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Body Cams Spur Data Storage Emergency For Law Enforcement

Author: Clayton Weise, director of cloud services for Key Information Systems

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2017-06-12
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There are innumerable arguments these days over the move toward body cameras for law enforcement officers. Do these cameras protect the police? Do they protect the public? When should they be turned on? Are they reliable? Should officers inform citizens when they’re being filmed? How will departments pay for the technology? The issue is contentious – and pressing. While only 18 percent of departments surveyed nationwide last year said their body cams were fully operational in 2015, 95 percent said they were committed to implementing the cameras, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs' Association.

Such rapid growth raises another question that needs immediate attention: are law enforcement agencies prepared to store all that data?

The answer, unfortunately, seems to be “no.” Along with many other Internet of Things (IoT) devices – like traffic cameras and motion sensors – body cameras are contributing to a rapid and steep uptick in new data in need of storage. IDC recently predicted the world will reach 44 zetabytes of data by 2020, with 80 percent of it unstructured data, such as video. That’s a lot of information traveling over networks, demanding storage and requiring backup.


IoT driving object storage adoption, innovation

Police departments are still determining their body cam data storage policies. Depending on the footage, some of that video might need storing for 30 days, 60 days, or indefinitely. Tape backup is not up to this task. It’s not always reliable, and it’s time intensive. Retrieving a tape involves finding its serial number, tracking down its location and then sending someone to get it. When criminal sentencing relies on digital evidence, it’s important that the proper legal parties can reliably access the information, rather than risk its loss in transit.

Meanwhile, file and block storage (or NAS and SAN) systems were designed for gradual growth and local, on-premise usage. In law enforcement, where so much video data will likely pile up quickly and be kept long term, NAS and SAN fall short. Law enforcement officers don’t want to accidentally delete evidence that’s centralized on one computer. For accessibility, scalability and speed, object storage is an attractive option. Organizations that use object storage can quickly access individually tagged files, and they reap cost savings with pay-as-you-go models that have low maintenance demands.

As more law enforcement agencies adopt body cams for their officers, departments will find new applications for the data and ways to analyze it. Object storage makes it easy to centralize this type of IoT application development. Object storage was developed for the internet, and it’s extremely HTTP-friendly - just as IoT devices are. Because both object-based approaches and IoT devices are based on RESTful APIs, it makes it easier to push and pull information, which can be compelling for the size and speed needed for data analysis.

These capabilities are of interest beyond the law enforcement field. In sectors like healthcare, for example, medical organizations face an enormous challenge in managing digital growth, thanks to digital files created by MRIs, X-rays and other tests. Hospitals and physician groups need to ensure that data is instantly available to their healthcare providers, while also adhering to strict compliance mandates and regulations. And in the media and entertainment industry, companies are re-evaluating their storage systems’ abilities to keep up with advances in visuals, such as HD and 3D. These companies also like object storage for its ability to track change history, which provides an additional security layer. If a studio is infected with ransomware, for example, IT can roll back to a previous version of the object to retrieve precious footage.

In healthcare, media, law enforcement and other markets, object storage delivers the convenience and economics enterprises need to house growing stores of mission-critical data. Our clients across sectors ask us about object storage more frequently. They want to know how much money object storage can save them, how object storage can lift the management burden from their IT teams – and how to get started. We tell them that best practice is to start with new projects; if there are any challenges, they won’t affect the bulk of the data. Backups also offer an appealing starting point for object storage initiatives that won’t disrupt production environments. There are a variety of ways organizations can successfully deploy object storage, but most initiatives start the same way – with the very question law enforcement agencies are asking today. “How are we going to store all of this data?”


Clayton Weise is the director of cloud services for Key Information Systems, where he is responsible for designing, architecting, and implementing cloud solutions, managing production workloads and leveraging cloud resources in disaster recovery, clustering and hybrid (cloud and on-premise) infrastructure solutions.



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