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April 10, 2017updated 12 Apr 2017 4:50pm

Say cheese: the body camera storage dilemma

63 million hours of video needs to be stored securely for future use. And this is just for one police force. There are 43 of these forces in the UK alone.

By James Nunns

The use of police bodycams has proven largely successful in the UK and the US, providing an extra level of protection both for police officers and the general public during challenging and contentious interactions.

One study by Cambridge University found that police equipped with body cameras

Danny Rowark, country manager, UK and Ireland, SUSE.

receive 93% fewer complaints from the public, suggesting the technology does indeed help to dissolve potentially volatile scenarios. London’s Metropolitan Police will equip some 22,000 officers with body cameras by summer 2017, after watching successful trial periods in various police forces across the US.

Following the success of body cameras within the police force, it was announced that teachers in UK schools will be trialling the technology to monitor both good and bad behaviour in the classroom.  While this is beginning as a small-scale trial in just two UK schools, a recent survey found that one third of teachers want cameras in the classroom. As such, and if the current trial is successful, it’s likely we’ll see a more widespread adoption of the initiative in future.

Data from these body cameras – whether from the police frontline or the classroom – is uploaded at the end of the working day, with many cameras capable of capturing up to 12 hours of footage. For the police force, all appropriate footage must be kept as evidence. This means it must be stored for a specific period of time in the event that it becomes relevant to a case further down the line.

Time for some quick maths. Let’s say the 22,000 camera-equipped officers in the Met Police undertake one shift in a period of 24 hours. That would create 264,000 hours of video to be uploaded and stored in just one day. If this continued over five working days of the week, over 48 weeks of the year… That’s approximately 63,360,000 hours of video per year.

This 63 million hours of video needs to be stored securely for future use. And this is just for one police force. There are 43 of these forces in the UK alone.

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It won’t come as a surprise to hear that forces are struggling to know what to do with this video data, given the cost and complexity of storing the footage. One police force in Pleasant Grove, Utah, had to switch off officers’ cameras due to the complexity of this storage challenge, with the footage crashing the police force’s database. If the use of body cameras in schools becomes more widespread, we can only expect these issues to proliferate further.

It very quickly becomes incredibly expensive to store exponential volumes of data in either a private cloud or a dedicated data centre. This is especially true of video data, as it can take up a huge amount of space. More often than not, this also means that storage requirements increase much faster than their related storage budgets.

A recent report found that 91 per cent of UK organisations are worried that storage issues will slow down digital transformation initiatives. And nine in ten UK organisations are generally concerned about how they can manage growing storage costs as capacity requirements increase. The report also found that traditional enterprise storage strategies are not fit to support innovation strategies in the UK.

Software defined storage (SDS) is fast becoming the solution to storing the reams of video footage captured by bodycams. Organisations are looking to SDS as it is designed to scale up and seamlessly adapt to changing data requirements, which is a distinctive challenge when looking to store bodycam footage.

Many schools, police forces and other organisations are facing falling or fixed IT storage budgets. Software defined storage can help here as it allows IT to reduce costs while scaling storage up and down as needed with an intelligent storage management solution. This is important for video data, especially the huge amounts of uninterrupted content coming from body cameras.

In addition to storing bodycam footage, it is a trend we expect to see across a whole host of organisations in the coming year – the recent report found that 92 per cent of UK businesses are interested in software defined storage to help bridge the current storage gap. SDS can provide a highly scalable and resilient storage environment – and potentially futureproof a business against future storage challenges.

Worries around data growth and its implications for storage are at an all-time high. Many UK businesses are subsequently re-evaluating their approach to storage, seeking an alternative approach to support both innovation and ‘business as usual’.

Police departments and schools looking to trial body cameras will start to see an exponential increase in storage requirements over coming months. We can expect to see further SDS adoption as the natural next step.

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