Optimising security surveillance in control rooms

Optimising security surveillance in control rooms

Most organisations will agree that the more video coverage, the better! Fadhl Al-Bayaty, Vice President of Product Management at VuWall, looks at the design challenges of control rooms and what it takes to overcome them to improve efficiency.

The security landscape around visualisation has changed so rapidly in the past 10+ years that organisations are still catching up with the move to IP security cameras, let alone other advancements in video surveillance technology. Control rooms have become a vital security hub in many applications —airport and transit security, cybersecurity, event, and facility security, and more. However, despite advances in technology, there are significant challenges in control room environments that impede the monitoring and decision-making process.

First, it’s imperative to highlight how essential the operators are to the control room environment. To optimise decisions, they must be equipped with the right tools and be comfortable in their use. At the heart of effective control room design, is the mission to improve the operators’ productivity through tools on their workstations but also on the video wall control system so they can quickly share information, diagnose, react, and resolve abnormal situations in a timely manner— no matter if they are in anticipation, prevention, or crisis management mode.

Lots of data, too many screens

Control room operators typically need to monitor and access multiple information streams in order to make accurate, mission-critical decisions. While having more sources of information and data than ever before is beneficial, it does pose a challenge in the ability to manage and visualise relevant content quickly and efficiently. Operators are flooded with data from disparate sources, networks, and applications, especially if they’re already working with a video management system (VMS) like Genetec or Milestone. Amid all that data, is the need to visualise the right information at the right time in a specific location on the screen.

While organisations recognise the importance of better video surveillance, there are several innate problems associated with monitoring the increased quantity of security cameras and data in a SOC (Security Operation Centre). These include operator fatigue from continuous surveillance that can be mentally and physically exhausting, distractions from other tasks and notifications, information overload from too many cameras and screens, and lack of context needed to interpret events properly. These factors can compromise the effectiveness of security personnel and increase the risk of inadequate or inappropriate responses to threats or emergencies. It is important to be aware of them and take steps to avoid them.

Cameras alone are not enough

While security managers will tell you that video is still the most important data in a SOC, they admit that other data points are increasingly necessary.

For example, evacuation of a specific area is not just dictated on the video coverage of the area, but also impacted by data such as traffic, weather, etc. These different data points could include television, dashboards, sensors and alarms, maps, social media feeds, analytics, and more. To that end, it is advisable to plan out as many incidents as may occur to determine what additional data beyond video maybe required and then make that content available inside the SOC.

New and legacy technology, multiple systems

It’s no question that technology brings with it many benefits, but it also means that employees are charged with constantly learning new technology and how it integrates with legacy equipment’s SOC’s typically utilise a software-based VMS to manage the security infrastructure, but they are not always designed to optimally manage other content(such as social media feeds, weather information, cable TV, and maps) on the video wall. This is typically managed through a separate software application, which would require switching between applications; it is not only cumbersome and time-consuming but also impacts operations and response time.

To streamline workflows that improve decision-making, organisations should seek out an interoperable platform that can handle old and new technology, is designed with an open architecture, ready for any future changes and additions. The platform should also provide both video wall management and VMS/PSIM integration with systems like Milestone, Genetec, and Advancis – all from a single user interface.

Efficient collaboration – sharing critical data

Organisations run more efficiently when operators and stakeholders can easily share content between workstations, on the video wall, and on other screens or video walls throughout the building, campus or even with other locations across the globe.

Efficient visualisation in SOCs

Providing a Common Operational Picture –a video wall – to operators is at the heart of any visualisation system. Selecting the right technology is key to ensuring that operators are able to see what they need, when they need it.

The most critical characteristics to consider are;

Reliability: A video wall is expected to operate 24/7 and should therefore offer built-in redundancy and ensure the highest availability.

Scalability: A SOC is a major investment where requirements and technology evolve frequently. The video wall system must scale as the needs change (increased quantity of cameras, new content, additional displays, improved workflows, etc.)

Ease of use: A video wall that is simple to operate for all users is key.

In addition to the performance and processing power of the video wall controller, it is the software layer that makes all the difference. The software determines the user experience and how productive SOC operators will be.

The most critical consideration of the video wall management software is interoperability– a platform that can route virtually any source type to any display and is compatible with third-party devices so that a single interface can be used to manage all devices on the network. Furthermore, a software that offers easy drag-and-drop to operate the video wall, along with all other networked devices, will yield higher productivity and less stress.

Reap the benefits

To keep pace with the proliferation of surveillance cameras and the increase of data, SOCs need to plan accordingly to realise the benefits and avoid the risks. This means security managers need to rethink workflows, SOPs, staffing, and technology to account for new information and expanded capabilities. Visualisation and video wall technology gives stakeholders critical information on a single display surface. This common operational picture is at the heart of timely and comprehensive responses. Managing all visual wall control should ideally be a single, easy-to-use management software that can process various source types, is interoperable with new and legacy equipment, is capable of IP routing, and is feature-rich to allow operators to see what they need when they need it. Simplifying workflows in control centres with a single platform, such as VuWall’s TRx centralised platform, to control and manage all devices, brings simplicity, flexibility, interoperability, and scalability to AV-over-IP deployments.