisation provides due to their proprietary nature. Conversely, a surveillance solution that uses open IP video management software product running on commercial-off-the-shelf hardware is able to benefit from virtualised computing environments, provided the video management software supports virtualisation technology. As a result, IP surveillance is not only better for the environment but substantially lowers costs.

With virtualisation technology, organisations can consolidate servers and easily reduce IT power requirements
With virtualisation technology, organisations can consolidate servers and easily reduce IT power requirements

Video analytics and reduced video storage

Video analytics can play a sizeable role in reducing video storage requirements by only recording when relevant activity occurs. This, in turn, reduces space and energy requirements. It should also be noted that video analytics are significantly more accurate at detecting relevant activity than video motion detection (VMD), which means less storage is wasted for false events.

In a typical surveillance environment not using video analytics for event-based recording, the amount of storage required for 16 cameras, storing 24 fps at 640x480 resolution for 7 days using MPEG-4 is about 20GB per camera. Studies have shown in a difficult outdoor environment that using video analytics enabled results in storage savings of more than 50% as compared to DVRs using VMD.

With video analytics, video recordings caused by irrelevant background noise is greatly reduced, resulting in less disk space required for the same 7-day period. Better still, video analytics also reduces rack space and electricity dedicated for storage.

Unfortunately, in many cases video analytics is supplied by a different vendor than what was used for video recording. By adding an additional piece of hardware for analytics, which runs parallel to the existing recording product (such as a DVR or NVR), it undermines the green IT strategy by duplicating unnecessary hardware. By using a single software product for both video management and video analytics, users are able to take full advantage of the cost-saving benefits without the corresponding server increase for running analytics.

Saving money via IP video surveillance is a welcome change from the pervasive mindset that green initiatives must be costly

Video compression with H.264

H.264 is the preferred video encoding compression standard capable of providing good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than previous standards. H.264 represents a 50% reduction in bandwidth and storage over MPEG-4 and an 80% reduction over MJPEG, which reduce hardware, space and power requirements.

Green licensing

Most video surveillance software vendors offer different license versions depending on surveillance requirements. The problem is that more often than not, the different software versions are unable to run on the same server. Users should ensure that each of the available license versions can be mixed and matched on a single server. This means that the end-user can choose to run analytics on selected surveillance cameras, and standard video management software on other cameras without the need to add additional servers.

Power over Ethernet

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a technology for wired Ethernet local-area networks that allows the electrical current necessary for the operation of each device to be carried by the data cables rather than by power cords. This minimises the number of wires that must be strung in order to install the network. The result is lower cost, less downtime, easier maintenance and greater installation flexibility than with traditional wiring. Additionally, using PoE it is possible to provide the data required for network software to reduce enterprise energy consumption with better power allocation and management.

A recent study found that digital delivery reduced total tons of carbon emissions by 88%
 A recent study found that digital delivery reduced total tons of carbon emissions by 88%

Remote surveillance and monitoring

Remote surveillance is an effective tool for eliminating unnecessary driving or flying to verify security alarms and track job-site progress. Consider a construction site that will often deploy cameras to protect against raw material theft. With video analytics, remote monitoring personnel can be notified of suspicious activity (e.g. perimeter breach) and verify the security alarm before sending a guard, or police to drive to the site. The same argument applies for corporate facility security as well.

Online distribution

A recent study found that digital delivery reduced total tons of carbon emissions by 88%. The elimination of transportation and packaging provides the greatest opportunity for carbon emissions reduction.  By making products available online via digital download, vendors can eliminate nearly 100% of the carbon emissions associated with transportation, as shipping is not required. Additionally, without the need for packaging, online software distribution eliminates carbon emissions.

Additionally, remote surveillance can be used in place of management driving or flying to job-sites to track job-site progress. To put the benefit of remote surveillance into perspective, eliminating just one 50-mile drive, or one three-hour flight saves 88.2 and 1543 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions, respectively.

Approaches to green security aren't costly

Incorporating the above mentioned eight approaches will enable you to both reduce energy consumption and the environmental impact. And saving money via IP video surveillance is a welcome change from the pervasive mindset that green initiatives must be costly. In fact, you can be both greener and leaner.

Marc Holtenhoff

Marc Holtenhoff
CEO of Aimetis


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