Evidence from the Edge

Mobility from the rise of Internet-enabled smartphones and tablets is radically changing the way that business systems operate. It also greatly enhances the value of video by providing visual awareness from the edge of the network, where it can provide the most powerful and immediate impact.

The Internet, we can probably all agree, is pretty great. Not only can we share our photos with far-away family and friends, we can also do some pretty nifty things with it in our working lives. The Internet continues to provide a seemingly endless set of possibilities for companies to help them work better and smarter. And now mobility adds another range of opportunities into the mix.

The mobility of data via the Internet enables huge swathes of the world’s population to more rapidly access information and engage with others on a scale never seen before. For businesses, this goes beyond traditional systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software: video-enhanced business systems used for securing people and assets are the next in line to reap rewards from the mobile device treatment, or Internet of Things (IoT).

Photo credit Dennis SkleyAnd this trend doesn’t stop there.

Milestone envisions the concept of the Internet of Safety Things. This IoST is concerned with connected smart assets and sensors which are able to collect and share data, enabling new insights that can transform a standard company into a data-driven business. It’s a specialized Internet of Things, with safety and security-centric devices communicating to deliver enhanced functionality and powerful, actionable information.

Beyond the IoST lies Managed Visual Services: the capability of effectively and meaningfully using video from hundreds or thousands of connected sensors.

Can you handle it?

With mobile devices becoming so commonplace, and with the trends mentioned above rapidly developing, the systems that handle them also need to evolve. They can’t be the traditional systems designed for a non-mobile, stationary world, where cameras have only been mounted on walls and all networks wired. They need to be built with the understanding that the notion of a ‘system’ is flexible and expandable, according to the way technology and applications develop.

We’re talking, of course, about concepts like open platform software technology – platforms that can provide organizations with the necessary adaptability to ensure that they can implement changes when and where they are needed, according to their business requirements, over time.

Photo credit lawrencegsSo while the IoST might be in its early stages – where standards, privacy issues and administration have yet to cohere into a more mature and corporate-ready, implementable concept – mobility is clearly alive and very present today in the form of smartphones, tablets and laptop computers or in cars, armbands and eyeglasses, even clothing!

Consumer adoption of several of these categories is widespread and now mobility is broadening its reach into the corporate world as well. Tablet computers, a category that barely existed three years ago, is estimated to grow by almost 50 percent per year in enterprise use, according to a recent IBM study.

Data from the same study indicates that individuals are using both mobile phones and tablets to accomplish a wide scope of work activities that were previously restricted to desktops. These activities range from accessing email (62 percent via phone, 38 percent via tablet) to collaboration and project management (25 percent via phone, 34 percent via tablet) to videoconferences (30 percent by phone, 33 percent via tablet). The study concludes: “The ability to perform these and access other enterprise applications from non-traditional office settings holds the possibility to reinvent at a fundamental level how companies execute a range of activities – from sales and customer service to logistics and maintenance.”

Video business systems also benefit from this new mobility, and according to the study:

“Mobile strategy leaders have also seen clear benefits in their mobile investments to date: 73 percent of leaders have seen measurable ROI from their mobile initiatives versus 34 percent of all other companies in our study. Further, 81 percent stated that mobile capabilities are fundamentally changing the way their organizations do business.”

Mobile video: a radical departure

When smartphones or tablets are used as clients, they enable a radical shift in how the VMS (Video Management Software) is used. They allow a decentralized workflow where video feeds can be used everywhere, not just viewed in front of a desktop monitor or smart wall.

Alerts pushed to mobile devices effectively break the monitor/wall restriction, removing the last barriers for true mobile video systems. It’s no longer a single operator handling an alarm and using video to investigate an incident further, manually setting in motion the proper actions for resolving the incident. ‘Push alerts’ now mean the person responsible for resolving the incident gets the information they need to do so, directly and fast. Using a mobile video client, the responder can access the VMS and get the details without delay. This not only improves the quality of the response, it’s also much more convenient for the responder.

One example of this is the system at Copenhagen Zoo. The zoo has numerous gates for receiving supplies. All of these gates are unmanned. Previously, an employee had to leave the zoo administration building when access was requested, and walk to the gate to verify the identity of the visitor to allow entry. But now, by using the Milestone Mobile client, authorized employees can access the video feed from the camera covering the gate in question, verify the identity of the delivery and open the gate remotely using triggers configured in the Milestone VMS. The use of mobile clients saves the zoo 180 man-days a year, improves handling of deliveries due to reduced waiting times, and heightens security.

SkultMobile clients can also benefit more traditional video security installations. A chain of hairdressers in Sweden called Skult use their video installation for security and improving salon operational efficiency. But in their new video infrastructure no traditional clients are used. They operate with mobile clients only. This enables the owner of Skult to ensure that every salon in the chain meets her standards, and to quickly handle security incidents no matter where she is.

And it’s not just security incidents that can be monitored, as CEO and owner Maria Jorgensen explains:

If I want to, I can check up on my salons when I sit at home. I can call the store right away if decorations need to be changed, for example. It is great to have such flexibility.

Cameras on the move

This is impressive stuff. But mobile devices can be used for much more than just functioning as a mobile video client. Consider this: all smartphones and tablets have an integrated video camera, they have fairly accurate time services, and nearly all are GPS-enabled. The more advanced devices add a compass to the feature set. These features make mobile devices very capable cameras for use in a VMS context. Add to this the availability of nearly omnipresent fast-data connections, and the resulting practical devices enable a large number of new uses.

The ability to push video from mobile devices to a central VMS, complete with evidence-class metadata like GPS position, camera direction and time of day, is a truly compelling concept. It offers the potential to report incidents at locations not covered by stationary cameras; it can provide extra, complementary angles to recordings from stationary cameras; and it could be used to provide additional video data, as smartphones have plenty of capacity for running video analytics. Of course, optimized ‘video push’ capabilities demand that the VMS is adaptable and capable of handling the video metadata. If it can’t, the use of mobile devices as effective cameras is, at best, difficult.

Building for the future

It’s clear that the corporate use of mobile devices is increasing. This means that business systems, infrastructure and workflow now has to be designed, or adapted, to accommodate these devices.

Video business systems are no exception here. The use of mobile devices as clients can improve productivity, as they enable a “watch and react everywhere” work scenario. Video pushed from mobile devices is enabling both new opportunities and giving first responders ways to be more effective.

All of this demands a VMS with a high degree of adaptability and true openness – a video management system built with an understanding of the requirements of the new era of mobility.

Milestone-JOS_Svendsen.PRManagerEMEABy Jos Svendsen, Corporate Communications Manager