Embedded video surveillance technology? Why?

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Written by Xavier Oliva Galván , Business Development Manager at LANACCESS and Associate Professor at Pompeu Fabra University

The success of any company consists of being able to generate one or more competitive advantages, which allow it to differentiate itself and add special value to its product or service offering. At LANACCESS, made up mainly of engineers, one of the best ways we can add value is through technology, and a technology at the service of our clients, which facilitates their day-to-day life.

Our customers tell us that embedded video surveillance technology , which we have developed and evolved over the years, brings them significant advantages, and our competitive advantage is largely based on that. But why? What advantages does it bring them? The embedded solutions offered by LANACCESS are secure, smart and cost effective .

Competitive advantages are not eternal, it takes a lot of effort to create them, to maintain them and also evolve them so as not to lose them. This is especially true in the technology field, where everything changes at great speed. The technology becomes obsolete as soon as new developments appear that outperform the previous ones, making competitive advantages, achieved with great effort, disappear.

To evolve in the right direction, we like to look back at our clients, who help us to identify how we add value to them. This way, we can strengthen our competitive advantages, as well as know in which areas we can improve and even create new advantages.

Security

A few years ago, one of our clients from the banking sector gave me a very visual illustration of why he preferred our video recording solution to others he knew. He told me, to my surprise, that instead of explaining it to me, he was going to show it to me. He led me to a table with stacked equipment. He told me that at that time his installed equipment was approximately 50% distributed between LANACCESS and another manufacturer, all with a similar age. On that table, he explained, were the equipment that had broken down in recent weeks, had been withdrawn from the agencies and had yet to be sent for repair. Among the sixteen devices, there was a single LANACCESS video recorder, the rest were from the other manufacturer, based on PC technology. I still keep the photo that I took, the rate of 1 to 15 was worth immortalising, with the permission of our client.

On another occasion, another client, also from the banking sector, told me another anecdote. They had repeatedly robbed one of his bank offices. In all of them, they had managed to locate the video recorder and had smashed the hard drive. Therefore, the evidence of the theft had been completely destroyed. Finally, he thought that the only way to keep the recordings the next time was to install the video recorder, which was from LANACCESS, inside the safe. Some of his colleagues told him that it was a crazy idea, that a video recorder could not work in there, that in a few weeks it was going to be fried in the heat. Three years later, when he told me about it, it was still operational.

A third customer from the banking sector complained that their video recorders, based on PC technology, were often blocked after a power failure, and someone had to travel to cut off the power for a few seconds to get them back to work. This is because PC power supplies are designed to remain blocked when there is a power disturbance, as it is necessary to protect the operating system, which would be corrupted by repeated unexpected power outages.

And what is behind these stories? Of course, it is not simply a coincidence, but advantages of one technology over the other. Of course, I do not recommend keeping any video recorder, not even a LANACCESS one, inside a closed, unventilated compartment, but only video recorders like those designed and manufactured by LANACCESS can withstand such conditions.

However, that we manufacture robust and secure solutions goes far beyond reliability, they are also cyber-secured solutions. Today, an electronic system cannot be considered secure if it is not capable of offering guarantees against computer attacks.

A few years ago, a bank security manager told me that he had to urgently renew all his video recorders. They were video recorders based on PC technology and Windows XP operating system. After the end of the support date for Windows XP, a major vulnerability was released, but there was no longer a security patch available to address it. He asked his video recorders’ provider to update the operating system, but the answer was that he had to change all the video recorders. The new versions of Windows no longer supported the hardware of the installed video recorders, so it was impossible to update them, the only solution was to change them. Today, after a few more years, there are still LANACCESS video recorders that continue to operate and are older than those.

Recently, another customer from the rail industry explained to me that several video recorders from another vendor had been infected by a ransomware-type computer virus, so he had been forced to stop and temporarily withdraw the equipment to clean up the infection. There were LANACCESS video recorders on the same IP network that had continued to operate without problems, keeping that part of the video surveillance system operational.

LANACCESS has been developing embedded technology for many years. Our video recorders are designed and manufactured in Europe, their size is just appropriate to do what they do. There are no superfluous elements, so they heat up much less than equipment from other manufacturers based on a PC platform. The small and medium capacity ranges do not even require fans, reducing mechanical elements, which are always more prone to failures, to a minimum. The firmware is also compact, with only the necessary modules, and LANACCESS has full control over all the source code. On the other hand, they do not use any general-purpose operating system such as Windows or Linux, but rather our own real-time operating system. Thus, the vast majority of computer attacks, which are generic and target the most popular operating systems, do not affect our video recorders. The attack surface is smaller since LANACCESS video recorders do not have useless services running that can be used as entry points to the system.

Besides, LANACCESS video recorders have passed multiple security tests by our clients in the banking sector, who on several occasions have hired specialized companies to do vulnerability scans and penetration tests against our video recorders.

No system is immune to cyberattacks, but in our company, we work every day to offer the best protection.

