Video surveillance systems have proven to not only be a deterrent to crime, but are also now being used to collect data points to actually help detect abnormal behaviours which can alert authorities of potentially evolving situations. In either case, recorded video is critical for investigations to provide all but irrefutable evidence to prove or disprove that an incident took place and the identity of the individuals involved. 

Sounds like a pragmatic approach that’s quite simple in theory. Not so when large numbers of cameras are deployed across multiple sites, and perhaps multiple users within the framework of a centrally managed system. Examples include a mass transit system, large university campus, mega malls, airports, gaming resorts… and more. Video Management Systems (VMS) have evolved from simply facilitating camera and recording management to a more sophisticated role

Aside from the challenges presented with multiple camera feeds, recorders and control locations, and assuming that all system components are operating as they should; investigators need the right tools to find the footage they need.

Today’s advanced Video Management Systems (VMS) have evolved from simply facilitating camera and recording management to a more sophisticated role within a larger video surveillance and security system ecosystem.  

Coordinated Response Efforts 

From monitoring and tracking a live situation within a facility or across a municipality, to coordinating response efforts, through forensic investigations, new VMS capabilities provide a holistic solution that improves overall protection and contributes to business intelligence. 

Among these capabilities, VMS forensic tools are meeting the needs of important investigation activity – both during and after an incident. For instance, while monitoring live video feeds, users can perform a basic investigation on individual cameras including playback, and digital and optical pan-tilt-zoom (for PTZ cameras), without the need to switch to a dedicated investigation mode.

video surveillance system investigation
New VMS capabilities provide a holistic solution during the investigation process

Advanced VMS solutions, such as OnSSI’s Ocularis, provide investigators with a multitude of options for accessing and enhancing video data to document incidents. Some of the most notable toolsets available include:

Switching Between Live And Browse Modes

As opposed to the Live Monitoring view, which displays multiple cameras asynchronously (i.e. different panes can show playback, paused and/or live cameras simultaneously), the Browse mode displays all cameras synchronously. This provides insight into events taking place at different locations at the time an incident occurred, allowing investigators to easily track an incident as it moves from camera to camera.  

Scalable Kinetic Timeline

Any video recordings triggered due to motion detection can be automatically queued to speed up the investigation processThis provides a clear overview of recorded motion events over extended periods of time with the ability to scale the timeline to show shorter or longer time intervals. Color-coded segments in the timeline indicate whether video has been recorded at a certain time to the minute, and whether motion was detected during those periods. 

Any video recordings triggered due to motion detection can be automatically queued to speed up the investigation process. Once investigators isolate recorded video of interest using any of these preferences, one or multiple cameras can then be easily viewed. 

Synchronous Playback

Synchronous playback displays all recorded video from all displayed cameras on the timeline into a Browse mode regardless of which video source is selected. This provides investigators with a comprehensive overview and fast access to all recorded video during the time intervals that an event occurred.

One-Click Snapshot And Motion Detection 

One-click snapshot allows investigators take JPEG image snapshots of any recorded video during the review process. These snapshots have multiple applications including identifying individuals of interest.  

motion detection video surveillance system
 Motion detection eliminates the need to manually review volumes of recorded data

Motion Detection expedites the event detection process by eliminating the need to manually review volumes of recorded video data. Motion can be detected within a defined zone, and the detection process can be configured to the exact parameters of the targeted behavior or movement. The desired time intervals to search for motion detection can be preset by operators to expedite searches.

The percentage of changed pixels can also be set when searching by motion detection to match the nature of the targeted movement. For example, high value setting would be used to detect a vehicle entering a detection region down to the size of a single parking space, eliminating false detections of persons walking in the parking lot. Additionally, parameters can be set for pixel color and brightness to compensate for the amount of noise caused by ambient lighting, shadows, reflections and more.Motion Detection expedites the event detection process by eliminating the need to manually review volumes of recorded video data 

Slicing Capabilities 

Time Slicing enables users to easily and quickly access video of an incident by automatically generating equal-interval thumbnails of a specific camera view. Once the incident is evident in one of the thumbnails, investigators can create sets of thumbnails of increasingly smaller time intervals to determine the exact moment an incident began and/or ended.

