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IoT-enabled security cameras: How to avoid the headaches

Security cameras are meant to hide in plain sight. They are built to be small and unobtrusive. But this doesn’t mean that a security camera can’t make a noticeable impact on your business — in both positive and negative ways. Today, an IP-enabled security camera isn’t just for security. Instead, it is a camera that can monitor and relay useful business information, while also monitoring for physical security purposes. It is also a new endpoint on the growing list that lives on the network, managed by IT.

The security camera industry has come a long way in the past few years. From analog to digital, security cameras have experienced the same transformation as many other workplace technologies that have become IP-enabled. Just like the migration of telephony from traditional private branch exchanges to today’s VoIP systems, cameras are transitioning from a technology traditionally managed by operations to one managed by IT.

IP-enabled security cameras can spell trouble for the network if not managed properly, and the technology you buy to keep your organization safe could end up doing more harm than good. In order for IT to avoid the pitfalls, businesses need to:

  • Make sure IT has a seat at the table during the buying process. Cameras and their associated infrastructure are now connected devices on the network with a myriad of components and applications. The traditional decision-makers in Facilities, loss prevention or even corporate security are not experts in making decisions about IT infrastructure. By leaving IT out of the loop, long-term Opex and platform capabilities aren’t scoped properly, and camera functionality can suffer. This can also lead to problems during deployment and troubleshooting.
  • Not underestimate the threats introduced by IP camera technologies. Again, a camera becomes an endpoint when added to the network, and because of this, needs to be secured. Most network video recorders and cameras either don’t offer encryption, don’t offer encryption for all components of the system or make it very hard to deploy encryption. Ensure the system you choose offers the right level of encryption for your business. Additionally, consider the ease in which you can update firmware and drivers. Many of today’s camera options use outdated security protocols and are poorly managed because they are cumbersome to keep up to date, making them a target for cyberattacks, not unlike those we saw derailing business across Europe when WannaCry and Petya hit in 2017. We see the blame placed on the IT team for network breaches, regardless of whether the cameras are supposed to be under their control.
  • Weigh costs by looking at the full picture, including long-term operations. As always, price is a major factor when making a buying decision, but take the time to look beyond the sticker price and consider the long-term operational costs. Cost isn’t just about the cameras; there are the servers, software packages (like VMS or additional analytics), recabling costs and more to consider. Inexpensive, poorly built cameras may fail after a short period of time, provide poor user experiences or require a lot of time-consuming manual configuration. And as mentioned, cameras that leave businesses vulnerable to a hack could cost the business exorbitant amounts of money. If a camera lacks proper support, customers could be left high and dry if, and when, the camera fails. Choose a system that offers an adequate level of support.
  • Consider scalability and long-term effectiveness. Camera technology is rapidly evolving. How will today’s cameras meet the needs of tomorrow if camera features are set in stone the day they are purchased? The ability to quickly and easily deploy new features is essential. Scalability becomes a major issue with security systems as well. Using cloud storage to solve scaling issues leads to unrealistic bandwidth requirements, and sky-high costs when used in an enterprise deployment. Choose a system that can grow with your business, both in terms of features and in size.

While the IT team may find itself largely responsible for the security and performance of security cameras, there is also an immense opportunity to bring enormous value to the business with IP-based cameras. Cameras are visual sensors by nature, so it is only natural that, by adding analytics capabilities, a business can extrapolate a great deal of useful trend information when the data is anonymized and consolidated. Understanding how traffic flows through a retail store is one example, but we’ve had customers who have used cameras to do much more — whether a city using motion heat maps to see which equipment in the city gym is used most frequently, allowing for better business decisions about when to replace equipment, or a farm in Australia, which was able to monitor and deduce useful grazing and behavior pattern of sheep.

The security camera market is evolving at a rapid rate. IT needs to be involved in the discussion, and is in a prime position to help bring new levels of visibility and analytics to the business.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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