Recording devices and the growth of surveillance footage

Recording devices and the growth of surveillance footage

Timothy Compston considers the state of play of recording and storage for video surveillance

There is little doubt that these are dynamic times when it comes to the recording and storage architecture associated with video surveillance applications across the Middle East region and beyond. Solutions from the cloud to NVRs (Network Video Recorders), NAS (Network Attached Storage), in-camera recording, and special tape-based options are all coming on stream to meet the latest challenges on the ground here.

It is interesting, for example, to witness the way that the inexorable rise of ‘big data’ associated with large-scale applications – such as safer and smarter cities – is forcing end users to think again about the way they record, store, and manage, their video surveillance footage. Regulatory requirements too are acting as a major catalyst for change with regulators now stipulating the number of megapixels, frame rates, and, crucially, retention times – ranging from 31 to 180 days – for video surveillance footage, depending on the territory or application.

Putting some figures on the scale of video surveillance technology being rolled out today, the indications are that the number of cameras, camera resolution, and volume of associated video surveillance footage are still very much on the rise. According to a recent report by analyst MarketsandMarkets the global video surveillance market is expected to grow from US$45.5 billion in 2020 to an impressive US$74.5 billion by 2025 at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 10.4 per cent. In terms of this expansion, infrastructure is highlighted as the top vertical market by value, with city surveillance expected to post the highest CAGR.

In the cloud

Given that more and more organisational functions are reliant on cloud computing and storage it is perhaps not too surprising that this is high on the agenda for video surveillance too. Of course, in the video surveillance world the Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) model is already associated with the cloud. On the body-worn camera front, for example, many police forces utilise a cloud-based infrastructure to help manage evidence once it has been downloaded from their officers’ cameras. A good example of this trend comes in the shape of Axon who is a prime mover here thanks to a sophisticated digital evidence management system – Axon Evidence ( – which is now deployed by law enforcement agencies worldwide, in fact at last count more than 109 Petabytes of data were hosted in this way.

Across the world of security cloud-based, platforms like the aptly named Cloudvue from Johnson Controls and Hikvision’s Hik-ProConnect are also gaining traction. Another vendor that recognises the evidential value of the cloud is Genetec in the shape of its Clearance platform. Although Clearance does not seek to replace local recording it too is designed to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle of evidence that is out there by, crucially, making it easier for users to share relevant evidence with other parties. This is becoming ever-more critical given the vast swathes of video surveillance footage being captured in cities, for example.

When it comes to future developments, analysts believe that the roll out of 5G should serve to accelerate the take-up of Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) and, correspondingly, the attractiveness of uploading critical footage to the cloud. When Gartner published research in October 2019, for example, it reckoned that for the following three years outdoor surveillance cameras would represent the largest market for 5G IoT (Internet of Things) solutions only to then be overtaken by connected cars in 2023.

Which way for storage?

Taking a step back to consider the relative merits of video surveillance storage options there are a multitude factors to weigh-up when deciding whether to opt for a cloud-based solution, local storage, or a blend of the two architectures with just footage of specific incidents going up into the cloud. In some cases, local storage – at the edge – may still be the better option for video surveillance systems on a large-scale site or to deliver added redundancy. As mentioned, legislation in certain jurisdictions may stipulate that footage has to be held locally for a certain period. There is also the hidden cost of upgrading a site’s IP infrastructure so there is the right bandwidth in place. Added to this there may be questions about just how secure cloud storage really is.

On the other side of the equation, with ultra-high-resolution cameras now making their mark, it may be more attractive to push storage into the cloud where the ongoing costs are well known rather than continually having to purchase more on-site storage capacity to cope. Alongside this, with soaring camera resolutions and retention periods for recorded video, solution providers are keen to spotlight the benefits of compression technologies like Axis Zipstream and IDIS Intelligent Codec (with MAT – Motion Adaptive Transmission) as a way of lowering potential storage and bandwidth costs.

Drive developments

While, not surprisingly, there is much talk of the cloud, the clear message from Seagate – a pioneer of surveillance-optimised storage for security applications – is that the cloud alone is not enough and that there is a need to deploy high performing storage solutions at each stage of the data flow, from the endpoints to the edge and the core (centralised storage/cloud). Given this reality, Seagate has brought to market a suite of high-performing storage solutions for surveillance and artificial intelligence (AI) and is aligning its technologies to support the way data is evolving. A case in point is Skyhawk AI which Seagate is promoting as the world’s first purpose-built drive for AI (Artificial Intelligence) enabled surveillance solutions.