Motion Slicing is similar to a Time Slicer, but enables instant detection of motion events, adjusted for the duration of the event and level of motion. 

Alert Generators 

Alerts generated by the recording component in response to events such as motion detection or generic events received from external systems (e.g. access control, emergency phones, etc.) may also be used in Time Slicing. 

Event Sequencing provides messages generated by the recording components indicating a sequence of events. Each sequence may include one or more instances of motion, or alerts received from external sources, making this method more suitable for accessing complex incidents.

Combined with the inherent video management and control capabilities provided by best in breed VMS solutions, these powerful new embedded investigation tools allow users with large surveillance systems to fully leverage the power of their investment to easily and comprehensively investigate events.

Download PDF version

Author profile

Ken LaMarca Vice President of Sales and Marketing, On-Net Surveillance Systems, Inc.

In case you missed it

Unlocking Profits For Integrators In The Ever-Evolving World Of Access Control
Unlocking Profits For Integrators In The Ever-Evolving World Of Access Control

Whether you are a veteran in the access control world or have never installed a card reader before, there are always ways to increase profits in the ever-evolving world of access control. The hope is that by considering a few key focal points, you can find ways to increase market share. Whether we are releasing an electronic lock through a simple intercom button or using biometric and multi-authentication based on a database; the tactics for bringing on more revenue is the same. Learning to focus on a few key items can help open up opportunities. Business Access Controls Understanding vertical markets is a strong strategy for success in increasing your profits with access controlIf you are new to access control, it’s important to determine the right product offerings for your business model and experience level of your team. Mistakes in estimating or installing can be costly and complex. Take advantage of manufacturer training both online and in the classroom for both your sales team and installation department. It’s important to understand the fire and building codes in your area to make sure you design the proper solution for your customers. Furthermore, understanding the products, components and proper wiring can save you money in labor and materials. Today we will look at four focus points: Vertical Markets, Cloud-Based Access Control, Technology Upgrades, and Preventative Maintenance and Service Agreements. These four focal points are simple to implement and can be easily added to your current operation. Vertical Markets Understanding vertical markets is a strong strategy for success in increasing your profits with access control. The concept is that understanding a certain vertical and their security needs can increase your sales team’s marketability. If you spend your time focusing on the healthcare industry, for instance, you will see that HIPA requirements open doors for selling access control. Getting to know the regulatory concerns of different verticals is a great strategy for more effective salesHaving logs of who entered your HR files room or patient records storage is a crucial part of addressing privacy concerns. Getting to know the regulatory concerns of different verticals is a great strategy for more effective sales. Another example could be apartment communities or other multifamily dwellings. In this competitive marketplace, these complexes are looking for ways to stand out in their market. Knowing this and being able to offer amenities like secured locks with Bluetooth credentials that tenants can open with their smartphones is a selling point for you and for your customer. Building on each customer you contact within a vertical is like free sales and marketing training. The more you learn from each potential client, the more you increase your conversation starters for the next potential client. Cloud-Based Access Control With the growing cloud-based access control market, integrators can find more opportunities in small businesses and vertical markets that typically wouldn’t be on the radar of your sales team. A typical card access system often makes the move from the traditional lock and key systems to electronic card access cost prohibitive. This is due to the large upfront costs for a