Today the combination of smartphones and the Internet of Things mean that we can monitor almost anything from any location, from comparing costs when we’re out shopping to checking the weather in our holiday destination through a webcam.
So it seems odd that, while the world of social housing is abuzz with the potential for smart home technology to improve efficiency and customer service, we are not using similar developments to remotely monitor housing assets.
CCTV is routinely installed in social housing to protect people, property and places and usually a complete system is installed in each location. The vast majority of these systems are still analogue, with only around one fifth of new installations being digital. Whether analogue or digital, the majority record data onto an onsite DVR.
If footage has to be viewed, each system requires a site visit, or in rare cases direct access via the Internet using a previously secured connection (usually a VPN), by someone who is both authorised and with sufficient knowledge of the system to retrieve the data. This can be further complicated by the fact that CCTV models and brands are extremely varied. Even worse, as systems require a visit in order to be used, sometimes the fact that they are not working is only discovered at the point they are needed most.
So whilst the IT systems of most housing associations are extremely joined up, their CCTV systems often are not. With tens of thousands of disparate systems and millions of cameras out there, imagine the efficiencies available if all of these cameras were securely accessible remotely by authorised staff. Instead of needing to visit premises to access and download footage, find out if systems are functioning correctly or check for Data Protection compliance, they could do everything from their own desk or even their smartphone.
There is a solution – secure cloud technology – and it is already being used by police forces and utility companies. It can be connected to the Internet of Things with neither huge complexity nor cost, providing immediate time and cost savings as well as significant improvements in customer service.
Housing associations may protest that this sounds all very well but they do not have the budget to invest in new CCTV technology. However, this should not be a deterrent. Very little capital investment is needed, as cloud technology can be added to their existing analogue or digital solutions without the need to rip and replace either cameras or cabling. By simply adding Cloudview low cost, plug and play smart cloud adapters and a connection to the Internet, the footage from CCTV systems across an entire property portfolio can be recorded into a secure, consolidated cloud account, using standard Internet connections - regular broadband, 3G or satellite services.
Recording can be initiated either by automatic event triggers, such as motion detection, or manual activation. It can then be rapidly accessed and easily managed by authorised staff with no need for specialist training or software – just a browser and a regular PC, tablet or smartphone. There is minimal complexity, with no requirement for third party hardware such as encoders, complex routers, VPNs, fixed IP addresses or firewalls in order to connect to the Internet. This solution can also be used as standard to add remote monitoring and alerting to a CCTV system, or to add visual verification to intruder alarms.
Of course housing associations need to consider data security, with the 1998 Data Protection Act outlining the steps organisations must take to preserve the confidentiality of gathered data. To ensure that sensitive CCTV data is secured in the cloud, Cloudview’s system provides authentication, end-to-end encryption and a digital signature to ensure data integrity. The data is retained on ISO27001 rated remote servers, ensuring it is kept out of harm’s way.
Thanks to Cloudview and the Internet of Things, housing associations can take advantage of the benefits of cloud-based CCTV without ditching their current systems. By moving into the world of the cloud they can make CCTV as smart as the other systems they are using, with even greater benefits to themselves and their residents.
For more information please visit www.cloudview.co.
James Wickes, CEO and co-founder, Cloudview