Open Platform VMS on Amazon Web Services Delivers Next-Gen School Safety

Here’s how an open platform VMS with cloud service integration can make your school security system more efficient and easier to scale in the future.

Open Platform VMS on Amazon Web Services Delivers Next-Gen School Safety

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As threats to school and college campus safety continue to rise, administrators are seeking advanced video technology that is scalable, flexible, easy to use, and cost-effective. Cities such as Fishers, Indiana, are using open platform video management software (VMS) with integrated Amazon Web Services (AWS) to cost-effectively maintain the safety and security of their community.

This type of setup offers schools an ideal hybrid or all-cloud video security solution. With centralized management, schools can efficiently monitor facilities from one location while reducing repetitive hardware and maintenance costs, as well as take advantage of highly secure and cost-effective video storage and sharing.

Video security systems are complex IoT systems that are highly compute- and storage-intensive. When it comes to the VMS, deploying a sizeable on-premises system usually involves a lengthy, multi-month procurement process, costly hardware, and ongoing maintenance. Commissioning such a system requires careful solution design, server, and storage hardware selection, and all the logistics with orders, shipments, unpacking, and the installation of the back-end hardware.

An open platform VMS with cloud service integration can vastly simplify, if not eliminate, many of these tasks, allowing organizations to scale and deploy their video systems across any number of locations quickly and cost-effectively. With the cloud, schools no longer need to plan for and procure servers and other IT infrastructure weeks or months in advance. Instead, they can quickly spin up an appropriate number of servers in minutes, tap into new cloud capabilities, and deliver fast results. Either partial, on-premises hybrid installations, or complete cloud deployments are excellent options for scaling and deploying video security systems.

4 Cloud Integration Advantages

Cloud service integrations offer notable benefits over on-site-only systems, including lower costs, strengthened data security, scalability, and evidence sharing. They include:

  1. Reduced costs: By using cloud services in addition to or instead of on-premises IT infrastructure for video management and storage, schools and institutions of higher education avoid major hardware costs, plus ongoing expenses for maintenance, repairs, and manual system updates. With the cloud, video management software, storage, and computing power can be provided on an affordable pay-as-you-go basis. Campuses don’t have to invest in servers and storage to meet projected capacity years into the future. Instead, these services scale instantly to handle growth when more cameras or retention duration is added.
  2. Enhanced data storage: Video data in cloud data centers provides enterprise-level physical and cyber protection that most campuses and districts cannot match on their own. Provider facilities utilize 24/7 interior and exterior security with strict access controls. Cyber protections leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to continuously monitor systems and automatically respond to threats. Compliance with regulations like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for school data is tightly controlled and certified. Chain-of-custody is also assured for video evidence.
  3. Easy remote access and data sharing: A cloud deployment allows authorized staff to conveniently monitor video feeds and access recorded data from anywhere without needing a VPN connection. When an incident happens, duplicating video data for law enforcement can be swiftly accomplished through cloud sharing rather than manually exporting video to external hard drives. This saves significant time when working with police to aid investigations.
  4. Quick scalability: School video security requirements frequently evolve year-to-year as new buildings are added or more cameras are installed. Cloud systems readily scale up as needs grow. Expanding the number of cameras or storage duration requires no new infrastructure. The flexibility of open platform VMS systems and cloud solutions enable schools to start small and then seamlessly expand system capacity on demand.

How It Works in the Real World

The City of Fishers is one of the fastest growing cities in Indiana. With a population of nearly 100,000, the city was struggling with the rapidly increasing storage needs for its video security system. With plans to have more than 250 cameras installed around the city by the end of 2024, the city needed a scalable solution that would save on in-house hardware and related maintenance costs, simplify system use, and align with the city’s cloud first initiative.

To solve these challenges, Fishers officials worked with technology partners to integrate the city’s existing open platform video management system with AWS cloud services. This enabled the city to store large amounts of video data in the cloud efficiently while leveraging the cost savings for all the city’s AWS services.

The city has successfully transitioned to using its VMS for seamless on-premises video retention using tiered AWS video data storage. A percentage of the video is real-time readable and accessible in AWS. After a defined amount of time, the data is tiered out to affordable archival storage in AWS. With the deployment, city officials have benefited from the following:

  • Increased video system scalability for the planned, growing number of city cameras.
  • Substantial cost savings compared to in-house storage costs, including reduced hardware acquisition and maintenance expenses. The city’s monthly AWS costs are now 10% less than the annualized cost for on-premises storage units.
  • Multi-regional, long-term data protection in AWS without additional effort.
  • An easy-to-use, fast-to-scale, reliable VMS solution.

Additionally, the hybrid cloud system provides predictable monthly video storage and management expenses. Instead of big spikes in capital spending, increases are small and consistent month-to-month as camera counts rise. The AWS tiered pricing model efficiently tailors storage costs to the frequency of video access needed. Infrequently accessed footage can be affordably archived.

