Member Discussion

How Do I Deliver A Live Video Feed To 250+ Residents Simultaneously?

I came across a customer who wants to implement a solution where the surveillance system installed at the highrise condominium building's common areas would be viewed over the network by the tenants.

The challenge here is to use a system that would be easily viewed/played back by at least 250 at a time. Also the access to the system should be provided via a web browser from mobile devices or pcs.

Can anyone think of a solution for that challenge?

Marcin, I think your best bet is HD web broadcasting services. These are not surveillance specific, but general purpose services designed to stream online video to lots of people - whether it is an event, religious service, music performance or tenants in a building.

Relevant discussion and options here: HD Broadcasting Options?

Thank you John!

This solution would have been perfect if not for a need to be able to playback the recorded video. What would you say about surveillance cloud storage? Do you know any providers that could handle such traffic load?

The challenge here is to use a system that would be easily viewed/played back by at least 250 at a time.

Hi Marcin. Do you mean played back as in browsing recorded video or just limited to viewing the live stream? How many cameras cover the common area? Are you really expecting at least 250 people to be viewing at the same time? What's the max?

Something to consider regarding HD Broadcasting is the real end-to-end latency of prospective broadcasting services. With Livestream, for example, web client delays up to 30 seconds to and iOS delays up to 60 seconds are stated, which may or may not be acceptable.

Is this by any chance a new IoT style building with a built-in Gigabit LAN drop in every unit? Not likely I know but if so a possibility would be to setup live IP multicast for people inside the building and HD broadcasting to those outside, who might be more understanding of higher latencies. Thanks.


Now you are making this hard! :)

Playback is definitely trickier.

Cloud might work but how many channels do you want / need recorded? The main constraint is that you'll need to get (one copy of) all video uploaded continuously.

In the old days, we did this by connecting the camera outputs to RF modulators tied into the condominium's MATV/CATV system. Each camera would be on its own TV channel, which could be viewed by residents on a standard TV set. In the larger complexs, particularly those with lots of seniors, it was amazing how many people might be watching the cameras at any given time.

A early form of "crowdsourcing" the video monitoring function

I too have used this method Michael mentions a couple times both in schools and at high end residences. It's best if they have their own CATV system, otherwise you may end up having to install a whole CATV headend to demodulate and modulate the various cable channels. However, this is a lot less viable if each resident has their own cable service that is direct from the cable provider to the unit. Essentially, this is a way to multicast without truly multicasting across their limited network.

If you speak with Blonder Tongue they can likely help you out with designing a solution if you choose to go this way. It is a bit harder now that it's not simple analog RF demodulating and modulating due to the need to decode and encode as well. However, it really gets around bandwidth problems that I can see being a challenge for you.

Playing back recorded video makes this option even less viable. John makes a very good point about why recorded video playback by residents is a concern.

There are also cloud based solutions that might work for you.

Live = relatively easy. Multicasting would solve that with the right equipment. Playback is a different beast. If 250 people were viewing playback simultaneously, especially different cameras at different time periods, the system would need be able to read a relatively large amount of data from different storage sectors simultaneously. Few storage systems can provide that capability.

In this application, multicasting won't work unless you restrict viewing from an internal / closed building network, which is not practical, since people will want to view on their phones from different cell networks, etc.

There are few problem the building management wants to solve with the camera system. They want to let the tenants see:

- who is calling at the main entrance,

- the laundry - which is really big issue because it's too small for such a building and there is no structured schedule to use it (everyone can come whenever they want), so usually there are a lot of people there; building management wants to let the tenants see the laundry from their condos - I'm thinking that there may be such situation where many people would view this camera constantly to monitor the laundry room

- the parcel and the mail room.

The building is quite old and there is no Gigabit lan in every unit just 100 Megabit.

Could you please elaborate on multicasting. I have never done that and would really appreciate few tips on how to do this.

Thank you!

You can review our tutorial on multicasting here.

But multicasting is really not a practical option here, because multicasting will only work if the only people who are allowed to view the video are on a closed, controlled network, which is far too restrictive for such an application.

I do want to push back a little on the requirement for allowing people to view recorded video. Are they sure they really want this? Letting residents review recorded video is very uncommon and is going to cause problems where neighbors snoop on others (e.g., 'what time did bob the bachelor come home or who is college girl Catie hanging out with?').

Btw, as for the viewing recorded video requirement, if HD broadcasting were to be used, Livestream at least has Video on Demand, as well as instant replay just by scrubbing. Of course traditional review methods available to a VMS client, like event search and multi-view playback might not be possible.

Although HD broadcasting used as a solution for live, in-building monitoring might be ill-advised since a delay of 30 seconds from the front door feed would be annoying.

As for the practicality of multi-cast, it sounds like there might be a closed, controlled LAN in the building:

The building is quite old and there is no Gigabit lan in every unit just 100 Megabit.

@Marcin, can you clarify, is there building controlled network infrastructure throughout or not?

