Proactive live video surveillance is hard. It's not only difficult to economically and effectively monitor thousands of high resolution IP megapixel video cameras. It's also a huge challenge to successfully build a video monitoring network and record, store, send, and manage terabytes of video security data.
Stealth Monitoring President David Charney and host Michael Harris discussed live video surveillance in the Time Warner Business Class (@TWCBusiness) podcast How Big Data & Fiber Can Transform your Business.
Video surveillance podcast topics included:
These are edited comments from the podcast.
These days, it’s not a stretch to say a business is only as good as its network. With the right infrastructure in place, your company is ready to collaborate, innovate, and connect with customers and suppliers. On the flip side, when network performance slips, your organization loses its edge.
To thrive in this new network world with live video surveillance, you need connections that can support anywhere, any-device access for the applications that matter most, like streaming video, big data analytics, and unified communications. And you need a network that can scale to support rapid growth.
According to the latest forecast from Cisco Systems, IP network traffic will grow 300 percent over the next five years. Likewise, broadband speeds are expected to double to keep up. Now when you drill down further into these numbers, you find that there are three kinds of traffic that are growing more quickly than others. It’s important to understand these three trends and prepare accordingly.
First, busy-hour Internet traffic is increasing more rapidly than average traffic. That means you need to be sure your live video surveillance network can scale to accommodate peak demand periods. Otherwise, you may not get the performance you need when it matters most during those critical business crunch times.
Second, metro traffic is expected to grow twice as fast as long-haul traffic. It’s a reminder to keep an eye on the performance of your wide area network connections among business sites.
And third, more than half of all IP traffic will come from non-PC devices within five years. Besides mobile devices, we’re talking about video cameras, sensors, and a long list of other network things.
Smart companies are investing in network performance now to drive innovation and increase their business velocity. In today’s podcast, we’ll learn from the leader of one of these businesses.
Stealth Monitoring is a cutting-edge company that’s leveraging new network infrastructure to drive its business. Based in Dallas, this family-owned business provides live video surveillance services to prevent and deter crime for hundreds of customers across North America.
Over the past five years, Stealth Monitoring has topped 50 percent year-over-year growth. Today, real-time video streams flow into their operations center from more than 9,000 security cameras. Since 2011, the company has partnered with Time Warner Cable Business Class to scale its network. David Charney is Stealth Monitoring’s president.
David, you’re every entrepreneur’s dream. You’ve caused a disruption in your market, you’ve leapfrogged established competitors, and you’ve taken a local family business and grown it into a national player. What’s driven your success?
It’s a fun place to be in business. It’s an interesting time in the world. Security is something that every company and every person thinks about. We’ve been fortunate to create a business that’s based around interesting technologies that allow us to help businesses and communities around the country.
Folks who are listening might have a picture in their mind of what video monitoring looks like from years ago. What’s it like in this day and age with high-performing networks, high-definition video cameras, and the power of data analytics?
HD or high-quality megapixel cameras not only are much more sophisticated and powerful, but the quality of the images are unbelievable.
Stealth Monitoring’s story is different. It is not just because we help our clients design and install and service cameras, but it’s the way we watch them.
It’s a complete game changer that is using the Internet in real time throughout the country to centralize that live video surveillance and information.
Our specialty is being able to watch something that looks suspicious and take action in real-time. Whether it’s sounding a speaker and trying to scare off two kids on skateboards in the back of a property or something more serious. We are able to do that throughout the country. Many times a night we prevent crimes.
So that’s the differentiation.
I heard you point to two factors that have been game changers for you. One is the power of the Internet. The second is the power of data analytics. Talk about your infrastructure, what you do for Internet connectivity and your analytics solutions. How do both of those help drive your business and help make smarter, better, more efficient decisions to serve your customers?
When you listen to what Stealth Monitoring does day in and day out for hundreds of customers, you think we just have people watching cameras. But you can’t do live video surveillance at the scale that we do it unless you have very sophisticated algorithms and custom-built databases that improve efficiency. Our analyst teams, developer teams, and database teams are all optimizing our master formula and our secret sauce to do it in a way that no one else does.
First we have a serious Internet pipe with all kinds of redundancy: redundant power and redundant Internet, all with real-time switching with seamless integration.
In the nine years we’ve been in business I don’t think we’ve ever missed a night of live video surveillance monitoring. That’s a testament to the different providers we use. For our house Internet, we use Time Warner Cable Business Class. They’ve been an excellent partner. It’s strategic in helping us design for the future as well as getting the Internet speeds for our constantly growing needs. It’s one thing when you plan what you need today because it’s easy to measure. But it’s hard when you have to predict how much you’re going to need over the next year or two. You have to think ahead when you’re in the technology business because the growth curves are exponential.
To give you a little bit more on the analytics, obviously with video feeds, there’s a constant process called video analytics. That is when a computer is studying the pixel-by-pixel change across the camera signal in real time. It then makes a decision to get rid of the noise and send back what is important. That is a fundamental part of how we create great efficiencies.
How has the growth of Internet traffic impacted your home office and your network control center in Dallas? I noticed that recently you had a major upgrade to the Internet capacity there.
We’re measuring terabytes of data moved weekly. We’re measuring petabytes-per-year worth of data movement.
For example typical video cameras inside the local area network are individual 1.3 megapixel cameras and can get up to 10 megabits per second.
Now if we have clients that have two cameras in a baseball stadium, it’s not of much concern. When you have clients with hundreds of cameras, you’ve got to have a pretty serious network at the client’s site.
The video analytic engines that we run at the client’s site are critical to knowing what kind of video data to send back to us.
To clarify that for listeners, it sounds like what you’re saying is that there are huge bandwidth requirements within the customer premise. You have special analytics tools that are able to crunch that video data at the customer’s site, and it’s not all getting back all to your network.
What we do is buy a high quality piece of glass, a high quality camera, and connect that to a high quality network. The video is stored locally on a networked video recorder. We process the video analytics of this high quality video feed with a lot more horsepower locally. That’s where it’s decided what comes home to us [the Stealth control center] in real-time and in a low bandwidth stream.
Our philosophy is that successful live video surveillance is not about just video feeds. This is also about data analytics, data warehousing, and business intelligence. We have built data sets that come back to us in close to real time. Within minutes we can tell the status of every single network object.
That means if somebody weed whacks the camera in your parking lot and cuts the wire, within minutes we will have reports here that tell us that camera 7 is down.
If it is truly weed whacked, then we know that camera’s down and we dispatch technicians to go repair it. We can also start a camera or upgrade the firmware automatically from Dallas [our control center] with one of our analysts on the help desk team.
We have unbelievable service levels that we can create for our clients because of all of the data we’re sending back to us. We can look at different exceptions and changes with a different lens. It’s more than other people would be doing.
Network reliability and redundancy are essential for your operations. What difference do you see with the level of performance you have at your home office data center in Dallas compared to the different providers you work with for customer sites around the country? How do you work with that?
That’s a great question. The network service levels we have here at our home office can’t really be compared to any of our clients’ Internet connections.
At our headquarters we’re putting in a true enterprise redundant solution. We have entire teams that study the results, both to design them and maintain them. We use outside advisers. We use Time Warner Cable Business Class’s resources to try to make sure we’re doing things the way we need to.
When it comes to the live video surveillance client sites, we obviously can’t expect the same service levels from their Internet. This means that we need to have more tools here. We need to be able to identify problems at the client site, and also help the client solve the problems. We become their trusted adviser and we will work with whoever the ISP is for that local market.
David, you talked about bandwidth growth in your business. What does that curve look like over time?
When we started out we were using 100 megabit circuits and we had two different providers. When we needed more Internet we would increase our size gradually. The amount we increased it was strictly based on price. We would increase two different Internet connections and we actually ran our business on two separate main pipes.
We started to grow a little bigger. In 2010 we saw that we shouldn’t be scaling little chunks of Internet at a time. We needed to take steps with bigger chunks for live video surveillance.
So in 2011 we made the decision to go with a serious bandwidth connection. We acquired redundant fiber dual 500 megabit Internet connections. I’m glad to say our company growth wasn’t really over.
