A VMS Primer for Information Technology Professionals
Video surveillance systems were traditionally turn-key, proprietary hardware/software solutions that were often managed by an organization's security or facilities staff just as they would have managed other basic security electronics and machinery. Overall Information Technology staff has not had a need to be versed on what these systems and their components actually do as they rarely used standard computers and networked with other systems.
However, this landscape has changed dramatically over the past 20 years due to the major technology trends of digitization, connectivity and convergence. Specifically, the move by surveillance video systems to all digital components and recording formats, robust wired and wireless IP network connectivity, and the convergence of other traditional communication networks onto IP networks have driven incredible change in this formerly isolated technology stack. Driven by these technology shifts, the need for a software-defined Video Management System (VMS) has become apparent. If you are interested in more detail and history around this transformation, give the first few chapters of Intelligent Network Video - Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems a read.
Modern VMS systems are built upon open, industry-standard server, storage and network components and platforms and more importantly are being architected to provide enterprise-class performance, scalability, resiliency and recoverability. Certainly, some of the push to adopt enterprise-class infrastructure can be attributed to the growing realization that the video collected by networked IP cameras is valuable business data – data worth protecting and leveraging to provide better operational, security & safety outcomes.
This becomes more evident once you look at the features and functions a VMS provides to the overall surveillance video system. Most enterprise software applications and services provide similar depth and breadth in management, monitoring and governance functionality. At its core an enterprise-class VMS handles all management and governance of surveillance video. This includes the acquisition of video & audio streams, live presentation to appropriate displays and clients, storage tiering, retention and expiration policy, and export controls.
Another key area of support that a VMS provides is the integration of hardware devices such as cameras, microphones, speakers, and security-focused I/O devices. An enterprise VMS will offer native software support through an open architecture as well as industry standard (ONVIF®) support to provide the broadest and most comprehensive set of manufacturer's device offerings. Further, the VMS will allow granular device configuration management & integration for event notifications. VMS event notifications can be used to trigger device actions or to notify an operator as part of an established response. Notifications are recorded and become assigned and tracked within the VMS as the designated response team works them.
An enterprise VMS will provide comprehensive support for a multitude of surveillance video display devices for live & replay uses – whether they be a single monitor PC display to a command center's multiscreen SmartWall to a handheld phone/tablet. Besides providing multiple client interfaces, the VMS will control what features and functionality are visibly available to users via centrally administered client profiles.
From an infrastructure perspective, an enterprise-class VMS deployment leverages multi-tier client/server architecture for scale up/out to maintain performance capacity, integrated security, hardware resiliency and system recoverability. As well it will support centralized VMS Server configuration, management and monitoring from a single pane of glass whether the VMS supports 50 or 10,000+ cameras. The VMS supports device and server capacity monitoring and event logging to ensure proper operations.Authentication into the VMS should integrate with Microsoft Active Directory ™ (AD) or provide its own integrated, secure directory. User and administrator-level authorization permissions should leverage a role-based access control (RBAC) framework and integrate with AD where applicable.
An enterprise-level VMS will provide basic video analytics functionality such as video search, but it also will provide the necessary API support for add-on video analytics solutions to address industry specific, unforeseen use cases. Integration into the VMS will simplify video analytics deployments and maintain governance of video through one control system. As well, a VMS should support integration with physical security solutions, such as door bells and locks, so that other parts of the physical security system can trigger a video surveillance viewing and be managed within the context of an coordinated response. These extensions are critical to yielding greater security, safety and business value from surveillance video.
As you can hopefully see, the VMS is truly the heart of video surveillance and physical security due to its ability to manage all aspects of video and to integrate with security devices.There is much more to the VMS subject that I will cover in greater depth with future blog posts – including what differentiates an open enterprise VMS from a Network Video Recorder and proprietary VMS, and how AI deep learning-based video analytics is freeing formerly trapped rich data from surveillance video.
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