Brian Sims

Majority of UK businesses back COVID workplace safety role for CCTV

A MULTI-country survey of organisations employing upwards of 50 members of staff and running an existing video monitoring system has discovered that 71% of UK firms envision a role for their existing video system in supporting a safe return to the workplace. Employers are busily making plans to encourage more staff members to return to the workplace as lockdown restrictions are slowly eased across the nation.

Conducted by Video Security-as-a-Service innovator Ava Security, the survey highlights that some adaptations of existing video systems are favoured over others. For example, of those UK businesses forecasting a role for their video monitoring/CCTV system in helping to keep their offices COVID safe, nearly half (45%) have already deployed video analytics to help manage social distancing, while a further 34% plan to start managing social distancing using their video systems within the next 12 months.

Nearly as many (43%) have already put their video cameras to effective use to help track and trace people movements in and out of as well as around their workplaces. A further third (32%) plan to use their surveillance cameras to help track people movements on their premises within the next 12 months.   

Very similar numbers have already redeployed some cameras to monitor meeting room occupancy levels and count the numbers of individuals clustering in breakout areas. 42% are already using their cameras to achieve this. 37% intend to put such an arrangement in place within the next year as more staff move back to the office environment.

Facial recognition in the UK

UK firms are not yet major adopters of in-camera facial recognition software to enable contactless access control. Only 13% of firms questioned have chosen this option to reduce infection risks associated with entering and exiting a building. A further 21% are planning to deploy facial recognition analytics within the next 12 months, indicating that deployment of facial recognition solutions within workplaces is set to more than double in 2021.  

Adoption on home shores contrasts sharply with a much more rapid take-up of facial recognition in the US, where 39% of respondents to the survey have already deployed it and 45% plan to do so within the next 12 months.

UK deployment of thermal cameras to support temperature measurement-based screening at entrances is also quite low when compared with the US. Just 15% of UK firms have already deployed thermal cameras for temperature checking, while 34% of those taking part in the study said they were likely to deploy them within the next 12 months. By contrast, over half of US firms (51%) have already deployed thermal cameras for this purpose. An additional third (34%) plan to do so across the next year.

Security budget squeeze

One-in-five UK firms (20%) running video monitoring systems have experienced a significant reduction in the budget available for updating and improving their existing video monitoring systems during 2020 and a further third (33%) have seen a small security budget decrease. A further 17% anticipate a budget cut in 2021, but as yet haven’t experienced this.

Facilities management and security departments still seem to control the running of more than half (56%) of UK businesses’ video monitoring systems. However, as most of these systems now reside on the corporate IT network and cyber security threats increase, it’s no surprise that 38% of UK firms have given control of video monitoring systems to their IT departments.

In terms of priorities for improving CCTV systems in the near term, most UK firms captured in this study are prioritising multiple improvements to existing systems. 66% of UK firms gave ‘net’ high priority status (ie answering either ‘high priority’ or ‘somewhat a priority’) to improving their video monitoring systems’ ‘resilience and back-up systems/procedures’.

Remaining with the same theme, 61% of respondents gave a high priority to improving ‘the system’s hardening to combat cyber security risks’. 70% are placing a net high priority on improving ‘General Data Protection Regulation compliance/procedures surrounding our CCTV system’ as personal data management continues to be a strong focus area for all systems holding sensitive personal data.

Reduction in false alarms

Nearly half (47%) of UK firms questioned consider it a high priority to reduce false alarms ‘dramatically as this is consuming too much of our time’. Linked to this, just over half (52%) are focused on making their video system ‘more intelligent, using video analytics to support better post-event decision-making.’

Over two-thirds (71%) of UK businesses responding to the survey suggest that better integration of their CCTV systems ‘with other security-related systems, such as access control or alarm systems’ is a net high priority. 69% gave net high priority status to ‘finding and retrieving required footage of incidents easier and quicker’.