Residents will want to view on their smartphones and are not going to care / nor appreciate the technical limitations of running multicast on public networks to cell phones....

No one is advocating running multicast on a public network, which we all know is not possible.

If, and it's a big if, the building has a 100Mbit LAN infrastructure in place, then the system could be designed so that residents when in their residence, will be able to view on their smart phone using their own Wifi router coming off the LAN. This closed controlled network and only this one, if it exists, would be a good case for multicasting.

Just because they are using a Mobile device does not mean they are not at home.

In addition, to provide services to those not on premises, a HD broadcasting solution could be implemented, with increased latency that may be better tolerated by those not on-site.

"so that residents when in their residence, will be able to view on their smart phone using their own Wifi router coming off the LAN"

Yes, I understand this is technically possible but is going to be a service problem. How many residents don't know the difference between WiFi and cellular? Many. How many are going to say the system is broken when they mistakenly try to connect with their phones connected to cellular but not wifi. Many.

Full disclosure - I work for Eagle Eye Networks and we provide a cloud based VMS that might be a fit.

How many cameras are in the building, what resolution do they want to have, and what kind of Internet access do they have?

Our solution would send the video from the building to our datacenter, and then each of the residents would watch live and/or recorded video using their own Internet access. Users can view video with a browser or iOS or Android app.

We have several installations around the country with condos and apartment buildings that had similar requirements.

What's the typical real-world end-to-end latency of your system?

Thanks to all of you I have got a few options to present to my customer.

The building's condos have 100mbit ethernet running off the building's lan so multicasting may be a good idea.

I agree fully with the point that John made about letting tenants to view recorded video. I will use that to convince my customer to provide that feature only for the building management.

I was thinking of another solution. Do you think that there are open source frameworks which I could use to create a very simple web service just for the live view of let's say four cameras. This web service would pull a frame from each camera every second and store it on the server. Hmm... i think I going a little beyond the scope but it sounds like it is possible and not to unachievable. In fact one of my friends created a website with a view of a camera that is installed in the middle my town overlooking the old market square. I'll ask him for a code and if it works I share it with you.

Thanks again!

Many simultaneous users watching the same live video feed is a common challenge for live sporting events such as Major League Baseball. The amount of servers and upload bandwidth would be huge in order to deliver to each client individually.

Nokia first used a Peer-to-Peer sharing scheme where only a relatively few clients need a direct feed to the camera, server, or multicast switch providing the stream. Others viewing the same live stream essentially become nodes in their own mesh network, sharing portions of the stream with others. Just like a torrent file, the more clients viewing the stream, the more available it becomes. This is true both across the Internet or within a local network.

One such protocol is Adobe's RTMFP (Real Time Media Flow Protocol):
"RTMFP will reduce the bandwidth costs for direct, live, real?time communication solutions, such as audio and video chat and multi?player games. Because RTMFP flows data between the end?user clients and not the server, bandwidth is not being used at the server so solutions are less expensive to scale. RTMFP also increases the speed of delivery through the use of UDP. UDP is a more efficient (but less reliable) way to send video and audio data over the Internet that reduces the penalties associated with missing, dropped, or out of order packets." (Emphasis mine)
Disclaimer: NLSS uses P2P via RTMFP to allow an unlimited number of viewers, via web browser or smart app, as part of our Cloud Service.

Cloud based systems like ivideon could work.

Disclosure: I work for Smartvue

Smartvue cloud services may offer the solution you are looking for. We have built similar scale systems and may have the correct solution. You can visit our website for more information.

Instead of having viewers being able to watch recorded video, why don't you give them 2 or 3 time delay options? They can watch a live feed, 30 Second Delay feed or a 1 Minute Delay feed. If they wanted to watch anything more, then they should go see management.

If they have a tiny budget, but have big ideas, you could also just put the streams on a webpage with a simple iframe. However, it would be a public stream to the general public as well unless you used an annoying password. (Tiny budget with big ideas is a very common scenario in these instances)

<iframe src="http://IPADDRESS" height="300" width="100%" scrolling="auto" frameborder="0"></iframe>

You can connect your cameras to Ivideon VSaaS with tariff plan for business and share them with unlimited amount of user, with cloud archive and ability to embed camera feeds in websites. Mobile apps, web-interface, desktop apps.

I would recommend the options in the HD broadcasting article.  One that I have used is AngelCam.  It  is an easy solution and works without plugins on any platform.  You can have a password protection, so they can post the cameras to their website and the residents simply click on a link to access. 

They don't need to go directly to the camera, load plugins, etc.

The service pulls one stream from the camera and sends it to the cloud and clients only when someone is connected.

I personally think that giving residents access to recorded video playback is a bad idea...  

Angelcam has free and paid options.  The free option lets you play around with how it would work (not fully, as you can't embed it, etc.).  One thing to note is that the generic interface does require port forwarding.  Some cameras have their protocol embedded so the camera can push the video out directly to their cloud.