In summary, LANACCESS video recorders are a secure solution because:

  • They have passed various penetration tests by specialised companies.
  • They work with a real-time, non-general-purpose operating system that has a smaller attack surface and is unaffected by massive cyber attacks targeting the most popular operating systems.
  • They are embedded systems that consume less energy and dissipate less heat. Electronic equipment that heats up less also breaks down less and lasts longer.
  • They have fewer useless elements – both hardware and software – that are a possible cause of failure or intrusion.
  • They have a simple internal architecture, with less wiring and connectors that can be a source of failure.
  • The proprietary file system reduces the movement of the read/write heads of the hard drives, taking care of them and extending their lifetime.
  • They have software and hardware “watchdogs”, which prevent them from hanging.
  • They have been designed with reliable power supplies since these are one of the critical elements in terms of reliability of any electronic system. These power supplies are not blocked when power disturbances occur, because the operating system is not at risk of corruption due to power outages.
  • They can be equipped with internal power supplies with a battery, which gives them a certain autonomy during a power outage.
  • They can be equipped with internal power supplies with battery support, which gives them a certain autonomy after a power failure.

Intelligence

At LANACCESS we are aware that if our solutions were only secure, but were behind in terms of performance and features, they would be obsolete solutions, they would cease to add value. This is why we always look for imaginative and intelligent solutions for our clients’ needs.

In the banking sector, our video recorders have undergone a great evolution. In 1999, we were among the first to offer digital video recorders to replace the VTRs of the time, and almost the only ones to do so with embedded technology. Our customers of that time continue to appreciate and use our technology, they have evolved with us through the various generations of our video recorders, with models adapted to off-premises ATMs, various chassis models or power supplies with battery support. With the advent of IP cameras, we were the first to create the concept of the PoE Ethernet switch integrated into the video recorder, which we have also taken further than any other manufacturer, with true Plug & Play connection of IP cameras, protection of cameras and the corporate network, spoofing detection or automatic reboot of hanged cameras. Some of the more recent demands from some of our banking clients include face detection, analysis of behavior in the entrance of the office to obtain statistics, or facial identification, based on neural networks.

A few years ago, one of our railway customers, already using our embedded intelligent analytics devices, also showed interest in our embedded video recording technology. For his IP migration plans for the stations, he needed a solution with a higher density of cameras than we had at the time, so we adapted our technology to his needs, creating the HM Cluster, the first embedded recorder of up to 250 IP cameras in just 4U of rack height. We also created an automatic failover system that keeps the cameras recording when one recorder is stopped for maintenance, cleaning, or breakdown. Today, our video recorders are already recording more than 3,000 cameras in their facilities, those that have not been replaced by IP cameras are encoded with our encoders and station masters view the cameras with LANACCESS Smart Monitor thin clients. The system is managed from a software platform developed by a third party, which communicates through standard protocols (ONVIF) with LANACCESS devices.

In the health sector, we were asked to interact with the alarm panels to be able to automatically position the dome cameras towards the place where an incident occurs, sending an alarm to the control center to quickly take the appropriate actions.

In various prisons, video is recorded on our video recorders, while alarms are generated at the perimeter with LANACCESS intelligent analysis devices, and video is viewed in the control center using our decoding devices and our software platform.

Another of our railway clients asked us a few months ago that he wanted to have an estimate of the occupation of the platforms, anticipating a need that now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, seems very evident. At LANACCESS, which has been working on the use of Artificial Intelligence in the field of video surveillance for some time, we have been training neural networks to carry out this type of task, so that alarms can be sent or occupancy statistics can be downloaded.

LANACCESS has been and is a pioneer in the use of new technologies, which allow for the agile and intelligent handling of security incidents of clients from very diverse sectors and with very varied needs.

Cost effectiveness

LANACCESS solutions are not only secure and intelligent but also cost-effective. To correctly analyse the cost-effectiveness of a solution, the total costs of ownership must be evaluated, that is, all the costs associated with the use of the system: we cannot limit ourselves to comparing the purchase price, but the installation costs must also be analysed, the maintenance costs, the costs to resolve problems after computer attacks, the energy consumption, the lifetime of the equipment and the time dedicated to attending to incidents.

When conducting such an analysis, the features of LANACCESS embedded video recorders – low failure rate, low power consumption, long lifetime, and ease of use – are highly advantageous. Besides, the proximity of technical and commercial support facilitates the management of incidents.

LANACCESS solutions are adapted to all types of installations, distributed or centralised, but customers with distributed equipment are the ones who most quickly realize that our solutions are very cost-effective for them. Installed equipment with a failure rate of 20% or 25% per year, as some client has admitted to me that has suffered, is simply unmanageable. Only the costs and the time of handling the failures eat up most of the available resources.

Regarding the energy consumption differential, we have been able to evaluate it, on occasions, at more than € 100 per year and video recorder. If you have hundreds or thousands of video recorders, the savings can be significant, not only economically but also ecologically.

Why embedded video surveillance technology? Because it brings significant benefits that make life easier and save money. Because through this technology LANACCESS offers secure, intelligent and cost-effective solutions .

Tecnología de videovigilancia embebida
Xavier Oliva Galván
Business Development Manager at LANACCESS
Associate Professor at Universidad Pompeu Fabra