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6/9/2014
09:06 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Internet Of Things: Are You Underestimating Video?

Whether you want an easier way to collect data or connect to customers, video is ready to play a bigger role.

The hype around the huge market opportunity known as the Internet of Things is giving short shrift to one basic source of data input: video.

Sure, there's a lot of anxiety about widespread video surveillance, but I'm talking here about the everyday, run-your-business kinds of video use, the kinds where privacy concerns aren't a factor. It's using video to look at machines your company owns, for example, or to interact with customers to provide better service.

Bill Ruh, vice president and global technology director at Internet of Things champion GE, calls video "the most underutilized sensor in the industrial market," and the story isn't much different in the consumer and customer service worlds. IT leaders must ask their business colleagues this simple question: Would it help if you could see that?

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Think of video on two broad fronts. One is video as a sensor -- as an inspector, checking out equipment such as a railroad or a gas pipeline and using automated analysis of images to know when more in-depth human evaluation is needed.

(Source: Wikipedia)
(Source: Wikipedia)

The second video scenario is for ad-hoc collaboration, now that so many customers and employees are carrying high-quality video cameras with them all the time on their smartphones. Problems that have required a complicated text or voice description now can be captured in a 15-second "look at this" real-time or recorded video.

Here are examples of those two scenarios that we've written about recently.

Track inspections
Union Pacific is doing a lot of experiments and implementations using video cameras as another type of sensor around its trains and tracks to bring in data for analysis. "I don't mean video as in YouTube," CIO Lynden Tennison says. "I mean leveraging video to make business decisions."

For example, a business problem for Union Pacific is how to inspect rail ties efficiently. Currently, inspectors physically travel along the tracks to look for rot or cracks in the wooden or concrete ties along thousands of miles of track. In

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Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and leader of its Strategic CIO community. He has been covering technology leadership and strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; ... View Full Bio
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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 10:28:23 AM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
zaious, you're getting at a really important change of mindset -- we don't instinctively think video. but that mindset will change, and I suspect ad hoc video will increasingly become part of how we collaborate. I talked with IT leader of a furniture business, and he found this when he gave warehouse teams iPads -- they started shooting quick-hit video of material coming in if they saw something that looked to be sub-par quality, and would send that to the buyer who could say accept, reject, or let me look closer. This cultural change is something for IT to be in tune with, and ready to support.  (I've never made a video comment!)
Gordfras
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Gordfras,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/12/2014 | 8:26:24 AM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
Video Analytics in and of itself does not add to bandwidth, but the incorporated software business rules adds to bandwidth issues by retransmitting video, either stored segments or live streaming, related to alerts for other personnel to make informed decisions. This percentage should be relatively small compared to the initial "streaming" video, in addition to application feeds to smart phones, tablets, or other devices.

 

 
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 12:19:13 AM
Re: Interesting angle
It might create a bandwidth problem, but it will be controllable bandwidth problem in a space controlled by one entity, and, in the case of the railroad example, the only actors present are company-owned, too.

I like the railroad application, because it represents a difficult, boring and uncomfortable job prone to errors – when done by humans, that is. The algorithyms and analytics for an unchanging problem like this can only get better and better over time.
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
6/11/2014 | 11:26:53 PM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
More videos will need more bandwidth. 
I just noticed that we have an option to upload video comments in this site. How many of us use it? We are a still 'video shy'.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 9:38:38 PM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
Interesting experience Gordfras, sounds like you're living deep in this world. One question -- so how does video analytics add to the bandwidth problem? 
Gordfras
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Gordfras,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/11/2014 | 9:46:40 AM
Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
Interesting article. I wholeheartedly agree with you about video cameras being sensors providing data. Video "data" can utilize lots of bandwidth for cameras in active settings, even with H.264. Newer video compression techniques are under investigation, but they are not deployed en masse yet. An airport can use several thousand cameras, so you can imagine the bandwidth requirements and analytics needed for them.

I have been working on smaller sites with approximately 200 HD cameras for security and during the design phase discovered that the client's existing network could not handle the bandwidth needed. A new Video/Security fiber network was designed to allow for unimpeded data flow. Since their security force was small and could not constantly watch 200 cameras, Video Analytics, another big data tool, was added to analyze each camera feed for unusual or irregular activity. The system would alert local security and management (depending on business rules) to the situation via intranet, internet, SMS, smart phone application, or streaming video of the suspected trouble. One application linked to the system allows security personnel to use their smart phones to send video back for remote analysis from different angles without getting too close to potential trouble.

Video analytics is the key to staying ahead of potential trouble, but it may also add to bandwidth issues if not designed in from the beginning. Archiving the video for future analysis is another topic requiring considerable Terabytes of storage, which I am sure you will address in later articles.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
6/10/2014 | 12:55:52 PM
Re: Interesting angle
Hi Chris

this is a great article.  I had no idea of the different ways cameras are being used to help serve a business need.  I can imagine that having to look at all the rails is a time consuming activity.  Some times the best sensor is something very common like a video.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 11:58:48 AM
Re: Interesting angle
Hi Gil, good to hear from you. What struck me in talking with Union Pacific is that their team feels like they have a pretty good grip on data volume, and that their analytics are doing a solid job making sense of that data coming in. What they're really looking for is better, more affordable ways to collect the vital data to analyze. And that's why they're running a lot of experiments with video -- video and cameras as just another sensor.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/10/2014 | 11:44:52 AM
Re: Are You Underestimating Video?
zerox, your emphasis on video as an alternative is really good, and it makes me think of how IT is going to have to help customer service/maintenance teams toggle between text and video. Not necessarily easy to do elegantly. Thanks for all the feedback, zerox.  
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 7:48:56 PM
Re: Are You Underestimating Video?
I have to admit, as I was reading this, my initial reaction involved quite a bit of skepticism. There's no doubt that today we live in a video world, but it remains to be seen if customers really want everything spitting out video the same way they want everything updating them via text messages. For my own two cents, I'm pretty certain that I don't want my refrigator giving me video updates on how to store my celery - but maybe I do want it to text me when I need more celery. Going into this, that's what I thought you meant, Chris - video in the IoT as we've come to understand it as consumers, and that's what I was a little skeptical of. The cases you describe here, though, go a long way towards giving me a different perspective and helping me see the value.

The Esurance example, especially, goes a long way to exemplify how, in the future. video may not necessarily be a replacement for either text or voice-based communication, but rather an alternative that may be more suitable in certain situations on a case-by-case basis. Just as you describe, some things that take a proverbial 'wall of text' to explain could easily be explained much better in a very short video. Things like damages can be easily verified, and you can know someone's not exaggerating or mistaken. In other cases, the opposite may remain true - so I see this video as being more like adding an additional tool to our utility belt than taking the next big step up. The comparison to the rise of live web chats some years ago is apt.

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