Homing in on smart cities, a recent blog by Jessica Burton – global product marketing manager at Seagate – makes for interesting reading. Crucially, Burton outlines a series of video data best practices in the urban environment. Taking these elements in turn, she reiterates the point that integrators should, ideally, design a smart city surveillance system that stores data in multiple layers – at the edge, in the edge gateway and at the backend – rather than thousands of cameras being set-up to stream data to the cloud which may result in latency issues and frames lost. Burton also stresses the need for integrators to work with the right technology partner and to deploy AI-optimised hard drives tuned for 24/7 workloads. Added to this, Burton underlines the importance of making use of embedded drive monitoring software in NVRs – like SkyHawk Health Management (SHM) – to maximise drive health and performance. Data preservation also is flagged-up as another consideration should a drive fail, and the Seagate Rescue Data Recovery Service as a way of addressing this. The final point made by Burton concerns data protection through encryption and the need for secure ways to erase data when it comes time to dispose of drives.

Still on the topic of hardware-based storage, Western Digital – one of the largest hard drive manufacturers in the world – continues to refine the ground-breaking WD Purple range. This has been engineered very much with video surveillance in mind. The company is keen to raise awareness of the need for people to draw a distinction between standard desk-top drives and what is termed ‘surveillance-class storage’. The reality, according to Western Digital, is that the sort of desk-top drives which the latest WD Purple solutions are designed to replace are simply unable to cope with a testing 24/7, always-on, high-definition surveillance environment. The company goes on to explain that conventional desk-top drives are only meant to run for relatively short intervals.

Drilling down to some of the features to be found in WD Purple surveillance-class hard drives that make them such a strong proposition, they are, for example, equipped with ‘AllFrame technology’. This apparently works with ATA streaming to reduce frame loss, improve playback and increases the number of hard drive bays supported. The vendor adds that WD Purple 8TB and higher drives have additional performance headroom to support a new generation of AI-enabled NVRs, video analytics appliances and deep-learning servers.

Network Video Recorders

Turning to NVRs and where they fit into the recording and storage equation, there is plenty of life left in this approach especially in key vertical markets like banking (ATMs) and transport. Milestone which is perhaps most recognised as a trailblazer with the XProtect VMS also has an eye on the future of NVRs thanks to its Husky platform.

The latest iterations of Husky are the X2 and X8. The X2 is aimed at what Milestone describes as the small to mid-market whereas the X8 is focused on larger applications. Weighing up the distinct features of the two variants, the X2 is a 2U rack mountable ‘plug-n-play’ network video recorder designed for Milestone’s XProtect VMS with a built-in PoE+ switch and input/output connector. Milestone says that the X2 has a verified continuous recording throughput of more than 550 Mbit/s and believes that it provides the power and scalability required in most small to mid-market surveillance installations. With XProtect VMS pre-installed it is possible, confirms Milestone, for users to start right away with the free XProtect Essential+ or any other XProtect VMS version.

Looking at the Milestone Husky X8 which has XProtect VMS pre-installed, this is positioned as very much a high performing server class network video recorder for the high-end market. Given the stringent requirements of potential users the Husky X8 has been designed by Milestone to offer extreme reliability with component, storage, and application redundancy, ensuring continuous uninterrupted operation. Leveraging the XProtect video management software, hardware accelerated video processing and Western Digital Purple HDD (Hard Disk Drive) technology, the unit is said to offer a capacity of 780 cameras with continuous recording, and 300 cameras with server-side motion detection.

Finally, advocates of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology – which is backed by companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum, and recently saw the unveiling of generation 9 specifications – are confident of an expanding LTO footprint as a practical answer to the back-up and long-term storage of video surveillance and other security information in today’s increasingly data hungry world. LTO proponents report, given the technology’s favourable cost of ownership that more and more large-scale enterprises are likely to factor tape into their storage plans alongside disk or the cloud, outside of fast back-up and retrieval, and to support technology diversification/redundancy and, in the case of cybersecurity issues, system isolation.