When I decided to do audits and benchmarks of existing cctv operation centers, I had seen quite a large variety of installations and had no clue about how to assess an installation value and its potential for improvment and extension.
CCTV operation is a fine blend of ergonomy and technology. It’s emergency handling, synonym of rigorous operational processes and discipline. I have visited COCs operating more than 7000 cameras, smaller ones handling 300, most of them dealing with urban surveillance but sometimes also critical infrastructures.
One of the questions that came repeatedly in the spot was about the ability to manage more cameras, to view them, to store them.
At the beginning I structured my audit by slicing the IT system in three main components : infrastructure including servers and network, software including analytics, storage and operation, and sensors including access control, cameras and alarm devices.
I did a matrix view integrating vertical silos for Information System Security with IM, IAM, IDS, Availability with redundancy and fail-over, and Performance and Quality with key performance indicators, and eventually maintainability and scalability.
The typical audit would include a thorough analysis of the bandwidth, the CPU and the storage space required using a toolbox and a rigorous methodology, followed by a three axis analysis of the system.
I found it quite difficult though to evaluate the scaling capacity of an installation and do projections on the ability to handle several hundreds more cameras, with complex implications in terms of operator stations, network and storage, notwithstanding the complex implications of camera multiplication on the overall system. That was before.
Recently, I discovered a new product that remembered me of my early years of R&D at Thales simulators division, when we designed software for the A320 simulators. This very innovative software is called Xstream Generator. It has the capacity to grab a video stream from a camera and to replay it exactly like the camera, to the extent that it actually simulates the camera. With exceptional scaling capacities, this software is able to simulate hundreds of cameras on a PC, solely limited by network card bandwidth, RAM and CPU.
For the beauty of it, XSG is actually compliant with the S profile from the Onvif workgroup and can be used as a compliance tester on any IP camera. It is now possible to create full libraries of video stream samples from many different brands of cameras and encoders and use them to emulate/simulate these devices on the network.
I found it extremely helpful to be able, with XSG, to benchmark the scalability of a VMS without actually having to hold and plug hundreds of cameras.
I found it equally useful to do the same with storage and eventually with the CCTV control room.
For those of you whose concern is training, you will also find particularly useful to be able to choose in a library of video footages taken from Onvif compliant cameras, the ones that can be used to form a consistent training scenario.
All in all, there are so many uses of XSG that I decided to use it for providing new consulting propositions based on simulation.
And you, what kind of audit consulting do you provide ?
This post is also available in: French