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Physical Security Systems & Metadata: What Does It All Mean?

Physical Security Systems & Metadata: What Does It All Mean?

With the heightened focus on data security throughout organizations today and the prevalence of “X as a Service” applications, I’m often asked during product demonstrations and activations, “What data is being collected and sent to the cloud?” – and rightfully so.

It depends on the type of cloud-based application or service being used, but with service assurance platforms like IntelAssure, the answer is metadata.

While news stories over the past several years have familiarized many of us with the term “metadata”, the significance and scope of how metadata is used can still be hard to grasp.

Simply put, metadata is information (or data) about data itself. It is the information that describes other data, such as a file’s size or when it was created (the content of the file being the actual data itself).

Think about booking a flight and all the information that is a byproduct of that process. This includes arrival times and departure times, flight numbers and gates, airport codes and airlines – all of that is metadata about your flight.

How is metadata related to physical security?

As you can imagine, just about any security process creates a ton of additional data, or metadata. In a physical security system, the data itself could be a video stream from a security camera. But that process also relies on transactional and informational data from the following:

  • Camera
  • Video management system
  • Storage network

Examples of metadata produced by the above could include:

  • IP addresses of the camera and the recording server
  • Frame rate and resolution of the camera stream
  • Bandwidth and CPU utilization of the server

Throughout a business’ physical security infrastructure, there are multiple components – often across various manufacturers and even disparate systems – that produce metadata.

IP cameras, access control panels and readers, network switches and even IoT devices such as IP intercom systems and fire alarms – all of these components create loads of metadata that, when collected and indexed, can paint a very clear picture of the overall health of the environment and its components (or lack thereof).

How does metadata become actionable?

This is what service assurance platforms do. They gather metadata from across the physical security infrastructure, analyze it and establish what is and isn’t normal operating behavior. Once that happens, these platforms can present the information in a way that’s useful and actionable. For instance, by alerting businesses of system anomalies that can cause performance issues, such as latency (network or storage) or firmware incompatibilities.

Likewise, metadata can enable service assurance platforms to monitor and alert to issues with video retention. If your video surveillance system isn’t allowing you to meet your retention goals, then IntelAssure can give you the tools to understand why by analyzing the metadata across the environment.

By capturing data such as motion percentage on each camera stream over a historical period, you can see if the motion sensitivity is set too high, or if there has been increased motion on certain cameras that has affected your overall retention. Or, you can report on the amount of storage used per camera stream on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis and look for outliers within the environment.

Having metadata presented in this way gives you a powerful tool to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your physical security systems.

Metadata is plentiful throughout any digital system and is increasingly being used to monitor and manage those systems. While almost as important as the actual data itself – especially when it comes to service assurance – metadata can allow you to see the properties and performance of physical security systems and the relationships between the components of those systems.

Having the ability to effectively gather this data and use it to diagnose and monitor your security systems, as well as enhance performance throughout your security environment, is invaluable. It can allow you to quickly act on information that helps you maximize performance and uptime.

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