Schools deploying a hybrid cloud VMS system can take advantage of AWS education-focused pricing. By reducing substantial annual hardware investments while achieving scalability and predictability, districts could reallocate significant budgets to other learning resources. This makes comprehensive video security viable for school and university safety programs.

The Combination Schools Need

By combining smart IP cameras, sensors, and an open platform VMS with cloud services, administrators gain greatly enhanced situational awareness campus wide. Analytics embedded at the edge in cameras as well as in the VMS can count people, watch points of ingress and egress, track unattended objects, listen for shouts or glass breaking, and more.

And because not every movement or sound demands staff action, the data-driven VMS filters out noise and correlates relevant events to highlight issues needing attention. Based on customized rule policies, the system can then alert the appropriate personnel when a combination of sensor triggers and video events  represents a security risk or safety threat. Officials can then assess the situation using live and recorded video feeds accessible via any web browser or mobile device to determine appropriate intervention.

Additionally, the accumulated video data and analytics provide a map identifying vulnerable areas and periods so administrators can systematically improve security. Combining an open platform VMS and cloud services with smart cameras and sensors enables data-driven visibility to enhance school safety and security.

Here are some real-world examples:

  • Perimeter access monitoring: Analytics can count people entering buildings and send alerts if thresholds are exceeded at unusual times. The VMS can correlate badge access data against the authorized roster to pinpoint anomalies needing investigation. Doors left propped open in violation of policy also trigger alerts to prevent unauthorized access.
  • After-hours monitoring: On-camera analytics combined with noise and motion detectors watch for activities when the campus is closed. Trespass alerts help catch intruders, vandals, or rule-breaking students to prevent injury and property damage.
  • Bus and loading zone safety: Interior cameras plus school bus stop-arm and zone traffic analytics improve visibility into bus environments and school arrival and departure procedures. Operators are notified of potential student conflicts or unsafe loading/unloading, while administrators can assess the need for added supervision or infrastructure.
  • Rapid incident investigations: Following any reported issue, the VMS quickly analyzes archived video data to provide campus leadership and law enforcement a timeline of activities, persons, and movements leading up to, during, and after the incident. This jumpstarts investigations rather than making authorities manually locate and interpret the data.

Open Platforms Offer Many Advantages

Leveraging an open platform VMS instead of proprietary solutions provides flexibility to adopt best-of-breed solutions from any vendor. This avoids an expensive proprietary vendor lock-in that forces continued investment into a single manufacturer’s vision of what technology or integrations should be allowed. Interoperability is increasingly vital as video analytics and intelligent sensors rapidly advance. With an open platform VMS, school administrators can:

  • Connect new camera models rather than rip and replace entire systems if their needs change.
  • Mix solutions from multiple best-in-class vendors based on performance/cost fit.
  • Integrate gunshot detection or access control systems without requiring the vendor’s permission or professional services.
  • Select from thousands of cloud analytic apps for the latest innovations.
  • Adopt affordable cloud storage/sharing without migration hurdles or forced vendor professional service upgrades.

This freedom is impossible with closed vendors. Open solutions keep options open so districts can innovate over time as technology progresses.

Cloud Delivers New Ecosystem of Video Capabilities

Beyond the economic and logistic advantages of integrating a VMS system with cloud services, the cloud ecosystem offers a nearly limitless range of new video data capabilities. Within AWS Marketplace, thousands of secure and tested third-party video analytic applications can be applied to recorded video on an as-needed basis for a range of new capabilities. This cloud ecosystem allows users and integrators to quickly test and deploy highly specific or custom video analytic tools rapidly and economically.

With most video security systems today, most of the surveillance video is stored for a pre-determined amount of time and then discarded. Video is captured, put into recording servers, and then, at some point, it’s simply deleted. Unless an event needs to be reviewed for evidence purposes, recorded video is rarely used.

However, in the cloud, video storage can be very affordable and essentially unlimited. In fact, the more video data that is stored in the cloud, the more affordable it becomes, helping reduce expenses for the entire organization.

The Future Foundation for Campus Security

The best way to mitigate risk in an educational environment is to deploy policies, procedures, and technologies that keep unauthorized visitors from gaining access to a campus in the first place. Video security, access control, and a wide range of integrated cloud-based technologies can be combined to create an efficient and effective first line of defense and save valuable time during an emergency. Having a successful security strategy in place means ensuring that all physical aspects of a security system work together as an integrated system for the safety and security of all involved.

By combining professional security strategies and procedures with highly flexible and reliable technologies, administrators can mitigate risk and reduce potential damage by providing the quickest, most well-informed response possible.

Administrators can’t anticipate every event, but an effective strategy can make a positive and tangible difference in the lives of school staff, students, and their families. Open, data-driven video management and cloud services are becoming increasingly significant pillars of safety and security strategies in education.

Brad Cary is Milestone Systems’ Business Development Manager for Education.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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