Focus: Time to rethink what you know about VMS

Focus: Time to rethink what you know about VMS

“VMS is an acronym everyone in the security industry is familiar with, but what it means is changing to the benefit of any organisation that places a premium on their physical security strategy,” writes Andreas Conrad, head of marketing at Qognify 

There are many examples where acronyms transcend their initial meaning over time. The same can now be said of VMS. Traditional video management systems were relatively straightforward platforms, performing the task of displaying, recording, and managing cameras very well.

However, with the safety, security and operational needs of organisations evolving, more and more video surveillance systems are developing into centralised physical security management platforms that integrate and manage cameras, sensors and subsystems such as video analytics to provide the control room with improved situational awareness and to orchestrate the response process.

Ingest, interpret and act
For some years now, investment in surveillance and security technology has centred around getting more and more data feeds into the control room. This has been driven by a range of factors, notably by the increasing availability and affordability of new technology, and the premise that more information can only be a good thing for operators, helping them to make the right decisions at the right time. There has also been a clear cultural change in viewing security and safety as a series of business processes, which can have different impacts on the organisation, requiring different steps to resolve and minimise the impact of these issues.

However, with each data feed siloed and operating independently from each other, the value and impact of new investments rests upon the shoulder of the operators, who can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information being pushed to them during an incident. What became very clear to technology vendors, system integrators and end users, was the need to turn mere data into actionable information, enabling operators to ingest, interpret and act upon these sources of information, to improve how safety and security related incidents are managed.

It is true that technology platforms such as physical security information management (PSIM) and enterprise incident management (EIM) have been available for some time. These deliver advanced systems integration and in the right environment provide exactly the level of situational awareness the control rooms require. Yet for organisations that have video surveillance at the heart of their physical security ecosystem, these solutions can be overly complex and expensive. What is more, if video is used it would still require a VMS.

A video-centric security management platform for the control room
For this reason, it was clear that the system already sitting at the heart of the control room (the VMS) needed to evolve. The new, next generation VMS solutions (also known as VMS+) available on the market today are video-centric as opposed to video-only. They deliver situational awareness and improve incident management by combining advanced video surveillance technology with built-in workflow components and other core physical security systems. They enable control rooms to realise the true potential of the technology investments they have made by resolving the information overload and peeling away the layers of complexity for both operators and administrators.

Transitioning to a next generation VMS
The move to next generation VMS is happening across the board, from airports to academic institutions. An excellent example of this is the University of Vermont, which had previously used an open-platform IP video surveillance solution, but decided to begin a process of integrating its surveillance cameras and access control.

Like many other organisations in a similar situation, a move to a PSIM system appeared to be the only viable option. Robert Cochran is responsible for the security infrastructure at the campus and he looked closely at different PSIM systems, drawing a similar conclusion to others in that situation. The solutions were powerful, yet very expensive and didn’t match the University’s requirements. He commented: “What we ideally wanted to find was a VMS that was capable of being our core security management system.”

The University decided that this would be the right path and deployed the VisionHub VMS+ from Qognify to manage its on-campus install base of 459 video channels and the ability to integrate all 600 of its access locations. Since the implementation the University has benefited from the ability to better manage real-time emergency events, conducted post-incident investigation and daily on-campus surveillance. Cochran explains: “We can view live and recorded camera feeds, as well as access transactions and door information, providing us with a clear real-time picture of people and crowd movement. If any intervention is required, we can control the opening and closing of doors. All of this is done within the one single clear and easy-to-use system.”

The University is continuously innovating and extracting increasing value from its investment in a VMS+ solution. Last year, it undertook a project to provide administrative staff working at its Fleming Museum of Art with the ability to monitor live camera feeds remotely, as part of an initiative to reduce unnecessary on-site attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.From a day-to-day management perspective, the VMS+ also enables upgrades and authorisations to be centrally managed off-site – another key trend in the evolution of the VMS.

Centralising video management
In addition to demands for more sophistication and integration beyond video, surveillance projects are increasingly larger in scale and more complex. Managing multiple sites is time-consuming and continuously monitoring the health status of all servers and cameras across all locations is a challenge.

In the case of the banking, retail, logistics and transportation industries, organisations are often operating branch networks with hundreds of sites and thousands of cameras. When working at this large scale it is not uncommon for an organisation to frequently and substantially over-spend on technical expertise and unnecessary licenses, as well as potentially exposing themselves to regulatory risk.

As a consequence, a new level of functionality was required that allows to overlay the organisational structures of an organization with the topology of its video security systems in order to enable centralised configuration, management, and monitoring of distributed independent system installations. In doing so it provides a consolidated view of every connected server and camera, as well as license status, at any time and from anywhere in the world. By centralising system monitoring, administration and license management, organisations can be more proactive and effective in the way they operate and maintain their surveillance camera networks.

The innovations in VMS technology are enabling organisations to take a more strategic and business process led approach to how they operate. Having a centralised platform enables existing infrastructure to be optimised and the total cost of ownership lowered, whilst future investments in new technologies can be planned, deployed, and managed, to deliver a faster and bigger impact.