We thought that would last about four to five years. But our company’s growth actually hit those numbers within two years. We increased our network to dual gigabit up and download connections. Now we’re finding that we’ll probably grow by a gigabit every two to three years. It’s unbelievable growth.
So you see a huge strategic advantage in being able to select a platform that’s able to grow immediately and that you don’t have to revisit, pull out wire, rewire, and basically try to change the wheels on a tire while it’s rolling.
I fully agree.
I don’t want to have to take baby steps on fundamental services like electricity and bandwidth. You over-purchase and you don’t have to concern yourselves with the growth trajectories as much. You can sit back and focus on your day-to-day business instead of looking at this as a distraction.
That opens us up to bigger business opportunities. Instead of me selling to one, two and five location-type live video surveillance clients, which is how we started, now I have the opportunity to handle adding fifty new sites this year right away without flinching now.
It’s important to stay focused on your core business and make good, smart, scalable decisions on network bandwidth and network design up front to save time getting distracted from your core business.
It sounds like it really buys you a velocity advantage.
Without doing anything other than making a phone call and paying a bill to Time
Warner Cable Business Class, I can double my capacity right now. There doesn’t need to be a design discussion or hardware changes.
I have 50% scale waiting right behind me as soon as I’m ready financially as my customer base grows. That bought me time and focus on our core operations, instead of back-end infrastructure. It’s worth the value to have critical services like your bandwidth, network and design taken care of correctly the first time. That allows our team to focus on the real day-to-day business, which is what we do for a living.
In your business, helping customers manage their total cost of ownership (TCO) of a solution like this is critical. How does the bandwidth and the network infrastructure that you have in place give you an edge in being able to address their TCO issues?
Yes, absolutely. Total cost of ownership is certainly something that our clients take very seriously. All too often you think of making a capital investment in a camera system with Stealth. How do you spend less money on trucks driving out to service that equipment? So we tend to use high-quality parts and a high-quality labor force to install the parts. But the question is, after the site goes live, after Stealth starts monitoring it, how do you keep their maintenance and service bills down over time? We built multiple tools to move data. We have found that we are able to troubleshoot 50 to 60% of the service tickets we receive by working remotely and/or with our clients’ employees directly on site. This means 50 to 60% less truck rolls, service calls, and time-and-material bills or warranty plans that our customer has to purchase over time.
We have a unique factor because of all the data we pull back. We are able to save the clients’ money by doing things remotely and they absolutely love that. That’s a big part of why our live video surveillance customers love our services. Of course the number one reason is our being proactive to monitor video. But lowering the total cost of ownership that we provide with our customers is really, really important.
And it sounds like you’ve turned that total cost of ownership strategy on your own business as well.
That’s true. We definitely want to keep all of our costs down. We think we’re a lean and well-run organization.
In 2015 by building new data sets and data warehouses off of our existing data, we were able to improve our monitoring margins by over 10 percent. That’s interesting, because that means my labor force today in the monitoring department is about the same size as my labor force a year ago.
Why is that special? Because we just grew by 2,000 live video surveillance cameras this year or maybe more and yet our labor force is actually still the same size. So you can look at that as operational efficiency. But you can also look at that as profit improvement. There are real tangible dollars from that total cost of ownership strategy.
David, its great having a chance to talk to you. You’ve got a real exciting business that you’re running.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your allowing me to be part of your program. Hopefully it’s meaningful to our audience, Michael.
Thanks, David. Companies like Stealth Monitoring are leveraging the new network to rewrite the rules for business. As David explained, the more your organization depends on its network, the more important network performance is to your success. Be sure to do your homework and choose partners that can give your business a competitive edge. For Time Warner Cable Business Class, this is Michael Harris.
Stealth Monitoring is a live video surveillance security industry leader with over 15,000 video cameras watched nationwide. Stealth proactive video monitoring can detect and deter crime while reducing security guard and other expenses. Stealth's virtual security guard service can reduce or even replace security guards at a fraction of the cost. A remote surveillance Stealth operator can see unusual activity, activate a speaker warning to deter criminals, and call the local police.
Please contact Stealth today for live video surveillance to protect your property. Visit our web site to see actual videos of criminals being apprehended at a range of commercial real estate businesses.