Mobile VMS App Usage Statistics 2012

By Ethan Ace, Published Feb 15, 2012, 07:00pm EST

The market for surveillance mobile applications has exploded in the last 3 years. Now, almost everyone offers one - from VMS providers to third party app developers and even to low end DVRs and home offerings.

The question then is: how many users are actually taking advantage of these capabilities? To that end, we asked the following question of respondents in our Winter 2012 survey: "What percentage of your customers use mobile applications (iPhone/Android, etc.) for monitoring their VMS?"

The Responses

The following chart shows responses:

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Of 100 respondents, 46% answered that their customers are using mobile applications less than 10% of the time. Only 20% answered that they were deploying mobile apps 50% of the time or more.

Given the prevalance of smartphones today and omnipresence of surveillance mobile apps, they results show total adoption is still limited. However, as our break down in the second half of the report shows, adoption is most restricted in the larger camera count applications.

The "Wow" Factor

The most common comment from respondents deploying mobile apps less than 10% of the time was that the app is a good sales tool, high on the "wow" factor, but rarely purchased, and even more rarely used:

  • "I think they like the 'wow' factor, but do not see is as an integral part of the system function."
  • "This is a good selling point to the customer up front during the sale cycle but after the installation is complete we find that the customer really only uses this feature is to verify an after hour alarm."
  • "This is something we often demonstrate, but rarely deploy"
  • "They all ask for it, less pay for it, and a small majority of those actually end up using it."
  • "Some play around with it or try it out, to see how it works. I don't know any who seriously uses it to check the site. Windows programs are usually better for this, but this might change in the future."

This is understandable, as most apps have been basic, with the ability to view live video only. Viewing of archive and event video, alarms, and other functions have only recently been added. We expect that more advanced features will become commonplace as time goes on.

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IT-related Issues

The second most common reason for not deploying mobile apps was issues with IT policy and coordination, or lack thereof:

  • "Issues with IT department access to network. We generally install a dedicated network for our systems."
  • "IT and Security policies. It is changing though, I have seen more request for mobile apps or mobile browsing for their security equipment."
  • "Actually, as a fair majority are corporate-owned, locally-operated stores, there are a lot more customers who would LIKE to have this feature... but aren't allowed, by corporate IT policies."

Opening ports in firewalls is always a concern of IT departments, and is often required for deployment of mobile apps. For cameras deployed on a separate network from the corporate LAN, additional complexities are presented, as the camera LAN and corporate LAN must be connected, and the corporate LAN must be opened to the internet or VPNs created for connection of remote devices. We reviewed and demonstrated these issues in our test of the iPhone and iPad for surveillance.

Convenient Access

The ability to check in on one's business while away, without having to use a PC, is one of the most desirable features of mobile surveillance apps. This was the most common reason given by those who were deploying mobile applications 50% of the time or more:

  • "They like having remote access to their cameras. Many commercial customers want to operate their business "away" from their physical location. Often, customers are interested in employee attendance and look as well as general consumer volume in their stores."
  • "Customers like to be able to check on their premises remotely by mobile phone for convenience and peace of mind."
  • "Convenience and peace of mind for customers. This is mostly on systems going into small business. Big business is slow to adopt remote viewing due to security concerns and issues with IT."
  • "Probably the most asked for ancillary service. Ease of use and peace of mind."
  • "It's the way to go. Most people are on the go and can check in on their home or buisness while waiting in line for lunch or whatever."

This ability is especially appreciated by smaller end users, where employees may have more varied duties, with no dedicated security staff. We discuss this below.

Trends by System Size

Larger camera count systems are far less likely to use mobile apps than smaller ones. The trend is pronounced. See here:

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Here, frequently means integrators using mobile apps 25% of the time or greater. The trends are consistent across the board. Just as noteworthy, only a minority (21%) of smaller system integrators rarely use mobile apps while over 70% of larger system integrators rarely use them.

These two segments differ drastically with smaller system far more likely to use mobile apps than larger systems. We suspect this due to different use cases.

For facilities with higher camera counts, guard staff is often present, monitoring video from a central location. Information is normally relayed to mobile guards via radio, without the need for video. This makes mobile access to video overall less critical. However, in some cases, where guard staff is small or completely mobile, these applications can be valuable, especially if video can be triggered based on alerts, such as access, intrusion, or analytic events. Specialized features of some mobile clients, such as DVTel's geo-locating features and recently announced video capture capabilities are also targeted more at higher-end systems.

In facilities with low camera counts, staff is likely much smaller. Often, small business owners will be the only user of these systems. Providing mobile access to video is more attractive to these users, as it allows them to multitask better, making them able to check in on a facility from anywhere, instead of needing to be in front of a workstation.

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