Does Cloud-Based Surveillance Make Sense?

IT professionals all over the world are looking for ways to cut costs—how can technology be leveraged in new and efficient ways?  For many applications, “the cloud” is the answer to reducing hardware requirements and maintenance hours, as well as adding flexibility and scalability to an existing system or embracing a new application. But does that apply to video surveillance?

Surveillance is comprised of unique components that may not always work well in a cloud environment, and municipal surveillance has higher stakes than, say, home security. Video files are large, and depending on the hardware that is being utilized, can run into terabyte-level files in a surprisingly short amount of time. Depending on the cloud storage requirements for multiple camera’s worth of video, fees for cloud access could very quickly eclipse the cost of maintaining an NVR onsite.

Privacy issues are also a consideration, specifically for municipal surveillance systems. There may be restrictions or laws in place that govern the storage of video footage. Digital security is out of your hands, once the video is uploaded to the cloud.

Uptime and Reliability

There is an additional concern, specifically for high-security areas, of what happens when the cloud is inaccessible. When Amazon (a major cloud-storage provider) goes down, it’s breaking news globally within minutes. With the traditional DETECT system, we have tools in place to keep a finger on the pulse of your system. Not only is the health status of your network available at any time, a large portion of our strategy is dedicated to mitigating downtime.

Link: Uptime and Reliability>


When Should You Consider the Cloud?

You don’t need high-resolution video. The trade-off for uploading at anything remotely resembling real-time (it’s not) is frame rate and resolution. It might be a sacrifice worth making, depending on what you’re monitoring, but video quality will noticeably suffer, and there is a delay in response due to internet upload speeds.

You don’t mind recording every motion, every time. This works well in indoor static environments where motion is limited and the environment doesn’t change. Outside, everyday movement like birds, shadows, trees in the wind—currently, these factors can’t be masked out.

You’re looking for a new system. It’s unlikely you can upgrade an existing camera network to work with a cloud surveillance system. If you’re facing obsolescence, if moving to a cloud system means better adoption and use, or if ongoing maintenance is unsustainable, you might consider the switch.

Cloud or otherwise, video surveillance is a great investment. It can be used for a wide variety of tasks: recording events, identifying intrusions or other anomalies, providing real-time intelligence to first responders, monitoring infrastructure, and much more. The key to choosing the right system for your needs is planning. A highly functional, municipal-wide surveillance system must be built with a solid understanding of the goals and metrics of the project—how will you know if it’s effective? If the system is planned strategically, it will improve the effectiveness of every agency involved.

Getting Started with Municipal Surveillance


Chinese Cameras and the National Defense Authorization Act

In a recent move to protect federal agencies against vulnerabilities in their security networks, the U.S government and Congress has imposed a ban on Chinese-made surveillance cameras. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is Defense Department’s annual budget and spending outline, specified that federal agencies cannot purchase cameras made by Chinese vendors Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.


Why the drastic measure? Covert back-door access was discovered by cyber-security firm ReFirm Labs—access that would allow unauthorized people to tap into the cameras, and send information to China. Hikvision is 42 percent owned by the Chinese government, and the potential of a foreign power having that kind of unauthorized access US federal agencies is, clearly, a security risk.  It should be said that no evidence of spying or wrongdoing has been publicized, but the potential is there, and it’s scary enough to prompt large-scale surveillance crackdowns throughout the government. (You can read more about that here.)



What does this mean for you?

Well, maybe nothing. If you aren’t working with surveillance systems that are impacted by the NDAA amendment, you certainly aren’t required to take any action. But—are you willing to take a chance that your hardware and surveillance is vulnerable to attack?


Hackers look for vulnerabilities to exploit, and almost certainly for malicious reasons. There are plenty of reasons why hackers might want to break into your security camera system, which makes ongoing and proactive cyber-security measures a must—regardless of what you’re using the system for.

What is Leverage’s view?

Hikvision is the world’s largest security camera provider, but they’re certainly not the only one.  In fact, in anticipation of greater restrictions going forward, some security vendors are already refusing to purchase equipment from Hikvision and Dahua.



At Leverage, the first part of our engagement is to conceptualize and design the best system to meet our client’s requirements. When it is our choice for camera selection, we recommend and use Hanwha. We can support other OEMs, and do so when requested by our clients, however we are development partners with Hanwha and have leveraged their capabilities within the DETECT solution for a powerful and seamless alliance of hardware and software.


Hanwha manufactures their hardware in South Korea and Vietnam, therefore do not put users at risk of purchasing federally banned devices. Hanwha’s cyber-security practices are well documented, and you can read more about them here.


What’s the bottom line? Know your requirements, know the restrictions, and find an experienced technology partner you can trust to help you with the process.

Controlling Camera Chaos: Creating a Unified Surveillance Network

Camerascameras everywhere — but who’s watching? In many cases, sadly, it’s nobody. In a city with hundreds of cameras, they may be managed by dozens of separate agencies, all of whom are understaffed and underfunded, and therefore, the use of video surveillance is marginalized. Why not unite those assets into a powerful, cohesive network?


Smart cities are looking to integrate information technology to improve communication between citizens, agencies, and government. A quick audit of the surveillance systems in a given municipality often reveals an array of disparate assets: local departments, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply, waste management and law enforcement are all likely to have engaged some form of video surveillance.

The Benefits of Working Together

These unified systems are called Public Video Surveillance Systems (PVSS). PVSS networks are often very visible, and designed by public safety officials to enhance citizen safety and quality of life. At the same time, other city departments are building out IP networks to support the services they provide. Typically traffic engineering, schools, and city utility departments build IP surveillance systems in the shadows of Public Video Surveillance Systems, and while the systems are useful, they are generally woefully underused, poorly maintained, and more often than not, abandoned due to ineffective management.


It may seem a daunting task to merge these efforts—and in truth, it is not easy—nonetheless, Leverage has helped several cities to successfully deploy a Unified Video Surveillance system. As such, each separate department:

  • Shares the resources of the others,
  • Reduces operational expenses, and
  • Distributes maintenance and support costs.

Unified video surveillance reduces overall costs and resource consumption, while at the same time, creating the infrastructure for more reliable operation. Consolidation of resources includes the obvious surveillance cameras, but also extends to networking, power, and video retention costs. Further cost savings are realized by an overall reduction in maintenance and support—all while improving services for each individual department.


What Are the First Steps Toward Unification?

When the individual entities that make up a municipality choose to adopt mission-essential video surveillance, there is a great deal of planning to start. Some of the critical first steps include:

  • Identifying stakeholders—who is going to participate?
  • Cataloging existing assets—what do we already have?
  • Develop requirements—what do we want the new system to do?
  • Committing to a budget—what do our systems cost, and what can we afford?

Generally, the departments pool their budgets to fund a unified surveillance system. In this way, instead of requiring a single police department to find funding to purchase surveillance for the entire city, the budgets for every individual contributor are added in to cover the cost of an integrated system. In this way, they municipality gains more assets, yet streamlines management and maintenance.

Leverage can help with these steps. We have over a decade of experience designing surveillance systems for cities, agencies, and governments, and we’ve done our share of integrating existing systems, too. Our experience has taught us that there is no such thing as over planning—and a well-outlined system with defined metrics for success is easier to deploy, maintain, use, and justify.

LEARN MORE HERE: Choose a Technology Partner

Public Video Surveillance Systems provide a fundamental change that addresses the shortcomings of independently deployed video surveillance.  With the proper planning of network infrastructure, and management processes in place to ensure reliable operation, it is possible to provide “Mission Essential” video surveillance services to any or all municipal departments. Correct implementation will unify assets, reduce cost, optimize processes, and improve services.

Need a referral? Give us a call or visit our YouTube site for examples of DETECT in Action.