Retail Surveillance Bandwidth Solution?

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 20, 2014

Watching video surveillance from retail stores remotely is both essential and problematic.

Bandwidth is frequently limited and prioritized for transactions, not surveillance. But investigations and remote live viewing can be crippled by this.

One company, USS is claiming its solution is 'the next big thing in physical security' that solves this problem. However, do they truly have a good solution, or is it just marketing bravado?

We take a closer look at the features, pricing, advantages and weaknesses inside.

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Comments (3)

While 4G (that I have used) has much faster upload speeds than traditional broadband services, being that it is symetrical, I don't think it is as reliable, unless the facility is very close to a tower. This might be viable for some, but why not just get a second broadband connection dedicated to the security services? I think for $75 you could get an unlimited total bandwidth connection, even if the upload speed is only 1Mbps vs the 6Mbps or more that 4G offers.

Brian, thanks for the review. The quality of internet at retail sites varies depending on the retailer. Some (especially smaller companies) will use for example a SOHO class DSL connection supplied directly by their local ISP. Others (especially larger companies) may have a more systematic approach to networking and will provision whatever resources are necessary to supply their stores with what they need to operate. Retailers in both classes are being pushed into greater bandwidth requirements due to trends like cloud-based POS, digital signage, and remote monitoring/auditing. Not to mention video applications.

We do see retailers with very modest upload speeds typical of SOHO class DSL. 200-400K is not uncommon. Until we're all hooked up with fiber, we're going to have to live with those sorts of speeds with a large percentage of the retail segment. A good solution (for video) is to record on-site, then transcode for ad-hoc remote streaming as well as support export via file transfers for full bit-rate retrieval. Streaming needs to honor bandwidth shaping at the site to avoid pushing aside critical transactions like POS. We find that HD recorded video can be transcoded to lower resolutions at H264 High Profile and a decent framerate to produce surprisingly good video at bit rates on the order of 200K. Video quality can only get better from there as the customer's willing to pay for bandwidth to improve it. The gist is, a well architected solution is a good way to work through low bit rates at the retail site.

As far as wireless is concerned, we all know best case wireless bit rates have improved dramatically in the last couple of years. Unfortunately applications of video can be very demanding at critical times (such as when actually attempting to stream video). So there's a big difference between peak bit rates and sustainable, reliable service. Wireless still suffers from high(er) packet loss, higher latency, and unpredictible bit rates due to congestion in the local area or simply due to location. I'm with Jon when he says why not just do another broadband connection if you need to allocate bandwidth specifically for video.

(full disclosure, I work for Schneider Electric)

Jon Dillabaugh posted that

While 4G (that I have used) has much faster upload speeds than traditional broadband services, being that it is symetrical,

While that may be Jon's experience, most users find that upload speeds are considerably slower than download speeds, usually by 2X. It is not a symmetrical service. See for example:

http://www.speedtest.net/isp/att-wireless

Moving on to the substantive posting, USS claims private trunking. This is unlikely. The congested part of cellular service is the radio access network, not their backhaul. Private backhaul from cellular carriers makes about as much sense as seat belts on motorcycles.

Picking the best carrier for an individual location is, however, a value-add service. Because not all carriers co-locate, it is possible for this to make a huge difference. And it is likely not a trivial exercise to find the best service in a fringe area. It is also possible to use an external antenna to improve performance. Assuming that is part of the service, that could be a real win. Still, I like the idea of DSL better. It seems like a better deal than paying a continued monthly rate for what amounts to a one-time service.

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