Axis Communications’ Regional Director for Northern Europe, Linn Storäng, considers the impact of the energy crisis on business, the need to act sustainably and the role of network security technology to improve critical business functions.
Soaring energy bills are fuelling the cost of doing business. For some, the energy crisis is a matter of survival, for others, it has already proven catastrophic. Price hikes have brought the unavoidable overheads of energy use into sharp focus. Even before many capped price plans lifted at the beginning of 2023, more than 20% of businesses pinned energy prices as their primary concern, and most small businesses expect to stagnate or even fold in the coming year due to increased bills. Businesses have been forced to reconsider their operations in order to make savings in every area possible, often resulting in site closures, office downsizing, or shuttering.
Reducing energy consumption is not only important to continue operating profitably, but also now, critically, for meeting environmental agendas and sustainability strategies. In recent years, major players have embarked on a sustainability journey highlighted by the identification of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And more companies are taking steps towards having science-based emissions reduction targets ratified by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) which will cover the environmental impact of not only their own business, but also the upstream and downstream value chain.
The scope of these initiatives will mean that every aspect of business – from the raw materials used in component manufacturing to energy consumption and the approach to recycling products at their end-of-life – will need to demonstrably contribute to the achievement of emissions reduction targets. In Europe, this is echoed by the EC’s adoption of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). This is intended to initiate the EU’s transition to a circular economy and is one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal Europe’s growth strategy to become a sustainable, climate neutral and circular economy by 2050.
Axis Communications: Considering costs business-wide
It’s clear, then, that security and surveillance – like every other critical business function – must now operate in a culture of environmental concern and energy consciousness. Businesses are in search of top-to-bottom savings and adjustments to help them meet ever-more stringent targets. A frugal approach towards energy consumption is an essential part of this equation, but there is no fire-and-forget, one-stop solution to meeting such energy reduction targets when switching off is not an option.
Moreover, it would be unusual for an organisation to make sweeping changes without severely hampering essential functions. Managers need to be looking forensically at their operations, systems, products and materials used in order to make small but incremental gains towards reducing carbon footprint and achieving sustainability targets. A considered approach to analysing energy use in every department and adjusting wherever possible is the only way forward. This evaluation is leading some to also carefully consider the technologies employed, such as physical security, and the credentials of the vendors supplying them.
Rethinking security hardware for long-term savings
In the age of digital transformation, when video data has benefits beyond security alone, it could be argued that most businesses could benefit from a surveillance system. Cameras satisfy insurers, ensure the security of people and premises, and are progressively used in far more complex ways as part of systems which enable advanced monitoring, analytics, and productivity or quality assessments. It’s clear that running a network of IP security cameras counts amongst those non-negotiable functions which cannot be sacrificed, and as such, it must constantly consume energy.
Cameras are also only one part of the security equation. Server hardware is often used to collate and process footage, adequate lighting must be provided to ensure cameras can capture useful images, and larger areas logically demand a higher density of coverage – all of which adds an energy and materials cost. While the presence of a surveillance system is often essential, rethinking the structure of one’s network, and including new innovations into those plans, could massively reduce its energy demands while effectively improving its performance.
Moreover, it is also essential to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the system over its lifetime. All too often, purchasing decisions are based on the initial cost of system hardware and installation, but fail to take into account the running expenses of the system which could last from five to over 20 years. In fact, the initial costs to purchase and set up a security system tend to account for just 30% of the total cost, with 70% of the expense coming after the system has been installed.
Increasing network camera efficiency
Let’s consider some straightforward changes which could offer considerable energy savings over time while also upgrading an IP surveillance system’s ability. Improved modern hardware means IP cameras are now able to capture footage at a higher resolution than older models, which allows them to pick out details at a greater distance. Redrawing the map of an aging network – or installing a brand-new network in a way that considers the potential of modern-day hardware – means fewer cameras can be employed without reducing performance or effectiveness.
We can think more critically, too. If a camera covers a corridor, it could be rotated to a vertical orientation, dedicating fewer of its pixels to covering static walls and more to the areas where detail is required. If security operatives need to monitor specific hotspots, the temptation may be to train a camera on each of them – but enhanced resolution and clarity means multiple zoomed and cropped video streams may be teased out of a single camera. Fisheye or multi-sensor cameras can now be split and dewarped more easily than ever, doing away with the blind spots that head-on cameras often suffer from.
All of this means fewer cameras, lower complexity, and reduced power draw. Given the potential lifespan of a security network – and the benefits towards sustainability targets which could be made by switching to hardware from a properly accredited vendor – that could lead to a significant saving.
Saving energy by exploiting advanced camera features
Cutting energy can be a process of consolidation, thus it is important to also harness the full potential of installed equipment. In a surveillance system, this means exploiting on-board processing. If the network cameras themselves can deal with intrusion detection, if they can identify humans and vehicles, and if they can be pivotal to leading a response to such incidents, there’s a great saving to be made on back-end hardware like servers and data-centre processing. Edge processing means that IP cameras can host advanced analytics on board. Linking a custom-made in-camera application to data from existing sensors, for example, is a way to highlight potential sources of energy loss in complex systems.
The right choice of camera could even help cut energy consumption in a more direct way. Better sensors backed up by powerful processing and software can operate at significantly lower lux levels than conventional cameras. Rather than shouldering the cost of illuminating an entire business space at night, or twinning cameras with light sources that typically draw vastly more power than the cameras themselves, an upgraded security network would allow businesses to downscale to minimal illumination out-of-hours.
Thinking critically for future success
Organisations are under incredible and immediate pressure to change, but they must also look to the future and ensure that every system change offers a secure, long-lasting opportunity to create ongoing improvements. The key element here is not the hardware but the plan. Partnering with a vendor that shares a keen eye for sustainability, making a detailed and accurate map of one’s existing facilities, and properly evaluating every change is the only way to ensure any system overhaul reaches its true potential.
It should be clear that a properly evaluated upgrade to the right surveillance hardware opens a path to serious energy saving, both in terms of the power drawn by the cameras themselves and that of the environment surrounding them. Business faces a difficult challenge in the near future, but an IP camera upgrade is a long-term saving that makes for a smarter, and safer, world.