How to survive the surveillance video data flood

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How to survive the surveillance video data flood

The surveillance market is witnessing explosive growth -- about three times that of the broader IT market -- as the public sector is capturing higher quality data from drones, in-car video, surveillance video, body cameras, digital content and other new sources. Additionally, the length of time evidence video needs to be kept has greatly increased.  A few years ago organizations stored video for maybe 14 days. Today public sector video can be stored for one to three years, and in some cases forever. Add all of this together and it creates a perfect storm, or video vortex, for the public sector as agencies struggle to manage, store and secure this massive amount of video footage. 

Just five years ago, a public sector agency would need to store roughly 4 to 6 terabytes of data for an entire system. And that was a lot of data for that time. Today, the average amount of total data stored by a public sector organization is 200 to 300 terabytes, with many storing multiple petabytes. Imagine what that number will be five years from now. That’s why the public sector needs to move to an enterprise-class open storage and compute platform for digital evidence.

The tale of two architectures

Traditionally public sector agencies have taken the black box approach -- when they need a new technology, they buy an appliance where the software, storage and compute is all self-contained, then stack 20 or 30 of them together and call it a day. But this type of architecture can no longer work. It would take hundreds of black boxes strung together to accommodate what one enterprise storage platform could do.  An enterprise approach allows organizations to look across all the applications and create a ‘public safety data lake’ where all of the evidence and video data is being stored and managed on a common infrastructure.

An enterprise storage platform has the following capabilities:

Storing multiple data types on the same platform so users don’t require individual or independent storage platforms for each data set; they can  create a public safety data pool for all of their data. 

Managing the data for the long term.  Unlike today’s appliances, an enterprise storage platform can accommodate an agency’s current data lifecycle as well as what will be needed in five years. Additionally, it offers a cost-effective and easy way to manage migration. 

Offering solid data security and data management functionality as part of the platform. Most appliances don’t have any additional value on data protection, security or resiliency. 

Operating on an open platform. Agencies should be able to store content from any video or evidence solution they deploy. That might seem obvious, but there are many proprietary solutions where, for example, buying a new body camera would require completely retrofitting the storage infrastructure -- whether it’s in the cloud or on premise. That’s time consuming, expensive and just not practical.  

When agencies take a holistic look at evidence and digital video and consider what they could do if they had all video evidence on a common open infrastructure, such a solution makes sense. But in the public sector it can be difficult to take a step back and think of the larger picture because of the political pressure to implement new video solutions -- such as body cameras -- immediately. But will that camera still be part of the surveillance solution five years down the road? If a better one came out next year, would it integrate into the current platform? 

Start somewhere

Agencies can deploy an enterprise-class open storage and compute platform that will be the organization’s standard by just starting somewhere. A body cam project can be a good opportunity to choose an open platform enterprise approach to evidence storage, so start there.  Or start with converting digital evidence and surveillance cam footage to an open enterprise platform. Pick any point where there is an opportunity to refresh or renew evidence storage and select an enterprise platform that will allow IT managers to add data from body cams or drones or any other evidence type over the next couple of years.

In the near future, drones will become more common; body cams will be used in schools, hospitals and prisons; and there will be more use cases than we can think of -- all of them requiring even more storage. It truly is a big data problem. Agencies that invest in the right infrastructure and build out a public safety data lake, however, will be more prepared to handle what comes next than those that just buy the latest and greatest black box. This will eliminate having to re-architect the solution every time a new endpoint or new evidence input is added.

Agencies want a platform that can handle their requirements right now, but more importantly, in the future. The evidence for an enterprise storage platform is undeniable. 

About the Author

Ken Mills is CTO, Surveillance and Security, at EMC.

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