The term ‘big data’ has become increasingly recognised in the business world over the past few years. While it might have become something of a marketing term, most can appreciate the concept of more smart devices producing data in ever-increasing quantities.
The perfect illustration of the growth of big data can be found in the surveillance market, whether it be data used for security purposes or collecting and collating information in a range of areas. The number of CCTV and surveillance cameras has increased dramatically in the last decade. But not all are used purely to keep an eye on secure building access and street corners. City councils and planners looking to predict traffic flow patterns, airport and aviation authorities seeking to reduce wait times, retailers examining customers’ browsing habits, and emergency services seeking to cut vital seconds from response times – all can benefit from the increasing amount of data stored in surveillance systems.
The growth and increasing sophistication of surveillance has resulted in an explosion of data that organisations can, and are expected to, manage safely and securely. This is before we even consider how data is being stored so it can be analysed and used to provide benefits for the organisation. With this growth in surveillance data, organisations need to assess how they are storing it, whether it is properly held, and if they are missing out on any opportunities to extract insight.
Scale of the challenge
A report by IDC revealed that half of global big data in 2012 came from surveillance. This statistic goes someway in illustrating the scale of the challenge that organisations that utilise surveillance face in both storing and managing it. The storage demands from this huge volume of data is likely to be overwhelming to most organisations.
There are two key areas concerning surveillance data storage that organisations should consider today; the length of time data can realistically be stored for, and the quality and resolution of the data stored. For some industries where surveillance is a standard requirement, there will be a set of archive requirements to adhere to – a minimum time required to store data – and this time frame has actually increased in recent years within several GCC countries. In terms of resolution, it’s generally a case of the higher the better. The better the resolution, the more value the organisation will see from the data. The catch is, the higher the resolution, the higher the storage requirements – and costs.
These challenges are not set to ease in the future. The amount of data globally (including surveillance data) is set to grow significantly over the next six years, with Gartner noting that the market for business intelligence (BI) and analytics software in MENA increased 11 per cent last year compared to the previous year. With such relentless change in the quantity of data being created and stored it is almost inevitable that organisations are struggling to use it to gain real insight. By 2020 more than 32 per cent of all data could be considered ‘useful’, meaning that it can be analysed with patterns and trends found from it. As a result there is a real need for organisations to get back in control of their data now or risk never being able to control it and analyse it in future.
Taking back data control
There are two main challenges to taking back control of surveillance data, firstly around the storage of the data and secondly regarding the analysis of it.
The storage of surveillance data should be done exclusively on hard drive storage, which can store significant amounts of data at high quality and be connected to an intelligent video surveillance (IVS) system which provides consistency in recording multiple video streams around-the-clock. The good news on this front is that hard drive storage capacities are continuing to grow rapidly. In turn this means the overall expense of getting data properly stored is decreasing even as the amount of data increases. With costs continuing to decrease there is greater possibility of deploying an IVS to manage the data from surveillance, making detailed analysis a realistic possibility for more organisations.
Having the right hard drive storage in place, with high capacity, means organisations can carefully plan for how much storage capacity they need to meet their specific archive and resolution requirements.
However, simply upgrading to a hard drive based data storage system with an integrated IVS system isn’t enough. To tackle the challenge of data analysis, organisations need to have the processes and structures in place to take advantage of the benefits. Video analytics systems can now be programmed to track objects identified as human and send an alert when the subject violates predefined rules, such as climbing over a wall. While some of this analysis is done in real-time, a great deal is typically done on recorded video, rather than live streams. This again means significant storage capacity is required to house the large amount of high-resolution video data and therefore make best use of the analytical technology on offer.
Firm foundations have to be in place to take advantage of surveillance data, with the core based around a flexible data-storage capacity. With the world increasingly data driven, organisations in the Gulf region that rely on surveillance need to reassess their storage requirements. While both storage capacities and analysis capabilities are developing all the time, organisations need to be able to better manage their data now if they are to reap long-term rewards.