Exclusive: The data challenge facing smart cities


Share this content


Jermaine Campbell, Surveillance Sales Lead EMEA at Seagate Technology examines the increasing demand for data storage solutions.

The video imaging and security sector is undergoing a period of intense transformation. Driven by rapidly increasing demand from a broadening range of end users, including banking and finance, retail, media and entertainment and local governments, a huge opportunity is in store for the video security industry.

Smart cities rely on video for traffic management and safety enforcement; smart retail needs video to track purchases and deliver AR/VR experiences; smart manufacturing needs video analytics to promote safety and efficiency on the factory floor. As a result, according to one report by Mordor Intelligence, the industry can expect a compound annual growth rate of nearly 10% through to 2026. Underlying these shifts are further big, global changes: the UN predicts that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. At the same time, increasing numbers of industries are seeking to reap the benefits of introducing digital technologies into their ways of working. 

All these trends have a need for video analytics. But more video analytics means more data and the industry is hardly alone in that respect. According to the Rethink Data Report, IDC’s research projected enterprise data to increase at a rate of 42.2% between 2020 and 2022, with 68% of this data being unused by businesses due to difficulties accessing and using it effectively.

This all begs the question: is the security industry ready for its post-pandemic growth spurt? Outdated, on-premises infrastructure risks holding back progress. With more data being produced than ever, the way we build video imaging and analytics systems needs to change. A mix of on-site and cloud storage infrastructure is going to be the key to making the most of all this data and unlocking new growth opportunities.

The data challenge

Surveillance environments are becoming increasingly complex. Data captured from IP cameras in the past were pure video streaming, but surveillance storage now must accommodate a host of additional information, thanks to the adoption of video analytics, artificial intelligence and other automated solutions.

With the proliferation of video analytics only set to grow, that means more data is needed to store the footage. This growth is being driven by three main reasons: increasing number of video recording end-points, increasing variety of end-points and the increasing image quality that those end-points are recording.

Gone are the days where CCTV systems would be recording five black and white frames per second: today’s video systems are increasingly full colour, HD and at a much higher framerate. Today’s video footage is being produced not just from static cameras, but body cams, vehicles, drones and in new settings such as smart cities, hospitals and factories. All these developments have their obvious benefits in terms of new features for users, however they do come at a cost: all this video requires both much more space for data storage and a more advanced system for making sure that the data is available where and when the user needs it.

Solutions in the cloud

Not only is the sheer quantity growing, but the actual landscape of where that data is hosted continues to develop in its complexity. For example, while some data needs to be stored in centralised locations like servers or cloud centres for processing, we are increasingly seeing Internet of Things (IoT) devices that require data to be processed at endpoints, or at the edge.

However, it would be wrong to see this increase in video data as just a burden to be mitigated – it is also a huge opportunity for end users to take advantage of the latest advancements in data management. Thanks to cloud technology, security providers across this space can scale their storage capacity at the click of a button.

Most end users have already made heavy upfront investments in existing storage infrastructure and upgrading this infrastructure is expensive, especially if done frequently. Indeed, the cost of constantly scaling up your storage to meet these new demands would be simply prohibitive. Adopting a hybrid approach to data management instead can help keep costs under control while opening up opportunities to innovate.

A hybrid system uses a combination of both traditional, on-premises data storage systems such as hard disk drives, with newer types of mass-capacity private or public cloud storage. This enables businesses to store their video data both locally and in the cloud, depending on the type of data and the business need. Additionally, hybrid systems using both on-prem and cloud networks offer end users new options to extend their video storage capabilities without the expensive prospect of expanding the hardware footprint. It can also help drive costs per TB of storage down and offer additional layers of security compared to on-prem storage alone.

For example, if you have a data set that you need quick easy access to, then that data can stay on on-prem storage where it’s readily available. However, the business may also have much larger archival data sets that aren’t needed to be readily accessed so frequently, however they do need to remain searchable and indexable for use in business analytics. In this use case, private or public cloud environments offer clear advantages over on-prem in terms of costs and feature sets for public sector and security infrastructure enterprises.

Smart cities, security and AI

The data challenges and requirements for security in smart cities are clearly unique. Latency issues leading to data loss or system downtime have the potential to inhibit security operation and critical infrastructure, meaning that the stakes are higher for surveillance systems. Any breakdown could have a high cost. As such, vendors and technology providers operating in the space must invest in developing custom-built products specifically for security applications.

This is where artificial intelligence solutions could come into the fore. Leading AI solutions in this field can record video from higher definition cameras, all the while minimising dropped frames and enabling smooth streaming. This includes support for dozens of simultaneous AI events, preserving both the video and metadata needed for real-time detection and decision-making – and this is a crucial factor when security events can evolve quickly.

This isn’t to say that conventional on-site storage of video data is going away any time soon: it isn’t. As long as data is being generated by end point devices like cameras, there will be a need to store that data locally for easy access. However, emerging technologies brought by the cloud and AI are set to become more and more popular as the economics changes and makes them a more cost-effective and simple option for bulk storage.

As the industry continues to expand with new end users and innovative applications of video analytics technology, the vendors and installers that recognise this potential today will be the ones to reap the benefits in the coming years.

For more information, visit: www.seagate.com

This article was originally published in the April 2022 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox