The most significant roadblock to the widespread uptake of VSaaS is the availability of reliable high speed broadband services.
It's really that straightforward.
Video Surveillance as a Service is a relatively simple concept: instead of a customer with an IP CCTV system paying for servers and associated hardware and storing them on-site in their own comms room, they pay a subscription fee – usually on a per-camera basis – for video, and its management software and other functions, like analytics, to be hosted in 'the cloud'.
When we refer to ‘the cloud', we're talking about the internet. But what we're really talking about are the servers of the hosting company, or VSaaS vendor, which are accessible via the internet.
In theory, all of the functionality of an on-site IP CCTV system should be available through a VSaaS solution. The critical return on investment comes from saving on the costs of server and associated hardware outlay, as well the overheads for floor space, maintenance, software update patches, virus protection, etc.
And we know there is interest in cloud-based services – a huge proportion of smartphone users are already taking advantage of the cloud to store photos and data, whether they are aware of it or not.
But video – and particularly full frame rate video, essential for more complex analytics functions – requires significantly more bandwidth than still images or data. Importantly, this bandwidth needs to provide a high speed connection for both uploading and downloading. Currently, if you've got a good broadband connection, chances are the download speed is excellent, but the upload speed doesn't compare.
To combat these restrictions, a company could invest in a high speed fibre optic broadband connection – but this tends to incur large annual rental costs, which amount to more than that of buying and maintaining its own servers.
At present, then, VSaaS is only really suitable for small camera count projects, perhaps up to four cameras, for home use or very small office requirements. But for a reasonable commercial property using 12 to 20 cameras, it's just not suitable as yet.
Once the broadband service providers are able to provide reliable, high speed two-way connections at the right price point, we predict that there'll start to be more significant uptake for VSaaS. That looks likely to happen at some point over the next few years.
As a company, Milestone is prepared for VSaaS, and we do see it as an opportunity. But we don't plan to be a hosting company ourselves. We want to make the software tools to enable others to address the business model.
The recent info4security article reporting on IMS's VSaaS research is right in that vendors are likely to be differentiated by the functionality and ROI potential of their offering, in the same way that standard IP video surveillance systems are differentiated now. But none of that will come into play until a high quality, reasonably priced broadband service is available to medium and larger enterprises.
In the meantime, we can see that the appetite for remote access of video surveillance is there – witness the increase in use of 3G and now 4G mobile functionality, allowing customers to access video from their tablet or mobile phone.
That's something of a halfway house in terms of remote accessibility without remote hosting. We're just waiting for the broadband service providers to play their part in making VSaaS solutions a reality.
Glenn Fletcher is UK and Ireland Country Manager at Milestone Systems.