Turning Smartphones into Surveillance Cameras

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 14, 2012

An emerging surveillance trend is mobile apps allowing cameras embedded in smartphones to be used for surveillance, integrated, viewed and recorded by a VMS system. DVTel was first to announce this functionality, as part of the Version 6.2 release of its Latitude VMS platform, and Milestone followed a few days later with an announcement at their 2012 partner meeting. In this note , we will look at these two announcements and their potential applications in the industry.

DVTel Mobile Camera App

DVTel's new mobile application, not to be confused with their current DVTel app, allows the camera of Android mobile devices (phones and tablets) to be viewed and recorded by Latitude. Both apps may run on the same device, however. Currently, only Android is supported. Future plans may include iPhone support, but as this is currently in limited release, DVTel was unable to comment.

Video from the Android device may only be initiated by the mobile user, not by a Latitude operator, preventing potential privacy issues with video being activated when the mobile user is not expecting. Video may be transmitted via Wi-Fi, as well as 3G/4G, depending on what is available. Stream size and resolution are configurable, as well, to adjust for differing bandwidth of wireless connections. Both MJPEG and H.264 streams are supported.

Mobile devices added via the app will require a camera connection license ($250-300 per camera). The mobile camera app is available now, though in limited release. Latitude users considering this feature should contact DVTel for questions of availability. For information regarding the app, as well as general information on the 6.2 release, users may see DVTel's full news item.

Milestone XProtect Mobile

At its February 2012 partner symposium, Milestone announced that a future release of its XProtect Mobile iPhone/Android application will include this functionality, as well, which they have labeled "Video Push". This function is projected to be available in Q3 2012. Milestone has a track record of pushing back release dates, however, so actual availability may be later. Users may see our overview of their announcements for more detail.

The video below from Milestone overviews their approach:

Applications 

While many users will have no need for streaming video from their mobile device, those with mobile guard forces may find this extremely appealing. For example, a guard on a tour of a site's perimeter may use the app to send video of incidents as they occur, or of damage to the perimeter fence, so conditions may be recorded. Gaming is another likely vertical for this application. The mobile app will allow staff on the floor of the casino to observe tables unobtrusively, in real-time, allowing security staff more or better angles to determine if cheating is taking place.

Impact

We see this as being a moderate, but soon to be frequently cited, innovation in surveillance. A combination of factors are creating this: (1) A number of manufacturers are rushing to release this feature, ensuring manufacturer market push and (2) the feature is 'sexy', enabling a use case that previously was not feasible within a traditional surveillance environment.

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