Over half (51% net) consider ‘adopting VSaaS’ to be a high priority for improving or optimising their CCTV or video monitoring system. Linked to this, three-quarters (74%) of UK firms believe it either ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ that, within the next 12 months, the impact of the pandemic will accelerate the ‘migration of IT applications into the cloud’. Indeed, over a quarter (27%) of UK businesses captured by the study have already received new budget for moving more services into the cloud in the current financial year.

However, wider budget pressures associated with the pandemic also appear to have accelerated the ‘move from CAPEX to OPEX spending in more aspects of IT spend’. 43% of UK firms and 81% of US companies believe that this increasing focus on OPEX (which favours cloud migration) is ‘net’ likely over the next 12 months.

For the majority of UK firms now actively looking at VSaaS adoption, 47% consider it ‘very important’ that any VSaaS provider being considered ‘must allow us to continue using our existing third party cameras which we’ve already installed as we don’t want to rip and replace any equipment’.

A third (33%) of UK firms insist that ‘allowing us to view their (ie the VSaaS providers’) directly attached cloud cameras alongside our third party cameras on the same interface’ is ‘very important’.

VMS functionality

Nearly one third (30%) of UK firms also consider it ‘very important’ that there’s no loss of continuity in terms of the Video Management Software (VMS) functionality when moving to the VSaaS providers’ own VMS offer.

Access to state-of-the-art video analytics capabilities is also deemed to be critical for many considering a VSaaS provider. 38% said it was ‘very important’ that the selected VSaaS ‘must enable us to run the latest video analytics capabilities such as occupancy levels for social distance management (in a room), noise analytics (eg breaking glass, screaming and yelling, etc), people and vehicle search, object searching and colour searching.’

UK firms with existing video monitoring systems are not prepared to compromise in other areas like integrating their video system with other security or access control systems. 43% of UK firms considering VSaaS agreed with the statement ‘It must have very strong cyber security, including end-to-end encryption from the camera to the cloud.’

Finally, as well as coming with no functional shortcomings, VSaaS offerings must be ‘configurable and operable by non-IT people’ as ease of use took centre stage for 49% of UK firms. Over one third (37%) of respondents wish to see a ‘reduction in the total cost of ownership’ as a result of the switch from existing on premise-based video systems to VSaaS.

Genuine consideration

Commenting on the survey results, Vegard Aas (head of online business at Ava Security) observed: “Our findings indicate that plans for keeping workplaces safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with improvements in video analytics and the maturing cloud infrastructure landscape, are all working together to make VSaaS a genuine consideration for many more UK businesses. This research definitely provides some timely insights to help direct our own R&D efforts going forward.”

Ava Security recently launched its Cloud Connector offering to enable video security system owners easy and cost-effective transition of video security solutions to the cloud. This brings Ava’s advanced real-time video analytics and proactive security to existing surveillance cameras by integrating them with Ava’s open Aware Cloud platform. Ava’s Cloud Connector eliminates the need to rip and replace existing video security devices to directly reap the cost and operational efficiencies of a true cloud service.

The survey was conducted by market research firm Opinium and completed by 300 video monitoring/CCTV system decision-makers employed by firms with more than 50 employees. 150 of these IT, FM, security and operations management decision-makers are based in the UK, 100 in the US and a further 25 each in Norway and Sweden.

All 300 provided completed responses to all questions put to them via an online questionnaire between 10 and 19 March this year. Only firms with existing video monitoring or CCTV systems were invited to complete the survey.

Of the UK respondents, 35% are resident in the education sector, 27% in hospitality, 36% in retail and 2% work in public sector venues and at visitor attractions. The majority hold senior decision-maker roles in operations, IT, FM or security. 37% hold IT roles and have job titles ranging from CTO, CIO and IT director through to IT manager. 41% hold operations-focused roles. 13% hold FM management, CISO or head of security positions. Others occupy cross-functional middle, senior and Board-level roles.

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