server, software and annual licensing. With cloud access, integrators can offer less expensive upfront costs with low monthly subscription fees that cover all software updates, database backups, security patches and more. The real benefit for the integrator is the reoccurring revenue. By helping our clients save money on server, software and IT infrastructure costs, we are securing reoccurring revenue for our companies that increase our profitability. Building reoccurring revenue not only provides cash flow but also keeps your name on the top of the minds of your customer and that leads to additional sales. By helping clients save money on server, software and IT infrastructure costs, we are securing reoccurring revenue for companies that increase profitability Technology Upgrades Another often overlooked opportunity is technology upgrades. Training your sales staff and even service technicians to watch out for clients with older technology can reap major benefits. When you bring new technology to your clients, you show another value that you bring to the table. Even if your client isn’t ready to make an upgrade, you can easily plant a seed that will get their minds and budgets rolling. An easy example is a customer with an older intercom door access system An easy example is a customer with an older intercom door access system. This may have met their needs 10 years ago when it was installed, but the office has grown and perhaps an integrated card access intercom system is a great technology upgrade. Bringing this to the customer will once again show that you are the “subject matter expert” and your customer will be more apt to refer you to their friends and colleagues. Another easy way to find technology upgrades is to dig through your ageing client list and build a list of potential targets that you have not visited lately. If you keep records of what was installed previously, it will make it easier to plan ahead and bring solutions to your next visit, saving your sales staff time and again building confidence with your clients. Preventive Maintenance And Service Agreements One thing that sales teams often miss is the opportunity to add service agreements and preventative maintenance agreements. Even if a customer already has an access control system, they may not have a service provider and may be interested in securing a service agreement. Typically, a service agreement can be written to cover all parts and labor or just labor for an annual feeShowing the value of a service agreement is paramount, adding annual or semi-annual preventative maintenance to your service agreement is one way to add value. Inspecting locking mechanisms, request to exit motions and buttons, door status switches, headend equipment, batteries and power supplies, can save your customer from a costly after-hours service call or the inconvenience of a non-functioning access control system during business hours. Additionally, checking computer hardware and software logs for errors can save a customer from a catastrophic failure.  Typically, a service agreement can be written to cover all parts and labor or just labor for an annual fee. It is helpful to come up with a percentage of the install value that makes sense so that your sales team can easily quote a service agreement for your customer. Offering several levels of service also opens the table for negotiations. You can offer an “all parts and labor 24/7” or a “parts and labor M-F 8AM-4PM”, as an example. Offering guaranteed response times can also be a marketing strategy. Critical Area Access Management Checking computer hardware and software logs for errors can save a customer from a catastrophic failureA 24-7 facility that has 200 employees moving in and out of critical areas may be a great potential customer for a high-level service agreement with semi-annual preventative maintenance and a guaranteed 4-hour response time. Where a small office that is only open during standard business hours may be better suited for a labor only M-F with annual preventative maintenance inspection. The point is that a creative, intentional, and focused approach to access control can yield the fruit that brings long-term success to your team. Building a plan and learning from each prospect, sale, and installation will develop a process that brings results. Attending a trade specific expo like ESX will give you the opportunity to meet with manufacturers and other integrators that can help you implement a product offering and strategy for success.

