I’m in Houston today at the Secured Cities conference, the leading government security and public safety event, to participate on the “Video Vortex Drives Public Safety to the Datacenter” panel. I’ll be joined by Kenneth Baker, director of Infrastructure Support at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), who recently helped implement a citywide video surveillance system for the bus and trolley service. I’m looking forward to hearing more about METRO’s specific architecture, the pain points and challenges the department faced and what problems it hopes to solve with the new system.
For those of you unable to join us in the “Space City” of Houston, here’s a glimpse of what I’ll be covering in the session:
What is driving the increase in data for state and local government?
One key factor is the emergence of new surveillance technology, such as drones, body cameras, license plate trackers and audio/video recognizance. In particular, drone usage in the public safety arena has seen significant growth for providing situational awareness in tactical events such as bank robberies or hostage situations. In addition to tactical operations, drones are also being used around the country for policing activities. Pilot programs are popping up in cities like Modesto, California, where law enforcement is using drones to assist with search warrants and surveying crime scenes. The sky’s the limit for drone usage in law enforcement, as evidenced by Amazon patenting a voice-activated shoulder-mounted drone earlier this month that officers can use to help assess dangerous situations.
Secondly, resolution requirements are increasing. Grainy pictures are ineffectual when it comes to facial recognition, analytics and post-evaluation, forcing the transition from standard definition to 4K. As new tools and analytics are posed, resolution requirements are much higher.
Perhaps the most common reason for the increase in data for public safety organizations is the growing number of camera counts and longer video retention times. With the rise of citywide surveillance, cities such as London and New York City are moving towards having cameras on practically every street corner. Discovery activities in legal proceedings are extending the retention period and the chain of evidence storage requirements.
Given this exponential data growth, how is it impacting organizations and what do they need to focus on?
IT departments at these organizations should look for architectures that are open source, scalable and enterprise-ready to integrate with the system they currently have, in addition to any changes they may make in the future. Simply put, department heads should avoid spot solutions and instead adopt an integrated, strategic approach to help plan for the years ahead. I would counsel them to look for a solution that allows them to start small but grow big, and easily add more cameras and scale without disrupting the current environment.
The next major area to consider is life cycle management. Previously, video footage was kept for a week before it was written over or deleted. Now long term archiving is critical with the potential for courts to mandate digital assets such as video evidence in a capital case to be maintained indefinitely.
Organizations must embrace the shift to an enterprise model. For police departments, having body cameras isn’t enough. They must consider how to integrate them into dashboard cameras, 911 call centers, etc., taking each of these point solutions to form an enterprise approach.
Which platform will support retention policies and what are the three different storage architectures? How can organizations escape the video vortex?
Early video surveillance solutions presented a host of challenges, including restricting departments to certain file and storage protocols, and communication channels. Combine those factors with non IP-based cameras, and modernizing existing systems became extremely difficult. The first step for organizations to solve the video vortex is to select an open platform that not only allows them to migrate and move data from system to system, but that enables them to shift providers easily. Open platforms also present more options in terms of analytics and security, enabling departments to apply more traditional security tools on top of their data storage and data transportation needs.
Compute and data storage is the key element to eliminating the video vortex. Storage is the foundation layer of a sound architecture and must address the needs of an organization, including scaling, enterprise approach and open platform to avoid a lock-in. Currently, three storage architectures exist today: distributed, centralized and cloud. Police forces that are relatively small typically still rely on a distributed architecture, capturing the data from their cars and body cameras and physically transporting it back from a mobile storage device to a centralized repository where it can then be analyzed and managed. Distributed architectures can be folded into centralized architectures, allowing them to be part of the enterprise approach with a centralized location like police headquarters, schools, airports or the METRO. A centralized architecture makes it possible to gather all of these remote data feeds from their video surveillance solutions and bring them back to a centralized repository. In a case like this, the architecture must be efficient, storing only essential data to minimize utilization rates and costs. It must also be capable of supporting thousands of surveillance devices in order to scale to multiple distributed architectures that are coming back to one location.
The third architecture to consider is cloud. Cloud presents a useful solution in that it is elastic, scalable, expands very easily and can ramp up very quickly. However, cloud storage can be very costly in light of the potential retention policy changes, data sets and cloud size – all of a sudden, the portability of those cloud data sets become much more complex. From an architecture perspective, organizations must consider how to bridge that gap and determine the amount of data that can be returned to a more cost-effective on-premise solution without compromising the capabilities that cloud offers.
Finally, distributed, centralized and cloud platforms all underlie the data lake architecture, which is really the foundation for evidence management and helps solve the video vortex public safety organizations are facing.