Guest Column | May 14, 2014

Applying Sustainability To Perimeter Video Surveillance

By Dave Tynan, Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, MicroPower Technologies

Video Surveillance

Sustainability is a major concern for today's enterprises. Organizations increasingly are looking at how they can be more environmentally conscious and less disruptive to the ecosystem. The clear trend is toward addressing sustainability issues proactively and globally.

At first glance, security and sustainability may not go hand in hand. But in particular, one aspect of security — the design and use of perimeter video surveillance — can become more sustainable. This article focuses on how we as an industry can help increase perimeter security efforts while maintaining a “green” approach.

The Challenge

Higher costs are a reflection of the sustainability challenges of perimeter video surveillance. Compared to the rest of an enterprise surveillance system, the part of the system covering the outside perimeter is the most expensive on a cost-per-camera basis. Factors that impact costs are the greater distance away that cameras must be located, the greater amount of materials (cables, infrastructure, etc.) needed, and the costs of disrupting hard-surface materials (such as asphalt or concrete) necessary to trench for cables. In terms of sustainability, longer cables translate into more materials being used, and trenching through concrete, aggregate, or asphalt negatively impacts drainage and erosion.

It's easy to extrapolate from greater installation costs the likely sustainability impact. The fuel consumption of (and emissions from) a needed backhoe for trenching impacts the environment, as do multiple return trips of service vehicles over the time required for the trenching operation. Additional materials such as asphalt, concrete, and aggregate are needed to repair the trenched area. Extra time and resources are required for permitting, including awaiting approvals. In terms of technology costs, multi-megapixel and/or premium-priced pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras mounted on a building to view distant areas are more expensive than standard-resolution cameras mounted nearer the actual area at risk. There is also the added cost (and impact on sustainability) of installing supplemental lighting to illuminate a perimeter versus taking advantage of available light.

Ongoing costs can also reflect a greater impact on sustainability. Additional costs include the electricity used per camera, electricity used by heater/blowers, and the cost of powering incremental lighting. Finally, there is the cost of using guard service labor inefficiently; i.e., missing out on the lower costs associated with a labor-saving video surveillance system.

Finally, other environmental impacts should be considered — and quantified if possible. Examples include the costs of materials disposal, possible disruption to existing services, possible hazardous waste runoff, potential creation of erosion problems, and issues of dust, debris, and air contamination.

Using fewer materials also provides benefits. Wireless and solar-powered systems, for example, are options that help reduce installation costs and also the costs of the additional materials, such as wire and cabling, that would otherwise be used. The impact of using those materials (and sustainability benefit of avoiding their use) is a factor in any sustainability assessment. Less-disruptive installation — no trenching or cables to run — also eliminates most of the sustainability impact, and use of less power over the life of the system promotes ongoing sustainability.

Security should be doing its part for sustainability, regardless if the security department does not typically represent an organization's greatest sustainability challenge. Seeking to contribute to the enterprise's global sustainability initiative, however, security departments have the ability to do more than embrace paperless processes or use bike patrols. Video at the perimeter represents an opportunity to have an immediate impact on sustainability. Innovations such as solar-powered wireless camera system can have a specific, measurable effect on sustainability.

As an IT reseller, it is critical for you to help security officials find new ways to contribute to corporate sustainability initiatives. As a partner, your impact on sustainability can include how you minimize material usage and how you plan disposal of technology at end-of-life.