Further Acquisitions In The Pipeline For Parent Company ACRE
Further Acquisitions In The Pipeline For Parent Company ACRE

One of the biggest recent security divestitures in the news was the sale of Mercury Security to HID Global, which occurred around a year ago. The seller in that transaction was ACRE (Access Control Related Enterprises), also the parent company of Vanderbilt and ComNet. We recently spoke to founder and CEO Joe Grillo, a 30-year industry veteran, about the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market, ACRE’s future, and new opportunities opened up by the Mercury sale. Q: What’s new with ACRE? Grillo: We have an opportunity to have organic growth and to have some scale on a global basis to be a decent size player" ACRE is a company I founded in 2012, and since then we have had six acquisitions and one divestiture. We’ll never focus on ACRE as a brand, but we currently have more visibility of ACRE as a parent company with our two strong brands, ComNet and Vanderbilt. Last year was a very busy year [with the sale of Mercury Security to HID Global] because it takes as long to sell a brand as to buy one, maybe more so. Q: What’s next? Grillo: What you are seeing from us this year is that we are again in a buying mode. No announcement yet, but we expect one by the end of the year. We are well-funded, have great partners, and see an opportunity to continue to grow acquisitively as our highly fragmented space of access control continues to consolidate. From the standpoint of ACRE, with the ComNet and Vanderbilt brands, we are also doing more integration on the backside – not what the customer sees. We will continue to grow toward a $200 million business. We were there when we owned Mercury, and we will get there again. We have an opportunity to have organic growth and to have some scale on a global basis to be a decent size player. Because ACRE are owned by a private equity company, we are brought into every opportunity: ComNet is a good example" Q: Do you see the M&A market being more competitive – more companies looking to acquire? Grillo: There’s a lot of money chasing not-so-many deals, so evaluations can get expanded. But as interest rates creep up, it is definitely a challenge to find the right valuation, the right financing and the right strategic fit. It is a very strategic market. Q: There have been some big acquisitions lately. Were you guys involved at all in evaluating those opportunities? Grillo: Because we are owned by a private equity company, we are brought into every opportunity. An example of that was ComNet. I would not have been aware that the founder passed away two years ago and that there was this opportunity to own the business. So we look at everything; anything that’s out there we look at. The biggest recent announcement in our world was S2 (being sold to UTC/Lenel), and, yeah, we looked at that. It didn’t fit our profile – it was too expensive. Great business, and it’ll be interesting to see how it fits into the UTC environment. There was also Isonas [which was recently sold to Allegion], but the size didn’t add enough scale, but I like the technology. ComNet sells communication networking solutions and products, which is more attractive than video systems for ACRE Q: So what are you looking for in an acquisition? Grillo: It’s hard for us to find something that moves the needle, and you have to find that right balance. Is it something we can digest and have the financing for, and also is there room on the back end? We are private equity-owned, so we know there will be an exit for our investors, too. So we have to find the right balance, good valuations, the right size and digestible. If you look at our acquisitions, we have done two “carve outs.” The Vanderbilt name didn’t exist until we bought the business from Ingersoll Rand, and then we bought the [intruder] business from Siemens. That’s how Vanderbilt came about. You get a lot of value when you carve out a business, but there’s a lot of work. In the case of Mercury or Access Control Technology (ACT) that we acquired; they were growing and profitable but they stretch your finances a lot more. So you have to find the right mix in there. Q: Does video interest ACRE at all? Grillo: We have to find the right balance, good valuations, the right size and digestible"ComNet is our video play. ComNet sells communication networking solutions and products, and 70 to 80 percent of that is used for video systems. But unlike cameras, which don’t interest us, it’s actually good margins, highly specialized repeat business and with good channel partners. So where are we going to play? Cameras – no (because of commoditization). We have some recorder technology (from the Siemens acquisition) and we have the communication networking technology (with ComNet). On the software side, we have looked at a lot of the VMS companies, and a lot of them have been on the market. But the valuation expectations can be high because they are software companies. And we really believe in partnering as a good thing, too. If we integrate to Milestone or Salient or some of these companies, we will never lose an access control client because they chose a particular VMS. Q: ACRE is also looking to grow organically, isn’t it? Grillo: From a technology perspective, we are a product company and we are continuing to bring new products to the market with the ComNet communication networking business and the access control business. And in Europe, we have a third leg of the stool, which is the very successful intrusion and burgular alarm business we acquired from Siemens (SPC products now sold under the Vanderbilt brand). That business continues to do well and is now one of the highest performing segments in our portfolio.The intrusion and burgular alarm continues to do well and is now one of the highest performing segments in our portfolio" Q: But you don’t have to own a company to make it part of your solution. Grillo: An important word is integration. We have to integrate to all the wireless locks. We have to integrate to the VMS systems. But we don’t have to own them. Q: How has the Mercury Security divestiture impacted the rest of your business? Grillo: It has opened up the opportunity for us to look at Mercury partners as possible acquisition targets without worrying about conflicts with the very good business of Mercury. We have more flexibility now compared to the Mercury era. Q: How will the economic cycle impact the security market? Grillo: Interest rates are a much bigger issue than the overall economic cycle. We talk a lot about it with our owners – clearly interest rates are tightening up. If you go out to do acquisitions or to borrow money to do something with your business, it will be tougher than it was two years ago, and it may get worse in the next two years. Security is less impacted by the economic cycle than some industries.

What Is The Most Important Function Of A Video Surveillance System?
What Is The Most Important Function Of A Video Surveillance System?

In the simplest terms, video systems capture and record video. But supporting these basic operations are a growing number of other functions that expand usefulness and the ability to interact with related elements in a larger system. As video system functionality expands, we asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the most important function of a video surveillance system and why?